Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

It's Not the App. It's the Experience!

Mandy Green, Matthew McDonald, Lindsay Williams | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


This professional development session focuses on the "Four C's" (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity) and how to integrate them into the classroom. In this interactive session, participants also will explore various iPad applications and develop a lesson or activity with apps that promote the Four C's.

Essential Question

How can we create a learning experience using the iPad?

Learning Goals

  • Identify a component of the Four C’s to actively promote in your classroom.

  • Apply your understanding of iPads and available tools to create a learning experience for your classroom.







Materials List

  • Presenter Slides (attached)

  • Instructional Strategy Note Catcher (attached)

  • Four C’s Four Corners Wall Signs (attached)

  • Four C’s Sample Anchor Chart (attached; optional)

  • Four C’s Research Table (attached; one per participant)

  • 5E Lesson Organizer (attached; optional)

  • iPad Task Card (attached; one per participant)

  • iPads (one per participant)

  • Internet access


Use the attached Presenter Slides to guide the activity, beginning with slide 2. Inform participants that, in this session, they will learn the "Four C’s" of 21st-century learning and how to incorporate them into daily lessons and activities in their own classrooms. Participants will also learn how to use iPads to integrate the Four C’s. Inform participants that the Instructional Strategy Note Catcher can be a place to take notes or reflect on the strategies used in this PD.

Move to slide 3 and introduce the essential question: How can I create learning experiences for my students using the iPad? This question will guide participants’ learning.

Move to slide 5 and introduce the Four Corners strategy to familiarize participants with the Four C’s. Direct attention to the wall signs hung in each corner of the room. Ask participants to think about which of the Four C’s they would like to see more of in their classroom, and invite them to stand next to the corresponding wall sign.

Once participants are grouped, ask groups to discuss (1) why they chose that C, (2) why it is important, and (3) how it might be visible in their classroom. Allow time for discussion, then ask for volunteers to share with the whole group. Afterward, have participants return to their tables.

Move to slide 6 and read the session’s learning objectives. By the end of the session, participants should be able to (1) identify a component of the Four C’s to actively promote in their classrooms and (2) apply their understanding of iPads and the available tools to create a learning experience for the classroom.


Move to slide 8. Remind participants that this list of apps is not comprehensive or exclusive. Additionally, apps on the list can fall into more than one "C" category.

Have participants use the Google Doc link on slide 9 or pass out a copy of the attached Four C’s Research Table handout to each participant. Ask participants to work with an elbow partner and select an app to explore. Have participants use the Stop and Jot strategy to take notes on the app and record them in the Four C’s Research Table (either using the Google Doc or on their handout).

Allow 10–30 minutes for exploration.


Move to slide 11. Invite table groups to work together to create an Anchor Chart or digital poster to address how the apps they explored address their chosen “C.” Guide participants through the following steps:

  1. Have participants discuss their notes in the “How Would This App Address My Four C Focus Area?” column on the Four C’s Research Table handout (from the Explore phase). Ask them: What themes do you have in common?

  2. Have each group decide how to create their Anchor Chart or poster. Have each group, using their method of choice, create a list of characteristics for their chosen "C."

  3. Once each group has completed a list, discuss the charts as a class. What parts of each chart do other participants agree and disagree with, if applicable?


Move to slide 13. Have participants use the link on the slide or pass out copies of the attached iPad Task Card and 5E Lesson Organizer to each participant.

Ask participants to work independently or in pairs to complete the iPad Task Card. Allow participants time to start building their own lesson that can address the Four C concept they chose, while including the app they researched as part of a learning activity or phase. The 5E Lesson Organizer is meant to guide participants in outlining their lessons.


Move to slide 15. Have participants go to the Flipgrid link and answer the following prompt: Briefly describe the activity you created, the C it addressed, and one goal you have for yourself this year.

Research Rationale

Authenticity can be implemented in all content areas and all grade levels. Authentic teaching has four components: construction of knowledge, disciplined inquiry, value beyond school, and student-centered learning. These four components are created and made apparent through authentic tasks. Authentic tasks, defined by Herrington, J., et al (2014), are ill-defined by nature, requiring students to define the tasks and subtasks needed to complete the activity. The research suggests that the adoption and use of iPads in and beyond the classroom allows students to augment and enhance their learning in ways that were previously difficult or impossible (Heinrich, 2012; DEECD, 2011).