Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Ctrl + Alt + Teach: Unlocking Authentic Learning with Technology

Daniel Schwarz, Evalyne Tracy | Published: August 24th, 2023 by K20 Center


The session aims to answer the question of how technology can be effectively utilized to facilitate authentic learning experiences. It will guide teachers in generating action steps to nurture authentic learning with technology. Participants will explore the essential elements of authentic learning in relation to technology and engage in discussions to make informed choices regarding technology integration. By the end of the session, participants will have gained valuable insights and practical strategies that will enable them to enhance student learning through the authentic use of technology in the classroom.

Essential Questions

  • How can technology be used to support authentic learning?

Learning Goals

  • Identify the research-based elements of authentic learning as they relate to technology use.

  • Apply concepts from research to decision charts and conversations.

  • Generate action steps to nurture authentic learning with technology.

Materials List

  • Session slides

  • Padlet or 3-2-1 handout (optional; attached; one per participant)

  • Honeycomb Harvest handout (attached; one per participant or group of two or three)

  • Authenticity Practitioner’s Brief (attached; optional)

  • Works Cited page (attached; optional)

  • Authentic Use of Technology handout (attached; one per participant)

  • Three Corners signs (optional)

  • Chart paper

  • Markers

  • Menti or What? So What? Now What? handout (optional; attached; one per participant)


10 Minute(s)

Display the attached Session Slides and introduce the session topic: integrating technology to foster authentic learning. 

Display slide 2, and invite participants to consider how technology is currently used in their school and classroom. Have them respond to all of the 3-2-1 prompts on the Padlet. When all participants have accessed the Padlet via the information on the slide, display the Padlet so participants can see all responses. If participants are struggling to come up with enough answers for each prompt, consider sharing a few ideas and/or encouraging participants to think beyond technology that is currently tied directly to classroom instruction. If needed, clarify that technologies include both software (programs such as Google Docs and Kahoot!) and hardware (devices such as Chromebooks and cell phones). 

When all have answered, display slide 3, and explain that using Airplane Landing allows for conversation to keep moving even when respondents have similar answers. Ask for volunteers, and explain that all volunteers will answer even if a similar answer has already been given. Assign volunteers spots with numbers, and share out answers in the “landing order.”

When all answers have been given and discussion is ready to move on, display slide 4, and introduce the Essential Question for the session: “How can technology be used to support authentic learning?”


15 Minute(s)

Have participants divide into pairs or trios (depending on session size), and distribute a Honeycomb Harvest set to each group. Display slide 5, and explain that they should use the cards to connect ideas about authenticity and technology. Instruct participants to organize the cards so that ideas they feel are connected are touching each other. Note that they can create one large honeycomb or multiple smaller honeycombs, but all cards should touch at least one other card.

After all groups have finished creating their honeycombs, ask for two or three groups to share their reasoning for how they connected the cards.


10 Minute(s)

Display slide 6, and distribute copies of the Authentic Use of Technology handout to each participant. Ask participants to compare their group’s honeycomb(s) to the organization of the handout and reflect on the questions on the slide. After 2-5 minutes of reflection in working groups, display slide 7. In a large group reflection, ask 2-4 volunteers to explain which elements in the Honeycomb Harvest and Authentic Use of Technology handout they see in the technologies they shared on the Padlet at the beginning of the session.


25 Minute(s)

Display slide 8. Explain that Four Corners is a strategy for grouping participants based on shared ideas. For this PD, ask participants to move to one of three corners that best reflects their comfort level with using technology in the classroom (Tech Wizard, Computer Comfort-Zoner, or AV-Avoidant). If needed, provide prompting context to help participants decide which corner they choose: Tech Wizard is highly comfortable with using technology and often tries new things and/or teaches others about technology; Computer Comfort-Zoner has a few “standard” technologies they’re comfortable with and use often but don’t frequently use technologies that are new to them; AV-Avoidant does not feel comfortable using technology and generally prefers the lowest-technology option possible.

After participants have moved to their corners, display slide 9. Explain that a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a strategy used to help with decision making and task progression. Have participants work in groups of 2-5 to create their own SOP for the process of choosing a technology to use in their classroom. If needed, prompt with the hypothetical scenario of setting out to create a lesson in which they want to incorporate technology and laying out the decision-making process to select technology that supports authentic learning and student learning goals. Encourage participants to use the Authentic Use of Technology handout as they work. Depending on personal preference, participants can choose to create an SOP that leads them to a specific technology or one that lays out the steps in the decision process that could be applied to any technology. 

Allow 10-15 minutes for participants to complete their SOPs using chart paper and markers. Once all have finished, ask each group to nominate one person to explain the creation process for their SOP, giving special attention to the role of ideas from the Authentic Use of Technology handout.


10 Minute(s)

Display slide 10. Ask participants to consider the What? So What? Now What? questions on the slide:

  • What is an idea that really stood out to you in this session?

  • So What will you be looking for when choosing tech tools moving forward?

  • Now What do you want to look into more? (e.g., specific tech tool, concept, etc.)

Display the information to join the Mentimeter. Once all participants have accessed the Mentimeter, display the Mentimeter responses. Highlight responses that reinforce components of authenticity. If time allows, share resources to help participants get started with what they want to look into more.

Research Rationale

To learn more about the research that guided this session, feel free to consult the attached Authenticity: Practitioner’s Brief and accompanying Works Cited page.