21 Things Every 21st Century Teacher Should Do And Keep Their Sanity!

Being a “21st Century” teacher is still very much in vogue these days, and I still hear the term “21st Century Skills” tossed about from time to time at conferences and workshops. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the phrase (it’s immensely better than it’s predecessor “digital natives”) as it speaks to the collaborative, creative, and communication skills that most educators should herald as the foundation of their instructional practice.

“21st Century Skills” get a bad reputation though for being overly “techie”, and quite often people will go out of their way to shoe horn every single piece of media creation they can into a document extolling teachers to adopt more tech. To be honest, that reputation is sometimes earned, as I see teachers that I work with struggle to try all sorts of new gadgets, tech, apps, and sites without getting too deeply into any of them, and only retaining some surface level knowledge, or worse yet, not even giving a tool or technique a fair shake. So when I saw Brad Currie tweet out the following image created by Sean Junkins, I had to poke a little bit of playful fun with it.

And thus, my “21 Things Every 21st Century Teacher Should Do This year AND KEEP THEIR SANITY” was born!

21 Things Teacher Should Do and Keep Sanity

While I’m always applauding teachers and students to tackle new technology and learning through a hands-on, playful attitude, even I think that sometimes we do go a bit too far. So in response to Sean Junkin’s image, which was actually based on a blog post by Carl Hooker, I present my re-imagined task list for the “21st Century” teacher that wants to try new things, but stay sane in the process.

Some of my suggestions are “tongue in cheek,” but many I feel quite strongly about when it comes to creating something in the real world versus a digital creation. When I taught 6th grade science, my students and I had MUCH more fun building a grow station for a plant investigation, instead of just using a virtual interactive. We created experiences, developed relationships, and worked through a lot of “21st Century” skills while building something with our hands that then sat at a place of honor in our classroom for the rest of the year. Think of the list of things I’ve put together here as a means of blending much needed real-world experiences with some digital ones.

Special thanks again to Brad Currie, Sean Junkins, and Carl Hooker for providing the impetus to create this. I hope it’s received as the playful riff that I intended it to be.




  1. Really enjoyed this post! Totally agree with you about the need to be clear about what it means to be a 21st Century Learner and Educator using 21st Century skills – it’s not all about tech – more about the journey and experience getting there and how. Loved your list. Will show my students and have just been thinking about how much a second hand binder machine would cost… love the idea of a class lib with student written texts.

    1. That sounds awesome, Alex! The early and later elementary schools in my district still make time and find resources for students to produce physical books. Not only is it heartwarming, but it’s one of those activities that no advance in technology will ever render obsolete or incompatible. I hope you get the second binder, and can start to build up a classroom library for your students to share their writing with an extra dash of DIY ethos!

  2. Loved this post! There were some ideas in the picture that seem like great ideas! I’d love to implement them into my classroom setting in the future!

  3. This post is very relevant. The connections of digital and real world experiences is great. Often, educators will skew in one direction. That balance is important. I also appreciate the humor. We need to take every opportunity to find things to smile about.

    1. A-men! Balance is key! If we’re to prepare well rounded students and citizens, we need to strive to find balance in all things. Spending too much time on either end of the spectrum creates myopic viewpoints and thought processes. Except maybe smiling and having fun…you can never have too much of that 🙂

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