27 Ways To Be A 21st Century Teacher

You can’t swing an iPad in the hallway without hitting someone talking about becoming a 21st century teacher, 21st century student, or something involving the 21st century. While I personally am quite over that term, it fits and makes sense. I guess. (Personally, I think a better term is ‘modern’ teacher or ‘connected’ teacher rather than just stating that someone exists within this century. Kinda vague, no?)

So what does it take to become a 21st century teacher? Quite simply, it’s a little more than integrating the computer lab into the classroom. In fact, classrooms should look nothing like a computer lab that we’ve come to know and instead should resemble a set of grouped students collaborating, learning with each other, and having a ‘guide on the side’ teacher who helps steer the proverbial ship.

See Also: The 10 Skills Modern Teachers Must Have

Think you got the chops to become a 21st century teacher, a modern teacher, or at least an educator who has a classroom of engaged students? Use this handy chart to find more than two dozen ways to become the teacher you’ve always known you could be. Most of the ways are briefly explained but that’s kinda the beauty of the whole chart. You can take the sentence or two and turn it into a new teaching process that others may not already use. For example, the term ‘collaborate’ (see below) could mean just about anything to a modern teacher. Collaborate via Skype? Collaborate to try out Project-Based Learning? Collaborate to grow your PLN? The sky is the limit! In fact, these days we talk about space so much that the sky is not the limit.

Have I gotten you excited enough to start taking your own great leap into the world of modern education? I hope so. Shoot for the moon, you might hit a star. If not, use this infographic-y visual as a guide to becoming a modern teacher. If you are already one, pass this along to your friends and colleagues to make sure they’re becoming one too.

What ways would you add to this visual? Want a print-friendly PDF? Click here. Also, check out the great blog by Mia MacMeekin who made this chart!



  1. Mia MacMeekin

    April 8, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Thanks, Jeff!
    I love your interpretation of the visual!
    I think I like the term “connected” better, too.

  2. Jessica

    April 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I’d trust this more if it didn’t tell me to rethink how the student “interpret’s” my lesson…

    • Jill

      April 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm


  3. janoindia

    April 8, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Great post Jeff and great infographic. Everything is different in the 21st century. Kids are way smarter than the earlier generation and the traditional teaching methods wont keep them engaged. Every point in the infographic is so appropriate. A new genre of teachers is required today. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Cesgitha

    April 9, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Really good article.

  5. Bob Reuter

    April 9, 2013 at 3:37 am

    I think “modern” is not a good term… first, it refers to a cultural, technological and social “era” of human history that we really do no longer live in… second, it suggests that we can simply improve the “modern” or industrial age model of schooling, instead of accomplishing a post-modern, digital age paradigm shift (that many scholars are currently calling for) in education…

    • Bob Reuter

      April 9, 2013 at 3:41 am

      but I agree that “21st century” is also not a good “term”, because it will (eventually) lead to the same “error” we made with the word “modern”, which at the time it was “invented” to label the “modern ages” really meant “contemporary” and progress-oriented… but is still used nowadays to refer to current imperatives… which have however fundamentally changed since then… and further industrialising or “modernising” learning is certainly not helpful if we really want to address the challenges of our age…

  6. Bob Reuter

    April 9, 2013 at 3:45 am

    However, on a more positive note… I really like the graph… but (again this is constructive critique!) it would be really even nicer if “behind” each vignette there was a corresponding “room” illustrating what the “door” concept implies for teachers… see what I mean… could be nice if these “rooms” could be filled by users…

  7. Lauren

    April 9, 2013 at 10:58 am

    The grammatical error in “Rethink” makes me rethink the information in this visual. I completely support all of these points; However, facilitating cell phone use in the classroom is rather tricky. Students will take advantage of this to text in the classroom or use social media, and if cyberbullying happens during school hours, this is opening up the possibility of a lawsuit for the teacher and the school. In a perfect world, cell phone usage would be a great learning tool because of so many apps available.

    • Mia MacMeekin

      April 12, 2013 at 10:21 pm

      P.s. the infographic was written by a lawyer….

      • Mia MacMeekin

        April 12, 2013 at 10:22 pm

        And educator….

        • Mia MacMeekin

          April 12, 2013 at 10:32 pm

          And a Mac that creates its own apostrophe….

  8. tania de Bono

    April 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    A couple of things I would add to this graphic would be some typesetting rules – one intrinsic thing about teachers as well as students rushing to produce a document digitally these days is that it is not reviewed for legibility. I’m sorry but just like we used to be taught to rule a margin and write neatly so that the reader would willingly look at someone’s efforts the same goes. It’s truly a wonderful thought that went into the production of this infographic but as teachers it may also be a grand idea to check grammar before publishing.

  9. Diane Devenyi

    April 10, 2013 at 6:08 am

    This is right on and at the same time can be overwhelming for teachers who are already dancing as fast as they can with so much to manage in their classrooms. I have been committed to educational reform that gives teachers a program in which to offer all of these actions without pushing them over the edge while doing so. Imagine 20-25% of formal instructional time being devoted to allowing students to explore in a minimally structured and flexible collaborative space how they would like to improve the world. Our website explains how this can happen…watch for our massively multi player online social enterprise development game, coming soon!

  10. Maseli

    April 11, 2013 at 1:16 am

    I have liked your work. If those 27 ways of being a better 21st century skills are integrated into our day to day learning then we will create a place (classroom) that all our learners would want to spend much of their time in. Then our classroom environment will no longer be boring and will longer have ‘problem students’. I would propose you add some citation to your ways so that you guide your fellow educators gather more information on how to about certain skills. good work indeed.
    – Mas

  11. Amy Schaus

    April 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I love this poster! Any chance the typesetting error can be fixed under “Integrate” ?
    Should read “…invest in the” and currently has “…int he”

    • Jeff Dunn

      April 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      We love it too Amy and apologize for the spelling error! We didn’t make it though but I’ll reach out and see what we can do.

    • Mia MacMeekin

      April 12, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      The error was corrected without minutes of publication…. However with technology, all flaws are illuminated! By that point the picture of the original went viral…. So sorry! The poster has been fixed and can be accurately used from my blog… ~Mia

      • Mia MacMeekin

        April 12, 2013 at 10:33 pm

        Within…. Another Mac autocorrect

  12. Todd

    April 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Love this, already printed this and it’s hanging in my office. however, could there be an ink friendly version? perhaps a negative of this same one? If i’m sending this off to be made into a poster, i’m using the dark, but if I’m printing this in myclassroom, wow, lots of ink. not being critical, this is all very fantastic and inspirational, good stuff.

  13. Desmond Phuthi

    April 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Makes perfect sense, thank you for sharing.

  14. Jeff Dunn

    April 13, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Just FYI, updated the visual (and the PDF) thanks to Mia’s awesome update. Thanks again Mia – everyone should check out her blog when they get a chance (link above in article)!

  15. Angeleta Washington

    April 17, 2013 at 8:22 am

    I love the way the words come alive on this graphic. I think it speaks to more than someone actually doing the speaking! As a tech, I have found it very challenging at time with those teachers who are at times really unwilling to change old way and habits in order to educate their students better. The fact of the matter is that; people grow and so does technology and at a greater speed.

  16. Eric Semler

    April 17, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Let’s work on being more connected and more responsive. Great visual!