Play to Learn Technology and 21st Century Skills

ISTE Standards for Coaches

This is my third post for the quarter. In this module we continue to explore the first and second standards, visionary leadership and teaching, learning, and assessment. We also reflect on the sixth standard, content knowledge and personal growth. I appreciate the interplay between these three standards because they encourage a focus on how the coach supports the first two standards so that the teacher can integrate them.

Triggering Event

How would we define 21st century learning, and how can we use the definition in our coaching work?

Triggering Question

What pedagogical tools support professors with technologically-minded 21st century teaching?

Exploration and Integration

This week my question birthed from a combination of all three of the standards we explored for module 3. My question responds in part to the “change process” in schools that initiate innovative teaching strategies with technology (1F). Another part of the question draws from my interest in the ability for coaches to equip their peers with best practices when integrating technologically-minded instructional strategies (2F). Finally, I pay attention to content and pedagogical knowledge needed when implementing technology (6A). With these three concepts from the standards in mind my question is, “What pedagogical tools support professors with technologically-minded 21st century teaching?”

It is important to note, however, that I wasn’t interested in finding another digital tool. In my question I used the word “tool” to explain my focus, but rather than discovering how a digital tool, such as Twitter, can be used in a 21st century way, I wanted to investigate on a deeper level. Therefore a better word may be strategy. While digital tools are not necessarily incomplete strategies, I find it more helpful to look comprehensively at the problem and intentionally approach the question with broad applicability.

To that end I discovered an article by Koehler et al., (2011) that presented  a strategy I was looking for. Furthermore, without my own searching intentionality, the authors (understandably because Koehler is a primary author on the topic) couch the strategy in technological knowledge, content knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge (TPACK) framework.

The strategy they develop is based on a learning technology by design (LT/D) framework. Koehler et al., define their deep-play model as having three main components. First, is the focus on 21st century learning skills. Second is relevant cross-disciplinary content with applicable “cognitive tools.” Finally, the third component is “technology by the creative repurposing of tools for pedagogical purposes” (p. 147). The LT/D framework is “an approach to fostering TPACK knowledge, as well as the creative knowledge and skills needed to re-design and repurpose educational technology in classrooms” (p. 149). Whereas “deep-play” is a model for teachers to learn and gain new skills with technology to then integrate into their learning environments (p. 149).

One of the important considerations made by Koehler et. al., is that technology and digital tools are not usually made specifically for educational contexts. Furthermore, a cohort member, Annie, reiterated that when the different technologies are integrated into the classroom well, it becomes an example of using the technology in the real world–a learning opportunity for the student which prepares them for their career. For example, technologies such as email and GPS were not created for a teacher to use in their classroom with 30 students. Rather, technology must be adapted and fit into the educational context. The authors describe this process as melioration. The authors define it as, “the competence to borrow a concept from a field of knowledge supposedly far removed from his or her domain, and adopt it to a pressing challenge in an area of personal knowledge or interest” (Passig, 2007, p. 151). Teachers are given the ability to repurpose a tool through malioration because they understand their own context best, but should also remember how technology is intentionally situated in the TPACK framework.

Technology is not an add-on but rather integral to teaching performance. In essence, teachers need to be provided contexts for learning that emphasise all three of these knowledge domains taken together, rather than in isolation or in sequence. This is an act of design (p. 151).

To that end, the LT/D framework provides an excellent immersion for teachers to learn and understand the potential of technology for their classrooms. Rather than showing teachers how to use technology tools, such as direct instruction about Adobe Premiere Pro, in LT/D they are given an open-ended problem to solve and access to possible tools. Working together and with a variety of tools, the LT/D provides an immersive hands-on experience to learn about technology. Circling back to the 21st century learning skills, this is where communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking come into play.

Through engaging in pedagogical design activity with technology around specific content areas teachers not only gain knowledge of content, pedagogy and technology (and their relationships) they also engage in dialogue and collaboration to develop and scaffold their own learning. Thus, learning by design allows teachers to engage in ‘deep’ conversations about their practice; provides them with opportunities to experiment and ‘play’ with ideas, tools and subject matter; and offers contexts to reflect on their learning (p. 152).

Therefore, Deep-play is a outcome of LT/D in the classroom. Koehler et al. propose integrating three components of play: play as progress, play as fantasy, and play as self (p. 153). Teachers can then design assignments based on these levels of play through a LT/D framework to reach deep-play–incorporating 21st century skills–in the classroom.

By deep-play we mean an engagement with rich problems of pedagogy, technology and content and their inter-relationships. Deep-play is creative, seeking to construct new ways of seeing the world, and new approaches to using technology, in order to develop creative pedagogical solutions (p. 154).

So how does this actually work in the context of a classroom and why does it make sense to integrate this framework? First, we remember that we are integrating technological tools that were not made for educational purposes. Through what the authors call “the creative repurposing of technology” or melioration, teachers begin to comprehend how technologies can be used. Second, teachers enter–as an example for their own students–how to play. Play “allows teachers to explore and invent, without fear of failure, to see pedagogical possibilities in the everyday technologies and to think of new ways of representing content” (p. 154).

Deep-play through the learning by design frameworks removes the risk of failure, fosters an environment where creativity is expected (you are not being told what to do), exploration is key to success, and constant adaptation (learning through feedback including the “cyclic nature of design”) (p. 59). There are three steps in the process. First, is a micro-design project which gets the learner introduced to the design process. Second is a macro-design project where design choices are solidified and the feedback loop is integrated into the process. Third, and final, is Total PACKage where learners are presented with a specific problem and work towards a plan and resolution (pp. 155-157). This final step is very similar to how our DEL program works with our bPortfolio module posts.

My cohort requested a diagram that explains the relationship between the LT/D and deep-play frameworks. It should be noted that there was not a diagram provided by Koehler et. al. However, based on my understanding of the framework I make an attempt below.

learning technology by design


I don’t have any concerns.


It is difficult to thoroughly explain the work of Koehler et al., however, the basic resolution moves from learning and integrating technology into the classroom for the sake of using technology to a more collaborative process. This process integrates design thinking and aspects of play to provide open-ended problems giving learners access to tools and resources to resolve their problems building their 21st century skill capacity. The LT/D and deep-play strategies are tools that a teacher can use to effectively implement technology-minded 21st century teaching.


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Koehler, M. J., Mishra, P., Bouck, E. C., DeSchryver, M., Kereluik, K., Shin, T. S., & Wolf, L. G. (2011). Deep-play: developing TPACK for 21st century teachers. International Journal of Learning Technology, 6(2), 146–163. `

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