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Tools to Implement 21st Century Practices: A CEI Survey

Updated: May 27, 2021

Christine Mason and Brogan Murphy, CEI Intern


How can CEI assist principals and teachers in integrating 21st Century practices in their schools? In July, CEI conducted a brief online survey to help us better understand your interests and your preferences for how we conduct demonstration projects.

CEI, with our collaborators, currently offers six tools to assist schools:

  1. C8 Sciences’ ACTIVATE program to enhance focus, memory, and academic achievement through cross training brain-based games and a physical activity component

  2. STEM/STEAM workshops which includes demonstrations of 21st century practices and technologies such as coding, 3D printers, spiro balls, and robotics.

  3. The Exam Performance program to help students overcome test anxiety and develop champion mindsets through meditative tapes, affirmations, self-regulation, and the application of sports psychology

  4. CEI’s Heart Beaming which uses yoga and meditative practices to give students mind breaks and increase readiness to learn, mindfulness and focus

  5. A 4-week unit to increase student understanding of food insecurity and hunger issues through collaborative student problem solving and service learning projects (under development)

  6. CEI’s Heart Centered 21st Century Rubric for participatory visioning, planning, monitoring and evaluation for holistic community building and learning.


Thirty-one early respondents answered questions to a brief, thirteen-question survey on 21st Century Tools & Resources for the Center for Educational Improvement (CEI). The survey was sent to CEI eNewsletter subscribers via email.

Respondents were most interested in using or piloting tools to help integrate STEM and engineering in classrooms (67%), followed by executive functioning/ neuroscience cross training (66%) and the CEI tool (rubric) to help vision and evaluate 21st Century learning, including such factors as social justice (64%); a tool to research and generate solutions (58%); a tool to introduce mindfulness breaks into the classroom (57%); and a program for civic responsibility with a service-learning option (53%).

These data are also presented according to Likert Scale for degree of interest in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1. Degree of Interest (Scale of 1-5, 5 being highest degree of interest)

Which Tools are Most Important?

When asked to rank order the importance of 21st Century Tools:

  1. 28% indicated their #1 interest was a tool to accelerate student learning

  2. 22% rated brain-based learning at #1

  3. 21% rated tools/gadgets for STEM/STEAM at #1

  4. 20% were most interested in tools to vision, plan, and evaluate social emotional (heart centered) learning, including features such as social justice and equity.

The second highest priorities were as follows:

  1. Tools to accelerate learning (28%)

  2. Tools to build social emotional learning (20%)

  3. Tools to support STEAM (17%).

Preferences for Implementation in Schools

When asked about preferences for implementation, respondents preferred implementation in math (42%), resource rooms (39%) or music/art/PE (39%). Results suggest that principals and teachers are most interested in implementing a 21st Century program during school hours, as opposed to outside of the school day.

  1. During School (58%)

  2. No preference (19%)

  3. After School (13%)

  4. Other (10%).

When asked about preferences for level of implementation, responses were as follows:

  1. Elementary School (71%)

  2. Preschool/Kindergarten (36%)

  3. Middle school (26%)

  4. High school (16%)

  5. No preference (3%).

These results reflect the CEI database which is composed primarily of elementary school principals. The results also suggested that a time span of 6-8 weeks was the ideal schedule for implementing a program or pilot, though two other categories came in as a close second and third.

  1. 6-8 weeks (36%)

  2. 3-5 weeks (23%)

  3. 9-12 weeks (19%).

A preference for program schedules exceeding 12 weeks were reported far less often.

Project Coordinators. When asked if they had lead teachers who could serve as project coordinators for tracking implementation, the most respondents said they did:

  1. 48% said ‘Yes’

  2. 25% said ‘No’

  3. 25% said ‘Maybe’ .

We are interpreting the ‘maybe’ to reflect such things as area for implementation, time of year, and whether other priorities may interfere with turning to their identified lead teachers.

Time of Year. When asked when they would like to have this program implemented, the majority reported they would prefer the start of the annual year, rather than the school year.

  1. January 2017 (35%)

  2. Fall 2016 (19%)

  3. During the 2017 Academic Year (13%)

  4. Spring 2017 (10%)

  5. No Preference (10%)

  6. Summer 2017 (4%).

Additional Interests

When asked about additional interests, seven educators responded as follows:

  1. STEAM for early childhood (2 responses)

  2. If we could run with these, how wonderful this would be for all our kids

  3. Parental engagement

  4. Early childhood education

  5. Ways to lower staff stress as well

  6. It is best if the programs/pilots can be folded into work that is already being done.


When asked to select the top two greatest barriers to using these tools in their schools/classrooms:

  1. 40% indicated that they are ready to go, that this was a priority and they want CEI’s tools and support

  2. 67% indicated that they are having difficulty finding time for implementation of non-prescribed district programs

  3. 56% agreed that a small stipend might be a good incentive and help encourage teachers to participate.


Respondents from the following states indicated an immediate interest in being a demonstration site: PA, MA, CA, CO, OK, WY, IL, WA, and VA.

Limitations and Next Steps

We administered the survey during a brief two-week period in July, realizing that many of our subscribers were on vacation and that the timing was not ideal. However, we were in need of these data for projects we are planning. CEI will use other forums (focus groups, follow-up with a sample in selected states, informal discussion with respondents) to triangulate the data with information from other sources.

However, even with the limitations of the survey timing and response rate, CEI gained useful information from respondents who demonstrated interest in our tools. We will use this information as we plan for our project implementation during the next few weeks and months.

Our thanks to the survey respondents who help guide our vision and our practices!

For more information on opportunities to collaborate with CEI in our projects or to share your ideas about collaboration, contact


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