Really? It’s My Job To Teach Technology?

Andrew Vicars, one of our COETAIL participants, wrote a blog post that I was going to leave a comment on but then it got to a point where it needed its own blog post as it’s a conversation that continues to be talked about. It’s a conversation with many different points of view and so I thought I would add mine to the mix.

You’ll want to read Andrew’s blog post first to get the context of what he’s talking about, but I’m going to answer the questions he’s asking around technology integration here.

1. Wouldn’t it be great if every student had a computer skills class so that teachers could be provided with a list of skills and software that the students are all able to use.

But for this to work students would all have to take this class at the start of the year.

How long would this class have to run for?  

Would students remember what they learnt six months later when they are asked to apply it?

And this is exaclty why technology as a class does not work. We can not teach everything “just in time” so we end up teaching everything “just in case” and then we teach kids things they might never use or teach them things that they won’t use until the end of the year. In the end, teaching skills out of context doesn’t work.

2. Individual classroom teachers should integrate technology skills and software competence into their units.

Does this extra teaching come at the expense of content?

Is this a reasonable expectation for teachers.  Should a social studies teacher be able to teach technology skills?

Yes to all of the above. First off, I like that Andrew calls technology a skill as that is a mindset that needs to change. Most teachers don’t see teaching technology as a skill but rather a “program”. If we view technology as a skill, then we can look at the skill students are learning through the use of technology. Let’s take a look at Blooom’s Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking Skills.

Blooms Taxonomy

I have created this image and flipped the usual triangle because what we really want is students to spend more time in the Create area than the Remember area. Actually Create should be the foundation for learning not Remember….Remember should come last in that “Oh do you remember when we created….” sort of way.

Does this extra teaching come at the expense of content?

Yes….and now we have an answer for why we need to teach that skill as we can apply it to Bloom’s.

Why do I need to teach movie making? Because you want students to create good content that they can share.

Why do I need to teach how to search? Because you want students to have the skill of evaluating and analyzing.

We are not teaching technology, we are teaching skills that every student needs to have and technology happens to be a part of that. Create can be met with paper and pencil, with glue and scissors, with a hammer and nail, or with movie maker and it should be the job of every teacher to expose students to different ways of creating content that fits within their discipline.

Is this a reasonable expectation for teachers?  Should a social studies teacher be able to teach technology skills?

Yes….again let us not think of this as technology. What if the question was: Should a social studes teacher be able to teach the skill of ?????. 

Creating?

Evaluating Sources?

Analyzing Data?

Now if that tool that you are using with students to create, or to evaluate or to analyze includes modern technology, then yes, that social studies teacher should be able to teach how to use it to accomplish the skill of evaluating. Or be able to lean on the expertise of a librarian or tech integration specialist to help teach those skills. You do not need to know it all…..but you do need to know where to go for help.

3. Students should help other students to solve their problems and learn new skills.

We tried this at our school.  Whilst there were a huge number of student volunteers willing to teach others, the students who were struggling preferred to go to their teachers for help.  It turns out that our pedagogical expertise is valued by some people.

Yes we should be teaching students to help each other, but we should also be teaching them there are a lot of teachers in the connected world, there are some in your class, some at your school, and even some who are hired to teach you. But there are also teachers on YouTube, there are teachers in iTunes, there are teachers…basically everywhere. Are we teaching students to look for help everywhere to solve their problems?

4. There should be a K-12 agreement about which skills and software knowledge our students are going to graduate with.

A expected skill set sounds like a good idea but is a list of required software competencies too prescriptive and unrealistic to maintain?

Yes….first of all this is exaclty why the NETs for Students does not list software. If we teach software we are teaching a program not a skill. Let’s teach skills and use the appropriate program needed to accomplish the task at hand. Like Andrew points out, it really is unrealistic to maintain a list of all the programs that students have mastered, been exposed to, or know exist. I have seen schools try and do this and I have only seen a mess as the outcome. Students come and go, programs come and go, one year we are teaching X and the next year Y. Teach the skill and choose the program that fits.

The real reason behind this question is we still think there needs to be a “standard” that every student should have when leaving school. That’s just not going to happen, I think, with technology (or any subject if I had my way). Is it OK if this kid knows iMovie, and that kid knows Movie Maker, and that kid never made a movie in school but knows how to use Diigo? I think so, as long as those programs were used to teach a skill, a skill that their teachers believed they needed at that time. A skill that a teacher thought was important for students to have.

The crazy thing is if we focus on skills that we want students to have we will hit a lot of different technologies and expose students to a lot of tools that once they leave our schools they will be able to use in their life moving forward. It is not about making every student have the same standard set of tools, it’s about giving them the tools they need to be successful in whatever they decide to do after their formal education is over.