Monday, March 17, 2014

Teach Your Students Technology Skills and They'll Learn Much More

Our children spend much of their days in school and we hope that they are receiving a high quality education.  Gaining proficiency in reading, math, science and social studies are all important to a child's academic growth,  but that's not all.  Equal in importance - or even more so, is the social and emotional development of our children.  Teaching critical thinking skills, the ability to adapt, to be creative, and such character traits as honesty are not found in any textbook that I have ever seen. So, how do we instill these abilities within our children?  By teaching them technology skills and enabling them to integrate technology into their education.  How is that possible?  Let's go through this one step at a time.

Honesty simply means the ability to tell the truth.  But if we dig deeper than that, it also entails that one can decipher between what is morally right and wrong.  Through teaching our students Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship skills, they will know how to use the Internet in a productive manner. This is imperative nowadays as we are constantly surrounded by technology.    There is nothing better than having a face to face conversation with a friend; yet as we are bombarded by e-mails, texts, instant messaging, blogs, social media and the like, we need to understand that it's just not the same.  Therefore, we need to know how to conduct ourselves in a responsible appropriate manner when communicating with others online.  In addition, through learning Digital Literacy skills, students will be able to "read a news article and determine if there is bias and if it’s truthful. They then need to learn how to read the comment sections of online news articles and respond appropriately with a well thought-out comment.” —Sandy Harty, Salt Lake City.  There are many who state that "blogging is the new persuasive essay."  Our students need to understand that just because it's found online, it doesn't mean that it's true.  They need to be able to judge the quality and hidden influences of content that they encounter in the online world.

Critical thinking skills.  As much as we associate these skills with academia in the classroom, it doesn't end there.  Our students need critical thinking skills in their daily lives.  Not everything is black and white - there are many shades of gray.  As much as technology is immersed in our everyday lives, our students need to learn how to use it responsibly "from not texting while driving … to understanding the difference between face time and screen time … to employing sound thinking and decision making in each tech area and with each decision. You might find a wife, job, or car on Google, but you still have to nurture the relationship, show up with clean pants, and put oil in the thing; the skill, the tool, the ‘app’  aren’t the final destination.” —Ed McManis, head of school, Sterne School, San Francisco, Calif.

“It is using technology in the questioning of what is known and unknown; developing new facts or theories from what is known; questioning assumptions and fact with new knowledge and facts. These are the skills needed, not an office suite or set of things.” —Dr. Neil Schaal, director of grants management, EAGLE-Net Alliance.

“The most important technology skill that students need to learn in the 21st century is learning how to learn. When students are equipped with this skill, they will know what resources to seek out and what methods to apply to help them gain the knowledge and skills they need.” —Mamzelle Adolphine.

Creativity.  Many of us are well-versed in the theories of left brain vs. right brain psychology.  Unfortunately, I'm not a psychologist so I am not going to take a stance on this issue.  What I can honestly tell you is that there are many students who have a difficult time learning their general curriculum in their classrooms, yet when it comes to the science behind technology, they are the ones who shine.  Some of these students might even be found on the autism spectrum.  We need to teach our students technology skills - not just about hardware and software, but what it takes to make the hardware and software.  This involves learning programming skills.  You never know - you might be teaching some future app developers!

Adaptability.  Many of us take the ability to transition from one situation to the next for granted.  We know many of us also just don't like change.  It forces us to think "outside the box" as it opens up new ideas and  a multi-faceted world of possibilities.  Unfortunately - and maybe even fortunately, depending on how one looks at it, change is unavoidable.  “I believe that having enough resourcefulness, initiative, risk-taking, and creativity to learn and master any technology is necessary, as we actually cannot predict what technology 10 years from now will look like.” —Jane Cacacho

Courage.  “I think a great skill to have is fearlessness: Being able to experiment with a technology or software and not worry if you’re using it ‘correctly.’  It’s important to remember that technology is there to bend to your will, not the other way around. Students are usually great about this, and we as adults need to let them explore their natural tech curiosities and just have fun.” —Anonymous  

With regards to courage, I often find that students are not afraid to experiment with technology and try new things.  Why then is it that many adults (myself included) do not share the same experience?  Unfortunately, I would rather procrastinate and not try to attempt the given task at all than to try and fail.  As adults, we are more resistant to change and to try new things; whereas our students jump at the opportunity to do so.  We need to remind our students and ourselves, that it's ok to fail.  Failure is the first step of learning.  FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.

It is my goal this year to educate my students in technology skills that they will not only use with their devices, but they will use these skills to succeed in life.  

Several quotes from this article were originally featured in an article by eSchool News entitled, "Five technology skills every student should learn," and was published on September 4, 2012.  You can find the original article at the following link:

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