Its funny how quickly after creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and interacting with colleagues from all levels of education and all over the world, you begin to think of these people as your equals. I frequently forget that some of the great minds that I follow and share with online are actually world-renowned education experts. It’s a very democratic world, this Twitter.
One such humble master whose writing I read voraciously is Jeff Utecht. He’s the kind of smart guy who can post nuggets of wisdom on a regular basis while simultaneously self-publishing books about PLNs and working as both an education consultant and an international teacher. And recently he wrote a piece about a topic that has begun to bug me lately.
In “Really? It’s My Job To Teach Technology?“, Utecht responds to another teacher’s blog post and presents his opinion about the question of teaching technology skills. I agree with some of what Jeff has written, but I also see some real parallels to the change that Common Core State Standards have brought to U.S. schools, specifically.
One of the biggest changes for Science classrooms is the more prominent integration of reading and writing. This is something that I wholeheartedly support as these literacy skills are universal. They apply to everything that a student learns in school (and outside of school), and improving these skills will make them better science students, to boot. It just makes sense that students should get instruction and practice in literacy skills in every class.
Technology is no different. There are fundamental tech skills–like basic Windows troubleshooting, word processing, blogging, wikis, etc.–that every student needs to be successful in school and professions afterward. Every teacher needs to be teaching and supporting these skills. It is unrealistic, and less than effective, for teachers to “out-source” this responsibility to another teacher. It’s also silly to front-load your school year with these skills if you aren’t going to use them every week. Kids, like adults, are not going to remember processes that they do not practice regularly.
So, if these practices don’t work, what does work? The answer is continual integration of tech skills and reinforcement into classroom activities. Like reading and writing, we need to be sneaking them into content-area activities on a weekly basis (or more often). Yes, your school may not have adequate tech resources. Yes, you many not know a lot about educational technology yourself. These are not acceptable excuses anymore.
Consider stations or project choices in which you don’t need an iPad/laptop/desktop for every student every time. When appropriate, make use of students’ personal tech to build these skills. Remember that just because they have them doesn’t mean that they know the right way to use them.
In 11 years of teaching, I’ve received about 3 hours of literacy training, yet I am expected to teach my students how to read. Technology is no different for most of us. You need to take responsibility for your own professional development. Build a PLN, seek out local experts, experiment with tools, brainstorm best practices.
In the end, we have to embrace this technology integration if we are going to create truly tech literate students. Because it takes a digital village…