Technology skills are required in the education industry – not optional!

According to Business Insider, “New technologies like AI, machine learning, and educational software aren’t just changing the field for students, they’re shaking up the role of educators, creating philosophical shifts in approaches to teaching, and remodeling the classroom.” As an educator, I can tell you that this is true! Educators must change with the times.  In order to make this change there are several necessary technology skills that every educator must have in order to survive in today’s industry.  As an industry, education is far behind the times. Which I find highly ironic, especially consider it is the industry preparing the future employees for every other industry.  We need to meet our students where they already are and add value to their learning as it applies to today’s world.

Technology skills make an educator’s life easier.

An article from trade-schools.net discusses the powerful technology movement that is sweeping through schools nationwide. “After all, today’s students have grown up with digital technology and expect it to be part of their learning experience. Proponents point out that educational technology offers the potential to engage students in more active learning, as evidenced in flipped classrooms. It can facilitate group collaboration and provide instant access to up-to-date resources. Teachers and instructors can integrate online surveys, interactive case studies, and relevant videos in order to offer content tailored to different learning styles. Indeed, students with special needs frequently rely on assistive technology to help them communicate and meaningfully access course materials.”  These benefits are very real and the article is very true.

Teachers are often the toughest to convince when it comes to implementing new technology skills.

The problem in most schools is getting the educators and even the leaders on board. In this article I will address the basic technology skills that you and your school need to embrace, if you haven’t already done so.

Patience, curiosity, humor, and the drive to keep learning….

Those traits are what come to mind when I start to consider tech skills that every educator needs. You might think that these really aren’t tech skills and quite honestly, they aren’t. However, everyone (especially educators) need these skills in order to make technology work for them in their classrooms.

Patience – I really don’t think this one needs an explanation but I will humor you. How many times has the Internet stopped working right in the middle of a lesson? How many times have you had to re-calibrate that “smart” board of yours, in the middle of your lesson? Just two examples of why every educator needs patience when trying to integrate technology.

Curiosity – what will happen if I try this with my class? The big one is humor! I could tell you stories of technology flops and successes that would have you laughing till your sides hurt.

Lastly, the drive to keep learning. Everyone needs this, especially educators. The world of technology is constantly changing and we owe it to our students to continue our learning in order to provide them with up to date tools and ideas! With these traits it is easy to focus on the top 10 technology skills that will allow us to be the most innovative educators we can be!

Teachers must also be learners!

In the process of researching for this article, I have posed the question to fellow educators and read other articles on the topic. One of my favorite responses (again, my sense of humor pays off) was from a teacher I worked with my first 4 years of teaching. G Suite for education wasn’t even a thing yet so that should tell you where we stood with technology and how far back I’m referencing! I asked my friend, what do you think are the 10 most important tech skills an educator needs.

Her response, “That’s an article that I need to READ, not one I should contribute to!”

Old and new teachers alike struggle with making technology work for them.

It’s hard enough to plan your lessons and control your students. Now “they” want you to add more to your class – how?! In my research for this article, I found that there is a common ground of what people believe are the essential tech skills. What I find interesting is that these skills aren’t necessarily “tech” skills.

Educators need skills that allow them to expand their knowledge of technology applications and uses in the classroom. However, the skills that I came across in my research were split up but really fall under one umbrella and that’s the umbrella of LEARNING!!! SHOCKER!

In order for any new technology skills to be successful, one must be willing to never stop learning!

As an educator that is trying to incorporate technology into your lessons, you HAVE to be willing to never stop learning!

I cannot honestly tell you that there are a definite 10 technology skills that are necessary because the one basic skill you need is the willingness to learn. However, I’m going to point out 10 things and then bring them all together.

  1. Internet Searching
  2. Hardware Basics
  3. Productivity Applications
  4. Collaborating Technology Skills
  5. Video Conferencing and Social Messaging
  6. Digital Citizenship
  7. Smart board & Active Panel Technology Skills
  8. Managing Electronic Communication (Email)
  9. Terminology for Technology Skills
  10. Social Media Education Technology Use

YOU’VE GOT THIS!!

Every educator has this “bag” and inside their bag are their “tools.” These “skills” are just additional tools to put in your big ol’ bag of stuff. Just like a bag, you pull things out when you need them.

Internet Searching/Research Skills

One of my least favorite things to hear is someone say, “Just Google it!” I’m the first to say Google’s got it going on. A little frightening but they very well could be planning a world take over but I’m telling you, they’ve got it going on!  However, if you tell a student to Google something you are not teaching them anything. It’s the same as saying, “I have one hundred and one dollars.” It’s just incorrect – when saying numbers, the and is said when there is a decimal in the number!

While Google does have a search engine; so does Yahoo!, Bing, Ask and many more. So, as an educator please choose your words wisely. Teach your students how to do Internet searches and share with them the many ways to do those searches (using Internet search engines such as Google!). It is important to teach your students how to ask the Internet what they wish to search for, too.

Hardware Basic is a Technology Skill

Don’t let this skill scare you. I am not expecting you to know how to build a computer from scratch. I do, however, think you need to understand some basic things. Don’t just hold the power button down to turn off your computer. Learn how to put a new ink cartridge in your printer and how to load the paper. There are simple hardware basics that are good for everyone to know, not just educators. This also circles back around to the willingness to learn and using the Internet to search for your answers! Here’s a little secret from a tech support person – many times I have solved a problem for someone by searching the Internet for the answer!

Productivity Applications are Your Cornerstone Technology Skills

Microsoft and Google Applications – only two productivity suites that are worth knowing your way around. In the world of education, there are so many additional productivity tools found on the web; not just word processing and slide show presentations. This again takes us full circle – never stop learning, use the Internet to help you research these different tools AND knowing simple hardware basics allow you to know if the tools are compatible with your devices!

Basic skills for productivity applications: creating new documents, sharing a document/file/folder. Google for Education is one of an educator’s best friends. There are so many resources available to you. You can find resources from coding to family engagement in Google’s educational resources. To further your own education visit Google’s teacher center and learn even more about certifications you can get as well as support from other educators!

Collaborating Using Technology

There is absolutely no reason to reinvent the wheel. It works just fine the way it was created and we have been using the design for an undetermined amount of time! Why put yourself through so much stress, being a teacher is stressful enough already. Collaborate with other educators on how they use technology.

Guess what…. Continued learning, using the Internet to search for tools, productivity apps allow you to work together on products, knowing hardware basics gives you a foundation on which to grow! I hope you are starting to see the pattern here! CONSTANT learning is key! It keeps things fresh and interesting!

Collaboration with peers is an excellent way to expand your teaching tool box but having the ability to collaborate with and teach your students how to collaborate is even more exciting. With the use of cloud applications like Google students can work together even when they are at home.

Video Conferencing and Social Messaging

Understanding the many options that are available to you for video conferencing. The recent global pandemic has opened eyes all over the world and shown us all just what we are capable of doing in the virtual world. Video conferencing, for educators, can be extremely beneficial with the busy lives everyone lives. Parent/Teacher conferences can take place via Zoom or Google Meet ( or other platforms). If a student is sick, you can record your lessons and send them to the student. Once you are comfortable with, not an expert – just comfortable with, one platform you will be able to put just about any of them to work for you!

In addition to video conferencing, social messaging has become a new expected norm during this recent pandemic.  I have another article that discusses 5 mobile messaging applications to help you decide which option works best for your situation.  However, you must know how to use social messaging in order to make efficient use of your time and still making sure to keep stakeholders, students, and  other staff properly informed.

Digital Citizenship

I cannot stress enough the importance of teaching our students about digital citizenship. One of the best tools out there is Common Sense Media.  There are apps that students, teachers and parents can download. Common Sense offers tips/tools for movies, computer applications, websites and so much more. There are lessons for the classroom, games for the students and helpful guides for parents.

Take part in Digital Learning Day. It is always near the end of February and you can find helpful resources on their website.

Using your Smart Board/Active Panel/Technology

Most smart boards or active panels come with software to help you use them wisely. They aren’t just a glorified white board. Don’t be afraid to use them and try new things out. We learn by mistakes and your students really do benefit by watching you learn, too.

Use your boards to share videos, get your students “teaching” and make the classroom an interactive lesson center.

YouTube Tip: to remove the excess “garbage” and share YouTube videos in the classroom, try View Pure!

Managing Electronic Communication

I suggest using email and other forms of electronic communication as much as possible. We live in a world of over communication. I’m not saying it’s a good thing but it is an expected normal now. I will stress that you use good etiquette (ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IMPLY YOU ARE SHOUTING SO DON’T DO IT!!)

E-mail is a blessing and a curse all at the same time. Make sure that you set aside a few times a day to check your inbox for messages from parents, peers, and even students. It only takes a few minutes to check in and respond.  I suggest setting up your email on your cellular phone so that you can do this from anywhere, at anytime.

A few tips to stay organize:

  • establish guidelines with your parents early, set time aside 3 times a day to read and respond (don’t get in the habit of responding immediately to emails
  • use your professional email address (most schools provide you with one)
  • keep it simple and easy to read
  • never forget your subject line
  • keep records of your emails (organize in folders-don’t print unless absolutely necessary)
  • once an email is read and responded to move it to a folder immediately to keep track of what you need to address versus what needs to be addressed
  • use your email for unexpected positive notes to parents and students
  • set up a few canned responses that you use often to save time when replying or creating an email message
  • don’t always rely on email (sometimes a phone call or face to face meeting is best)
  • be a little more friendly than you need to be (emails and texts are words and don’t fully show emotion, many times emotions are implied)
  • most importantly – read it and read it again before sending!

Keeping organized and following the rules are a must with this type of technology.

Technical Terminology is a Technology Skill!

If you can’t speak the language you can’t research or communicate properly.  Read, read and read more! Stay on top of as much terminology as you possibly can. You don’t need a degree in Information Systems to understand what your students are talking about. Follow some education feeds on Twitter and you will be sure to stay on top. Don’t be afraid to use your school’s tech support either, that’s what they are there for!

An excellent support system for educators all over the world is the International Society of Technology Educators, ISTE and Future of Education Technology Conference, FETC. If you ever get the change to attend either of these conferences, jump on you! Follow them on Twitter, become a member and subscribe to their newsletters.

Social Media MUST be managed!

Social media, like anything, has pros and cons and can be a major problem in the education field, if not respected.  There is a part of me that would love to shut down social media completely for 3 months and have a world wide digital detox. However, this is not going to happen.  Social media is another new normal and we need to use it wisely, respectfully and make it work for us. Be sure to know your school or district’s policies related to social media and what you can and can’t use and do with it.

Take it one step at a time.

I understand that a lot has been thrown at you so I’m going to leave you with one thing. You can’t learn it all in one day. Take one thing from this article and focus on it. Once that becomes old hat, learn something new! Don’t feel like you have to become an expert, that’s what collaboration is for! Lean on your peers, don’t be afraid to learn and keep being the best you that you can be!