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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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What Tech Tools Should Be Required Knowledge for Teachers?

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

A recent #edchat discussion was about what amount of technology teachers should be required to know. What ensued was a great discussion without talk of a lot of specific applications or tools. I found this very telling.

When we talk about digital literacy or transliteracy in the context of our students, rarely do we discuss what apps or tools they should know how to use. More often we talk about the skill sets they need to be successful in the digital world in which they live. Tools come and go, but being able to see the forest for the trees is a life-long skill.

Similarly, teachers should have a bigger picture in their heads of the whys and whens of technology, not just specific tools. In addition, there needs to be a culture within the school that values technology use in the classroom. Simply requiring that teachers use x, y or z application or tool (i.e. interactive whiteboard) will not transform that teacher's instruction or the learning in their classroom.

Instead, the leadership in the school should be modeling the use of technology and helping to build community supports for teachers that enable and value daily the effective use of technology for teaching and learning.

That said, if only for their practice, there are a few things that teachers should know:

  • compose and check email and know how to attach files to an email
  • know that there are more choices than Google for searching the Internet
  • be able to locate resources on the Internet and be able to evaluate sites for accuracy and relevance
  • know how to navigate, find, save and open files and applications on a computer of any OS.

But don't take my word for it. ISTE has done a great job of developing a set of educational technology standards for teachers. They go beyond the tool and really address the bigger picture of technology in the classroom and in professional practice. You can check them out: ISTE NETS for Teachers.

Comments (23)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Jordan Johnson's picture
Jordan Johnson
4th grade teacher from Ada, MN

The list of technologies teachers should know how to use seems very basic, almost too little. Yet as I say that I know there are teachers in my own district that have never used or created a powerpoint or excel spreadsheet. They admit that it scares them. It seems like a waste to me when there are tools out there that can make presentations more interesting and manipulate data for you. We can't be scared to use new technology--we have to embrace it! The one part that frustrates me as a welcome technology learner is the lack of guidance out there for new tech. I need to be taught how to use it before I can show students how to manuever through things. It also becomes a matter of changing my teaching style to allow students to manipulate the new programs and apps. Change is always good but it can be hard.

Kirby VanDeWalker's picture

5th and 6th grade teacher from Wanamingo, MN

Teachers need to be able to perform some basic tech skills in order to survive nowadays. They constantly feel pressure to provide more and more technology tools during their lessons that they sometimes get overwhelmed and almost discouraged. I think schools need to do a better job at providing training for new technology ideas. For instance, at the beginning of the year during the first couple days before schools starts in late August, our school usually has a new tech tool to look at and implement, sometimes multiple tools. They give a 10-15 minute speech on each tool, maybe showing a little bit on the projector, and then BAM! go out and use it. Well, how about letting us try it under the supervision of an "expert" so they can easily help with any possible questions?! Rather, we go to our rooms, confused by what we just saw, and try to remember the steps of correctly using the tool presented. THAT IS NOT ENOUGH! Some of the teachers that are still on staff are old enough to remember when the school never had computers! How are they supposed to instill a new tool without any proper training? It's like putting us in at quarterback after only watching game film of our opponent and not giving us any repetitions during practice! Sets us up for failure! More training = better results.

Melaine's picture
Melaine
Second grade teacher

I completely agree agree with the other comments about the need for teacher training in the field of technology. There also needs to be some form of accountability for teachers after they have been trained. If teachers are trained in the basics (word processing, spreadsheet creation, presentation programs such as powerpoint, etc...) and not required to apply their knowledge, the training is a waste of an opportunity.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger

I definitely agree that training is a wasted opportunity if teachers aren't given a chance to practice. I also think that there should be an expectation for teachers to use these new skills.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger

Digital Literacy is very important. I would even say Media Literacy as well. Teachers must be educated, but they also must be offered opportunities for support during the process.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger

This is a great suggestion! It really is an unfair expectation. We wouldn't expect our students to be able to master a tool that quickly!

Corela's picture
Corela
Fourth Grade Teacher, Baltimore, Md

The technological world is constantly changing and progressing. It is difficult to choose a starting point for teachers. However, a teacher cannot just sit back and hope it will go away. It is our responsibility to our students to open our minds and attempt to use technology. I consider myself a proficient user of most types of computer programs, but I am a novice in so many areas. Take for instance, blogging. This is new to me, but my students are headed in this direction. I need to be familiar with the world they know. If I am not familiar with their world, how can I connect with them?
Due to the constant changes that are made, I find it difficult for a school to choose which tools to invest in. In the past 9 years I have taught 4th grade, I have seen money being wasted. Our district chooses to purchase from one company and within two years they no longer support the equipment. We have had Interwrite tablets that have malfunctioned and were not able to be repaired due to the technology not being supported.
The constant innovations in technology and funding play a huge role in what teachers should know. However, the technological progression cannot be ignored. Teachers need to continue to grow and learn with each advancement. The skills I have learned through the use of what are now out-dated tools or programs, have made it easier for me to learn the more modern and advanced versions. Therefore, I strongly agree with the statements that the administration needs to support teachers acquiring technological skills. Teachers should be provided with more opportunities to attend workshops or collaborate with colleagues in order to increase their proficiency and use the tools.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger

Interesting point, Corela. It's as almost like when you can't upgrade one version of software until you have the previous version. Perhaps, if teachers kept up, the learning curve would get smaller and smaller. What do you think?

Corela's picture
Corela
Fourth Grade Teacher, Baltimore, Md

I completely agree. If teachers were actively using technology all along, then it would be less overwhelming for them. There is so much technology out there, but we have to start somewhere and take small steps. Each year, the teachers at my school need to have three goals. They need an individual goal, a team goal, and a technology goal. Each year, I build on the previous year's tech goal.

Yolanda C's picture
Yolanda C
Second grade teacher

Hi Mary Beth,

I agree that technology is essential in educating the children in our society today. Last week I overheard my thirteen year old sister mention that she sent a "blog" on one of her favorite websites. I had no idea what she was talking about until recently. Now, I get to experience blogging myself. Children come to us educators with so much knowledge of the latest technology. It is our responsibility to keep them engaged and help them use it to enhance their learning. Throughout the year, my district offers professional development training to teachers of how to use the online grade book and Smartboards (interactive boards). This has been very helpful for me, because I'm so used to doing only the basic internet searching, emailing, and word processing. As long as we can effectively apply technology to instruction, we can broaden the learning of our students.

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