Sometimes we do it without thinking. A quick Ctrl + Z if we want to undo a word we typed. But where did we learn this? When did we start using shortcuts? A shortcut is a way to save time and work smarter. This can include a keyboard shortcut where a combination of keystrokes helps us avoid clicking through a drop-down menu to follow multiple steps to accomplish a task.
You might remember a moment when a colleague, friend, or family member accomplished something pretty quickly on a device. Perhaps you asked them how they did that, or you saw the shortcut they used, and thought, “I have to try this.” Or maybe there’s a tool you use all the time, and one day you thought, “There has to be a better way,” and you started to search for keyboard shortcuts for a favorite tool, like Microsoft Word or Canva.
Here are strategies you can use to introduce shortcuts to your students to ensure that they have the skills they need to navigate digital spaces efficiently.
Take stock of your favorites
Using a keyboard shortcut is something many of us do without thinking. Before introducing this concept to students, try to stay mindful for a day or two of the shortcuts that you frequently employ.
You might make a mental note or jot down some of the shortcuts you notice yourself using. This could include a quick Ctrl + C to copy a website link to save for later. Or it might be something very specific to your workflow, like using the “Sort Range” option to alphabetize a selection of cells in Google Sheets.
A lifelong tech skill
Introducing shortcuts to students is a great way to give them a quick win. In my book, EdTech Essentials, I write about the power of transferable skills:
“When you help students develop a transferable skill set, you prepare them to tackle situations they have not yet encountered. Students who are independent and adaptable, who understand when and how to troubleshoot, and who can identify the logic and patterns in digital spaces will have a skill set they can apply in many different situations. The goal of developing transferable skills is to prepare students to interact in both current and future online spaces, even if we do not yet know what those spaces may be.”
Learning shortcuts can help students boost their confidence and efficiency navigating online spaces, as well as help them build transferable skills they can apply to different digital environments.
A quick online search for “shortcuts for [add your favorite tool here]” can totally transform your workflow. When I did this a few months ago for Google Calendar, a tool I use all the time, I couldn’t believe just how many shortcuts came up. If there’s a tool that you or your students use frequently, a quick search is a great place to start.
Here are a few more shortcuts for popular tools:
Zoom—Hot keys and keyboard shortcuts
Microsoft Teams—Keyboard shortcuts
Noticing how frequently you use shortcuts and which ones are in your workflow can help you see the impact on your workflow. Shortcuts save time on the clock as well as the energy that goes along with clicking a lot of extra buttons or needing extra keystrokes to complete a task.
In a recent episode of my Easy EdTech Podcast, I chatted with Cassidy Puckett, the author of Redefining Geek: Bias and the Five Hidden Habits of Tech-Savvy Teens. In our conversation, she highlighted helping students become more tech-savvy and efficient, which she describes as “finding faster ways of using technology.” Some of her ideas include choosing a habit to explore more deeply, such as efficiencies, and considering ways to model skills for students explicitly.
Strategies for modeling
To put these ideas into action in your classroom, the best place to start is modeling in context. Of course, you can share a link to one on a website like those listed above, but it’s important for students to see how these shortcuts work within their everyday interactions. You might say, “I’m going to select all of the text on this page by using Ctrl + A” instead of just doing it without any explanation.
You can also ask students, “Is there a quicker way to do this?” and take suggestions of shortcuts from them. Alternatively, you might let students watch as you apply shortcuts using the strategy above or refer to a list of shortcuts as you build these into your own habits.
To help students strengthen their navigational skills and build skills they can transfer into many different digital spaces, introduce shortcuts to boost their efficiency and confidence using technology.