Teachers: Get your Geek On!

10/29/2013 12:00:00 AM
CC Photo by Julia Roy, available on http://www.flickr.com/
CC Photo by Julia Roy, available on http://www.flickr.com/

What are the top 5 tech skills every educator should have?  I struggle with this question because what  I have come to understand is that powerful learning is not necessarily about the technology. To be effective in creating a learning environment where students can practice 21st century skills, the emphasis must be on good instructional design –backwards design, that begins with the learning goals aligned with the standards, with a real-world or scenario based project  or problem to solve that kids can connect with, be motivated by, allowing them to demonstrate transfer and understanding.

That being said, I do believe there are some qualities that every educator should have – to be able to design learning in such a way that technology can transform the learning experience.  The more I reflect on this, the more I see a relationship between these skills and what the term “Geek” is evolving to mean.    Consider this video from the Society for Geek Advancement:

“THE SOCIETY FOR GEEK ADVANCEMENT was founded upon the principles that we should all embrace our inner and outer geek and have fun while doing it. As individuals who love learning, innovating and believe in possibility as well as change.”

So, while this description of “geek” really tops my list of “tech” skills teachers need– I do offer 5 qualities below that I believe are essential for educators to be successful with technology in their learning environments.

Curiosity: A strong desire to know, understand, or learn something:

In today’s rapidly changing world, (which eventually –will catch up to the world of education!) teachers need to be life-long learners.  They need to wonder about what tools can best meet the learning goals – or extend the learning in powerful ways.  They need the mindset to be able to seek out the tools, and explore them with a sense of wonder and curiosity. But, if they lack this general curiosity and desire to learn, they will never know the possibilities –and neither will their students!

Self-Efficacy Our belief in our ability to succeed in certain situations.

Above all, I believe teachers must believe they can be successful with using technology to be able to meet learning goals for kids.  Part of this is self-confidence, but it goes beyond that to be able to actually design learning creatively to use technology to help students learn in ways that wouldn’t be possible without it.

Perseverance:  Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success :

Because technology never seems to work the way you want or need it to!  (but sometimes works better than you ever could have hoped for!) Teachers need to be able to do basic troubleshooting, and not panic when they encounter a glitch.  However…

AdaptabilityThe ability to change to fit changed circumstances:

Teachers also need to know when to throw in the towel and switch to a different approach if something isn’t working.  Also, sometimes technology isn’t the best course of action—and so when technology is merely replacing an old practice – and the tech isn’t working, don’t get flustered! Use whatever tools are available to accomplish the learning goals!

Information Literacy: The ability to identify the question/information need, then locate, evaluate, synthesize and effectively use the information across multiple digital devices and tools to answer the question or solve the problem:How People Spend Time Online Infographic

Why would this be a technology skill, you ask?  According to data from comscoredatamine.com, Nielsen.com, Tnsdigitallife.com & Pewinternet.org, as displayed on this infographic, (when people are online, 21% of that time is spent searching, 20% reading content, and 22% in social media.  If US Internet users are online 32 hours per month, that’s a heck of a lot of time encountering information which may or may not be relevant or reliable.  Teachers need to have this important 21st century skill so they can constantly model it, teach it, and assess it –for the purpose of giving students feedback, so they can get better at it.  My hunch is that the amount of time our kids will spend online will continue to increase dramatically throughout their lives. Without information literacy, and a critical stance towards the information they encounter, they will be less successful in their future and less productive members of society.

cross posted at Innovations in Education

Nancy White is the 21st Century Learning & Innovation Specialist for Academy School District 20, providing professional development on 21st century skills and technology integration, and working with the IT-ES team to carry out the district’s 21st Century Learning Plan. Nancy served on an ad-hoc team to help with the integration of 21st century skills into Colorado’s revised content standards, and co-authored The Colorado Learner’s Bill of Rights. Read more at Innovations in Education.

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