Friday, September 20, 2013

Skills or tools?

Recently, I began teaching an introduction to educational technology course to college students entering the teaching profession. I asked them how they envisioned technology in their classroom and so many still saw it as a tool that they had to learn. That brought up a great discussion - one I see daily with my elementary robotics students. Is technology really a tool or a skill? For instance, I watch as 7 year olds are exposed to computer programing, building, and other STEM concepts that are foreign to both them and their teachers. However, they master it within the day. In a year from now, that computer program will be different, but I expect they will still know how to be a successful robotics member because they were taught a skill - not a tool.

My robotics students learn problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and all of the skills that we would deem important in their future jobs. Because they know those skills - like problem solving - they are able to adapt to different technology tools.

So, in reference to my college students, what is it we are teaching our teachers that leads them to believe they must be a master of all technology? Do they really have to master all technology? As an instructional technology specialist, I consider myself a master of many tools, but not all. In this area, it is not what you know as an individual, but what your network knows as a collaborative. In fact, I find my classroom teachers often get discouraged by technology because they think it is a tool they have to be a master of. Technology changes too fast for any one individual to be a master of all tools.

Can we start pushing skills with our teachers and students rather than tools? Rather than showing them how these tools will enhance their classroom, we should start with skills and how we can use those skills to master these new tools which will then enhance their classroom.

As I prepare these future teachers, I think of my elementary students, ready to learn a new skill, being shaped by our views on technology and I hope they will always be skill-oriented.

What are your thoughts?

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