One of the most often addressed issues for both teachers and administrators in today’s rapidly changing educational environment is exactly WHAT technologies and applications are needed to successfully deliver the content and practice the skills necessary for a post-industrial education. What tools do we really need in order to facilitate learning for students today? I have been researching the question extensively and these ten items seem to be making every list I can find. No doubt this is not an exhaustive list and surely not everyone’s favorite will be present here but hey…if you don’t see your personal preference then by all means, comment and let me know what it is. The most common things I have found, in NO particular order, are…
1. The ability to use key words and control a search engine. Most people use Google or Bing or some other search engine, and most know that you need to give it a clue as to what you’re looking for, but too many people, teacher or otherwise, have no idea what a search engine is capable of. Were you aware that presenting keywords in different formats would lead to different results? Surrounding a word or phrase, for example, with quotation marks means you are looking for that EXACT phrase, spelling, punctuation, etc. If you enter the terms three, blind, and mice into Google you will get a great many results about eye health, rodent control, and mathematics. If you enter the phrase “three blind mice” surrounded by quotation marks you will get only results dealing directly with the nursery rhyme in question.
The “-” or minus sign also has great significance to search engines. If you enter keywords and would like to exclude other key words often associated with whatever you entered, then use the minus sign. For example, if you wish to search for Batman but avoid any reference to Robin, you might enter Batman -Robin. You will see many results for the Dark Knight but no reference to his nerdy partner. The plus or “+” symbol works exactly opposite. If you want to search for Captain America and specifically get info about his shield you might enter Captain America +shield. You are likely to get results about Cap, his shield, and you will also likely get results from the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. In order to further filter these results you could use Captain America +vibranium -“Nick Fury”. We want info about Cap and his accessory but not about the organization of the same name. If we purposely include a reference to that material that the shield is made from and purposely exclude the leader of the SHIELD organization, it is likely that our results will fall more into the realm of what we want to know.
There are many tutorials available online to learn search engine techniques. You owe it to your kids to not only learn them, but share them with your classes. Lets put an end to Search Engine Illiteracy. A key word is a terrible thing to waste.
2. Be a Microsoft Office Master. Microsoft Office is the standard application suite for business in the world today. Anyone searching for any kind of job in a corporate environment needs to be able to use Word and Excel at the very least. If you are a teacher then you should not expect your students to do anything that you, yourself, can not do. Setting up and switching between Chicago, MLA, and APA style formatting and citation should be second nature. You can’t expect a student to properly format a footnote if you can’t help them get it done. You should be able to write simple Macros for Excel in VBA and automate various Office tasks. Passing on those types of soft skills to your students can take you from being a good teacher to being a great teacher.
3. You should be fluent in Social Media. Having a Facebook page that you haven’t visited since its inception does not count. You need to able to communicate with your students using a language that they understand. You need to be able to teach proper digital citizenship to any and every class you have. In order to engage students you need to appear relevant. Without social media interaction you will not be considered so. You also need to know your limitations. Social media is a great tool for education as long as it is used by professionals within the guidelines set by your school. Having your students as friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter can be a tragedy in the making. Know the rules and know your options. Tools like Remind.com and Edmoto are invaluable but you still have to follow the rules.
…and speaking of rules. According to the protocol for content development I have just gone past the amount of material that most people want to digest at any one reading so I am going to transform this entry into a three part series. Be sure to drop by tomrrow and see the next three technical skills that a teacher needs.