Teaching the Skill of Technology

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on October 31, 2011 in Uncategorized |

A colleague recently shared a Will Richardson quote with me: “How successful would pen and paper be for our students if they had teachers who couldn’t read or write? Same for computers.”   Thought provoking stuff.

Yesterday, I came across Jeff Utecht’s awesome blog post which took this idea even further.  Jeff talks about how we are well into the 21st Century, and that any “21st Century skills” we should be focusing on as a result should be well-embedded into our curriculum by now.  Good point – we are only months away from being 12 years into the 21st Century.   1.2 decades.  Hmmmm….

Jeff also mentions a shift that needs to take place – from thinking of technology less as a “tool” to use and more as a “skill” that we need to teach and that students need to learn.   We should be teaching students the skills they need to use technology – any technology they choose – in powerful ways to enhance the teaching and learning situation in their classrooms.  This makes a ton of sense…. but going back to the Richardson quote at the beginning of this post – how many teachers actually feel that they possess the skills they need to be able to teach these same skills to students effectively?  Do our B.Ed. programs focus on teaching these skills to pre-service teachers? Do our school districts provide adequate support for training teachers to make this shift?  Can our school and district technology infrastructure handle the demands that will be placed on them if all (or even many) classrooms start utilizing technology on a regular basis?  If the infrastructure can’t handle it, is there appropriate funding in place to make sure we can upgrade until we can?… and how long will it take to get there?

The last couple conferences I have attended have had a variety of options for topics.  The sessions on technology seem to be very full.  Nobody can deny that teachers are interested in the topic and are showing up to learn about it in large numbers.  Nevertheless, many seem to leave the sessions with many “That makes sense, but…” , or “I would do this in my classroom, but…” comments.  We just can’t seem to get away from the “…but” at the end of the sentence.  Some have expressed that most sessions focus on the “why” aspects of seamless technology integration, but not the “how”.  Despite terrific resources like P21.org and their document “P21 Common Core Toolkit” that outlines what lessons at a variety of grades and content areas look like when technology is a skill that needs to be taught and used, and not an “add on” to the curriculum, we still seem to be lacking a definition of what this looks like in a typical classroom.

I am left wondering, if teachers WANT to find ways to start teaching technology as a “skill”  and not just as a “tool”, why is there still such a disconnect?  As a school district, what can we do?  As a  technology coordinator, how I can I help with this change?  Your comments are appreciated.  Please join the discussion by posting your thoughts below.



  • Art Blackwell says:

    Hi Tracy,
    Wonderful blog and interesting comment.
    I am thinking that technology may have some affinity to literacy. Doug Wilms suggested that we need to learn to read in order to read to learn. I like that.
    Maybe technology relates to this. Intuitively, teachers understand that providing access to information is the ultimate gift they provide students (along with the critical thinking skills to deal with the information).
    Thank you for your thinking. You continue to stretch my thoughts.

    • Tracy Poelzer says:

      Hi Art,

      Thanks for your comment. I love that you are making a connection between this post and Doug Wilms’ work. Technology and Literacy are absolutely intertwined for today’s learners – so much so that ASCD had a themed issue of Educational Leadership journal entitled “Literacy 2.0” as far back as 2009. In the two years since that publication, certainly technology skills and integration of them into all aspects of curriculum should be even more wide-spread.

      My oldest son is 15 and we have had a computer in our home since before he was born. He does not know a household without a computer. Using digital tools and skills is part of everyday life for him and he no more sees a computer as remarkable “technology” than he does indoor plumbing. It has always been a part of his existence and how he accesses/creates/communicates and he is very comfortable using it for many purposes. That being said, I think you are definitely on the mark when you mention that technology literacy does not always equate to information literacy (including the critical thinking component) as that is something that must be taught to students in order for them to acquire those skills and use them effectively.


  • A colleague says:

    Good post. Personalized learning requires a strong tech skill set. School districts need to invest in the meaningful implementation of technology in classrooms in light of the province’s personalized learning objectives. We need knowledgeable people to bring our teachers along and to help get universities rowing in the same direction. One of the unfortunate thing is, many Teacher-Ed programs cling tightly to the status quo, at the detriment to our Learners. It is a big and complex problem which will require huge shifts in philosophy and practice by all involved… Worthwhile in the end though.

    • Tracy Poelzer says:

      Hi “colleague”. Thanks for your reply. You are right on many of the issues you’ve brought up. If teacher candidates aren’t given an opportunity to become fluent, themselves, with the use of technology for many purposes, they will be playing a major game of “catch up” once they enter the classroom. I see that the Ministry just unveiled their video for the new “Education Plan” and it leaves me curious as to how this will be implemented. Technology skills certainly appear to be a focus of the plan. Will they provide more funding in schools? Additional staffing for technology integration coordinators? Better training in B.Ed. programs? How will this be addressed? I await more details with great interest.


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