Wednesday, July 8, 2015

21st Century Skills? What about teachers?

There's a lot of talk about the skills that students need to thrive in a digital world. In fact, I wrote about it in a recent post. But it's easy to say, especially if you're a super keen 'techie' like me, who isn't working in classrooms any more. It's probably harder for teachers.

So if children need certain skills, what skills do teachers need to make this actually possible? 
This question is one that I would really like to be able to answer. I've done a fair bit of reading on it already, but still don't know what the answer is. Plenty of people have tried: UNESCO developed an ICT Competency Framework, which talks about things like Technology Literacy and Knowledge Creation. And on a more local level, the National Professional Standards for Teachers deal with skills around the use of ICT resources, as well as safe and ethical online practices. But what does all that mean? And who's got time to fit all that in?

Given the value of ICT tools, and the impact that they have in schools when applied correctly, it's (arguably) pretty important to get everyone on board. I don't know if there's a right way, or even an easy way, but I think if all teachers had these capabilities and understandings, it might be a good start:
The Why 

I've seen it time and time again. Teachers and principals see a presentation about the value of ICT, or a really cool example of best practice. And suddenly they're super keen. They might not have all the skills yet, but they're keen to try. Not a bad start. The trouble is, most of the people I see at conferences etc are already on the bandwagon. We've just got to find a way to get these messages across to teachers. 

The How

This is not about technical skills. One thing I told my students all the time was that technology changes way too fast for us to be able to know everything. It makes even less sense for us to spend a heap of time learning one particular program or platform. Instead, we need to concentrate on developing our knowledge of how to use technology generally: how and where to find help (e.g. how-to videos;; Google!); how to ask for and accept help (even/especially from our students); how to transfer knowledge (basic ICT functions are the same across most platforms); and how to figure out what is the best ICT tool for the job we're doing.

The What

Yep, work out what tool will do the best job, but also know what's out there. I reckon that comes from keeping track of things. Through Professional Learning Networks (like the ones you'll find on Twitter); through following technology blogs and commentary (like the Horizon Report); through a little bit of regular trial and error; through checking in with what your kids/students are doing. 

I think concentrating on these three areas of development will do wonders. Now I've just got to work out how to help teachers understand that!

How do you and the teachers you know feel about technology? Do you think these capabilities would help?

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