Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tools of a 21st Century Educator

Twitter, @Socratech sort of triggered an idea for me. What computer skills does a 21st century educator need? What can we do to ensure that pedagogy is still effective? Technology is important, but it’s not everything, right?

Let’s start off-topic. I get into a debate with some zealous colleagues in my major (Instructional Technology) that tech doesn’t necessarily need to be included in ALL aspects of education. Tweeting / texting homework assignments, vodcasting additional lecture material on Youtube or TeacherTube, podcasting on iTunes, and collaborating on Google are all fine and dandy, but is it excessive? Are these the skills that an educator needs today? No, of course not, as that would be the qualifications for any 14-year old. I have a 5-year old cousin who knows how to use the internet a lot more proficiently than I did when I was 15. Show’s something about the generation.

So what tools does an EdTech Teacher need nowadays?

Let’s start with something simple. Operating systems. From the perspective of a computer programmer, this is not simple but from the perspective of a user, this is the simplest thing in the computer. Operating system fluency is absolutely mandatory to be effective on a computer. Knowing your shortcuts, your hotkeys, and understanding the logic behind the tasks you do with your computer are vital. It will allow you to fix mistakes, improvise when there’s a tech problem, and be able to get things done faster than a good majority of your students. In Windows, some very effective tips that I can provide:

1. alt+tab – quickly change between windows. You can hold ALT and press tab to scroll through different windows as well if you have more than two open at once. In Vista and Win7, you can take advantage of Winkey+tab (Winkey is usually on the left and less frequently left and right, between the ctrl and alt keys – has the Windows logo on it. If you’re running Windows on a Mac, it’s the Apple Key, bottom left) for a 3D version of Alt+tab. Alt+tab also works in Vista and Win7.

2. Winkey+D allows you to quickly minimize everything to a bare desktop.

3. Learning to use your right click menu and understanding what each function does will save you a LOT of time.

4. Ctrl+C / Ctrl+V is Copy and paste. Woo! Ctrl+X is usually Cut
Cut is essentially move. You cut something from somewhere and paste it somewhere else. Copy is just that, you make a copy of it.

5. Home and End bring you back and forth between the beginning and end of a line.

6. Ctrl+home / Ctrl+end will bring you back and forth between the beginning and end of a document.

Now, after the computer literacy end of it, you will become more proficient in your programs overall. Find GOOD software, not just that software which is made for what you do. A lot of teachers use Inspiration to make concept maps. Webspiration is free (for now – still in Beta) and you can collaborate on it, and Visio in MS Office is more “adult” than Inspiration. There’s just one example of something you may use. Also, use software that is considered “industry standard”. If you have a graphic design class or department and can’t afford Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign, kill the department or get the appropriate software. Gimp and Publisher are not graphic design. Not even close.

Last, this might be obvious, know your pedagogy. What makes students understand what you teach? How can you apply tech to it? Better question, How can you apply tech to it without making the tech take the assignment over? That’s the key.

1. Know your OS
2. Know your software
3. Know your pedagogy
4. How can you mix the three together without eliminating the important part?
“If a teacher can be replaced by a computer, that teacher should be.”
- Dr. Beth Rajan-Sockman, East Stroudsburg University

Further Reading - Check out
Socratech's blogpost on TPACK


  1. Nice post John. Where do you go to school? If you are ever in Austin, stop by and I'll give you a tour of our learning studio. --dhyland@compasslearning.com


  2. Nice post! You make great points. I have this saying I always tell people, "The only time edtech comes before pedagogy is in the dictionary."

    On the technical side, I have been pushing for more system design expertise rather than consumer product expertise in educational technology. Products come and go, but understanding fundamental technology design, models, programming, and system processes will help EdTech future. http://ow.ly/VSwk

  3. Nice post- made some great points. Here's a few more tips.
    If you push the Windows key, your Start menu will pop up. If you push the key to the right of the Windows key (on the LEFT side of the keyboard), your right-click menu will pop up.
    Ctrl and Shift will open a previously closed tab.
    If you use VISTA, goto Accessories and Snipping Tool to activate a tool in VISTA, that'll allow you to 'snip' a portion of the screen as a picture.

  4. Fantastic question. I'm sitting in a private seminar this week listening to a big expert in training teachers to use technology. She has a teaching background and a decade of teaching teachers how to integrate technology into their teaching. The stories are a little scary. As background, most of her teachers are in one-computer classroom, most elementary school teachers are over 50, and most of them did most of their learning long ago.

  5. Thanks for the comments. MUCH appreciated!

  6. BBat50, mind filling in on the seminar details?