Your recent Editor’s Note, “Teaching Generation Tech,” struck home with me and I wanted to add a few comments. You said, “What is particularly noticeable is the gap between the widespread use of digital tools in society and the workplace and the general lack of such use in classrooms.”
I have a couple of thoughts surrounding this comment based on my 20-plus years in the field of educational technology.
The type of skills that students often hone with their personal use of technology are ones that do not have wider importance in higher education or the workplace. Gaming, social networking, and texting, while popular, are not the skills that will get students into college or be valuable in the workplace.
I try to make a distinction between teaching/learning technology skills such as spreadsheets, searching databases, and saving documents and using technology to help teach a subject. Certainly, possessing solid computer skills is something that every student should have by the time they cross the stage at high school graduation. All schools can do a better job at this, my school included.
Using the computer to help teach _____ (fill in the blank with any subject/topic) is a bit tougher. There are slam-dunk applications such as computer-aided design, since nobody uses a drafting board and pencil anymore, but there are many other instances where it is difficult to say with any certainty that the use of technology in the teaching/learning process actually improves student performance.
There have been many studies over the years that have asked employers what they are looking for in new employees. What is surprising to many people is how consistent the results have been over the past several decades. Employers are looking for employees who are honest, hard-working, can work well with other people, and have good communication skills. Having good computer skills is way down the list.
The use of computer technology in many ways has changed education. The use of computers in our district mimics what is happening in the work world, where computers are used extensively in business accounting, computer-aided design, and other areas. We make extensive use of interactive whiteboards and rolling laptop carts in most classrooms. Even with all the technology we provide to our faculty and students, we are cautious, since educational technology in many cases has been oversold as a way to engage students and aid in their learning.
Director of Computer Services
Victor (N.Y.) Central School District
A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 2009 edition of Digital Directions as Inbox