Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor of eSchoolNews.com, asked her readers what they considered to be essential technology skills that students must learn. Although the replies covered a wide range of skills, most fell into five categories that covered areas outside basic competency with specific software program or digital gadgets. According to the site's readers, the key to technological literacy is the ability to see beneath the surface and not to be scared off by the fast pace of technological change.
The internet is often praised for removing barriers to information, as research materials on any topic anyone could imagine is only a Google search away. Yet, with an increase in the number of information providers also comes issues of accuracy. There's no guarantee that information has been carefully vetted before it is published; therefore, students must learn to be their own editors, approaching information sources skeptically and always seeking out proof of any assertions.
That is why the second skill that's eSchoolNews' readers ranked as important is critical thinking. Dr. Neil Schaal, director of grants management for EAGLE-Net Alliance, called it the ability to employ technology in determining what is known and what is unknown, and using that information to question assumptions and finding answers.
Ed McManis, who heads the Sterne School in San Francisco, California, put it another way:
"Critical thinking; from not texting while driving â¦ to understanding the difference between face time and screen time â¦ to employing sound thinking and decision making in each tech area and with each decision. You might find a wife, job, or car on Google, but you still have to nurture the relationship, show up with clean pants, and put oil in the thing; the skill, the tool, the âapp' aren't the final destination.
Students looking to shore up their knowledge of tech should always remember that mastering a specific piece of software, or learning to operate a specific piece of hardware, is less important that understanding the underlying principals that make up both of those functions. In a way, becoming computer savvy depends on understanding how a computer "thinks." Even something as simple as learning number systems like base 2 and base 8, which are vital to computer programming, is important to understanding the principles behind computing. "Teach the science, math and history behind the technology," says user nicknamed M12954.
The pace of technological change has been so fast in the past two decades that the fear of change has become a cliche. But that doesn't mean that that fear has no consequences. On the contrary, those who are reticent to embrace new technology and learn how to use it will find themselves at a disadvantage to their more adaptable and risk-taking peers.
"I think a great skill to have is fearlessness: Being able to experiment with a technology or software and not worry if you're using it âcorrectly.'It's important to remember that technology is there to bend to your will, not the other way around. Students are usually great about this, and we as adults need to let them explore their natural tech curiosities and just have fun."