My 8-year-old grandson recently picked up the television remote control, turned on the satellite dish, found the recorded program his mom wanted to watch, highlighted the correct one, and then handed the remote to his mom. He said, “Here, I think you can handle it from there.”
It is amazing how children growing up in the digital age think. It is also amazing how quickly things change. Not so long ago, it was easy to identify what computer skills a person needed to learn in school. They needed to learn how to use the keyboard efficiently. They needed to learn how to use a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, and maybe a database. (I am certain you can name the ones you learned!) But that is no longer true.
I recently attended a technology conference. One of the people I heard speak was a technology teacher. She said she no longer teaches specific software because as soon as she gets the curriculum set up, the software is changed and there is something better available for free on the web. So what do we need our children to know?
I believe that students need to be able to do all of the following.
- Find information on the web and not be completely overwhelmed when they find more than a million hits on their topic.
- Identify a reliable website and critique the information they find. Read this great article about how to be a skeptic and look for the truth.
- Properly cite sources of information.
- Know what kinds of applications there are (games, social networking, productivity tools, word processing, etc.) and what to search for should they need a particular type.
- How to store and retrieve documents in the cloud and how to remotely collaborate with others on a project.
- Be independent (and fearless) when it comes to downloading a new app and figuring out how to use it.
- Proficiently use text-to-speech, speech-to-text, note-taking apps, and other assistive technology.
- Participate in social networking and know how to send email, text messages, photos, and videos.
- Create and edit photos and videos.
- Use email, calendar apps, and other productivity tools to organize personal information and manage time.
I still believe we need to teach children how to use the keyboard efficiently. At this point in time, there are many, many jobs that require typing skills. When taught how to type correctly, people make fewer mistakes and work faster. (See my earlier blog for an explanation of how I believe students should learn keyboarding.) When looking over the technology curriculum at your child’s school, think about 21st-century skills. If the school is behind the time, it would be beneficial for you to teach some of the above skills to your child at home.