The Non Negotiables

Late last year I read with interest a post by Dorothy Burt titled eTools – As Basic as Breathing. This post described the the expectations of what new teachers at Pt England need to know:

But to function effortlessly in the 2010 environment we WILL presume the following:

All our teachers are able to:

  • check an email account daily and manage it efficiently
  • use a computer or laptop and trouble shoot basic functions ie on/off, connect to printer, connection to internet
  • use the internet to search, find information and to communicate
  • particpate in online environments eg blogs or forums or Nings or Trademe or Facebook etc
  • manage music files in software eg in iTunes
  • manage photo files using software
  • download photos from a camera
  • use a word processing document efficiently
  • store and retrieve data from a hard drive eg your computer
  • access Google Docs
  • edit a short video clip using simple software

Dorothy continues on with of a list of skills teachers would need to learn, with support, as quickly as possible. Included here are such things as using presentation software, administering a blog, using Google Apps… the list continues.

I would encourage you to read this post and apply it to your own situation in your school. What would your non negotiable elearning requirements be?

Soon after reading Dorothy’s post I read this one from Kim Cofino titled Making the Implicit Explicit. Kim (who is soon to begin a new position at Yokohama International School where I coincidentally used to work), describes skills that are often taken for granted but are incredibly important, yet as she mentions often unidentifiable:

  • knowing to hold your mouse over an icon or a link to see what it does.
  • understanding that the menus for any program are at the top of the screen, that they are usually very similar, and generally what you find within them (for example: “view” usually means how you see things on the screen and that menu is found in almost every program).
  • recognizing when something is lit up (or underlined) on a website, you can click on it.
  • knowing that the cursor changes when held over different parts of the screen and what that means (the little arrow turning into a hand over a weblink for example, or being able to stretch out a picture when it turns into the double-sided arrow).
  • using tab to move from cell to cell or box to box on forms or websites.
  • being able to recognize drop-down menus – and that they hold additional features.
  • understanding that right clicking on things brings up more options.

We don’t need a list of skills for each application, or checklist that ensures we have taught how to change the font in Word or add a transition in Powerpoint. What we need to be doing is to reinforce these elearning operational concepts. In other words, arm teachers and students with a transferable skill set that enables them to better navigate their way online and in applications to solve problems and perform tasks independently. I still have conversations with teachers who want checklist of what skills students should know at the end of a particular school year. I have always been opposed to a prescribed list of skills that end up dictating what is taught to students rather than the learning driving the use of the technology. I remember buying a computing skills checklist back in early 2000, developed by another school in NZ. I came across it just the other day, unused, but such an interesting read!

Jill Hammonds, one of my colleagues at CORE, often discusses the need to do aware with a lot of the how-to workshops that are often prevalent in ICT professional development. These instead are replaced with 2 or 3 sessions that teach the operational concepts/skills required in order for teachers and students to successfully explore, problem solve and teach themselves. It makes sense really and as Kim mentions in her initial list, menus in screens are very similar in all common software packages.

Having an hour long PD session on learning how to use an application or online tool is an overkill. I would be the first to admit that I have done this myself many times. Instead, giving taster sessions to teachers on various etools, showing them what can be possible, combined with the focused teaching of computer operational concepts and skills that are transferable across applications and platforms, is time better spent. Quality time can then be spent on the pedagogy required to integrate these tools effectively into teaching and learning.

For all those little tricky bits and time saving short cuts in applications, nothing beats the the notion of just-in-time learning and ongoing networking of ideas between the staff and in their PLNs.

The follwoing flowchart cartoon, embedded into Kim’s post, reinforces this notion beautifully.

Thanks Dorothy and Kim for both of your respective posts. The combination of the two will initiate many good discussion amongst the principals and facilitators I work with.

Checklist photo courtesy squeaky482 on flickr.

3 thoughts on “The Non Negotiables

  1. Hi Nick, I also would be interested to see the list of skills that teachers/schools have created for their own staff. I have been sent a couple as a result of my own post on the subject and was surprised how different they were from the Pt England one. I guess we are all trevelling down different paths with eLearning and our needs are different.
    Kims list from the link you posted above intrigued me. We still have a very intentional programme for our Year One students, explained on the slide share on this page…,219,4401 We decided that Kid Pix would be the foundation programme our Five year olds to use because all the skills they learn there transfer to amlost any other programme that you care to name. Then Kip Pix went to a snazzy new version with none of the menus etc and we have kept our 5 year olds on the old version until this year when our computers would no longer support them. Ask me in 12 months how it has gone!

  2. Hi Dorothy,
    I remembered as I was writing this post that Pt England did have a Kid Pix Mother Tongue programme. The important point here as you have noted is the transference of these skills across to other programmes.

    When I was writing this post I also thought my viewpoint does not really stand strong especially when I look and other areas of school such as numeracy and literacy. I support the setting of benchmarks and goals for students achievement in these areas without question, but I don’t for ICTs. Literacy and numeracy are embedded throughout the curriculum just as I view ICTs ought to be. Logic would suggest I should support benchmarks, standards for want of a better word, in ICTs too…?

  3. It really is amazing how many teachers still want a checklist of skills for their students – we hear the same thing all the time here at ISB. I wonder if it’s because we’re so used to having a standard list of skills for other core curriculum subjects (and what does that say about education?). I think this idea of implicit skills or transferrable skills is helping our teachers understand more about the types of skills that go beyond specific applications/operating systems/programs, but we’ll see…

    How did you like Yokohama? I’m so excited about the move!

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