Technology Skills for Teachers

What skills are needed for teachers in the next century? Is it important to know a piece of software anymore? And more importantly, will it matter in the future? I look at my skill set and often wonder if this is enough to coast on for the next decade? Where am I positioned in relation to where my skills need to be?

A lot of questions, with few answers. Maybe it’s best to list my skills, and what I think is useful and how. Maybe you can chime in with what needs to be there.

Video capture and editing: I’m a fair to midling video recorder – I’m a much stronger editor than capturer. Of course, that’s in line with my personality, more reflective, more contemplative and looking for options. With that said, this can be an important skill for a teacher – framing a shot is the one big thing that I see as a deal breaker in good and bad videos. I rarely use video in instruction, although I have done screen captures and voice-overs. The time involved to put together a polished piece, which is something I should do soon, is not a luxury I’ve ever had.  Will this matter in the future? Yes. While screen capture software and video cameras are easier to use, technical skill isn’t as crucial as it used to be. Of course, the better the product, the less gets in the way of communication. Technical difficulties can interrupt the flow of thought and concentration of the learner.

HTML and web design: I’m a good web designer and web programmer. I know PHP, Perl, some aspects of Javascript, XML, CSS and a few other alphabet soups. I’m comfortable here and although I’m pretty much entirely self-taught, with some formal education interfering here and there, I have a handle on using these languages well. Where I can improve is in writing and understanding of Object-Oriented PHP. I should learn jQuery and more AJAX stuff. I should experiment with HTML 5.  Will this matter for teachers? No. It hasn’t up until now, why would it matter in the future? We’re seeing more and more inline HTML editors (TinyMCE being the world leader) handle fairly well HTML. Is there a need for more than that? Maybe. Understanding XML and CSS might be handy if you’re a control freak and need to have things appear on screen in a way that’s controlled, but for the average teacher armed with a semi-modern LMS, this is not a skill needed.

Audio recording: I used to be an audio engineer, a fancy title for the guy behind the mixing board. I was very good, never great, although I haven’t done it for years, I still once in a while make things sound good. Much like video, the entry level and ability to sound good at a budget price point has never been lower and easier. Again, the one big pet peeve I have with webcasts, videos and most other online media is that you can’t hear the speaker clearly. Sometimes this is performance related, in that the person speaking does not enunciate well. Sometimes it is correctable through selective filtering and EQ adjustments. This is a skill I think more teachers, especially ones that work online, should have. Recently I was listening to George Siemens speak online, and I realized a lot of the time he has great quality audio. It’s rare that I’ve tuned into something George is doing, and had technical issue with his speech. Others, not so. I won’t take them to task because I don’t know what the issue is, whether it’s technical, accents, connection quality or some other unknown variable. I suspect though, if they had an audio background, could eliminate some of the technical issues.

There’s three sets of skills. Are they necessary? Clearly no, because people are creating media, some of them are even doing it well, but not enough. I just wish there was more quality media with the quantity of information out there.

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