Skills for All Teachers

Yesterday, SEGA Tech commented on a post from Laura Turner through THE Journal, called Every Educator Should Possess these 20 Skills. Jeff, the author of the SEGA piece wrote:

know(ing) how to use technology and integrating technology in the classroom are two different things. What do you think?

I agree, Jeff, and I suspect that Laura would agree as well. Knowing how to use the technology only catches us up with our students. Taking the next step, one that is crucial to educating today’s children for their information-driven, technology-rich world, requires us to examine and reflect on how these various technologies affect our information environment. As I’ve said many times, it isn’t the technology that is impacting our lives, it is the information, and we have to come to grips with how the nature of information (shape of knowledge) is changing.

I want to take a few minutes and comment on Laura’s items. And I appoligize to Ms. Turner if it appears that I am taking exception with her very fine list. My intention is to continue her conversation.

  1. Word Processing Skills
    OK! What does it mean when anyone with a computer can produce written content with the assistance of word processing software. What does it mean that thousands of people today are making at least part of their income by selling books through the digital bazaars, books that would have had no buyers five years ago, authors with no voice — without the word processor.

  2. Spreadsheets Skills
    Math lives on. Kids must learn to add, subtract, count, and measure. The must understand the language of numbers. But are we teaching them to process thousands of numbers. Learning to use a spreadsheet is as critical as learning long division. No, it’s more critical.

  3. Database Skills
    Well, I honestly don’t know about this, because I don’t know what database skills are anymore. It was a pretty easy thing to wrap your mind around in the days of Microsoft Works, and the original AppleWorks. But who needs to know how to use Access? Not me. I do agree that people need to know how databases work in order to access databased digital resources. Students need to understand that the value of information increases when it is organized.

  4. Electronic Presentation Skills
    The key word here is presentation. As we become increasingly dependent on information, communication becomes an increasingly dependable skill. We acknowledge that a communication’s success depends, to a great degree, on the format of the information — the media. Students must learn to communicate with images, sound, animation, and video, at the same time that we are teaching them to write.

  5. Web Navigation Skills
    Information is a web today. Alphabetical orders no long rule how we organize information. It is the logical connections that form themselves into webs. It means that the answering of a basic question now requires an entire aray of higher-order thinking skills. Look to the exceptional work of Donald Leu and his team at The Literacy Web.

  6. Web Site Design Skills
    I would expand this to all information design. What we are learning about how information presents itself online, should be transfered to print as well. There are some basic rules for information design. But the bottom line is to present information in order to accomplish your goals.

  7. E-Mail Management Skills
    This is a good one. I would also include IM and teleconferencing content.

  8. Digital Cameras
    It is important to understand that cameras stopped being just cameras when they became digital. Think of a digital camera as an input device, a machine that assists us in collecting information (visual) in then importing that information into a computer where we can add value to it.

  9. Computer Network Knowledge Applicable to your School System
    OK, I suspect that there is something that needs to be known about networks. But networks will increasingly pass into the background as they become increasingly ubiquitous.

  10. File Management & Windows Explorer Skills
    Basically, we run our own digital libraries now. It’s our file structures. It is also our bookmarks, our RSS aggregators, and much more. We have much to learn from librarians.

  11. Downloading Software From the Web (Knowledge including eBooks)
    I do it all the time. Unfortunately, few schools allow it, for very good reason. It is part of keeping up and continuing to make our devices more useful as problem-solving, goal-achieving tools.

  12. Installing Computer Software onto a Computer System
    Ask any 4th grader. 😉

  13. WebCT or Blackboard Teaching Skills
    It doesn’t stop here. We have the ability to create digital content environments today and to invite people with similar interests in to study, discuss, solve problems, create products, or just to play.

  14. Videoconferencing skills
    A biggy. Presenting in front of a camera is different from presenting in front of an audience. I can vouch for that. It requires a different set of gestures, a different frame of voice, a different point of focus. I need some lessons here.

  15. Computer-Related Storage Devices (Knowledge: disks, CDs, USB drives, zip disks, DVDs, etc.)
    All this as well as the next big thing. Hey, what happens when there is so much storage capacity that we don’t need networks any more. Think about it. Have you seen Safari Montage from Library Video Company?

  16. Scanner Knowledge
    Like digital cameras, it’s an input device. Capture information so that you can add value to it.

  17. Knowledge of PDAs
    As important as understand PDA is understand what the increased ubiquity of what is essentially superhuman intellegence mean to what, how, and why we teach.

  18. Deep Web Knowledge
    I’ve heard this referred to as the invisible web, though that is apparently an incorrect label. This relates back to using webs of information and knowing how to talk to a database.

  19. Educational Copyright Knowledge
    Hey, we’re all going to be information property owners. Ask your students to copyright (Copyright (c) by Johnny Anderson 2005) their work. Better yet, look into Creative Commons license.

  20. Computer Security Knowledge
    (See below)

What I see that’s missing? Obviously: blogging, Wikis, RSS, and aggregators, although they could be integrated into items that Laura did list.

The big obvious is ethics. Here last item, computer security, is critical. But what are we as educators doing to try to eliminate the need for security? Ethics and information, needs to be integrated into the curriculum.

I suspect that all 20 of Ms. Turner’s items could fit into one or more of four skills:

  1. Selecting and Accessing digital information.
  2. Processing digital information.
  3. Producing and communicating digital information.
  4. Ethical practices in using digital information.

Please do read Laura’s article. There is a wealth of content there as well as many valuable web links.

4th of July Blog

7:11 AM

For those readers outside of the U.S., on this day, we celebrate the signing of our Declaration of Independence. With this act, a few courageous men set this country on a path toward freedom from monarchy, and an experiment in self governance and an economy based on working to achieve our enlightened self interests.

I am not going to talk about my country’s glorious successes, of which there are many. That will be done by others today, more eloquently than I could. They will talk, in their speeches, about heros. They will speak about the deserving heros of war, those who have made the supreme sacrifice and especially those men and women who risk their health and their lives today protecting not only our freedom but the freedom of others.

In this space, I want to make a statement about those men and women who will not be mentioned in today’s city-part speeches, people who work day after day, in thankless jobs, assuring that this country succeeds — people who are equally responsible for the greatness of this country. Most do not risk their physical well-being, but they do spend their days, months, and years in jobs that are not exciting, working for significantly less pay than their corporate counterparts, with little or no opportunities for monetary advancement. But they work, none the less, to make sure that this country succeeds for its people and the dreams that our forefathers inspired. It is hard work, and men and women do that work every day.

So if you know a government bureaucrat, thank that person today for their daily efforts in making sure that roads are built and maintained, that we are protected from the occasional greed that can risk our health, and to assure that all U.S. citizens have the opportunities to achieve their dreams. If you know a police officer or fire fighter, thank that person for their work and their risks in keeping us safe. If you know a school teacher, thank that person today for their work and their creativity in helping our children to be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges.

And if you hear someone talking disparagingly about government and government workers, if you hear people complaining about how there taxes are too high, and criticize people who seek to invest in our country’s future, do not thank them. Because they are not patriots.

Future Textbooks? Wiki Textbooks?

Last night, Gordon Dahlby posted the following message to the WWWEDU list. This is candy for me, and I am posting my response to the weblog.

On Jul 2, 2005, at 6:28 PM, Gordon Dahlby wrote:

What would a wikipedia type textbook look like? Such as, what would we need to create a wikipedia-type 1-9th grade math textbook series or social studies, or fill-in-the blank subject?

What is it from a “textbook” that attracts teachers and schools to purchase this.

Wikitextbooks would be perpetually added to by teachers, curriculum directors, student teachers, graduate and undergraduate students, SME (subject matter experts), and, perhaps, students, and perhaps the business world.

What does the group think?1

I suspect that this is the way that we are going, though we will need something richer than most wiki engines that exist today. I would probably put students on top though, making the textbook more of a personal digital textbook, rather than a class publication. The teacher’s contribution would be more akin to today’s powerpoint presentations, though MUCH richer. The teacher would present or provide a multimedia information product and students would pick and choose, and mix and re-mix that and other content and media to enrich their own digital textbooks. It would be part eportfolio and part digital library.

Also, don’t leave out the publishers. They would produce effectively packaged content and sell it piece-meal, each student or teacher receiving an allowance for fee-based media to be include in their resources.

The bottom line is that education would be a combination of goals-based and standards-based expectations (though we would rescue the standards from the government [amateurs] and put it back in the hands of professional educators). Students would be told, “after this unit, you must be able to do these things, or you must know these things and be able to do this with them.” Students, with the ongoing consultative assistance of teachers and others, would work to achieve the goals, constructing a growing personal digital library in the process. And, of course, they would have access to their digital library while taking their tests (except for the most basic/fundamental skills).

At NECC, I started using MediaWiki for my online handouts. I found an extension, developed by two German engineers, that displays RSS feeds, so that blog articles written about the sessions would appear within the handouts. Also, for the podcasting presentation on Thursday, veteran podcasters Jeff Moore, Bud Hunt, Steve Dembo, and Eric Jefcoat contributed content about how they produce their programs.

2¢ worth!

1Dahlby, Gordon. “Curiosity on wikitextbooks.” Online posting. 2 Jul 2005. WWWEDU. 03 Jul 2005. <>.

Are Conferences Changing?

Home from the NECC and doing more resting yesterday and today than anything else. I spent much of yesterday afternoon at the Apple Store in Durham getting the Ethernet port on my Mac fixed and having Brenda’s iBook serviced. My son and I scanned through NECC blog entries while waiting at the store and we picked out a digital video camera for him to spend his summer music-making money on.

NECC AnimI suppose this is the best moment for NECC reflections. A tiny bit of time is seperating me from the event (including a three-hour delay at the Philly airport and abismal baggage service here in Raleigh from a U.S. Airline). But there’s not so much distance that I’ve forgotten the ambiance of the conference, something that I hope I will richly remember for a long time.

It was a GREAT conference and the staff was flawless — always friendly and eager to help with hospitality that compared with that of my region of the country. No “Ya’lls”, but lots of very friendly help. The only problems that I had were with tech issues and tech support, but sometimes this can’t be helped.

On reflection, it appears to me that NECC 2004 (New Orleans) was “The Year of the Blog”. Last week’s NECC (Philadelphia) was “The Year of the Blogger.” With weblog articles going out almost hourly and podcasters riddling sessions and exhibitors, this conference became, as Weinberger said, “A conversation!”

The question on my mind is, “To what degree is this new conversation going to change the nature of conferences?” We attend, listen, and learn, move around, and listen, and learn some more. We network, we make contacts, communicate, and move along. Last week, however, our communications began to transcend the walls and halls of the conference center. Add to that the fact that these conversations are being automatically aggregated by services like Technorati ( and by clever hacks from tech-savvy attendees and presenters — aggregated into logically organized digital libraries of insight. Does this change the nature of the conference experience?

My online handouts were all built with wikis. For my podcasting session, four other prominent podcasters (Jeff Moore, Bud Hunt, Steve Dembo, & Eric Jefcoat) contributed to the handouts just before the conference began from their widely varied geographic locations. Both the “Redefining Literacy…” and the podcasting session pages included built in aggregators that list subsequent blog articles that mention certain key words, tying the conversation into the context of the presentations.

My burning question now, “Have we reached a point where robust wireless Internet in the presenation halls has become just as essential as the LCD projector?” We’ve become accustomed to multimedia teaching and learning. For NECC 2006 (San Diego), will facilitating multicasting be just as essential?

My 2¢ Worth!