Tech Literacy and the Modern Classroom

alphabet

Last week, we were very fortunate to have Jeff Utecht at Grant Wood AEA for three days. He spoke to teachers, administrators, and Grant Wood consultants on a variety of different topics relating to the use of technology in schools. He did an amazing job and was well received by all that attended his sessions.

One of the topics Jeff discussed was one that resonated a lot with me, and that was in relation to tech literacy. How much are we really preparing students for a world that is packed full of technology and used on a daily basis? Are we exposing them to the vocabulary they need to navigate such a world and are we adjusting the way we expect them to learn based on what technology can do to make that process easier than ever before? These are challenging questions.

For instance, how important is perfect spelling when Google, Bing and Yahoo! and any other search engine you care to use will compensate for your typos and spelling mistakes with a helpful “Did you mean…” at the top of the page? Well of course I meant that. Thank you for reading my mind!

It’s not just search engines either. Every modern browser or productivity program you can think of has its own built-in spelling and/or grammar checker to help us when we need it most. Words underlined in red, or blue for that matter, is something that students working on digital devices will see often. Do they know what it means and how to fix it quickly and efficiently? Do they know how to deal with false positives?

With voice search, you can take that a step further and have many modern devices perform a search for you without you even having to think about how to spell even one word. In Chrome you can say “OK Google, what is the tallest building in the world?” and see, or hear, the answer you need in a matter of seconds.

Spelling is not irrelevant, far from it, but the digital tools that are there to support it are increasingly powerful and help open doors for students that may not have previously been able to communicate their needs so effectively.

Jeff told us the story of one school he visited that had the alphabet proudly displayed around the walls of the classroom. Sounds normal right? It is, until you hear that each letter had a keyboard shortcut underneath it to show the function each letter performs with the Ctrl key as a modifier. I love that idea. You probably know some of these: Ctrl+C = copy text, Ctrl+V = paste text, Ctrl+Z = Undo, but is there really a complete A-Z for this kind of thing? Turns out there is. I looked it up. Wikipedia has a complete list of Ctrl commands that go from A-Z and beyond.

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