Five technology skills every student should learn

By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor
September 4th, 2012

“It’s important to remember that technology is there to bend to your will, not the other way around,” said one reader.

What are the most critical technology skills for students to learn? We recently asked our readers this question, and here’s what they had to say.

From having the courage to experiment with different technologies to possessing online literacy, readers said being a tech-savvy student in the 21st century is about much more than learning how to use a certain software program or device—it’s about being able to adapt to what’s constantly changing.

What do you think of this list? Is there anything you’d like to add? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

(Comments edited for brevity.)


1. Online literacy

“Students need to be able to read a news article and determine if there is bias and if it’s truthful. They then need to learn how to read the comment sections of online news articles and respond appropriately with a well thought-out comment.” —Sandy Harty, Salt Lake City

See also:

Why more schools aren’t teaching web literacy—and how they can start

Web literacy: Where the Common Core meets common sense

Are kids all that techno-smart? Maybe not

The most important technology skill for students is the ability to judge the quality and hidden influences of content that they encounter in the online world. Thirty years ago, most research materials available to students were vetted by some kind of gatekeepers. Encyclopedias, books, newspapers, and magazines all had levels of review for content before it was published. (Yes, those folks had their biases–but there was at least some level of review and fact-checking before publication.) Now, we live in a world where anyone can post content online that looks quite reliable. And it’s very hard to tell if the writer is slanting the information in support of their agenda, or giving equal time to all sides. … Students will need to learn to cross-check information, check reliability of sources, understand types of domains and institutions, and how to take time and verify what they learn.” —Dick Carlson, chief learning officer, Applied Educational Systems

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8 Responses to “Five technology skills every student should learn”

September 4, 2012

I must be missing something here. NONE of the skills mentioned are technology related! They are pure, simple, common educational skills.
Or are the authors telling us that, until the arrival of technology, students graduated without the posession of any of these skills?
I remember the arrival of CIPAA. One teacher kept wondering how he was going to teach his students the art of critical thinking. What was he using BEFORE the internet? Surely he did not ignore this important skill?
DId teachers never spend time on the science behind… I learned how to make horse shoes and tent pins. Most definitely learning the science behind the tools used.

Rudy Schellekens

    September 4, 2012

    I’m with you Rudy. Technology is a tool just like textbooks uased to be. Although I feel sorry for the students of today because technology is deemed tpo be the end all of education and there is much more to learning them tech can acheive.

    September 9, 2012

    You are missing something. Admittedly, the writer did not give full enough headings to appropriately describe the skills in relation to technology, but the information is in the text following the header. For instance, the “Adaptability” section describes a specific kind of technological adaptability that is going to be more and more necessary as the rate of technological change continues to increase. Also, Critical thinking skills are not just plain critical thinking skills. One might be able to think critically in one area, say, scientific analysis, but not be so skilled in another area, like personal relationships. Yes, many critical thinking concepts apply across the board, but most people do not actually have the skills to apply their skills to all areas of life. There are specific applications to technology that are essential to the up and coming next generation.

Shellekensr and all –

Remember two things:
1. The technology are but tools; therefore, the important skills will be how to use the data that are gathered with the tools. And:

2. One of the greatest trends with technology is the ever improving ease in the use; coupled with the general willingness of students to try things, unbothered by making mistakes, how to use technology is or should be less important than the five listed.

September 6, 2012

Good list! Don’t forget the ability to research information on the net, a skill that most students I meet don’t have. They spend too much time on research, not knowing what to use, how to use it and where to find it. This to me is the first step in online literacy.

September 6, 2012

Well, Rudy — I certainly see the skills I listed as “tech related”. Back when I was a tot, we went right to the encyclopedia and just ASSUMED what we saw was correct and reliable.

Nowadays, because of tech, anyone (even ME!) can dash something off and up it goes on the Interwebs. Young skulls full of mush will soon be quoting from it and referencing it across the world. And because it was in a learned journal like ESN, it has the weight of a respected publication behind it.

(And I’m just a guy, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, somewhere in South Carolina. Sheesh!)

Technology has made it possible for anybody with a Net connection to LOOK like a big-time deal. Now, in my case, if you do a bit of research — I do have a Vitae to back up what I’m writing. But in many cases the stuff you read is just hot air.

This was never a problem before tech.

In a difference sense, I agree with Rudy. These are not tech skills per se. While our young people enjoy using technology, are we teaching them to work with technology? Do they troubleshooting skills? Do they have the ability to apply simple fixes (like resetting the home page on their browser) to their devices? Do they know how to bring different types of software together (like word processing and spreadsheets) together into a single, coherent presentation?

While the skills cited by the author are certainly important, I wouldn’t qualify them as technology skills.

I am not sure that the “science behind the technology” is necessary. Just like you do not learn how an engine works or even regular car maintenance in Driver’s Ed classes.
I get the impression from my students that ITC is becoming “magical” – the natural effect of having technology so advanced it becomes difficult to understand by the general public.
With grade 9 students I have more and more difficulty teaching the concept of programming. Many students do not see the point of programming a calculator or writing a script to automate a repetitive task. Students have asked me where they could find the “app” to complete the task.