Can EVERYONE in Education really be “Tech Savvy”?


Over the last year, since I’ve joined the blogoshere, I read quite a few posts and tweets from well known education bloggers bemoaning the lack of uptake of educational technology by some teachers. Sometimes they have been reasonable discussions….and sometimes they have been a bit over the top and harsh. I’ll admit that I have been frustrated over the years by the slow progress by some in the teaching profession, and not just the usual scapegoats of ‘oldies’ – just as many graduates have seemed ill equipped. Lately, though, I’ve mellowed.

As legendary as my many gifts and talents are (!!) to those who know me well, there are many things I just don’t get. Everyone’s in the same boat. There are gifted artists who can’t throw a ball to save themselves, sporting heroes who can’t string two words together. My sister will never be a singer! Yet we expect everyone in education to automatically catch on to the latest technology. Is this against all our well worn theories we trot about student learning? Do we expect too much? And do we all have to be “tech savvy”?

Multiple Intelligences theory suggests some of us will find technology difficult. For Logical/Mathematical mindsets like mine, working out the intricacies of a mess of menus, toolbars, keyboard shortcuts and command lines is a piece of cake. But not everyone is strong in that area. From my experience in education, a majority of teachers and school leaders are from a Literacy rather than Numeracy background. Technology is number/symbol based, not word based. Some of us are hard wired for linguistic skills, others for social interaction of physical activity. Tech doesn’t come naturally to some any more than building a deck or fixing a car comes to me.

When you look at Habits of Mind, many of us are not strong in some areas. Persisting at something you find hard is not always that simple. I’ll persist at solving a computer issue until my last breath because I think I have some chance of success eventually. But if I start “sucking” at something I know I am bad at, I’ll give up pretty quick. I can’t be hypocritical and expect technophobes to persist just because I think they should try harder to understand a new tech tool. I might be absolutely fascinated by every new gadget or app, see new innovative ways to use them, use my past experience with tech to work out what to do and take risks at trying them out because of those past experiences. But that’s because their MY strong habits – and I dare say the strong habits of most tech heads. Those colleagues of ours that have issues with tech – I think they’re not the habits that get them through life.

My latest mantra for living at the moment is ” You find time for things you enjoy; you make excuses for not doing things you don’t like.” It is true I get frustrated when the old time excuse is trotted out by people who haven’t got time to learn about the latest Ed tech but can tell you about the latest episode of their five favourite shows they watched this week. But I get it. I’m always too busy to weed the garden on the weekends but I’ve got time to write a 1500 word blog post!

It’s not time that is the issue. It’s an excuse to avoid something that you just know you will struggle with. Much of the computer world is foreign to many. Book lovers don’t look for the latest chapter by clicking on File -> Open-> Scroll down to bottom of list and double click. Much of the stuff we tech heads take for granted is not normal human interaction.

We have to take it easy with the technophobes on our staff. Everyone has their Kryptonite. Not everyone can draw. Not everyone can sing. Not everyone finds mental arithmetic and algebra easy. Just because all of these come easy to ME doesn’t mean the rest of the world will follow. And don’t kid yourself about the kids in your class either. They’re not all digital natives, either. Some students would rather draw a poster than make a PowerPoint. We need to accept that tech is not everyone’s number one priority.

6 thoughts on “Can EVERYONE in Education really be “Tech Savvy”?

  1. Excellent points! It can be frustrating for both parties to work with someone whose technical skills aren’t as high as others. I’ve definitely had to learn how fast I can go through topics, etc, based on the level of knowledge/skill each particular individual has.

  2. We all follow our passions and develop skills which come naturally to us. Good to see some tolerance towards those who don’t find technology easy to understand or implement. None of us is an expert in everything, and in the world of ICT there is always something new. Sometimes it feels like such an overload of information sifting through all the websites, theories, apps and hardware solutions it makes my head spin. I am no expert and I what I do know I try to pass on in a humble and respectful manner, honouring the skills of others. Tech is so highly valued now that people start to imagine they are stupid if they are not tech savvy. One of my adult students told me straight up he was dumb. I replied that just because you don’t know much about computing it does not make you stupid and that I could not do many things myself.

  3. I’ve managed to make my own workflow essentially paperless (I work as a computer tech for several schools), but I know there are many people that simply can’t handle an all-digital life. I’m working on transitioning teachers away from printing a copy of a document and instead putting it on their iPad and/or into Google Drive, and many of them have been very receptive to this. There will be some that just won’t be comfortable with it, and I’ve learned to just accept that and move on!

  4. Pingback: Why are tech skills less important than reading skills? | Brandon Grasley's Blog

    • comment I wrote on the above link referring to this blogpost.

      Great post, Brandon. It’s an interesting perspective to take. In my post you’re referring to, I was reflecting on how many find it difficult to take to Ed tech simply because they find it difficult to understand it. Your analogy with numeracy in that regard is relevant. I’ve worked with a lot of teachers over the year supporting them in learning Maths concepts in more contemporary ways. They can execute the specific lessons we plan effectively but deep down, there is still a subtle disconnection to understanding the real mathematical thinking that prevents them from really engaging with low and high achievers when intervention is needed. They just don’t get the math. It’s a fundamentally important skill set to have but it just doesn’t seem to be hard wired into our brains as fluently as literacy. We all need to communicate. It seems to be a natural function of our lives so literacy seems to come easier than numeracy. Having said that, I have had many students over the years who were close to illiterate but excelled in Maths.

      ICT is linked more to numeracy than literacy, I believe. The logical reasoning behind it means mathematical people in some ways will embrace tech more – a gross over generalization I know. Then again, ICT is embracing the creativity side of life these days with a lot of web tools an social networking sites. Maybe this is the opt in mechanism to hook the technophobes in to embrace it more. Tech is getting easier. Breaking down the wall of fear by finding the easier tools is important.

      I certainly think Ed tech is important and all teachers need to embrace it and can’t afford to ignore it.

Leave a Reply to Mrs M Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *