Is Technology the Be-All and End-All?

There are so many technological applications and new techno gadgets to use in teaching that the average teacher definitely can’t keep up! The push to incorporate technology in the 21st Century classroom to educate students for the future world can be uncomfortable for those who are not tech savvy and don’t particularly want to be tech experts. For others, using technology is a ‘no brainer’ because for them it’s an integral part of their lifestyle. It’s true that technology is not going away and that our students will need to be technology literate adults, but there are other essential skills that are needed for a well-rounded education.

What essential skills should every student learn regardless of the subject being studied?

A student must learn information in particular subjects, but they must also learn these essential skills regardless of the subject area: socialization, communication, time management and critical thinking. A student must engage in social interaction with other students while completing a project of some sort. Whether an oral presentation or written assignment, which may include the producing of a technology-based product, learning the conventions of socializing is important; for example, knowing how to talk to each other appropriately while in a collaborative setting or how to resolve a conflict with a group member when it arises.

How are socialization and communication linked?

Technology doesn’t always have to be the vehicle for teaching the subject matter and these essential skills. Live, face to face (F2F) communication involves social skills that are not necessarily relevant online: listening to a person speaking without interrupting, using eye contact to gain trust (unless culturally inappropriate), understanding and responding to body language, and being appropriately assertive are all beneficial behaviours in F2F communication. Sitting in front of a computer for hours a day is not only physically unhealthy but socially unhealthy as well.

Why is time management crucial?

If you have effective time management skills-being able to set and achieve a reasonable goal and complete a task within the time frame given-you will be an asset to yourself and any potential employer. What employer wants an employee who can’t be efficient with their time, achieving the maximum possible output? Isn’t that a no-brainer! If you won’t be an asset to an employer, you certainly won’t be an asset to yourself as an entrepreneur. Learning how to manage larger, more sustained tasks over a set period of time is a key skill regardless of the subject.

Are critical thinking skills required for all students?

Developing critical thinking skills will not be the same for every person because everyone has a different capacity for higher order analysis. There are some who may never develop these skills; they may not understand implicitly stated information or the explanation of it. In fact, they may even think you’re out to lunch with your explanation of a theme or metaphor. There are many fields, however, where critical thinking skills are crucial, so students that are being educated for these fields must be engaged in learning activities to challenge their thinking at a challenging academic level.

What constitutes a well-rounded education?

Being able to socialize and communicate effectively F2F, effective time management, and critical thinking skills are all important components of a well-rounded education, but using technology is necessary as well. Eric Sheninger, a tech savvy New Jersey principal, who is an advocate of authentic learning experiences believes that “attributes of effective authentic learning experiences” are relevant and meaningful to the learner, make real-world connections, are collaborative, are prepared for an identified audience, are open-ended, and involve having a defined role (Eric’s Blog). These attributes are specifically significant as well to what we want students to be able to do as adults in our modern society; however, if we can integrate technology into the teaching of these essential skills, we will have the best of both worlds.