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Bridging the Skills Gap in Your Class

By Guest Blogger: Deborah Morgan



Did you know the technology skills gap between what employers need and what employees have is a real issue in today’s workforce. In 2014, Harvard Business Review reported that the majority of 1000 Americans, randomly surveyed, said they felt there was a technology skills gap and that they were missing key skills to help them be more successful in their current position. One third of
respondents said they didn’t have enough technology skills to get the job or promotion they were seeking (Bessen, 2014).


More recently, in March of this year, USA Today published an article about the continued technology “perception gap” between higher education and employers. According to one survey, 62% of students hired were reported as being unprepared by 501 different organizations and companies (Swartz, 2017). It makes sense then that we, as educators, step back and look at an uncommon approach to solving a common problem.


My journey into the world of technology diversification actually began by accident and, as is most common in public education, lack of funding. Similar to many teachers beginning their careers at a time when schools shifted from scheduling time in a shared computer lab to one-on-one devices in each classroom, navigating the muddy waters of technology integration has had its ups and downs over the years. 

Sometimes, more downs-- down computers, down networks, down access points, and more importantly, teacher melt-downs- -then ups.

Nevertheless, we’ve come a long way from those days-- speaking from the perspective of a student that once looked forward to that special one-hour- a-week “computer time” spent playing Oregon Trail on a black screen with green writing-- but have we really left the “You have died of dysentery” habits created in education so many years ago? The current lack of technology diversity in the classroom lends evidence to the contrary.


How many districts, schools, or classrooms limit the type of technology they incorporate to one brand, one specific device, or one type of technology? Perhaps you’re a “Mac district” or a “PC
school”? Maybe all students have their own i-Pads or each classroom has a set of chromebooks? 

Will students really be limited to such specifications in their future jobs since the average Millennial will have an expected 15-20 jobs in the course of their careers (Meister, 2012)? 

Does the limitation of the types of devices available for student and educator use lend itself to problem solving and well-rounded technology skill development? How cost effective is it for a district, school, or classroom to purchase all new computers or tablets every few years as those devices age out of updates and technical support? 

One truth rings eternal: public education will never be able to keep up with the costs and demands of new technology. Instead, there are three things we can do to stop “technology dysentery” and start preparing our students with technological skills for the future.

DIVERSIFY TECHNOLOGY: 
(1) FUNDING
  • It’s much easier to ask for smaller chunks of funding, and find matching funds, to purchase lesser quantities of updated devices than a costly overhaul of a full classroom or one-per- student set of devices to keep up with current technology demands.
  • Grant requests are much more likely to be fulfilled when the number is attainable not astronomical.
(2) UP TO DATE
  •  Rotating the purchase of small sets of devices. This ensures that some of your devices will always be on the cutting-edge of technology instead of limping to catch up. (How many of you are stuck with a lackluster classroom set of mini-tablets or iPods because they were “teacher trendy” and “cheaper” at the time, but have little value now?)
  • Improvements in a particular technology can change prices from out-of- this-world unaffordable to I-can- do-that affordable within a year. There’s no need to strain an already strained budget by trying to purchase a classroom set to keep up. Use newer devices in pair or group activities where more up-to- date technology is necessary and then incorporate old devices for simple uses like word processing or using the internet for research.
(3) SKILL BUILDING
  • A variety of devices allows for a variety of methods, uses, and skill sets. Students will have greater abilities to connect with projects, ideas, and people depending on the device they use.
  • No device is supremely best and having choice gives students options to problem solve according to their needs.
  • Most educational application platforms are device agnostic to keep up with demand. Hundreds, if not thousands, of quality, effective, and dynamic educational applications offer multi platform options.

As educators in the 21st century, we can help our students better adapt to the ever changing technological world, where the skills they need for future technology will always carry a questionable amount of the unknown, while still finding ways to overcome the barriers of funding. In our classrooms, we have diverse learners, diverse backgrounds, and diverse teaching abilities. Our students will face diverse problems and use diverse answers, including diverse forms of technology, to solve those problems. Why do we feel the need to limit the type of technology our students have access to? Perhaps it’s time to diversify!

In what ways are you diversifying technology use in your classroom? Share your thoughts with us.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2 of this guest blog series as Deborah shares her best practices for making tech work in your classroom.



About the Author
Deborah Morgan has been sparking curiosity in the minds of secondary science students since 2002. Besides teaching full-time, she is also a technology coach for her school district. She currently serves as a Utah Teacher Fellow, a fellowship sponsored by Hope Street Group and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year in order to form bridges with state policy makers to promote positive, evidence based change in Utah’s classrooms. Follow her on twitter @DebbieSciTech


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Dr. Patricia Dickenson has taught grades K-9 she currently works with pre-service teacher candidates. She has three school aged children and loves to create curriculum.

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