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Even Digital Natives Need to Learn 'Common-Sense' Tech Skills

Natalie Makulski

Teachers often overestimate students' ability to use technology. Students constantly have their devices in their hands to play games, interact with friends, watch YouTube videos, and complete homework assignments. Because they spend so much time with devices, students are thought to be technologically savvy. These interactions can be beneficial and help promote 21st-century learning skills, but they do not make students technology experts.

I teach computer classes at two elementary schools. This month, all students are learning how to wrap up a mouse cord instead of just throwing it in the box, making a huge, tangled mess. They're also learning about the consequences of spilling food and drinks on the keyboard.

These may seem like common-sense skills, but many of my students were never properly trained about basic care of technology devices. My students also need to learn other skills, like digital citizenship and tech-enabled problem solving. Even though they're comfortable using some devices, they are far from experts.

Another misconception about using technology in the classroom is the idea that all teachers need to provide all students the same type of technology. Technology should be viewed like ice cream: Not all students are going to like the same flavor, and not all students are going to be engaged with the same technology.

When selecting a tool to use in the classroom, the teacher should always focus on its purpose. Asking why a certain technology should be integrated into the classroom can help teachers focus and avoid becoming overwhelmed by the tools that are available. Then, teachers need to focus on individual students' personalities. Some students may not be engaged with apps that have too many bells and whistles, as those tools could be distracting. It is very important for teachers to know their students when selecting the right technology for their classes.

Integrating technology is a key part of providing students with a well-balanced twenty first century education. Drawing attention to common misconceptions is important, because it will help support teachers in providing students with the proper tools to enhance their learning.

Natalie Makulski is a computer and STEM teacher at two elementary schools in Clarenceville School District in Livonia, Mich.

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