• Web-based Career & Technical Education

Are Your Students Tech Literate?

April 25th, 2018 Mike Gecawich

The word “literacy” usually conjures images of books, words, and reading.

Traditional literacy is definitely important. Yet increasingly students need to become masters of a new type of literacy to succeed in the labor force. Tech Literacy!

So just what is tech literacy?

Technology literacy is the ability to responsibly and effectively use technology to find, create, and communicate information.

Everything from searching the web to uploading a youtube video to writing an email falls under the umbrella of tech literacy.

And if students want to be competitive and successful members of the work world that awaits them, they need to know how to do all of this and more.

The Importance of Tech Literacy

When it comes to entering the job market, learning tech literacy pays off – literally.

While companies used to delegate the job of being tech savvy to a small team of IT members, today everyone from the CEO to the student intern needs these skills.

Today, middle-skill jobs make up the largest part of the labor market in the United States. These are jobs that require a high school diploma and some secondary education but not necessarily a college degree.

Yet even among these positions that don’t require a college diploma, 8 in 10 middle-skill jobs do require tech literacy. And that number is on the rise!

Apart from having more job options, young employees who are tech literate also earn more. The average middle-skill job earns around $20 per hour, over twice the minimum wage in most states.

Beyond just securing a well-paying job, tech literacy is also a must for being a contributing member of society.

Knowing how to use technology allows students to make informed decisions about their finances, health, political views, and even relationships.

The importance of tech literacy needs no debate. How and when to teach tech literacy, on the other hand, are questions with plenty of ambiguity.

Luckily for teachers, there are plenty of resources available to help navigate the onerous task.

Teaching Goals

Before you begin with the endeavor of teaching tech literacy, you need to have a clear picture of exactly what it is you want students to accomplish and how you’re going to measure it.

Most states have developed technology standards based on Common Core guidelines outlining what students should be able to do at each grade.

Use these as a jumping off point to determine what you want students to accomplish given their grade and prior knowledge.

While the following guide presents foundational skills that all students should master, there may be additional useful skills depending on the type of school you work at or what students’ interests are.

Software for media editing, graphic design, or computer programming might be beneficial to some students, depending on their career paths.

In this guide though, we’ll focus on the non-negotiable hard and soft skills that all students should master before they earn their high school diploma.

Hard Skills

There are many technical skills that build on one another that students need in order to be tech literate.

Picture this as a brick wall, where each layer of bricks represents a new skill.

The foundation for everything? Typing.

Students can’t effectively or efficiently unlock the power of technology if they can’t touch type. This makes Typing.com and EduTyping great places to start when introducing tech literacy to students.

The next layer of bricks is word processing. Once students can type, they need to be able to use this skill to communicate using the appropriate perfectly formatted document.

EduTyping recently rolled out a full word processing curriculum that teachers can use in tandem with online typing lessons.

Another great online resource is iAcademy.  Courses such as Formatting Business Documents and Funday Sundaes help students learn the ins and outs of the most common business documents they’ll need to know in authentic and fun contexts.

After word processing skills are established, presentations and spreadsheets come next. iAcademy’s Excel It! and Present It! offer an organized and easy way to let students teach themselves spreadsheets and presentations.

With these tools at their disposal, students will expand their options of how they understand, interpret, and communicate information.

Soft Skills

The technical skills above may be the basis of tech literacy, but learning these alone won’t make students tech literate.

There are also a number of soft skills that must accompany the hard skills in order for students to really use technology effectively.

Imagine these soft skills as the mortar in our brick wall. The soft skills fill in the spaces between the hard skills, cementing all of these ideas into a solid understanding.

Students must have a sound grasp of the principles of professional communication.

This means not only choosing the best document format to use in a given context, but also customizing language and tone depending on audience and purpose. EduTyping’s word processing curriculum integrates these soft communication skills with their technical counterparts.

Students also need research fluency. Not everything that Google spits out is reliable or relevant.

Evaluating sources, choosing information, and using the web responsibly are all essential. iAcademy offers two courses, Internet Search Activities #1 and Internet Search Activities #2 to help students navigate these less clear-cut skills.

Finally, students need to know how to use technology to communicate and spread ideas on a global scale.

Think responsible and reasonable social media aren’t relevant to the workplace? Think again.

In our increasingly digital world, the lines between our professional and personal selves are blurring, and students need to understand how to navigate this.

Whether your focus is on LinkedIn or Twitter, iAcademy has just the thing to set students up for social media success.

How to Teach Tech Literacy

You’ve probably realized by now that teaching tech literacy is no small task.

With dozens of skills, both hard and soft, what philosophies should guide this deep dive into the future of communication and information?

To start with, think sequentially. Remember that brick wall analogy?

While many of these skills are intertwined, it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that some of these abilities should naturally precede others. They form the foundation of the wall.

Typing is an obvious place to start. Without at least proficient touch typing skills, time spent practicing others skills will be both inefficient and frustrating.

Hit the ground running with typing lessons that will meet students where they are, allow students to progress at their own pace, and help students get up to speed quickly.

Next up? Add in word processing skills.

Not only will this allow students to put their new and improved wpm rate to good use, but they’ll also learn the cornerstone documents that will help them communicate in the workplace.

What’s most important is to keep lessons relevant and engaging. The more you can help students practice and apply these skills in real-world context, the more they’re likely to take lessons to heart.

How to Assess Tech Literacy Levels

Assessing tech literacy can be tricky and different states have different theories about how this should be done.

Many states have a prescribed test that students must pass by the time they graduate from 8th grade.

Other states, suggest a performance assessment, leaving teachers to evaluate whether or not students are tech literate based on their ability to demonstrate the skills above.

Luckily, iAcademy’s courses present teachers with dozens of creative ways to not only teach but also to assess different aspects of tech literacy.

Successful student completion of a course is a clear and measurable way for teachers to ensure that students have mastered a given skill set.

Tech literacy skills are extensive take time to develop, but by using the available resources, teachers will find that these skills are both fun and rewarding to teach.

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