Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to Be Good with Tech - Part 5

I've been writing this series for a few weeks now and I'm winding it down with three short posts, this being the first. If you want to review what I've written so far...

My previous article (Part 4) was the most practical, suggesting the tip "Move ahead fearlessly". In it, I even went so far to assign a 30 minute activity that anyone could start with.

Prior to that, in Part 1 and Part 3 I addressed some common myths that hold people back. In Part 2 I pointed out that successful people think "big picture" when they use technology, not step by step.

This time, I have this advice:

Tip #6:  Move ahead regularly.

Of course, this goes along with what I wrote in Part 4. To get good with tech tools you have to start practicing and keep practicing. 

When I work with people who struggle with technology, I see time after time that they simply have not developed enough experience with tools in general. When the slightest problem crops up, they have no prior knowledge to rely on. Every tool and every task is new.

In other words, what you start with isn't even that important. As long as you can make some progress with it, you'll begin to form the confidence, conceptual frameworks and problem solving skills that can be applied to other tools you'll need.

Many hesitant learners tell me they are waiting for a trainer to provide direction or an employer to provide time, but my point here is you need to make the time yourself.

I want to share some results of a survey I sent out to educators through Twitter and Edmodo. I was hoping to get data to share with teachers at the start of the school year. I realized that it applied here too. In the end, I had 63 responses. Obviously it's not the definitive study in these matters, but I think it offers some weight to what I'm saying here.

First, I asked respondents to rank themselves on a scale from one (reluctant) to five (innovative) when it comes to tech use in their job in education. A choice of three represented "average in their district". Here were the results:

Then I asked about the quality of professional development or training that they receive on the new tools they use. From "exceptional" down to "we don't receive any", here were the results:

Note that over half the respondents either are not trained or they consider the training to be inadequate. But almost all of them are above average when it comes to tech use?

Well, finally I asked them to choose which of these options that best represents how they learn the new tools:

  • From professional development that is provided to them.
  • From professional development plus time spent on their own.
  • From colleagues and time spent on their own.
  • From time spent on their own.
As you might have guessed based on my tip above, the vast majority (over 70%) of these people are not relying on training to use new tools in their work. They're moving ahead with some help from others and time on their own. Here are the results.

Take the informal survey for what it's worth. It at least shows training is not a prerequisite for moving ahead with technology.

Instead of getting formal training, my recommendation is to plan time regularly to just explore a tech tool. Maybe it will be 30 - 60 minutes on a Saturday morning. Maybe you'll make time every night for a month.

Whatever you decide, just like exercise or learning to play an instrument, regular practice will quickly pay off with noticeable results.

Up next, one tip that gives me an edge when I have to work with digital tools.

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