7 Fixes for "Kids Don't Know Tech"

The idea that kids know how to use digital technology because they are digital natives needs to go away as soon as possible. The assumption that texting and online gaming makes kids digital wizards is careless.

Don't take this the wrong way. Kids pick up digital skills pretty fast, but that has more to do with the lack of baggage they bring to most learning situations. All I'm saying is that it's the responsibility of digital immigrants -- the ones who put computers in classrooms -- to explain email, desktop publishing, and how to conduct a productive Google search. 

More than likely, it will be the Oregon Trail Generation that will finish their teaching careers with rosters of digitally literate students in their classrooms. That's if we even have "classrooms."

For now, here's a list of things to consider that just might get us there.

1. Naming Files

Labeling items is an important part of general literacy and a critical step in managing files. We don't always think about it when we start producing a lot of work, but one day a folder of a few files could grow to several hundred.

Keep it simple. Instruct students to name the file based on the assignment title and perhaps the class. Include a last name or initials if you're not using cloud storage like Google Drive, which automatically displays names. 

2. Storing and Sharing

You never know where technology will go next, but it's safe to say that sharing digital work on the Web is only growing

Make sure you don't put more than two levels of folders in your cloud storage. Some say this doesn't matter, but I've managed 150 Google Drive accounts at once. More than two folder levels generates unwanted lag when accessing files linked to websites, blogs, email, or social media.

Use the search tool to find your files that were named properly in the first place (refer back to fix #1).

3. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

Once kids start using computers to produce a lot of their work, they will need a break from the mouse and clicking. Here's a few of the more common shortcuts.

4. Use Google to Search Like a Ninja

Most people don't use the full potential of the Google search engine. Filter your results with the taps at the top, such as "News" or "Images."

Try accessing other countries by using the country code top-level domain. Here's a list of codes to replace ".com." Remember to consider point of view and cultural idioms that may be different in another country. Alan November asks, "What did Iran call the Hostage Crisis?"

Want to read more? Check out "6 Classroom Routines to Search Like a Ninja."

5. Using Apps for Learning

Some apps are great for learning. Remain focused on the outcome and what students will learn by using the app. Avoid being captivated by the novelty. That stuff is important, but not nearly as relevant as the knowledge skills students will be able to apply to other situations, other apps.

I love Google Apps For Education because they allow my students to make their own patterns. This is not to say that other apps don't do this, of course. It's just something to remember as we look around a see people jumping up and down about the shiny new friend they found in the app store.

6. Become Producers

Make stuff. Memes are a kid favorite, but stop using apps that do it for you. They need to learn how to start from scratch.

Kids need to learn how to make their own content and have a lot of control over it. For example, they should take their own photos, format text, and download a file based on the way they intend to incorporate it into a bigger project as rich content.

Check out this post on using Google Drawing versus ThingLink.

7. Practice Marketable Skills

Writing an effective email, desktop publishing, basic website development, and cloud storage are some examples of marketable skills. If you can make videos and manage a YouTube channel, companies may need you to do those things or others like them.

We have to think beyond the content and teach the basics of technology to these digital natives.