Technology Skills We Should Be Teaching in College

Sep 9, 2009 by

This is a follow-up to my recent research about Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age.  I’ve spent considerable time thinking about how to alter the classes I teach to re-center them on a core of flexible learning.  In all of my classes this semester, students will be completing a variety of learning projects that involve alternative ways to learn (e.g. blogging, making mindmaps, teaching a lesson, making a video presentation, or designing a non-digital game).

The difficult part about including these alternative learning methods is teaching the students all the necessary technology skills first.  Most of my students are the traditional freshman-level age-range  (18-25).  For the most part, they “get” technology (cell phones, facebook, video games, and gadgets), but they haven’t been taught how to do anything productive with technology – at least, not with regards to learning or career skills.

If America wants to continue to be a world-leader, we can do it with a technology advantage – but only if we actually know how to leverage that technology to continue to be more productive.

So, I began to write out a list of the tech skills that I think students should learn before they leave college.  Ideally, these are skills that would be integrated throughout K-12 and college curricula.

Basic Web Stuff
1. Basics of HTML (bold, underline, italics, special characters)
2. How to use EMBED code or make a live link
3. How to make and share a screenshot
4. How to make and share a short video explaining something or asking for help
5. Learn basic abbreviations and emoticons (e.g. ROFL, IMHO)
6. How to build a landing page for your web-based stuff (e.g. iGoogle, NetVibes)
7. How to add gadgets or plug-ins for various sites
8. How to make a simple website (e.g. Google Sites)
9. Build a clickable resume / digital portfolio
10. How (and when) to use collaborative documents or spreadsheets
11. How (and why) to create tags and labels
12. How (and why) to use URL-shortening sites (e.g. TinyURL)

13. How to set up a web-based calendar and use it to manage your time
14. How to set up and manage an RSS reader
15. How to find a common meeting time (e.g. Doodle)
16. How to set up a communication aggregator (e.g. Digsby, Trillian, TweetDeck)

17. How to manage email
18. How to write a good “first-contact” email
19. How to write a good subject line
20. How to write a good email response
21. Texting etiquette (when it’s appropriate, when it’s not)
22. How to summarize your thoughts in 140 characters or less
23. How to use Twitter (reply, retweet, direct message)
24. How to determine whether you should share it in a public forum (will it affect your future job prospects, your current employment, etc.)
25. How to manage an online meeting
26. How to give an effective webinar
27. What are the differences between various social networks and how they are used? (e.g. Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn)

Finding and Managing Information
28. How to use web-based bookmarks
29. How (and when) to use library search databases
30. How (and when) to use an image-based search engine
31. How (and when) to use alternate search engines (e.g. Clusty)
32. Who writes Wikipedia articles and when can they be trusted?
33. How to build a custom search engine
34. When can you trust the information you find?
35. How to use article citations to find better references
36. How to manage a bibliography online (e.g. Zotero)
37. How to set up web alerts to track new information (e.g. Google Alerts)

Privacy, Security, and the Law
38. Creative Commons – what is it and how to choose appropriate license?
39. How to read the legalese that tells you who owns it after it is shared online
40. What should you share and how does that change for different audiences?
41. How to manage usernames & passwords
42. How to find and tweak the privacy settings in common social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter)
43. How do data-mining sites get your information? (e.g. participating in FB quizzes)
44. What are the security concerns with GPS-based tracking systems?

45. How to determine the audience and appropriate length for your presentation
46. Good presentation design principles
47. Principles of storytelling
48. How to share a set of slides on the Internet
49. How to build a non-linear presentation
50. How to build a flashy presentation (and when to use it)
51. How to find high-quality images that can be used in presentations (with appropriate copyrights)
52. How to find audio that can be shared in a presentation (with appropriate copyrights)
53. How to create a captioning script for a video
54. Ways to caption an internet-based video
55. How (and when) to use a virtual magnifier with your presentation

Ways to Learn
56. How to build an interactive mindmap to organize ideas
57. How to use a blog to track your learning process
58. How to find good sites, blogs, and other online publications for the topic you are learning about
59. How to cultivate a personal learning network (PLN)
60. How to participate in a live learning chat (e.g. TweetChats)

Okay, that’s sixty items and I’ve just scratched the surface (I haven’t even touched on virtual worlds, for instance).

The big problem?  How many educators do you know that have these skills?

Possibly Related Posts:


  1. J05H

    touch typing. #1 most useful thing to know about computers.

  2. How many of these need to be “taught” and how many just need to be used/made available/modeled by thoughtful people?

  3. This is a great list that hits on a lot of different skill sets. I would argue that many of the skills listed under “Basic Web Stuff” and “Presentations” are of less importance than the skills in the other categories, however. They’re just not as broadly useful as the other skill sets.

    I’ll also argue that the email-related skills you listed are most definitely worth teaching. Since, as I’ve been told, “email is for old people” and students these days typically use other communication mechanisms (Facebook and text messaging mostly), students are going to be in for a surprise when they leave college and find themselves unable to write and manage email effectively.

    That might change in the next few years, but somehow I doubt it. Professional communications are likely to keep happening using email or something very much like it.

  4. Lauren

    “How many educators do you know that have these skills?”

    Exactly. Which is why instructors do not require productive use of these skills from students — they can’t direct, help, or evaluate. Part of this is because we are in the change era — 5, 10, 15 years from now, the landscape will be very different vis a vis these skills and instructors — but for right now, we are in that time of change between eras.

    When I was in college, I typed papers on a *manual* typewriter, not even electric! I remember the original use of “cc” — it did not mean “courtesy copy”. 😉 My own opinion is that for a little while, we are going to *have* to put resources into providing support and guidance on these skills — it will take time until they are integrated into the fabric of our lives. Now we get into politics — ugh! 🙂

    Good post, thanks.

  5. This is a great list, very comprehensive. I’ve added it to our staff’s list of technology resources. I’ll have to see about how we can incorporate these skills into our lessons here.

  6. Great post. I’ve been thinking about this recently as I’m scheduled to teach a course on Technology and Privacy this winter that will use the NetVibes site as an on-line classroom environment.

    I’m planning to have most of the writing the students do be web-based in a blog format. I’m looking forward to it, but also nervous because of the problems that inevitably arise when using technology.

    I’ll see how things go with this class, but I’m waiting for more reliable and less physically intrusive classroom technology before I try to integrate this on a regular basis.

  7. Interesting, I`ll quote it on my site later.
    Have a nice day

  8. I really enjoy reading Teaching College Math » Blog Archive » Technology Skills We Should Be Teaching in College . It’s very interesting. Hope you will post something like this again.

  9. Great post Maria! We have a mentoring group meeting regarding striking the right balance between skills and content, and an academic affairs committee meeting later in the morning. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll introduce your post to the discussion and get people thinking about how much better we could be!

  10. @Pete Sounds like a good plan to me! You might also want to check out the “Teaching & Learning in the Digital Age” mindmap.

  11. Joe

    Zipping and Unzipping files and folders.

    Turn on file extensions so they can see them.

    Printing using a PDF distiller or something like Mircosoft XPS Document Writer.

    Reading lectures and notes on a monitor while they are online so that hyperlinks are usable.

    Using several open windows at once and toggling between them.

    Using free services such as Skype or Google Talk to get instructor’s help quickly and efficiently.

    How to save documents in formats that almost everyone can open and read such as PDF or RTF.

  12. Susan McClements

    Very comprehensive list. I teach a computer applications course and have been trying to incorporate many of these skills into the curriculum. I also agree that teachers/instructors don’t have many of these skills.

  13. Fernand Brunschwig

    Interesting list. There are so many “little” things that it’s hard to identify the most important ones. Key issue is to predict which skills will continue to be needed in the future and which will be sidelined by evolution of technology.

    My nomination for an essential skill: how to set up and maintain your own set of directories or folders on your local storage media so you can save and then later find important files and information (whether self-generated, received as attachments or harvested from the web). It’s true that there are now tools to organize and store info from Web (delicious…), but being able to organize and find stuff on your own hard drive is still necessary, and something that, to me, seems lacking in many individual repertoires.
    Fernand Brunschwig, Prof., Physics & Sci. Ed.
    Master of Arts in Teaching Program
    Empire State College

  14. First of all; thank you – this was very helpful and interresting. But I would also like to add use of wiki in Ways to Learn (WikiSpaces or others). In Privacy…. at number 43 I would like to add; why do they get the information and for what purpose? More general is; how to use documents, spreadsheets, presentations – how to open, close, save (.doc, .docx, .pdf), print (in different formats), changing font/fontsize/color, insert picture/file/diagram..

  15. johfra03

    I love this post. I also really enjoyed your mindmap. I am considering creating a “elearning 101″ course to prepare my students for these skills.” Your post has also inspired me to create a wiki to explore these ideas. Anyone can edit and add to the list, or get more detailed. I hope you’ll visit and add to the ideas started on this post.

  16. Artículo muy interesante. Pásate por mi blog si quieres. Saludos!

  17. Miguel Lloret

    Es un blog extraordinario, muestra de capacidad , empeño y deseo de compartir conocimiento. lo he conocido por la referencia de “El caparazon” de Dolores Reig. Felicidades maestra continùe en ese camino.

  18. Glad to see I have learned some useful skills in the real world. They try to scare you—”Kids are learning technology at the age of 3!” Just because you can text doesn’t mean you have the skills needed in the workplace today. I think it’s great you are attempting to teach these things. They really do come in handy!


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