Keyboard skills – important for succeeding in the twenty-first century

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 | Computer Usage | 4 Comments

Using your thumbs you can possibly type away on the keypad of your cell phone at the speed of lightning.  If you can do this you are part of the thumb generation.

Are you as skilled in the use of the keyboard of a computer?  Many people peck away with two – and sometimes four – fingers and feel that this is good enough.  But you can do better than that when you learn touch typing.

What is touch typing?  The name indicates that you use your sense of touch to find your way when you type.  You don’t have to look at the keyboard to locate the letters; your fingers will feel their way to find the right ones.

You don’t need a special course to learn touch typing.  Free programs – called keyboard tutors – are available on the internet to help you develop this skill.  But you need to practise, practise and practise some more and not give up if you find it difficult at first.

Think about how good it will be if you don’t have to look at your hands when you type: you can either look at your notes or another book from which you copy information, or you can look at the screen to see whether you are typing correctly.  Touch typing allows you to type much faster and more accurately than you would be able to do otherwise; you will even type faster than you can write by hand.

Keyboard skills, and particularly touch typing, are of the most important skills required to succeed in the twenty-first century.  Make time to learn touch typing now and save a lot of time later.

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What is the role of technology in the development of twenty-first century skills among learners?

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 | Computer Usage | 4 Comments

It is difficult to imagine how 21st century skills can be developed without the use of technology, particularly computer and communication technologies (ICTs).

Sound computer skills:  You can’t become an accomplished pianist without your fingers regularly touching the keys of a piano.  Likewise, you need lots of practice on computers to develop adequate computer skills.

Information handling:  Before you are given the right to use a car in public, you must learn the rules of the road and prove that you can skilfully manoeuvre a vehicle in heavy traffic.  The internet is often called a super information highway.  This road leads to interesting discoveries, but can be treacherous and dangerous.  Sufficient exposure and practice are required to develop the skill of finding accurate information on the web and then using it effectively.

Knowledge creation:  Computer tools for collecting, collation and manipulation of information – such as databases, spreadsheets and automated statistical tools – are invaluable to the knowledge worker.  If you want learners to become skilful users of these tools, you must expose them to technology as early as possible.

Communication and collaboration:  It is no longer possible to communicate effectively with others without using ICT.  We are not just talking about e-mail – the use of video conferencing, Skype and social networking platforms are gaining popularity as communication and collaboration tools.  Many learners are already using some of these tools for personal communication, and must now to be guided towards employing them for productive purposes.

Innovation:  The first step to innovation is innovative thinking.  Computer tools – such as mind-mapping tools and digital design tools – encourage and develop this way of thinking.  Exposure to innovations published on the internet further stimulates innovative thinking.

These few examples alone should be adequate to show that it is impossible to develop 21st century skills without the use of technology.

Two things are required: learners must have access to sufficient technology in school to develop these competencies, and teachers must have the skills to guide the process.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What are 21st century skills?

Friday, November 5th, 2010 | education | 5 Comments

Simply put – 21st century skills are those competencies a person needs to survive and succeed in this complex century.

Business processes in most companies are changing.  In the past many people were used to manufacture goods – this required skills to operate and maintain factory machines.  As these machines are becoming more sophisticated, less human interaction is needed.  The major role for people now is to handle information and to come up with innovative ideas.

Basic skills such as the 3 R’s – reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic – are still important, but teachers must also help learners to develop skills that meet modern demands.  Some of these skills are:

Sound computer skills:  Most jobs require the ability to use computers.  A person entering the work force in the 21st century without these skills is at a great disadvantage.

Information handling:  Information is needed to make complex decisions.  This information comes from different sources, such as market research, the internet and other media.  The challenge is to make sense of all of this.  How does one locate accurate information? Analyze it? And then synthesize it?

Knowledge creation:  This is a complex skill, which refers to the ability to take existing information, apply one’s mind to it and then create a new body of knowledge, which can then be used to benefit the organization you’re working for or to your own advantage.

Communication and collaboration:  Workers with complementary skills, but living in different parts of the world, are often required to work together on a project.  Survival in such an environment is only possible if you are able to use different modes of communication and have acquired the skill to collaborate with others.

Innovation:  Contrary to what many believe, this is a skill that can be cultivated – but it takes lots of practice.  The earlier you start the better.  Companies are searching for people who can come up with innovative ideas to work for them.

The way in which education departments view curriculum matters does not always encourage the development of these additional skills but basic literacy is no longer sufficient to prepare learners for the workplace – new literacies are required.

As a teacher, do you understand what these new literacies demand of you?

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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Teachers, use favourable conditions to stock up on technical skills

Friday, September 24th, 2010 | e-Learning pioneers | 1 Comment

The e-pioneer makes hay while the sun shines.

The rationale behind the idiom “make hay while the sun shines” may not be all that clear to city slickers. It originated in an agricultural setting and was used as far back as 1546 when it was in the form: “whan the sunne shynth make hey“.  Just shows you how old it is!

This antique expression refers to the processing of hay after a harvest. The warmth of the sun is required to dry the wheat stalks and to turn them into hay. When a heap of hay, once dried, gets wet again, it starts to rot. In view of the unpredictability of the weather, the opportunity must therefore be grabbed to tie the hay in bundles and store them in a protected place while the weather holds.

The e-pioneer follows the principle of this idiom: help teachers take advantage of favourable circumstances – which may not last indefinitely – to become proficient in the use of technology.

When technology is placed in schools the sun of opportunity is shining. It is, however, shining through a shrinking window of opportunity.

For example: once technology has been installed, the hardware warranty clock starts ticking away; the time for optimal use and guaranteed vendor support is running out. Or, once the project making the technology available is completed, further training opportunities and technical support may not be available.

Principals, in particular, must make hay while the sun shines by seeing to it that favourable conditions are used to build technical skills in staff members.

Click here for more food for thought for e-pioneers.

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Why can’t South African children count?

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 | ICT in Africa | 13 Comments

I can’t accept the fact that children in South Africa are not able to count.  Yet, studies show that numeracy skills of our children are of the lowest in the world.

Why is it that some of our schools produce learners with excellent mathematical abilities, while neighbouring schools – drawing learners from the same communities – yield dismal results?

Why is it that some well-resources schools fare badly in equipping learners with numeracy skills, whereas some poorly resourced schools are doing so well?

Does the fault lie with the learners?  No!  Never doubt the talent of our children!

Is a lack of resources the problem?  No!  Many schools are performing miracles with the little that is available.  You don’t need fancy equipment to teach learners to count and to remember their multiplication tables.

The education system – officials and teachers – must take responsibility for the fact that our kids can’t tally.

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A bottom-up approach

Friday, August 28th, 2009 | Employment | 4 Comments

The Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Roy Padayachie, gave the keynote address during a Public Service Innovation Conference in Cape Town yesterday.

He encouraged gender equity, but cautioned women:

“Don’t use your bottoms to get to the top”.

A stunned audience battled to hide their embarrassment – only a few managed a polite giggle.


Adapt or die

Sunday, June 14th, 2009 | Computer Usage, technology | 8 Comments

A few decades ago Computer Aided Design (CAD) software packages became commercially available. CAD programmes automated the drawing of technical diagrams.  The software made it possible to draw diagrams in a few minutes that previously took draughtsmen hours – if not days – to complete, and with greater accuracy.

Surprisingly, many draughtsmen resisted the use of CAD software, feeling that it posed a threat to their careers.  They’ve spent years developing drawing skills – if computers were to be used to draw diagrams, what were they going to do?

Some farsighted draughtsmen accepted the change and learned to use CAD software.  They discovered that it took the drudgery out of their jobs and allowed them time to focus on higher level design tasks.  For them CAD proved to be a productivity boon.

Today practically all technical drawings are done by means of CAD.  Those draughtsmen who did not embrace technology were phased out over time. 

Educators are in a similar situation today. Technology is changing the face of education but, sadly, some educators are not prepared to accept the challenge to learn new skills. It is not as if they are scared of technology – they fear that technology will take over their jobs. If computers are used for teaching, what will teachers do?  They resist technology because they see it as a threat to their careers.

Visionary educators behave differently. They embrace opportunities that allow them to elevate their personal involvement to a higher level; technology enables them to be true facilitators of the learning process, while using computers for more mundane things such as admin tasks, drill and practice and the dissemination of learning content.

Where will educators find themselves in a decade from now if they do not adapt to a mode of education where technology plays a significant role?

Remember what happened to the draughtsmen!

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Must I learn to touch type?

Sunday, May 10th, 2009 | laptops | 1 Comment

If you’ve never worked on a computer before, or did not take typing lessons, you won’t be able to touch type.  Even many experienced computer users never acquired this skill.

What is touch typing?  It is typing without looking at the keyboard to find the right keys to press – through practise the fingers are trained to locate the keys so that the person typing can read from a text and type at the same time.  This skill can be compared to dancing – an accomplished dancer’s feet automatically follow the music.

Touch typing is indeed a valuable skill if you work a lot on a keyboard.  Typing with two fingers in a hunt-and-peck fashion is easy, but slow and tiresome.  Once you’ve mastered the skill of touch typing, you will be able to type:

  • much faster
  • more accurately
  • while you are reading from a document, or looking at the screen of your computer.

It is not difficult to learn to touch type.  A typing teacher on your staff may be able to help you.  Free typing tutor programmes are available for use in your own time.  Don’t give up if your fingers are dumb in the beginning – over time they will loosen up and obey you effortlessly.

The dividends that learning to touch type will pay you are illustrated by Aesop’s fable of the farmer and his sons.

A father, on the point of death, wished to be sure that his sons would give the same attention to his farm as he himself had given it.  He called them to his bedside and said, “My sons, there is a great treasure hid in one of my vineyards.” 

The sons, after his death, took their spades and carefully dug over every portion of their land.  They found no treasure, but the vines repaid their labour by an extraordinary and superabundant crop.

The moral of story: sometimes the rewards for one’s efforts are indirect.

In itself the skill of touch typing has no merit – you will find a real treasure when you reach the point where your fingers translate your thoughts into text.

Click here to find answers to more laptop related questions.

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Cultivate the art of listening

Sunday, September 14th, 2008 | training | Comments Off

Trainers need special skills to train teachers in the use of technology.  They must have a good knowledge of hardware, software and education programmes, and ought to understand the process of education.  Healthy doses of patience, empathy, discernment and suchlike qualities are also required

A skill that is often overlooked is the art of listening.  So great is its value to trainers that, at times, it could even compensate for other deficiencies.

A teacher may have problems coming to grips with the use of ICT as a curriculum delivery tool.  Perhaps you have made many suggestions and put the person through a variety of training programmes, but without success.

Do we give up on such ones?  Or is there another approach?

How about just letting the individual talk – while you are listening.  But it must be attentive listening.  By giving careful consideration to what is said, you are allowing the teacher to tell you what her needs are – even though she may not be using the correct terms.

As an experienced trainer, you will be able to discern the real needs.

A teacher may say: “I have been teaching this subject for years without the help of computers – I see no need for it now.”  Why does he feel that way?  Let him talk and find out.  It could be that the teacher is not aware of what technology can do for the subject.  Or there may be a trace of technophobia.  Another possibility is the fear that the computer will take his job away.  In many cases the ICT-curriculum integration picture is not clear to the educator. 

You cannot rectify the situation unless you know the underlying reason for the problem – and you will not know the reason unless you are listing.

To be a good trainer, cultivate the art of listening.

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