The goal of K-12 schools is to prepare students for college and/or careers. In order to prepare students, educators need to know what tech skills professionals need to be successful in their careers.
Technology is ever-changing! The tech landscape is clearly an on-going improvement, offering new and better products on a regular basis. Constant innovation is both a blessing and a curse! New innovations include the ability for improved inclusive design and accessibility, providing students and professionals access to mainstream devices and software. The challenge is how to stay current with tech which may feel increasingly complicated and interconnected to users who are not tech savvy.
Not only is tech continuously changing, companies and schools were forced to fully embrace technology during COVID closures. Virtual meetings/classrooms became the norm for working professionals, educators and students – even for students as young as kindergarten! What was learned during these closures? Educators and students learned how to use virtual meeting platforms, etiquette during these virtual meetings, tech skills and trouble shooting, how to access, complete and share virtual assignments, and so much more! Even now with schools and businesses open again, there are many opportunities for students/educators to learn through virtual classes and webinars. Many businesses are also taking advantage of virtual trainings and meetings. Many professional continue to work virtually, either hybrid (part at home and part in the office) or full-time work from home.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) released a research report in January 2022, called Workplace Technology. The report focused on technology, accommodations and the experiences of employed adults in the U.S. who are blind, have low vision or are deafblind. (See full Workplace Technology report here.) This detailed report is full of pertinent information but let’s focus on the tech skills that students need to know in order to be successful in applying for a job and for maintaining a career. These skills must be introduced and mastered before potential employment – which means that students should be exposed to and comfortable with these tech skills in high school. The market is highly competitive and students will be competing with sighted peers for positions in mainstream companies!
Students need to be able to:
Students need to be able to use multiple types of software:
Best practice indicates that it initially takes three years to fully embrace and become comfortable with basic tech skills. New hires do not have three years to become up to speed with tech skills! Students should be using productivity suites early (in elementary school). Often young students are introduced to technology on tablets (before entering school and at the very least, in kindergarten). College/career-bound students should be using a computer by middle school and accessing, completing and sharing all educational materials digitally in high school.
Note: Once a student becomes a tech power user, then learning a new software or a different productivity suite is not a three year process. Part of being a tech power user is the ability to find and learn using podcasts, online trainings, webinars, and online discussion groups. Students should be taught how to “fish” to develop new tech skills. This old saying is so true with tech skills: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach the man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
One dilemma that concerns TSVIs is that the school system embraces one productivity suite; how can students be exposed to multiple productivity software? There is not an easy solution, as funding rarely covers purchasing multiple devices or software applications. One of my tech savvy high school students took it upon himself to learn other devices and software on his own time at home. While his school supported PCs, Google Suites, and NVDA screen reader, this student taught himself VoiceOver on a Mac with Apple and Microsoft productivity apps at home using online resources. His curiosity led him to compare the two devices and the applications; he then choose which was his preferred device/application to use according to what task he wanted to perform. The student also has a personal tablet and smart phone. Note: This blind student is now in college and has a paid job in the university’s IT help desk!
Don’t be left behind! These resources will help you make sure that your student is on target with tech skills!