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BlogFuture of Schooling

The skills teachers need

By September 22, 2009June 14th, 20168 Comments

It’s inevitable: in the very near future, most educators will be teaching online or at least will be facilitating hybrid classes that include face-to-face and online components. (See Christiansen, or this NY Times article that outlines a recent study on the effectiveness of online learning from the U.S. Department of Education.) We can assume the Internet isn’t going away. We can assume that today’s interactive whiteboards will continue to morph and evolve into interactive walls, tables, and desktops. We can assume that humans will continue to find new and innovative ways to organize and communicate. And, yes, we can also assume that there will be those who will find innovative ways to use the Internet for harm or for personal gain.

So what skills do teachers (and students) need now so that they can seamlessly make this transition to a more connected, more technology-rich world? Here’s my list of knowledge and skill statements, which I’m sure will continue to grow and morph.

  • Knows how to create and organize an aesthetic online environment that is user-friendly to the people who will be learning in this area and anticipates possible user mistakes or misuses.
  • Not only knows how to quickly set up a presentation in order to bring in multimedia (see “learning styles”), but also knows how to use an interactive whiteboard to create virtual manipulatives for students. In addition, can teach students how to create their own virtual manipulatives.
  • Can teach students how to navigate the vast world of the Internet to find accurate information, to recognize bias, and to make sound decisions on which sources he/she will use.
  • Teaches safe and responsible use of Internet tools so that students use the best of social networking without endangering their safety, money, friends/family, or online identity.
  • Accesses multiple methods of teaching a concept. Teaches students to do the same.
  • Is able to troubleshoot when something isn’t working quite right. Teaches students to do the same.
  • Chooses the best tools for any given assignment. (Don’t set up an entire wiki when sharing a simple Google doc will do.)
  • Knows and teaches basic skills such as file management, creating presentations, managing email.
  • And finally, knows when it’s time to turn off the technology and engage students in face-to-face discussions, going outside, conducting an experiment, brainstorming, acting, drawing, painting, building.

Did I miss anything? I’m sure I did. I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.


  • sdulaney says:


  • Kris Comstock says:

    Technology is the key to future education and I feel we need to be as prepared as we can. Students are tech savvy and as teachers we need to be able to get ahead of them and share what we know.

  • Bob says:

    Teaching students to be resourceful with technology is a key skill which will serve our students in today’s workplace.

  • Donna Champagne says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I have been teaching for 34 years and I never could have imagined doing what I am doing now in my classroom.

  • Brady Labit says:

    I agree that we need to look at many different approaches for instruction, but there is the concern for whether or not students are using the technology for appropriate things. So is the key to teach our students responsible computer usage in the classroom, or locking down computer systems to prevent inappropriate behavior?

  • Erin Henry says:

    I love this list! I think many teachers easily fit the bill for the first 5, but there the rest of the list isn’t quite so “inherent.” One of my goals as a Technology Director is teaching more troubleshooting skills to my faculty, along with giving them access to a wide variety of tools. Therefore, skills 6-8 appeal greatly to me.

  • Hi
    A friend of mine just emailed me one of your articles from a while back. you read that one a few more.

  • Hi
    A friend of mine just emailed me one of your articles from a while back. you read that one a few more.

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