There is no such thing as a technology expert.

August 20, 2012

in 21st century schools

There’s one complaint about technology that I hear from almost every single person I talk to: it’s just plain overwhelming. There’s too much to learn. There are too many options. It’s always changing and I’m always behind.

Guess what: I’m an instructional technology coach and it’s my job to help teachers use technology, yet *I* feel like I’m constantly behind. I talk to other technologists and we haven’t heard of half the programs and apps that one other is using even though we’re doing the same job in the same schools. Seriously. It’s not just you.

I also hear people say, “How did you learn all this? I could never do all that. I’m just not good with technology.” You know what I tell them? I Google everything I want to  know. I have never received training in 90% of what I do online. I just get curious (or get stuck) and do a quick internet search. I try it out and bookmark the site for my reference. After I’ve done it enough times, I’ve got it memorized. That’s all there is to it. I’m not the computer whisperer, and I wouldn’t even call myself an expert.

In fact, because there is so much technology available, I don’t think technology experts exist. And that means you don’t have to worry about becoming one.

I’ve heard that there are 3,000 new apps launched every single day. There are hundreds of thousands of educational websites. Countless programs you can try. There is simply no way one person can learn all of them. And you don’t have to try. Pick one or two that you’re interested in and that you think would give you the most bang for your buck. Play around with them and practice.

Resist the urge to think about all the things you’re missing. Of course you’re missing things. If you lived a thousand years you wouldn’t have time to learn every resource that is out there right now. But the only resources you need to learn are the ones you need in your life. That might only be a handful for right now. A few more over the next few months. A few more after that. Stop telling yourself you need to learn to be proficient in all technology. It’s not going to happen, and it doesn’t need to.

You don't need PD to use technology

Google is your very best friend. If you wait until your school district provides training on everything you need to know about technology, you’re going to be stuck in the dark ages. And if you’re fortunate enough to be offered technology PD, you don’t have to memorize how to do everything or keep copious notes about every little detail. Pull up the site or program you want to use, and do what the kids do: play around with it. Experiment. Make mistakes. Fail, a lot. The only way to really learn something is to explore it yourself. Trial and error is your friend.

When you get stuck, Google it. How to copy and paste. How to create an email list. How to download a video from YouTube. No matter where you are on the tech proficiency spectrum, I guarantee that three million other people have already searched for the same thing and there will be dozens if not hundreds of websites with your exact phrase that will explain, step by step, exactly what to do. Don’t get overwhelmed by the results: pick one with a description that sounds like a good match, and check it out. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, pick again. You can do this.

When you find a good resource that explains how to do something, bookmark it/save it to your favorites. (Google that if you don’t know how!) Don’t beat yourself up by saying, “I read it but I don’t remember how! Someone showed me how to do it but I forgot! I’m so bad with technology!” No, you’re not. And you don’t HAVE to remember how. Who could possibly memorize all of this?? Go back to the site you bookmarked and re-read how to do it. Or search again.

I think the sheer amount of technology that’s available is only going to increase with time, so if you’re waiting for that feeling of being overwhelmed to go away, you’re just going to get more and more frustrated. Now is the time to jump in there.  You might not ever be a technology expert, but you can be a determined, lifelong learner who is willing to put yourself out there and keep trying.

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Angela Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years and has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has published 3 books, launched a blog and webinar series, designs curriculum resources, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Subscribe via email for blog updates, exclusive tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Becca August 20, 2012 at 10:35 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with your post! I try to stay as positive as possible when talking to both students and other teachers about technology. I think my excitement for learning is infectious and I’ve seen that attitude make a big difference in how others approach technology.

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2 Angela Watson August 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Hi, Becca! I agree–shaming people into using technology is far less effective than trying to inspire them to try it!

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3 Persida Himmele August 21, 2012 at 8:14 am

Angela, Thanks so much for your honest and helpful attitude. I think that often what turns teachers off to embracing technology is the feeling that they simply aren’t cut out for it. Or that they don’t have the “tech-gene.” That feeling only gets worse when they’re working alongside an “expert” who gets easily frustrated. I just love the spirit in which you wrote this. We’re all learning and we can all figure out what we need to with a little effort in the right places (like Google:). Every school needs at least one of you to cheer people on!

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4 Angela Watson August 21, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Hi, Persida! I like what you said about the “tech gene”–there does seem to be some sense that you’re either good at technology or you’re not. The whole digital natives conversation plays into that sometimes, and people who didn’t grow up with computers end up feeling like they can never catch up to the kids who’ve known this stuff from birth. But the truth is that none of us know technology from birth: the kids just get in there and play around with it more; they have time to experiment, and they’re fearless about it. I admire that attitude. :-)

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5 Mary Bauer August 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I just received a PD that would discourage me from using the computer progam I am supposed to learn. Thank you for reminding me how I really learn technology. I now need to think about how to introduce the same program to my staff.

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6 Angela Watson August 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Hi, Mary! I’m glad you’re thinking critically about the messages you receive from others and the messages you tell yourself. You’re right–you learn by doing. The more you do, the more you learn. Your staff is very fortunate that you’re considering that as you plan their training.

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7 Sarah Ogden August 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I couldn’t agree more. I am a HS English teacher in a rural Wisconsin district and tell my co-workers to just try

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8 Angela Watson August 21, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Hi, Sarah! Yes, just try! And when they get stuck, I sometimes say, “What do you think would make sense to do right now? If you had designed this system, what would you need to do now?” and half the time, they realize that the solution is very close to what they imagine intuitively. If you want to undo something you just did…well, you find a key or a shortcut or a place in the toolbar where it says “undo”! If you want to edit your profile…click on your picture.

Connecting people to their own problem solving and critical thinking skills is really critical, because often they doubt themselves. Some things are overly complicated with computers but not everything, and web designers are making things increasingly user-friendly. “Just try” is right!

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9 Pamela Zweygardt August 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I learn technology the same way! Trial, error, curiosity, and Google!!

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10 Angela Watson August 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I love that, Pamela! That’s exactly it for me!

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11 Lori Labrum August 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Agree! Just try it! I’m going to put this in our mailboxes!! Real mailboxes because some in our fa culty don’t remember how to check their email :)

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12 Angela Watson August 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Hah, that’s funny, Lori! Get the message out however you can. ;)

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13 Sara Ryan August 25, 2012 at 11:42 am

Hi Angela,
Meant to post this comment earlier but back to school and real life seem to be getting in the way of my plans! With your kind permission, I am going to provide the link to this article to the sophomore ed majors in my Ed Tech class at Mount St. Mary’s University. They will need to read this BEFORE they come to class! (And of course, we educators know that most sophomores are experts on anything and everything already!)
Many thanks for your excellent blog — it’s one of my absolute Go To and Save for my own PD.

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14 Angela Watson August 27, 2012 at 12:57 am

Sure, Sara! Thanks for asking for permission, and for your kind words. :-)

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15 Jacqui September 10, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Googling is my secret weapon. I told that to one teacher and I believe she thought I was blowing her off. Me, I was being honest.

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16 Angela Watson September 11, 2012 at 8:20 am

That’s funny, Jacqui! I get that feeling, too, when I tell people to Google things…no, really, I’m not being sarcastic or lazy…Google just knows a whole lot more than I ever could!

Thanks for stopping by…I love your blog. :-)

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