Home Microsoft Tips and Tricks Shifting the Conversation: Basic Tech Skills

Shifting the Conversation: Basic Tech Skills

by Miguel Guhlin
tech skills

“Do you by chance know of a good basic list of tech skills that every teacher should know? If so, do you have a formal assessment for this?” asked a TCEA member recently of a colleague. “We’re a Microsoft district,” the member added. In this blog post, we’ll explore a list of expectations for teachers. We’ll also discuss some suggestions for formal assessments.

Shifting the Conversation

When asked what my list of basic technology skills are, I head over to Google, er, I mean, Bing, and do a quick search. There are a million lists of basic tech skills. The real question isn’t “What are the basic tech skills teachers need to have?” but rather: “How do you fundamentally expect them to shift teaching and learning for themselves, each other, and their students?” That question is more fun.

One simple way to shift the conversation involves asking yourself “How do students in classrooms today learn best?” For example, take a look at this chart (Source: Adobe Education Report) about Generation Z students:

shiftingTeachers working with Generation Z have some changes to make in their classrooms. You can break the expectations down in simple ways:

  1. Using digital media (videos/podcasts)
  2. Learning through hands-on experiences
  3. Developing team-building skills
  4. Solving real-world problems

How do these changing expectations impact basic technology skills that all teachers need?

Basic Tech Skills: A List

In the space below, you will find items relevant to the four expectations of teachers today expressed above:

  1. Using digital media (video/podcasts)
    1. Create folders to organize content.
    2. Organize files into folders, copying files from one folder to another.
    3. Work with filenames and extensions.
    4. Record screencasts with Powerpoint and Office Mix.
    5. Record a podcast with MS Sway online.
    6. Capture and share a whiteboard recording (audio+annotation) with Microsoft Snip.
    7. Record and edit audio clips using programs like Audacity (free).
    8. Record and edit video using programs like Shotcut (free).
  2. Learning through hands-on experiences
    1. Model and support the use of digital ink for learning enhancement.
    2. Create models for 3D printing using tools like SketchUp Pro/My.SketchUp (free for Texas schools via TCEA), Tinkercad, and Microsoft Paint 3D.
    3. Make and take in classroom-based maker spaces that incorporate coding (e.g. Creative Coding through Games and Apps (CCGA), TickleApp (view compatible drones) and DroneBlocks (view compatible drones), each of which works with different drones. This type of programming can be introduced to students using MIT’s Scratch and Scratch, Jr.
  3. Developing team-building skills
    1. Rely on GPS-enabled devices for geo-caching activities as a team or create activities for others.
    2. Have students form teams and then make a social justice video using their devices. Then publish the videos online using YouTube.
    3. Engage students in problem-based learning scenarios that require them to collaborate and communicate to solve a problem. Deepen the difficulty by separating them into different rooms (or work with another classroom) and work at a distance using an instant messaging/video technology of choice (e.g. Skype).
    4. Students can also construct virtual representations of learning tasks in virtual spaces (e.g. Minecraft: Education Edition).
  4. Solving real-world problems
    1. Adopt BreakOut EDU methods for use in the classroom.
    2. Encourage students to use Office 365 (e.g. Microsoft Office Suite) to engage in real-world data analysis to solve problems.
    3. Create problem-based scenarios using Powerpoint and Office Mix with built-in assessment.
    4. Enter students in the 3D Design Contest offered each spring by TCEA where they must solve an authentic problem using the design engineering process.

Bringing It All Together

If you’re working on developing teacher skills aligned to student learning needs, then here are three more tips to keep in mind:

  • Engage with Problems: Engage learners in the authentic purpose of solving a problem (problem-based learning/inquiry-based learning).
  • Encourage Collaboration and Implementation: Encourage and support adult learners as they collaborate on projects–sharing their own life experiences–focused on the creation of tangible product(s) with modeling and safe implementation opportunities.
  • Amplify Learners’ Voices with Tech: Amplify human voices with technology as they gather stories and share them (blogging, podcasts, video, media collections).


With these, any professional learning you invite educators to can be enhanced to achieve much of what they need to better meet learners’ needs. Be sure to visit the Microsoft Education Community for access to free professional learning that includes micro credentials (e.g. badges) that teachers can earn and share. And, of course, remember that TCEA Microsoft Innovative Education (TCEAMIE) Master Trainer Miguel Guhlin (@mguhlin; mguhlin@tcea.org; 800-282-8232) is available to work with your campus or district to help develop skills with your staff.


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