Are you a technologically literate teacher?

blog post title against collage of technology graphics

Could you, for example, walk into the office of a typical small business somewhere in America — a construction company, for example, or an independently-owned convenience store with fewer than 10 workers — and begin work immediately doing routine work, such as answering the phone and taking messages, using the office computer for recording receipts and disbursements, and faxing documents to state agencies?

Naturally, you’ll say you’d need some training. That’s undoubtedly true.

What’s also true, however, is that small business people expect college-educated people to know or be able to pick up very quickly skills that people with a high school education do every day.

I believe that being able to pick up new skills quickly is going to be the most sought-after attribute of 21st century workers.

The last time I tried to hire an editorial assistant for my publishing business, I asked people who’d lived in this community all their lives for suggestions. An ex-teacher was highly recommended.

She was interested in the work and the pay until I told her we use Open Office rather than Microsoft products because that’s what my customers use.

That was a deal breaker.

“I’d have to go take a course to learn how to use it,” she said.

The woman might have been a wonderful teacher, but she didn’t have the technology skills for an entry-level job in a small business.

If you have to go take a training course in a software program before you can use it, you can’t handle an entry-level job in a small business.

Folks, one word processing program is pretty much like another.

And if your skills are up to the challenge of the entry-level work in 2017, can you honestly say you’re able to prepare your students for today’s workplace, let alone tomorrow’s?

Related reading:

Work Experience as Education

The Collaboration Model for Entry Level Jobs

Dear Applicant: The reason you weren’t hired.


The collaboration model for entry-level jobs

Lunch counter

Collaboration is one of today’s must-have skills.  Yet the collaborative model that students typically are taught in schools is, unfortunately, far different from way students will collaborate on their first, entry-level jobs.

Typically the model of collaboration teachers use is based on a boardroom meeting model: All participants getting together decide what’s to be done and divvy up the project’s components. That’s the model corporate CEOs talk about and the model educators experience in their school jobs.

Secondary students and secondary school graduates get rarely are hired for entry-level jobs that involve face-to-face meetings around a conference table. Those boardroom collaborations are rare even for first post-college jobs.

Collaboration in entry-level jobs is much more likely to be about the guy who worked the night shift leaving a message for the guy who works the morning shift: This happened; we took this action; this remains to be done; we notified the boss.

Collaboration in entry-level jobs has three key components:

  • Each worker knows how the work system is organized.
  • Each worker does their own work competently.
  • Each worker notifies her supervisor (and/or the next shift staff) of problems that arose on her shift that may affect their work.

That formula is less like project-based learning than it is like 19th century schooling: Here’s the assignment; do the assignment well; tell your teacher if you can’t complete the assignment on time.

That basic entry-level collaboration model isn’t limited to burger joints and corporate mail rooms.

In a New York Times story, Jon Mooallen writes that Brigham Young University is the place film makers seek entry-level film crew members because BYU students are “committed to a specialty and to collaboration.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking face-to-face collaboration or project-based learning. However, the simple fact of business life is that people rarely get into the boardroom unless they’ve proved they can work well in the mail room.

Photo Lunch by Carin