IT skills for jobs 2017

it skills for jobs

Image : smh 

We are well past the stage where using a computer and mobile devices are desirable job skills. We are very much into the realms of data, SEO (search engine optimisation), apps development and UI/UX (user interface and user experience). Education is not about jobs but the skills people learn through study are generally the sorts of things which will carry them through to employability and the learning skills needed to advance themselves. Students do need to be familiar with the sorts of knowledge which will promote growth in their lives. I have spoken about UX and UI a lot on this blog. In classrooms which use technology it is something teachers need to be aware of. Design and technology  together. There was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which discussed the sorts of IT skills we are looking for in Australia and it also included the soft skills we seem to be short of : teamwork, ownership and problem solving. Collaboration has been a classroom requirement for a long time as has teamwork. Ownership is about belonging and certainly there have been conversations and practices around that in education in Australia so I am wondering why these skills seem to be missing. CIO looks at the 10 IT skills which are most in demand at the  moment and looks and the reasons why.  The World Economic Forum looks at it from a global perspective and lists the skills we are looking for in the world. Not that much different form what we are looking for in Australia. FastCompany discusses at length three IT skills in particular and why they need to be commonplace now because they are so important to economic growth.  They are also important to an understanding of how technology works and influences us and how technology is being used and leveraged in today’s world. We have a lot of tools and software now. We need to progress to the next phase where we get he best out of them and then understand how they are impacting on us and can impact on us

Progressive disclosure

All teachers know about chunking the work. All teachers know about planning lessons and assignments around the steady and controlled revelation of information and knowledge. Step by step teaching and learning is second nature to them. Now they are using technology , it’s time for them to meet the UX and UI experts and learn the term progressive disclosure. It’s not that they don’t know it. There has been IWB software which includes spotlight or hidden screen functionality. There have been Powerpoint presentations where you reveal the learning material a bit at a time. Progressive disclosure is a familiar term and concept in UX and UI and software designers these days think in this way. Apps and software are designed with this in mind so that the user is not swamped with information and can navigate their way through the app , site or software in an intuitive way. Teachers, then, need to be able to talk about progressive disclosure. They need to be mindful of it as they design digital materials and they need to be able to have those conversations with people who are designing educational software and apps so they can explain to them what sorts of stepping processes influence classroom learning and learners. My students were always complaining very loudly if they had software which would not let them progress in any way unless they could write exactly what the software wanted as an answer. It was a big turn off for independent learning. They didn’t like being swamped with a whole array of things to do either. I would ask them to let me know if there were things which deterred them as they learned. I asked them to be able to explain that clearly and with their reasons for being put off. I would then have conversations with the companies supplying that software either on the phone or via email/support to try to explain that from an educational point of view. It often did boil down to the way the software was operating in terms of progressive disclosure. We are still developing tools and techniques for the classroom. We need to keep the conversations going and students need to be encouraged to be a part of that ongoing development so they understand how to improve their virtual world.

Learn coding

vivaLucci is straight to the point and explains clearly how to go about learning code. Code is problem solving. Get a good project and learn to code. Get a reason to code and learn to code. Start with one code and dedicate yourself to that learning and you’ll find a lot of the knowledge and approaches are transferable. I started coding because I was there when Commodore 64s came on to the market as the first home computers. They were clever but to get the best out of them you had to code. The manual came with some codes to learn and I built on that. The school I was in introduced BBC computers which could run some software but we had nothing for languages. I used my Commodore 64 language, borrowed books on BBC computers and learned to write scripts to run programmes to teach languages. I was coding the images, the sequence of events and then collaborating with interested students to develop those programmes further. That’s a point vivaLucci makes. Coding gets you collaborating and collaborating improves your coding. Students couldn’t write the scripts I was writing but they could add to them. We were a mini coding team and grew our knowledge by helping each other. We had a purpose. We were trying to make cool things for the class to use in the computer lab. I have grown from that point and add to it when I want to. Forbes has a good article as to why students should learn coding :

“It also has the potential to bring about a fundamental shift in the way we view technology, turning us from passive consumers into active producers. “There is a massive difference between consuming content and being able to create it,” Sutcliffe adds. “It is important to have agency over the tools you are using.””

Entrepreneur has some good sites to help anyone learn coding. There is so much free material to help you learn and you can go back to it and learn some more when you are ready. Lifehacker has some good recommendations for apps and sites for children to learn coding. For children to learn coding adults have to know what to safely recommend and have a degree of comfort with the software and apps and teachers need some good training which enables them to feel at ease with coding and see the purpose of it:

“But if coding is to become embedded in schools it is going to take a massive effort in terms of teacher-training. Kirsop attests to the shortage of time lack spent on programming skills on her own training course. “There is a long way to go before teachers feel confident enough to teach these skills,” she says.”

Teach kids how to code and you give them a skill for life

Tablet ergonomics

As with any other new technology it takes a while for research to be done and then the data to be analysed so we can put it to good use. There is now some solid research information available about tablet ergonomics, what to look out for, what to pay attention to and how to change your posture and usage so you are not putting unnecessary strain on different parts of your body. The ergonomics blog looks particularly at the problems which might occur for children and there is a lot of good information and sensible practice advised. It is important to notice children’s use of tablets and then help teach them the better way of going about using their tablets. digitaltrends look at the impact of the tablet on your neck which is the biggest area of concern. It’s important to get good information about tablet ergonomics so you can use it for yourself and then pass it on.

Taming technology

Simplifying our use of technology really is a first world problem. We are spoiled for choice with technology , whether we are talking about hardware , software or services. In global terms we are not really overwhelmed by the weight of technology in our lives. Truly, others have far more demanding issues to confront on a daily basis. Nevertheless, there are people who are genuinely becoming stressed by the constant demands of technology and there are people who are being pushed to the wall by the constant requirement to be connected or to access technology. We really need to use our critical thinking skills when it comes to technology and the video sums it up as these 5 steps:

Formulate a question
Gather information
Apply information
Consider implications
Explore other points of view.

The website Inc probably sums up the increasing encroachment of technology on our time:

“After you’ve checked SMS, WhatsApp, voicemail, email, your second email account, Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages, Twitter mentions, Twitter DMs, Quora messages, snail mail, and Slack for the third time in a given day, you’ve lost the opportunity to actually, ya know, get anything done. Narrow down the number of communications media you use, and batch process the messages that arrive, to reclaim your day,” suggests VC Patrick Mathieson.

The whole post about simplifying our lives talks a lot of common sense and it will probably strike a chord with you as it did with me. The tips recommended for simplifying your life can apply just as easily to technology as life in general. You do need to set boundaries. You do need to have reasonable expectations of others. Why should they respond immediately to your SMS or email? How many sites can a person reasonably belong to and check in a working day and if they have dependant children or older parents ? How does it help to be connected? What are the things which trigger bad responses to connectivity? How many devices do you need to use and why? Can you do more on one device? Why can’t you use the device of your choice? Have you explored the apps and sites which streamline your activities? Those are some questions to start your critical thinking.

I have been using my phone more because it is always with me. I have taken the time to learn its settings and I have improved how I do things on my phone. I check emails in the morning and again in the evening. I do not connect to emails on my phone. If I don’t want to be interrupted I turn the sound off. The pressure comes from the perception that technology is harassing you. When you feel like that and that your life is not your own you need to change the balance and make incremental changes until you reach that point where the balance of power is again in your favour. You have to change the point of critical mass until is flows your way according to your wishes. Popsugar has some nice ideas for simplifying tech use . Put the critical thinking time in so it works for you. We are lucky to have all this technology but it does need to be tamed.

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