6 Must-have Skills for New Tech Teachers Plus Two Extra

If you teach technology, it’s likely you were thrown into it by your Admin. You used to be a first grade teacher or the science expert or maybe even the librarian and suddenly found yourself the tech person, like the one down the hall you were always in awe of, the one responsible for classroom computers, programs, curriculum, and everything in between. Now that’s you–the go-to person for tech problems, computer quirks, crashes and freezes, and tech tie-ins for classroom inquiry.

You have no idea where to begin.

Here’s a peek into your future: On that first propitious day, everything will change. Your colleagues will assume you received a data upload of the answers to every techie question. It doesn’t matter that yesterday, you were one of them. Now, you will be on a pedestal, colleague’s necks craned upward as they ask , How do I get the class screen to work? or We need microphones for a lesson I’m starting in three minutes. Can you please-please-please fix my iPad? You will nod your head, smile woodenly, and race to your classroom for the digital manuals (if you’re lucky) or Google for online help.

Let me start by saying: Don’t worry. Really. You’ll learn by doing, just as we teach students. Take a deep breath, engage your brain, and let your brilliance shine.

That’s the number one skill–


–but there are six other soft skills (and a bonus skill) that have worked for those who came before you. Consider:

Be a communicator

Talk to grade-level teachers weekly. Scaffold your lessons with what they teach. Ask them to stay during tech class and offer on-the-spot tie-ins between what you teach and they say in class. Yes, they might want/need the time for planning or meetings, but the benefit to students of this team approach is tremendous. And for the teachers, also. Many of them are not yet sold on integrating tech into their classrooms. They know they must, but don’t like it, don’t know how to do it, and don’t see why it’s so important. When they see you do it, they will be more willing to weave it into their lessons.

Be a problem solver

Technology often comes with technical challenges and glitches. Develop troubleshooting skills to address issues that arise during lessons or when students encounter difficulties with software or hardware.

Be a risk-taker

Flaunt your cheeky geekiness. Use your iPhone as a timer for a speed test or the iPad for reading. At any opportunity, share your geek glee with students. Let them see that tech is part of life, not a subject taught in school. It’s a habit, a time-saver, a facilitator, a joy. It won’t take long to convert them. A couple of admiring glances from friends or appreciative thanks from parents and they’ll be sold.

Be an explorer

Go to the grade-level classrooms and demonstrate how technology is part of learning. This can be via iPads, the class computers, or whatever is available. Ask students what they are doing in class and offer tech methods to make it easier. For example, instead of hand-drawn posters where success leans toward the artistically-talented, could they use a digital alternative?

Be a negotiator

You need parental buy-in on tech ed, but it may be outside their comfort zone. I often hear from 2nd grade parents that their children know more than they do (I’m talking MS Office, internet use, maneuvering through the internet, and online tools). Understand that this frightens them and part of your job is to mitigate their fears. Here are some ideas:

  • Have your door always open. Be ready and willing to talk with parents about how to complete their child’s projects–not so they can do for them, but so they feel it is within their child’s grasp. Take as long as needed and welcome them to return.
  • Answer parent tech questions, even if its about a home computer problem. My experience is these are often simple, but intimidating. If you mitigate fear, you maximize support for tech ed.
  • Offer a parent class that teaches the skills students are learning. Listen to your group. What makes these intelligent adults nervous about tech? Solve it for them. I often start with an agenda and end with a free-for-all, where I answer questions or help parents create fliers for soccer teams or solve home-based tech problems. It’s all good. They leave feeling I’m a partner.

Don’t take life too seriously

This might be the last in the list, but it may be the most important: Have a sense of humor about everything. You’re going to have computer meltdowns. It’s why robots can’t replace teachers, so embrace chaos. One of the true joys of tech is puzzling through these issues. Why doesn’t the mouse work? Why does a website come up on one computer and not another? Where’d the taskbar go? Let students see how much fun it is to engage the brain. Here are a few posters to celebrate your status.

One more skill that isn’t soft at all–probably you wouldn’t apply for a tech teacher job without this–is

technical proficiency

Stay updated with the latest technologies and tools. This might include programming languages, software applications, hardware components, and emerging technologies.

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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Author: Jacqui
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

2 thoughts on “6 Must-have Skills for New Tech Teachers Plus Two Extra

    1. A lot of teachers think it’s about training. Yeah, that’s part of it, maybe a big part, but these 6 points are just as important.

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