By Claire Klieger
This week I attended my daughter’s back to school night. She’s just started first grade and is excited about being in a “big girl” school where she gets to buy her lunch at the cafeteria, go to gym, and attend music and art classes a couple of times a week. She’ll clearly be learning a lot but I have to say that I was most impressed (and flabbergasted) by what she is already doing in her computer class. Apparently, even in their second week, students (keep in mind these are six year-olds) are discovering how to use Google Maps to get directions and all of the cool things you can see with Google Earth. By the end of the year she will even be creating PowerPoint presentations!
All of this made me think about how quickly the landscape changes in terms of technology and expectations about associated skills. While my daughter surely won’t “need” to make PowerPoint presentations any time soon, getting comfortable using a computer early is critical to her educational success. For example, since all state-wide testing is online, she will need to learn how to type to answer questions in paragraph form by the third grade. All of us have seen similar changes in expectations about technical skill sets in the work place. In this era, it’s understood that you will have basic proficiency in most of the standard Microsoft applications but to do well, you really need to have more.
We hear from employers who often tell us that there is a disconnect between their and students’ understanding of technical competencies. For example, creating charts and doing basic calculations in Excel is no longer enough to be considered “proficient.” Now, one is expected to be able to whip together some pivot tables with ease. Similarly, most people play around with social media in their everyday lives, but if you’re doing professional work with it, you need to be competent with a content management system like sprout social or hootsuite. The main message here is that there are tangible and specific skills you can learn to be more successful in your job and internship search as well as in the position itself.
I know, I know—who has time to learn new technology on top of everything else they are doing and where would they go to learn it anyway? Well, the answer is Penn’s Weigle Information Commons! They offer Penn students, faculty and staff free workshops and trainings on everything from Excel to Graphic Design to Zotero (a free reference management software to help with bibliographies, in case you were wondering—I had to look it up, too). Workshop listings change frequently and are offered often so check out their schedule here today: http://pennwic.wordpress.com/upcomingwic/ . More information on specific workshops and instructions for registering you can find on their website: http://wic.library.upenn.edu/wicshops/
So, take an hour or two and start adding to your repertoire of tech skills. I know I’m going to have to or I likely won’t be able to help my daughter with her computer class homework much past the third grade!