“You’re fired. I only want people who already know how to do their jobs.”

Back in July I said that

I was concerned that we never seem to hold folks accountable for being self-learners.

I also noted that

In many job sectors, employees are expected to keep up with relevant technologies or risk job loss. When do we require that of K-12 and postsecondary educators? At what point do we say to them “No, we’re not training you how to use this. It’s easy enough for you to learn on your own. And if you don’t, we’ll find someone else who can.”

Many of you chimed in and shared your own thoughts on this topic. Apparently, now Dilbert has too:


When will we, as educational systems, redefine the job descriptions and expectations of educators to include their regular and effective incorporation of relevant digital technologies?

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32 Responses to ““You’re fired. I only want people who already know how to do their jobs.””

  1. We just have to remember that those teachers who won’t/can’t/don’t learn are hurting the students. So we kind of have to support them so they can help the kids!

  2. I agree that there seems to be a certainly mentality in education that supports learned helplessness. They are allowed to be sub par. Thanks for the Dilbert cartoon, hadn’t seen that one before.

    The obvious next question is: If we are successful in changing job descriptions to include integrating 21st tools and resources, how do we fairly assess teacher performance? That is a question I wish I had the answer to.

  3. That might be a BIT harsh, but not much.

    I don’t have a problem with people who need help to learn something, if they KNOW they need to learn it, REALIZE they need help to learn it, ASK for the help, then FOLLOW THROUGH on their commitment to learn

  4. We need to hold people accountable for self-learning, but I also agree with Tim. If they know, realize, ask, and follow through, they will keep their skills up to date. Those who complain that their job is changing, need to find another line of work, except I don’t know whose job is not changing.

  5. Loved that Dilbert cartoon today – didn’t think to apply it to education, but I think I like the sentiment. Teachers unwilling to teach their students skills they will need in the new employment context are doing those students no favours.

  6. I struggle with this. I want to be teacher-friendly and give opportunities for all to learn, but I am sometimes frustrated by a few who use the call for training as an excuse for never actually trying independently. I explain that one learns more by doing it badly than by all the instruction available. However, teachers often have real difficulty with being or looking inept.

    How do we provide support while encouraging independent growth?

    Of course I also have to struggle with the fact that my relationship with technology is very different from many of the people with whom I work (who is sicker…I don’t know).

  7. I agree with Tim Lambert. If we fire all the teachers who don’t already have the necessary technology skills, how many people would be qualified to teach? However, I think we can identify those who are willing to take the necessary steps to learn vs. those who don’t.

  8. TO play devil’s advocate….in entire state of New Jersey, only 2 teachers had their tenure removed last year after a lengthy court fight…and that was for truly “hurting” kids. What district is going to “fight the fight” to “fire” teachers who refuse to master digital pedagogy?

    (Although I agree with you completely in theory Scott– there is a minimum set of skills you need to have to do all jobs. But, in most public sector jobs, they can’t fire you. If a police officer can’t use a new weapon, do they fire them or take them out of the field? If a firefighter can’t use a new breathing mask, they reassign them to drive a truck or do training? Etc, etc.

  9. The Tech side of me jumps on board with this right away, because so much of my day is fixing problems that could be taken care of by teachers. But the other side of me has to take a step back and realize that there are only a few teachers that are taking up most of my time. So, overall I think that most people in the education field are keeping up-to-date with technology.

  10. In areas where the unions are strong and the cash flow limited there won’t be push to require teachers to be technologically literate anytime soon.

    Also, in order to require teachers to be technologically literate, schools must dedicate themselves to having reliable technology available for teachers and students. This is going beyond having projectors; it requires computers for students and adequate access to ensure that using computers in school is not simply for the sake of using them, but is instead to support the state curricula as well as the 21st century skills necessary to be successful after high school.

  11. That rests on a few huge assumptions. Firstly, that technology use is SUCH an important issue that competence in that area alone should apparently be reason enough for firing teachers. I think it’s one thing that may or may not contribute to the teacher’s skill set. There are plenty of very, very valuable teachers out there who never touch a computer. Secondly, that teachers are actually in an environment where learning about technology is worthwhile use of their time; that is, once they do it, the tech will be in place, the network sufficiently strong and stable and so on for their new skills to be usable. This is far from being the case in many places. As usual, teacher-bashing is easy, but rather simplistic and not desperately useful. Which is why Scott Adams satirises such attitudes, I gues.

  12. Good post. Teachers should be technically literate at the very least. Experts in teaching shouldn’t have any trouble learning new skills.

  13. For three years now we’ve been pushing and pushing for technology integration. We want to go beyond just setting the fancy machine in the room and the watching it be used for email and to record grades. We’ve had success and we’ve had failures. What we’ve learned through trial and error is that the more we as administrators provide the time and resources for the learning to take place the more likely it is to happen. The better job we do of showing how these technologies have immediate applications that deepen the learning experience for all the more likely the learning is to happen.

    I don’t have room to pity those who choose not to change. For those teachers who do we need to come to terms with the fact that schools hardly embed time into the schedule for this adult learning to take place. So how do we schedule to make this happen? How do we give the time to what we hold as important?

  14. I’m thankful that my district has a subscription to Atomic Learning. I have often redirected staff members to this resource to see tutorials on anything from Word basics (yes, I have had to show staff members how to center the cursor on Word) to more complex uses for various applications. You can go as slowly or quickly as you need, and I’m not left teaching the exact same thing over and over.

  15. The techie in me says “how hard can it be?” But then I’ve been involved with computers big and small for 25 years. So it comes pretty easy to me. But what about some of the older faculty for whom this is REALLY hard?

    Some of you may be too young to remember when computers first came into the classroom. I brought mine from home. Many teachers had never seen a personal computer. We only used them for word processing and playing mah jong. Then, in a rush, came email, internet, grade machine and some teachers when combined with all of the new state regulations just shut down on the one thing they figured they could live without. And many things were just dumped on us and assumed we would pick it up.

    Of course this also happened right at the same time that Profiles of Learning came along and many other things changes in teaching.

    I’m saying, have a little compassion. Yes, I have shown many staff how to run their computers, but they have also taught me many things as well. Today it is computers, but what about when the next new teaching style comes along – will you be expected to just know it?

  16. There’s more here than just teaching yourself. I’m more techie than not, but there are plenty of classes I teach where I don’t use anything beyond my word processor because, in my professional opinion, introducing a computer would interfere with student learning more than it would benefit it. I don’t think you can measure a teacher’s effectiveness by looking at how much technology they use.

  17. I couldn’t agree more! I am relatively young, but did not have a computer in my home growing up. I had exactly two computer classes in HS. I took keyboarding on a typewriter! I am now fairly tech savvy and willing to play around and learn and ask questions (even from my students,who know a lot!!)
    However, my job in the 12 years I have been a teacher has evolved. I am now required to teach my social studies class (world history from the beginning of time until 1921), bullying prevention, harassment training, diversity, Math and Reading skills (to pass those tests!)and multiple other topics. I also get an average of 10 parent emails/day. Our gradebook is online for parents and students to view – – which means my gradebook needs to be updated multiple times/week or else I get multiple other parent emails. I also update my website daily with PDF files of the assignments we worked on in class. I also check my moodle for student participation and to make sure that participation is school appropriate. When I first started teaching . . . I taught social studies. My grades were due at midquarter and the end of the quarter. I had little contact with parents unless I initiated it. I think a lot of these additions to my job have been helpful for students. There are more students who are successful because of the safety nets technology has made available to them. However, these nets have been woven by me. They take a lot of time. So, if I am not as up to date on every new technology the day after it is created, I don’t think I need to be fired.

    Technology is a tool. If someone doesn’t know how to use the tool, but are willing to learn, let’t teach them how to use it. We do need to be aware of the pressures of the job, however.

  18. As a newbie to the field, I think the lack of technology is related to a generational gap. When my co-workers aren’t even on Facebook, how can they understand social networking? Much less use it in the classroom! I know that these “professionals” should and could learn new things, but it is truly so far off of their radar screen, they don’t even know where to start (probably with keyboarding skills).

  19. Ouch Andrea. As a 54 year old woman who is on Facebook just a little too much, you paint my generation with a pretty broad brush.

    Many people “my age” understand Facebook just fine and choose not to have one more thing to have to do on the computer. For others, it’s another fun tool. The largest growth of a group of Facebook users is now people my age. Not bad for a network that was designed for college kids.

    “the overall number of users between 18 and 24 years of age has grown only 4.8% between the fourth of January and the fourth of July of 2009. In comparison, the number of users aged 25 – 34 has grown 60.8%; the number of users aged 35 to 54 has grown 190.2%, while the number of users older than 55 years has grown a tremendous 513.7%. ”

    I remember a time when before school time was actually for prep and not answering emails. The technology has it’s bad side too – in tieing up too much time that could be spent in assisting student learning.

    Please be a little kinder to the generation that has seen this explosion occur.

  20. There must be some psychic waves rolling across the blogosphere. I just posted about this on my blog: http://somenovelideas.typepad.com. Please come check it out!

  21. His first example was about walking down the road . . . people used to wave to people, now they are texting and not looking around. Why does a wave equal community and communication, while a text does not? Same with letters, why are those ‘better’ communication and community building than text messages and emails?

  22. We all know that we are “supposed” to write out those thank you notes and such. For those of us that have less than stellar handwriting I wonder why that seems more “personal” than a text, e-mail, typed note, etc. I’d rather be able to read type than guess at the ink smeared on a page.

  23. Technology is not the most important subject for students to learn, but it ranks pretty high up. Just watch the video “Did You Know?” and you will quickly see how much technology is integrated into the students lives. And if a teacher thinks that they are going to reach those students a technological level, they need to be as competent as the students. I do agree that Kindergarten teacher are probably not going to touch the computer much, but when should educators ever stop learning?

  24. I suspect that I might hire a teacher with an expert background in subject and teaching practice over another who held a tremendous technology resume but lacked an understanding of the content they were to instruct and assess upon.

    There is no doubt an area the shade of gray that any hiring body or official must come to tackle at one point or another. But given the emphasis we have placed on developing 21st century skills into our student’s skill sets, how much should an administrator or search committee weigh an applicants technological aptitude compared to their other merits?

  25. Kindergarten teachers do use technology in the classroom daily. Have you ever seen a five or six year old that could not get a DVD player going and get on a computer game without knowing to read, well it happensl everyday. The students expect the teacher to know how to get in touch with parents via e-mail and would love you to skype to relatives. Technology is used in every level of teaching!!!
    Now to expect employees to be self learners, of course! »

    “You’re fired. I only want people who already know how to do their jobs.”

    What a statement…a business that I would not invest my money in. A successful company hires people who are willing to learn the job and then self learn how to do the job more productively. Companies want to hire creative people who are productive workers.
    The statement should be…
    “You’re fired. I want people who are willing to learn new skills to do their jobs”

  26. Hi,

    I’ve seen the video many, many times. I agree that technology is important in the lives of students but I don’t think it’s the only thing that matters. If we want to teach kids to have a sense of morality, stewardship, passion, creativity, industry – all those things which I think we SHOULD be teaching – then, you know what? You can do all that without touching technology. And who ever said teachers should stop learning? Learning to set up a wiki takes about two minutes. Getting kids to do it takes ten. What’s so impressive about that? I’m not dismissing the importance of technology; but I think it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that it is not actually an end in itself.

  27. I definitely keep up with the technology, but I know a lot of dedicated educators who do not. It’s not that they don’t care – they simply don’t know how to keep up and learn more. I think we can continue throwing out money on ever more frequent tech training, or we can fix the source of the problem and give teachers the RESOURCES to learn on their own. Here are two things we could easily do to help a lot of teachers:

    – Train teachers to use Google Reader, while providing them a list of great tech and ed-tech blogs to start off with.
    – Connect teachers to online communities such as Classroom 2.0, which would allow them to seek help and share ideas in a safe environment.

    And for those teachers who first need some brush-up on basic computer use, a summer seminar can get them up to speed. Let’s do with teachers what we should be doing more with our students and actually teach them HOW to learn instead of just spoon-feeding all the time.

    And don’t tell me some teachers don’t need to learn these skills. I see so much time wasted (during AND out of class), simply because teachers don’t know how to use their technology. I’m not saying we all need SMARTBoards to be effective in the classroom, but in today’s world, you need to be tech literate to be as effective as you could be in nearly ANY field.

    Unfortunately, even with all the resources, what incentives are there for the teachers who are NOT as dedicated – who refuse to continue their own education unless forcefully spoon-fed with instructor-driven professional development? It’s hard for me to see them getting fired! They’re ultimately like the students they teach – you can’t get rid of them just because they don’t want to learn. If they put in their time and do the minimum required of them, it seems they’re untouchable.

  28. Perhaps the question should be how to get teachers to embrace technology 10 minutes a day. Prep time includes copying, lesson preparation, grading, e-mailing parents, contacting co-teachers, and if you are lucky a bathroom or coffee (soda) break. Before school; meeting with teachers, committees, and perhaps the principal. After school: meeting with students, bus duty, and school events. Next go home and be part of a family. Sounds like a long list of excuses not to embrace technology, so take just he 10 minutes and add the fact that technology does not always work especially in the public school system. (It takes more than 10 minutes to find the tech to tell them ;if they are in the building ,that yuor need help).
    Okay your ten minutes have started…embrace technology and be a self learner!

  29. I agree that being a self learner is extremely important. If we have a conference or seminar for each new tool or application, we would spend more time training than teaching. I do feel however, that we need to support our colleagues who struggle with technology. Sometimes these folks are simply overwhelmed, not underwilling.

  30. @D
    There is not a single problem that I have with the overwhelmed, and those are the people that will be able to work out from that situation because they will be open to new learning. Self-learning with support is much different than being forced away from a comfort zone. Some of our educators (at all levels) really are the underwilling, and that is simply sad. When the joke of yellowing overheads is only a joke then maybe there is some hope to move forward.

  31. Hey,

    I very much agree that we need to be teaching our students more than what is in-between the pages, but now that I am on the tech side of things I view things differently. Without going into too much detail just the other day I worked with a class for the entire hour teaching them to create columns in a Word document. Now I think most people would agree that columns is pretty simple function in Word. So why can’t that teacher learn how to use it so he can help his students. I would be glad to teach him, but it is assumed that I will do it…

  32. You are asking an important question. Even though I am a big supporter of the technology use in education, as a parent, I can put up with a teacher who has excellent subject knowledge but no technology skills, but I cannot tolerate the reverse.

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