Are you techno-literate?

By Kathleen Iverson

In the past, technology was for e-learning designers and not part of the required skill repertoire for trainers, OD practitioners, HPI professionals, and the rest of us.   But today and in the foreseeable future, skill in technology usage will be not only a “nice to know” but an essential component of workplace learning professionals’ and educators’ basic skill set.  In order to continue to do our jobs well, we need to make sure that we are “techno-literate” and have mastered a variety of software and applications that make us an essential part of the workforce of tomorrow.  Here is a list of competencies and essential tech tools that are needed not only by those working in e-learning or instructional technology but by everyone in our field.

  • Communicate virtually in writing.  Organize and manage e-mail, prioritize response time, communicate clearly and concisely in writing with minimal grammatical error, and choose the appropriate words and tone.
  • Work collaboratively:  Ability to work with others virtually using simple document sharing applications like Google Docs or file sharing applications like iCloud or Live Mesh.
  • Use basic software packages.  Utilize Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (or similar) to create documents that are visually, grammatically, and numerically clear, visually appealing, and correctly formatted.
  • Use images to communicate visually.  Use image management and editing and capture software to enhance comprehension and clarity. This might be the free Snipping Tool that comes with Windows or a commercial package such as SnagIt from TechSmith.
  • Have a social networking strategy.  Create a cohesive and professional virtual profile using appropriate social network tools including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other appropriate tools. Remember to keep your personal life separate from your professional life.  Many people use LinkedIn for professional networking and Facebook for personal networking. If you choose to use Facebook in your professional life, keep a separate Facebook account for your personal life.
  • Synchronous Virtual communication.  Select and utilize appropriate virtual communication tools such as Adobe Connect, WebEx, Go To Meeting, Skype, FaceTime, and various conference calling packages.  Some free tools, such as Google Talk/Chat and Yahoo Messenger provide a spectrum of options, from instant messaging to audio chat to video chat.
  • Develop electronic information:  Using basic tools like Screenr, Jing (from TechSmith), iMovie, Sound Cloud, and advanced tools such as Adobe Captivate.

What are your thoughts about techno-literacy?  Could you add to, change, or edit this list to improve it?


  • I thoroughly enjoyed this article. It is very pertinent, timely and crucial to heed the call of what you expressed in this article. At one time reading was a fundamental skill to functioning properly in society. Now today, being tech savy and technically literate is not only vital to functioning in this advanced world, but it is mandatory for those of us desiring to be marketable in our career and professional pursuits.

    • Thanks Shahid! I agree, the world is changing and we must keep moving forward with regard to tech skills or we will be left behind.

  • I agree this is important. I continue to find things that I don’t know online, but I always find if you just ask people who are using it, you can learn quickly. It’s often something you just need to dive into (to learn), and then once you’ve learned, imagine how you might use it to train. I used Google docs for the first time a few weeks ago. It was a shared Excel sheet, and I didn’t know how to access it or create a shared document. SO, I just asked. I think your post hits the mark, but I think it is also nice to give people the next step (especially those who feel they are too far behind to catch up). Dive in! Ask!

    • Very well agreed! It does not hurt to ask people.I always tell my staff and others, “Closed mouths do not get feed” which basically mean if you are unsure, open your mouth, speak up, which will help you get head and learn new things

    • Congrats on trying a new technology! One area I plan to follow up on this fall is a knowledge base that will help everyone develop this literacy. Stay tuned!

  • This article was very helpful and I truly enjoyed the read! It so funny, I just read an article this morning, and it stated how people in the professional world need to be more connected. Social networking strategy is such a key aspect in this new generation, so many people get new, better opportunities from just connecting and networking with people. And I have to agree with Shahid, we are living in a tech savvy time. If you are not up on the lastest technology, you will fall behind. Employers are looking for indiviuals who are up to date on the lastest trends and tech skills, which will keep you marketable.
    Thank for sharing with us.

    • You are right Krystal about being left behind. I got to really get on board. I am up for new technology I’m just not with social networking

      • I understand Linda. There are many applications that do not require social networking so if you focus first on those, you will be well on your way.

  • I agree about asking! We’re also going to work on addressing these areas in our curriculum. I think we hit many of them in our classes, but I think if we can all agree on what tech literacy is first, it will be easier to address the competencies. Thanks for your comments.

  • The Article was an interesting read. I think it is important that you understand the basics for example Word, Powerpoint, how to construct an email. I also know is important to know how to colloborate in the virtual world. I think it has to do with my generation. I hear younger people much eager to embrace social networking and trying new software. I am a bit apprehensive when it comes to the new technology. I am coming around it is just taking me some time to jump on the band wagon.

  • Caryn Feinstein

    I think this article is right on! These tools and skills are extremely necessary in Corporate America. If people do not know about them or learn how to use them they will be left behind. Smart phones also provide new capabilities that are used in the business world. The only downfall I see with all of this technology is that it is 24/7 and way too many ways to get and give information – it does not allow for any downtime in life.

  • This was a really interesting article to read! I found myself learning about tech tools that I already use such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Facebook, and also learned of tools that I have never used such as WebEx, Screenr, and iCloud. I find myself familiar with software such as SnagIt, Skype and Google Docs because I use them on the job. In this day and age, I think it is very important to be techno-literate and do believe that I am. Though I don’t think a site such as Facebook should be used for professional networking, I would be open to using LinkedIn to do so. The older generation may find it difficult to understand how to use the most current software, however I think its important to learn because of the ease it provides in getting things done and to remain competitive in the job market.

  • I really enjoyed this article. The information is extremely valuable to remain relevant and marketable in many fields. I am going to share this link with my students as a resource for new or underutilized technology examples. In higher education, we have a responsibility to our students to be informed about new technologies.

    And I agree with several others who posted here: do some research and ask if you have not tried new applications. For example, if you use alot of Power Point presentations, check out Prezi. It can give your presentation a more dynamic and polished feel.

  • This article is great and aptly details all the foundational knowledge that we need to have IN ADDITION to our knowledge on how to design training programs. I think another key point is that we can’t ever become comfortable. We need to know the direction that technology is headed so that we can help our companies with change. As we know, change is a long process in some organizations. I am thinking of mobile learning with apps and how we desperately want to take learning to mobile devices, but our security policies are severely impeding our ability to move into that area. I learned about a couple of new things that I can learn, also… which is much appreciated! -Shelly

    • Shelly you are correct about geting too comfortable. That is a wonderful way to put this technology concept. Especially for a Nay Sayer like me.

  • I think that the key is not only to develop a basic skill set for technology, but to keep up with all of the changes to the technology. For example, just when I thought I had Microsoft Office 2003 mastered, Office 2007 was released. Then when I thought that was mastered, out came Microsoft 2010. And that’s just one piece of technology. Not only does software change almost overnight, but the social networking sites are continuously updating and upgrading. As trainers and educators, we need to make sure we keep up with the ever-changing world of technology.

  • I think everyone in the Training/Learning world would agree that we must incorporate the technology into training. I always felt overwhelmed by a quick progress in this field and the multitude of tools which are available. The blog entry is interesting because it presents the problem from a different perspective – the competencies the educator/training professional must develop in order to be successful in this world. Personally, I breathed the sight of relief. Yes, there are many tools and the new ones are being created every day, but with this list of core competencies it is easier to start. For example, I realized that I am already using a lot of technology in my training. What I found I did not know about was the Jing, Screenr, and ICloud. They seem so easy to use! I want to use at least one of them in the very next session I will be developing!

  • Good read! At some point, every industry has had to jump on the train and adapt to technology. Over the past few years, the train seems to be moving faster and faster and you have to keep up!

    As the article points out, building technology competencies are crucial to impact learners effectively in today’s technological and global environment. I am thrilled when I have the opportunity to learn new tech-tools, applications and software that have revolutionized training and the way people learn. Many technologies are easy to use as well and, if they aren’t, you can usually find tutorials or information on the web to help you learn which is fantastic!

    As far as adding to Kathy’s list, I think systems to manage learning could be added. Using technology to create, present and deliver content is imperative but it’s also important to manage the learning function and store training information and outcomes. Therefore, learning management systems could be included as important competency. Does anyone agree?

  • This is an interesting article and thankfully, I’m proficient in most of the mediums mentioned. Yet, I still believe it is overwhelming that learning professionals are required to know or use most of them. Admittedly, I have found the use of them helpful and effective. However, having to get up to speed with “someone else’s favorite” can take a great deal of time and leave the learning professional feeling resentful. Oh well, I subscribe to the approach change or get left behind. Therefore, I’m here to become as technically literate as possible!

  • Very interesting article and I believe that mastering these techno skills in Training and Development is essential. However, I do not see a lot of opportunity to learn these skills in a concise format at the university level. In the future I can see it as a required course offering.

  • Great article! You effectively illustrate clear, concise language and proper use of tone. Many years ago when I was a corporate trainer my company introduced email to the employees. As a trainer I spent many hours demonstrating and explaining why proper “tone” was so important in communication. These employees had been accustomed to spending hours crafting memos, but because of the speed of email, they were responding without fully “thinking”. That was a re-education for those employees. Now those same employees are being re-educated about the multitudes of technology they now have to choose from.
    As an intructional designer/trainer I believe it’s our job to utilize all these forms of communication to help the adult learn in the best and most efficient way possible. Just as a classroom trainer shouldn’t rely exclusively on lecture, a e-instructor should utilize different types of technology to keep her learners engaged.

  • This sheds so much light on some of the generational challenges we have in our workforce. These technological advances and being very proficient in them, is so vital for maintaining your employment secure. Using excel and and access and many other “prettier” ways to present your documents and reports are now the norm and anything less may deem you as an incompetent employee. These tools need to stay and its okay to admit that there is a learning curve. Asking for assistance for those who are savvy, will only allow you to absorb more and struggle less.

  • I feel that I have been quick to pick up many of the pieces of technology as they come out. I still need to learn a program like Captivate and familiarize myself with SnipIt tools, but the majority of the others I have a working knowledge.
    There are so many great apps. Since technology is increasingly important in training, I have found The “Bloomin’ Apps” site very helpful. It breaks down all Ipad, Android, Google, and Web 2.0 apps into Bloom’s taxonomy categories. There were many great ideas there that I didn’t know about that I use now.

  • Bozena Janiszewska

    I am a person who stays away from all social media, so you will not find me on Facebook or LinkedIn. I do not think, however, that it may hurt me professionally. I just do not see a point in doing so. Old fashioned? Maybe…
    It does not mean that I keep away from technology; I use Skype, I blog, I constantly search for new ways of using technology in my instruction, and I love what Blackboard has to offer to educators and students.
    Also, I agree that many members of our society do not know how to draw a line between personal and professional networking, or they have problems with proper emailing (think Twitter and texting).

    • Thanks Bozena,
      I think we all pick and choose which technologies work best for us. It is just great to have an awareness of all even if you don’t use it.

  • Lavina Williams

    This is a very interesting article. I don’t consider myself to be extremely techno-literate per se. However, I have the skills to carry-out some things that require some techno skills others don’t have. For example, I can use Blackboard at the advanced level, I am a member of various social networking sites, I have used smartrooms, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint etc.. But I consider those things simple.
    Things I hope to learn are tools to communicate using tools like Screenr, Jing (from TechSmith), iMovie, Sound Cloud, and advanced tools such as Adobe Captivate. I think these are quite interesting. Overall, I love technology, and I think it’s necessary no matter what the cost is.

  • I found this article helpful. I tend to embrace technology, but I do find myself overwhelmed by the volume of new technologies hitting the market. I’ve used nearly all the items listed, but I wouldn’t say that I was an early adopter of any of these technologies. I tend to wait and see what will be relevant and then I do enjoy learning the programs. For example, I have just begun using Articulate Storyline. I really like that there is a whole community of people who are willing to share their knowledge on the subject.

    • Amy, I so agree as soon as you learn something here comes something else! It amazing how much you can learn and share on line.

  • What a delightful read! It was informative and concise, with just a hint of wit – exactly the type of site-byte (ooh, I like that! I’m going to have to claim that as my own!) that today’s learners and professionals can easily digest.

    As a virtual paralegal and digital immigrant, I like to think that I am techno-literate and responsible. I make my living by sitting at my laptop, drafting and sharing documents and filing them electronically with the courts. I maintain a presence on Facebook (both personal & professional); LinkedIn (profile, company related group and group participation); Twitter (3 accounts); and I am a blogger. In each iteration, I have to be aware of my audience. Am I fluent? Not at all, but I learn more about tech and it’s implementation on a daily basis.

    The skills described above translate to every industry. There are amazing technologies being developed and released daily that are designed to make our jobs/learning/lives easier. Me, well, I suffer from shiny hyperlink syndrome …

    I could not agree more that documents should be “visually, grammatically, and numerically clear, visually appealing, and correctly formatted.” It is frustrating to open attachments that open at 150% zoom and therefore do not fit my screen; or click on a broken hyperlink; or realize that your software is incompatible with the sender’s; or, horrors, to encounter poor formatting and grammar. I cringe whenever I post or tweet something that is misspelled

  • I thought that your article was interesting and very informative. I have recently started incorporating iPads into my curriculum and I think its important for us to continue introducing technology in our classrooms. However, we need to do this in an effective way, and not just for the sake of introducing technology. I would like to use Skype/ Google talk possibly to hold office hours and to answer student questions in the near future- an idea I would like to try out.
    Tools such as Screenr, Adobe Captivate are new to me and I plan to explore these in the near future!

  • Wow! kathy, you are always providing us with such good information.I will be adding this article to my Kathy file! I was having a conversation with a friend about the impact that technologpy is having your personal and professional life. After reading this article that was surely a confirmation. Before entering this program , I have certainly becoming more technology driven.

  • Kathy , I really enjoyed your article. I could not agree more. What you have listed , in a few years will not be a plus on your resume or job skills , but a basic must! Our society is forever evolving and we need to be able to keep up and educate ourselves on these changes.
    I also strongly agree on your point about having a professional and personal use for social media. This is something that can cause a great deal of issues if we are not careful. Moreover, we also need to limit the amount of personal and even professional info we are sharing.

  • Great article and a wealth of information. I have used many of these tools in some way or another, and now realize that I am making good strides to becoming not just tech-savvy, but rather “techno-literate”!

  • Thank you, Kathy! Your article highlights the importance of techo-literacy and provides a great summary of essential skill sets for trainers who strive to develop effective instructions. Your opening statement, “In the past, technology was for e learning designers and not part of the required skill repertoire for trainers, OD practitioners, HPI professionals, and the rest of us. But today and in the foreseeable future…….” is a wake-up call. It maybe a bitter pill to swallow in the higher Ed environment where many instructors are still struggling to master the required basic functionalities in Blackboard. Nevertheless, we, educators, have to upgrade our skills in instruction delivery the same way as manufacturers have to upgrade their equipment.
    Although, due to my Biomedical research background, I have accumulated a wide range of experiences in using technologies in research, I am less proficient in some skills listed in your article. I appreciate that you emphasize using the tools in social networking, visual presentation and capturing electronic contents for education and instruction purposes. I believe that the next biggest challenge is to integrate this wide swath of tools effectively and seamlessly.
    I concur with some previous posts about the impact of mobile technology that makes contents available everywhere and anytime. Furthermore, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we design and deliver training and instruction.

  • I agree we all need to be techo-literate these days. Especially the part about utilizing Word, Excel, and Powepoint. When I apply for jobs these are listed as programs one should be familiar with when applying for said job. Technology is growing, changing. I am 24 years old and I am familiar with new technology. Still, I feel that I always need to keep up with improvements made in order to not be replaced by someone else with more knowledge in technology. In my coursework at Roosevelt University, we have discussed LinkedIn and now I utilize this social media outlet more than I have before!

  • Victoria Nabors

    Kathy, this is a great article. We are certainly in the information technology era of communicating which means to be vital means becoming techno-literate. I like how you categorized each type of online communication site and how best to use them.

  • I really enjoyed this article. I am aware of some of the useful applications mentioned in article such as Google Docs. I think these applications are already revolutionizing training and education. The applications are also convenient. Google and its applications helped me a lot whenever I didn’t have access to Blackboard or D2L, by posting announcements and assignments to my Google webpage for my students.

  • Yes, the truth is the day is here for instructors of all kinds to stop ducking and dodging technology as a classroom tool, even if I don’t teach on-line. I’m the one doing the ducking and dodging. Yet, I have begun to utilize the Blackboard/D2L world and have found that it is quite helpful, not as scary as I thought. I just have to make my usage not as clumsy, but it’s coming along slowly. I think my classes are more relevant for my students who live in this world all the time, so the coursework is not isolated from their daily life. They hopefully are more motivated to learn.

  • Technology really enhances my music theory instruction. I use the Smartboard for everything from flashcard quizzes to playing an online piano for the class. The most challenging aspect of new tech is the time it takes to learn it. I struggle with keeping up and generally focus on the tech I can bring into the classroom.

  • I am obviously not techno-literate. It has taken me a long time (I won’t tell you how long) to discover even how to reply to this article. But obviously I finally found it. I was overwhelmed by the list. I don’t even know what all of those are. But I have this granddaughter that is two, and can find apps she likes on my phone, and her mom’s I-Pad. She is growing up in a home that has at least 6 computers. But it scares me that this is not the case for all future students. School technology has to keep up with this new student that is coming, by providing technology education and access for students, or some students will not be ready for the jobs that will exist. If this is not done, I can only see the achievement gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘havenots’ as widening ever more.

  • This is a great article. I have to admit technology was never a part of my school experience. I can remember my own children helping me with all of the competences listed above. I still struggle but, I am committed to master technology. I still have challenges with basic software packages mainly because they often change as soon as I master them. I have a long way to go. I don’t take advantage of all the technology available to me at home, school, or work. I will not be left behind!

  • Thanks Kathleen for your article. I really liked your summary. I really need to improve social networking strategy. Even though I have face book, LinkedIn, and recently I just opened twitter. However, I am not using these tools to 100%. I do use them to keep in touch with my friends and see what they are doing, but I haven’t experienced any help in career finding or career improvement yet. Anyone has any suggestion for me?

  • This article highlighted many essential resources available for an instructor/trainer to meet the student/trainees where they are in both connection to the uncanny and learning style. Admittedly, I’ve not used nor are familiar with a few of the applications mentioned, so I’ve a little research to do. My biggest caveat to the necesssity of technological savvy is the more important need for assessment of the technology’s efficacy to instruct and the continued engagement with refinement and/or enrichment of the subject that predicates the content and the media of its presentation, i.e.–we must remain vigilant that what we invest so much time in framing (and learning how to frame) within the application deserves the effort and that it facilitates real outcomes; well-produced ephemera do not equal substance. However, any tool that aids learning should certainly be given a shot. Thanks for the thought-provocation.

  • Great article. I would emphasis keeping discrete work and personal social media profiles. Several of these workplace tele-communication skills are happening in our private lives all the time, like image manipulation (memes, gifs, videos, bitmojis, etc), synchronous virtual communication (group chats with What’s App, Google Hangout (RIP), Facetime, etc) and our increased use of texts, email, and free poll services like Doodle (amazing for setting up brunch dates) are a dominant means for organizing friends.

    It is important to remember we have need two voices when we use the same tools. We have the casual, friend-facing version of us and the professional version. Using the same methods for both halves of our life can make it easy to forget we still need to be a slightly more polished version of ourselves 9-5.

    One recommendation I have to anyone reading, consider using a different name, one that won’t come up in an obvious search for your personal handles. It is increasingly common to have nicknames instead of real names and for friends that is one way to make sure you don’t accidentally send an invite or reply to the wrong group if you have different names on each medium.

  • I find it interesting how our education and work experience are almost as important as being techno-literate. I also find it interesting how some people in graduate programs who lack many of the competencies you listed in the article. I can’t remember how many times I helped friends and classmates write a simple email to an instructor; they needed help communicating the message clearly and ensuring that the email has no grammar errors. You mentioned the use of basic software packages and I agree that it is a useful skill that makes us techno-literate. Even on most resumes, the use of word or excel has become a “basic” skill expected to be there.

  • This post was written a few years back, so I can only imagine how it’s now imperative for trainers to have technical skills above just training skills. After submitting a job aid today for today’s assignment, I wonder if trainers have access so designers who can polish off their work? In both of my careers, we have a design team who can make our content look much better, so we don’t necessarily have to be incredibly tech-savvy, however, there are many programs such as Zoom and MS Teams that we must know how to use to conduct meetings and trainings.

  • Techno literacy is certainly a must have in today’s world. Nowadays employers are even interviewing candidates via various software applications. If you aren’t techno savvy, it would be pretty hard to get a job that uses technology to interview. There was once a time where you completed paper applications for a job, now everything is computer based. I can add to the list by saying Kahoot is a great way for people in our field to use technology in a fun way.

  • Although this post was written a few years back, I believe it is even more relevant today. I’m running toward all the technology and find myself wishing there was more hours in the day so I can learn the technology I need to know, while I concentrate on my coursework. One never gets completely caught up when it comes to technology, but it seems vital in this profession that remaining current is essential.

  • There was a time when I considered myself to be techno-literate. Sure I know the basics Microsoft Office Suites and a few fancier software like Perzi that will wow a person, but that it is. At one point I was considered so good that I could teach computer skills to others, but now, I am behind the times. I don’t SnapChat, Twitter, or too much other than the basics and according to this article, the basics now include a whole lot more. As a TL&D practitioner, I need to embrace a much broader range of technology apps and devices in order to stay in the game. I remember having this conversation with a high school friend 20 years ago about increasing her computer skills to stay marketable in the job market. She rejected it of course and had a hard time getting and keeping a job. However, I become somewhat of an expert at that time. Now, technology is passing me up and it is time for me to embrace all of the wonderful techno-tools and keep my learners engaged and me an expert again.

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