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It’s Not About the Tools. It’s About the Skills

Many times, I see eyes glazing over, when I excitedly speak with parents or administrators about blogging, skyping or podcasting with students. Many of them, unfamiliar with the tools, will immediately feel uncomfortable. Some will automatically and immediately steer the conversation back to what they know:

What about learning the basics, like reading, writing, math and science?

I usually try to explain and emphasize, that these skills are precisely what are being taught. We are not podcasting in order to teach Audacity nor Garageband. We are not recording students for the fun of using microphone, we are not blogging, so we can practice typing, we are not skyping for the purpose of using a webcam.

Parents and administrators, unfamiliar with the tools, also seem worried that “important” academic time is being lost and wasted!

In an attempt to explain that there is so much more involved when using technology tools, I blogged a few months ago, We Podcasted Today So, did you learn anything?

It is important that we explain to parents and administrators that we are using the tools to practice the above mentioned basic literacy skills, engage and motivate students, but also address, integrate and embed so many more skills and literacies.

Take a look at the visuals below:

  • Podcasting Skill
  • Video Conferencing Skills
  • Blogging Skills
  • Wiki Skills
  • Digital Storytelling

What are some other technology tools you are using in the classroom? What are the skills and literacies that you are addressing? How can we educate parents and administrators that blogging, podcasting and skyping, etc. are simply a vehicle to preparing students for many skills and literacies, including the 3Rs they are accustomed to and familiar with.


All images were created by me with photographs obtained at Stockxchnge. The resulting visuals are available for you to use, remix and build upon under the Creative Commons license. This means, that you are free to copy, embed, print, or distribute the images as long as it is not for commercial purposes and you give credit to me, as the original creator.

Creative Commons License
This work by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

You might want to grab the images with higher resolution from their Flickr Page:

Podcasting Skills

Video Conferencing Skills

Blogging Skills

Wiki Skills

Digital Storytelling Skills

Currently there are "46 comments" on this Article:

  1. Josie says:

    Ah! that familiar audience glaze. I know it well. In our zeal to share our discoveries I think we sometimes enthuse people into paralysis and fear. By focussing on the purpose, the skills, the return on the investment we stand a chance of being heard. The sheer excitement just doesn’t do it.

    Thanks for the post.
    .-= Josie´s last blog ..The Carrot and the Cattleprod =-.

  2. Clint H says:

    I love the visuals. They are great reminders of the multi-faceted nature of these learning experiences. I’m curious to know the source and if I can re-use them? I think many of the teachers and parents at my school will benefit from them.
    .-= Clint H´s last blog ..The Smoky View From My Office =-.

  3. Danny Maas says:

    As always, a great message Sylvia. I’m a bit surprised, I must admit, that in this day and age you get pushback from any parent or especially any administrator about using technology with students, especially when it seems so crystal clear how many different skills you are building and reinforcing with students and teachers. Great post! @dannymaas

  4. Silvia Tolisano says:

    I created the images in the post. They are licensed under creative commons. Free for you to use with attribution and share alike.

  5. [...] It’s Not About the Tools. It’s About the Skills is a blog post outlining WHY we use ICTs. [...]

  6. Lisa Parisi says:

    My co-teacher and I are known as the technology classroom. And three years ago, at Back to School Night, we spent most of the time talking about the technology we use. Some parents were impressed, some glazed over, some frustrated. Last year we realized we need to stop talking about the technology. Sure we use it often and we did get permission from parents, but we are not technology teachers. We are classroom teachers with a curriculum to cover, skills to teach, and children who need to learn. Now we talk about the curriculum. Yes, technology comes into it – “Here is the wiki we are working on while reading this core book,” “Here are the screencasts we made to show our math work,” etc. But content comes first. Parents aren’t confused or frustrated. Just really excited about the learning.

    • Langwitches says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head! We need to present ourselves as TEACHERS who use technology, not TECHNOLOGY teachers. If teaching is an art, we use technology to express our teaching. We use technology to support and motivate learners. Our goal is not to teach a specific technology tool, but to ignite and take learning to higher levels.

  7. Here’s the beef, though, Sylvia: So many educational decision-makers can’t articulate this same point. Somewhere in the conversation, they’ve centered on tools—”We’ve got to have wikis. Let’s buy whiteboards. Why aren’t our kids blogging?”—and they’ve never moved forward.

    My guess—and this may be a harsh assessment—is that the disconnect between the classroom and the board room is greater than it has ever been. I mean, can we really expect people who haven’t been in a classroom actually crafting lessons and working with students for decades to understand the difference between tools and skills?

    The best strategy that I’ve ever used to refocus these conversations, though, is to start with a simple question:

    “If there was ONE THING that you wanted children to learn before leaving my room, what would it be?

    After building a list of everyone’s “one things,” it’s easy to show how technology is being used to make that work more efficient while keeping the focus on the kinds of skills and behaviors that have always been important.

    Any of this make sense? I feel like I’m rambling.
    .-= Bill Ferriter´s last blog ..More on Interactive Whiteboards. . . =-.

    • Langwitches says:

      Thank you for sharing something tangible with the rest of us. Let’s ask parents, administrators and the “board room” for “ONE THING” they want the children to learn. Let them verbalize the important skills to them. We need to focus on using the tech tools to personalize, differentiate, and pack “all the different priorities/skills” under one umbrella.

  8. Marlise says:

    Thank you for the quote, “Some will automatically and immediately steer the conversation back to what they know . . . ” In my frustration, I need to remember that frustrating moments are sometimes the best teachable moments. Our brains are wired to build connections to what we know.

    I am blessed to be an ELL and at-risk teacher in a small community. This allows me to work with teachers and students in all grades (PreK – 12). Recently, I have had some success with burning CDs and DVDs for learning at home with my students. I am just beginning, but the response is favorable to this point. I record lessons on a CD or DVD (often include a book and/or manipulative) to cover a skill that student needs to work on. Parents, inevitably, are exposed to the tech as well (many different methods can be captured). Using my wiki and YouTube, I can make these resources available for teachers to use with other students.

  9. Lisa Thumann says:

    Thanks so much for sharing these images with us. I’m going to share them with the teachers I work with when we talk about what their objectives are before we decide what tools we want to use.

    It’s so important to focus on our objectives, but it’s tough when we have limited technology or so much technology that the district wants to see us using it (ie IWBs).

    I think that these visuals will be great to show once classroom teachers have listed their lesson/unit objectives and then they can go see how they would like to meet them.

    Thanks again.
    .-= Lisa Thumann´s last blog ..What My Droid Does – Part 2 =-.

  10. Candace says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I agree that parents, teachers, and administrators are often wary of incorporating tech, especially when it moves away from teacher lecture and textbook drill – the way many learned when they were students. It is so important that we find ways of showing how these applications enhance learning and aren’t being done “just for fun”. I love the images you posted and am inspired to seek ways of helping the other adults in my educational world understand.

    Thank you!

    • Langwitches says:

      It is unfortunate that some people see that integrating technology is done for technology sake. Maybe that is happening in some schools, in some classrooms and the perception of administration who just have to “get the technology” into the four walls of the school building to satisfy a quota. . It just makes it more important for the rest of us to point out the reasoning behind the use of these tools.

  11. JBlack says:

    Great post! I made this same picture called
    out the same frustration last year. Thanks for sharing these with us!
    .-= JBlack´s last blog ..You simply must read if you teach….well written and extremely perceptive =-.

    • Langwitches says:

      I like your image Puzzled?


      with the quote:

      Web 2.0 skills are not curricular kitsch”

      As a German speaker, the word “Kitsch” means something similar than “tacky” to me. Wikipedia defines “Kitsch” as something

      considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art.

      I am intrigued by the connection you made between web 2.0 skills and how some people might label it “Kitsch”. I can see your point that parents, administrator NOT ONLY might not understand the tools or feel that they are a waste of academic time, they might also think these skills are “inferior” to the ones they grew up with.
      Can you elaborate how you define “Kitsch”? Thank you for leaving such a thought provoking comment.

  12. Thank you for writing this post–and focusing so well on the skills via the tools. The skills have always been there with the tools changing all along. Did the movement from chalkboard (teacher only) to slates (student) create much controversy? How about when the overhead was introduced? The tools—if used to help students who their thinking and problem solving, are key to learning the skills in a more differentiated and purposeful way.

    Your graphics are excellent…and I appreciate your willingness to share.
    .-= Theresa Reagan´s last blog ..Weekly Events, 1/11/2010 =-.

    • Langwitches says:

      I agree with you that most skills have been there all along, like reading and writing… but… many new skills are emerging and evolving. Skills that were not needed in previous generations and maybe not even a few years ago. Hyperlinked reading and writing did not exist for example. Global awareness might not have been heard of or as important in a rural town one hundred years ago. I like your statement:

      [...] tools if used to help students with their thinking and problem solving, are the key to learning the skills in a more differentiated and purposeful way.

  13. Ludmila says:

    Dear Sylvia,

    You discussed a very important issue in the current situation in schools and in colleges: teachers teach the way they were taught! I call this phenomenon “pedagogical recidivism,” teacher candidates come to college with the frame of reference of the behaviorist direct instruction experience and are taught with the same old methods in their college classrooms; technology is not recognized as a tool, method, or one of the approaches of teaching, it is avoided, ignored or resisted. Teacher candidates are not exposed to the new ways of teaching=learning via collaboration, networking, producing new products through remixing, mixing, creating with digital media, etc. and when they go back to school they bring the same old ways of teaching. A lot needs to be done to encourage college faculty and administrators to promote and use technology in educating the new generation of teachers and specialists who will live and work in a different world that we live now.
    .-= Ludmila´s last blog ..Sharing Knowledge is good! =-.

    • Langwitches says:

      I agree with you that pre-service teachers are not being prepared any differently than they were 10 years ago. Maybe a few more PowerPoints…maybe a few more online citations are allowed in their research papers…maybe, if they are lucky, are required to read a few edu-blogs…
      I know, since my own daughter is going through a teacher program at the university.
      Are there any Technology Integration Facilitators or 21t Century Learning & Literacy Specialists at the University level to support and give professional development to the professors?

  14. Ludmila says:


    I do the best I can at my college to promote technology and spread the word about 21st century Literacy and skills. It took me 2 years to convert an ad hoc Technology Advisory Committee to a standing Technology Advancement Committee. The first time in 9 years I led a PD day on campus http://curriculum02.pbworks.com/May-PD-Day with the respect to technology. I devoted my sabbatical this fall to exploration of the ways to implement technology in teaching and involving faculty in using it. I plan to create a SIG to discuss the wonders of Web 2.0 and Smart technologies in teaching. I got my Smartboard certification to do training at my college. I plan to write a grant with the school district for introducing technology tools to teachers and faculty. Where take the time? I will teach 4 courses this semester! I would like to stay in touch with you! Your thinking and insights are so similar to mine!

    .-= Ludmila´s last blog ..Sharing Knowledge is good! =-.

  15. KC says:

    Just know this conversation of comments carried over to the teacher’s lounge at my work today. We were all discussing the various pro’s and con’s (more pro’s personally) and I showed this article to a couple of my coworkers. Thanks for taking the time to share this.

  16. [...] Another great blog that offes foosfor thought is Langwitches blog recently wrote, It’s not about the tools. It’s about the skills. [...]

  17. [...] award winning Langwitches blog Silvia Tolisano (Twitter name is @langwitches), has written a must-read post. Looking at the advent of Web 2.0 and the way it is perceived by parents, Tolisano addresses the [...]

  18. [...] It’s Not About the Tools. It’s About the Skills [...]

  19. Errin says:

    Great images Silvia! Love them, and thanks for making them so that I can share them with others!
    .-= Errin´s last blog ..Time for a Change =-.

  20. Maria says:

    I am taking a class called “Writing in the Digital Classroom” and your post caught my attention because it is also about using the tools offered by technology to motivate/help/improve our students’ reading and writing skills.

  21. Your post and graphics are superb. Just what I need to answer the questions from some of my teachers who ask “Why are we doing this?” when they want to use pen and paper instead of blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 tools. Thanks also for allowing us to share the graphics you created – very useful.
    .-= Maggie Hos-McGrane´s last blog ..Free is the Nice Price (Part 2) – Grade 7 Technology =-.

  22. [...] It's Not About the Tools. It's About the Skills (28) [...]

  23. You make so many valid points. Educators must motivate to fully reach the potential of their students. Using technology is a great way to motivate; parents and teachers have to understand how effective these learning tools can be. Thanks for the insight.

  24. [...] Langwitches Blog » It’s Not About the Tools. It’s About the Skills (tags: blog web2.0 tools) [...]

  25. [...] the classroom is that it is NOT about the tools, but about the skills. Take a look at the following blog post and share with your [...]

  26. [...] Comments Interview with a Learner « Brandee’s Portfolio on It’s Not About the Tools. It’s About the SkillsInterview with a Learner « Brandee’s Portfolio on A Skype OdysseyLangwitches on [...]

  27. [...] on Taking Student Blogging to the Next Level?Langwitches Blog » 70 Tools in 70 Minutes on It’s Not About the Tools. It’s About the SkillsInterview with a Learner « Brandee’s Portfolio on It’s Not About the Tools. [...]

  28. Julie Squires says:

    This is so true. Sometimes even the students are not aware of the skills they are developing, they are just having fun! One of our students suggested blogging was so much more fun than writing!
    .-= Julie Squires´s last blog ..Really Expanding our Learning Horizons =-.

  29. Lu Quade says:


    Just thought i’d drop you a note to say that i found this post very useful for my research project (for my fourth year primary education degree). I have referred to the skills and literacies you have suggested are used and learned to justify using educational technolgies in the classroom (particulalrly podcasting).

    Of course I have referenced your site :D

    Thanks heaps (i’ll be back).

  30. Sue Mapleson says:

    Fantastic resources, thanks so much. I have downloaded the posters to use for a Web 2.0 display in our library. Hopefully this will inspire some of our teachers to either use these tools in their classroom or ask how learn more these tools.

  31. [...] It’s Not About the Tools. It’s About the Skills [...]

  32. [...] with technology in their classrooms. I particularly enjoyed Silvia Tolisano’s post  “It’s not about the tools. It’s about the skills.” Technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Used thoughtfully, it is a powerful tool [...]

  33. [...] October 4, 2010 in Uncategorized It’s not about the tools it’s about the skills [...]

  34. [...] Silvia Tolisano goes further in explaining this, ‘We are using the tools to practise basic literacy skills, engage and motivate students.’ I particulary liked the visuals on Silvia’s blog which highlight the vast range of skills that are developed through using these tools. It is important that we focus on how these tools enhance learning and are not just an added extra that we feel we have to use because it is ‘technology. [...]

  35. [...] thought Silvia Tolisano’s skills for the different literacies were spot on and I loved her [...]

  36. [...] Tolisano also declares “It’s not about the tools, it’s about the skills.”  Melissa Edwards asks “Why use technology in education?” Whatedsaid writes “Technology [...]

  37. Lou says:

    Yes, a case of advocating WHY we use these skills to parents but also to ourselves. It can be easy to get caught up in these tools so a timely reminder that we need to think about what skills they are developing…thanks for the posters. Great.

  38. Teresa Pombo says:

    Hi Sílvia! I’m @profteresa on twitter. I know this great article since January but I would like you to know that I’ve used your visual and translated it’s content to portuguese. I’m gonna post them on my facebook and on http://interactic.ning.com/ a portuguese community of practice on technology curricular integration. Thank you so much for your work!. My presentation is quite simple and it’s available here:

  39. […] presentation is inspired by the wonderful Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano who emphasizes in her blog that it’s not about the tools, it’s about the skills.  I would like my participants to leave my session motivated to try out a new tool thinking that […]

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