Part 5 of the article series on the 2017 COLTT Conference Day 1 by Jesseb Adam

Teaching Technological Adaptability
Presenter: Dr. Melonie (Lonie) McMichael, Senior Instructor at UCCS, professional and technical writing

Technodaptability is the aptitude for learning technology quickly.”

I can testify to the need for instruction towards technological adaptability. Every campus I have worked at has used a different learning management system, software, hardware, etc. I have been at Google and Microsoft schools. I have used iPads, laptops, and desktops with a variety of operating systems.

I was never taught how to use them.

Technological adaptability is a skill that our students should be given practice in. We often assume that because students are digital natives – they have grown up with it – that they will be comfortable with it.

However, we fail to address that technology is an ever-changing and vast sea of tools. Consider the technological changes in the three years, five years, or ten years on our campus alone. IPads, wireless internet, AppleTV, D2L, and Microsoft 365 are all completely new just in the last decade at NJC, and that’s without mentioning the specific apps and tools within them.

core teacher apps
Technological adaptability steps past literacy. Our students are literate in tech: they can use smartphones, surf the web, and write a paper in Word. But are they naturally capable and willing to learn new technology deeply? Dr. McMichael believes that not only are they not ready for this challenge, but must be given an experience that teaches them how to do it.

Dr. McMichael uses her technical writing course to teach her students how to quickly learn and adapt to new software by introducing many different programs in quick succession throughout the semester.

She does not give them step by step instructions on how to use the software. Instead, she gives the capability, primary uses, and a basic introduction to the software, then students are expected to use the software to complete an exercise.
She provides these tips:

  • Know that the students will have an emotional response: it is not easy learning a new software every week. By week three, the emotions will surface
  • Make the exercises meaningful: if they see value in the creation, learning the software will have purpose. Having them create portfolios or work based projects that will be useful in their field will increase their success.
  • Be the lead learner: let them know that you don’t know it all! Demonstrate your thinking and approach to trouble shooting and learning new software
  • Challenge students to find outside sources: trainings, videos, and how-to websites for software programs are vast. Gaining practice in finding and utilizing these resources will be a boon for students long after they have left your classroom.
  • Emphasize willingness to learn: if students know it will be difficult, but have the right encouragement in the process, they will see the fruit at the end of the semester.

To contact Dr. McMichael, visit her on the web at

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