As a toddler, developing the muscles and coordination to walk instead of crawl comes from a desire to get to a toy, ball, pet, or food more quickly.
When a child’s learning to walk, she isn’t seeking how to learn the mechanical components of moving one foot in front of the other. Instead, she’s motivated to achieve some goal (getting to the toy as fast as possible). Learning how to walk comes as a byproduct. The child wanted one thing and developed a skill along the way.
Teaching students how to use technology is very similar. Some believe that skills such as word processing, keyboarding, using a mouse, etc., should be taught in isolation. I’d argue that students learn computer skills better when there’s a goal that must be accomplished and the computer is used simply as a means to that end. For instance, a student must research about ancient Egypt and report her findings. As she navigates Google and makes a Prezi presentation showing her findings, she’s learning a lot all at once: The content (obviously) and all the little steps that are needed to navigate the Google and Prezi websites.
Adults in today’s workforce must learn organically everyday in environments that are multi-faceted and complicated. We should start teaching our students 21st century skills in the same way–just like when they learned how to walk.