education, technology, and everything else

Computer Lit

Posted by Miranda on February 9, 2008

My son mentioned to me the other evening that Thetford Academy has a Computer Literacy class, something I never knew. It’s an elective, 1/2 hour daily. They cover search engines, some basic web design. He tells me there’s a larger unit on cyber-bullying.
Now, the school where I work has nothing like this. In fact we do not offer any computer classes per se. The enrollments for the programming classes were so small that they haven’t run since the first year I worked here. There used to be a basic Office applications course but no more.

Kids that I see often have no idea of very simple search techniques. They don’t know how to add page numbers to a term paper. They don’t know that taking a graphic off a web page, putting it into a poster and enlarging it by dragging the edges will result in pixelated mess when printed. When it does they have no idea why. They don’t know that memory is different from hard drive space. They don’t know how to set up their virus protection to update itself. (Many don’t know if they even have any virus protection.)

Most “computer course” are programming courses. What we need is a technology course. Do kids need to know how to program in order to use technology efficiently? No they don’t. I think they do need to know some things about computers. They need to know that deleting files from a hard drive isn’t going to improve general performance. They need to know how to protect their computer from viruses. Computers are tools and everybody needs to know how to maintain their tools.

And they need some kind of digital literacy, technology literacy, there needs to be some basic stuff that kids leave this school knowing.

The best definition I’ve found for digital literacy comes from a New Zealand government web site

“The ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”

but I’d tinker with it a little, I’d say

“The ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks efficiently and ethically to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”

What are the basic skills that kids should graduate from high school knowing?


2 Responses to “Computer Lit”

  1. Ken said


    I love your definition of digital literacy. I’m going to give you credit for this when I blog about it later…

    My son attends one of the biggest high schools in Seattle, right here in Microsoft country, and students are getting no direction on basic tech skills apart from how to use applications.

    My short list of basic skills that kids should graduate from high school knowing include-

    A basic understanding that anything posted on the internet in an email, forum, blog, or social-network is not private. Anything you type into virtual space can be discovered.

    Immediate access to digital content doesn’t mean you are the rightful owner of that content.

    My 2 cents as a frustrated parent and educator.

  2. Miranda said

    Yes! I’m going to work on a list and those two are certainly on it.

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