Computer Proficiency not literacy?

Posted on: 24 September 2012
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There’s an awful lot of stuff out there defining what digital literacy is. It’s going to be an interesting process deciding what elements of our activities as part of the IT Training Team I contribute to the programme with particular regard to employability.

Kim Thomas in The Guardian, Tuesday 10 July 2012 reported on ‘Innovations in ICT teaching: a Guardian roundtable debate’ in which it was suggested by a contributor that Digital literacy ‘covers a spectrum of skills, from the ability to use simple applications at one end to the ability to write computer programs at the other. Other mid-level skills, such as using HTML to create websites, fall in between’.

I wonder where students like, my daughter currently at university, fall in to the computer literacy spectrum.

WhatsApp (app on my mobile to text message for free), conversation as follows;
>Do you know what an absolute cell reference is in Excel?
>Yes all the cells in the column/row added together isn’t it?
>No
>Do you know what html tags are?
>Isn’t that just the link that takes you to the website
>I think you confusing HTML with URL!
>Are you in the Pub!
>NO!
>Skype you later – bye

OMG my daughter is short of mid-level skills LOL. Is she merely proficient and not literate? A bit harsh making this assumption I suppose, but as she’s currently starting her third year of study on a scholarship at Harvard doing stem cell research so I’m not too worried.

It also illustrates how the primary use for the app i.e. a base level of everyday communication with my daughter using software ‘proficiently’ has been established, but raises questions.  Is there potential for it to be developed to a different purpose? Has it possible educational value? Tibor Koltay, Szent István University, in his article: The media and the literacies: media literacy, information literacy, digital literacy illustrates how awareness of digital technologies, is acquiring crucial importance.

Where employability is concerned, and an uncertain future for many students this importance cannot be overstated and for the first time in my experience IT training at a university, the relevance of digital skills to employability is possibly reflected in student numbers wishing to attend IT training. In the past marketing the IT sessions we provided was seen to be a problem. Classes were not filled and this was often thought to be because students were unaware. Drop in offerings were always under populated. Now we are experiencing a new problem, turning people away. It may be that we are now offering accredited training, or it may be that we are offering accredited training for free, or that Microsoft Office Specialist and Adobe Certified Associate qualifications are seen to be relevant and worthwhile. It may be that students paying large fees see the worth of adding value where they can, whatever the reasons it’s a good problem so far.

www.westminster.ac.uk/traininginfo