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Written by Angela Tan, Taiwan   
Friday, 30 September 2011 15:58



Social implications of Computer Training


The level of computer literacy one must achieve to gain an advantage over others depends both on the society one is in and one's place in the social hierarchy. Prior to the development of the first computers in the 1930s, the word computer referred to a person who could count, calculate, and compute. The year of 2010, a mere 50 years later from its first personal/common business use, we see the term "computer literacy" change deeply in meaning. We have on one hand the exponential speed that technology has grown and is growing and on the other hand we have the practical use of the personal computer in our everyday life. Computers are not just the boxes that took up large amounts of space with an even bigger monitor. Now we have hand devices and cell phones to assist us, in most post-1995 model year cars, at least 10 processors can be found controlling major components of our vehicles.

Taking most common points into consideration from former forms of literacy topics, the subject requires a formal breakdown of the core components. To evaluate or maintain a consistently gradual rise in practical application and social productivity from any technology we have to understand how computers benefit humanity as a whole. Starting from the local sense.

The fear of some educators today is that computer training in schools will serve only to train data-entry clerks of the next generation, low level workers of the knowledge economy. On the other hand, some hope that enhanced computer literacy will enable a new generation of cultural producers to make meanings and circulate those in the public sphere.

Different countries have different needs for computer literate people due to their society standards and level of technology. The world's digital divide is now an uneven one with knowledge nodes such as India disrupting old North/South dichotomies of knowledge and power.

Computer literacy in the first world

Computer literacy is considered to be a very important skill to possess while in developed countries. Employers want their workers to have basic computer skills because their company becomes ever more dependent on computers. Many companies try to use computers to help run their company faster and cheaper.

Computers are just as common as pen and paper for writing, especially among youth. There seems to be an inversely proportional relationship between computer literacy and compositional literacy among first world computer users. For many applications - especially communicating - computers are preferred over pen, paper, and typewriters because of their ability to duplicate and retain information and ease of editing.

As personal computers become common-place and they become more powerful, the concept of computer literacy is moving beyond basic functionality to more powerful applications under the heading of multimedia literacy.

It is frequently assumed that as computers and Internet access are common-place in the first world, everyone in those countries must have equal and ready access to this technology and to skills in how to effectively use it. There is, however, a significant digital divide in even the most technologically advanced and enabled countries, with digital haves and have-nots.

The Digital Inclusion Forum, a consortium set up through joint participation from the Wireless Internet Institute, One Community, is just one organization developed to address this. Their organizational mission in this is to provide a “comprehensive resource center to inform, educate and share best practices among state and local government leaders, industry and institutional stakeholders on identifying and implementing sustainable market solutions to bridge the digital divide in North America.”

A variety of private sector nonprofits and foundations also contribute to this, in addressing the needs of underserved communities. Per scholas, for example runs programs offering free and low cost computers to children and their families in underserved communities in the South Bronx, New York and in Miami, Florida.

Computer education

Where computers are widespread, they are also a part of education. Computers are used in schools for many applications such as writing papers or searching the Internet for information. Computer skills are also a subject being specifically taught in many schools, especially from adolescence onward - when the ability to make abstractions forms.

One problematic element of many (though not all) "computer literacy" or computer education programs is that they may resort too heavily on rote memorization. Students may be taught, for example, how to perform several common functions (e.g.: Open a file, Save a file, Quit the program) in very specific ways, using one specific version of one specific program. When a graduate of such a program encounters a competing program, or even a different version of the same program, they may be confused or even frightened by the differences from what they learned. This is one reason why major computer and software firms consider the educational market important: The often time-limited computer education provided in schools most often lends itself to rote memorization, creating a sort of vendor lock-in effect whereby graduates are afraid to switch to competing computer systems.

Graduates of computer education programs based around rote memorization may be heard asking things such as "just tell me where to click", and may need to rely upon paper notes for some computing tasks. (Example: A note on the monitor reading "Hit 'enter' after power up.") Many such users may need tremendous amounts of "hand-holding" even after years or decades of daily computer use. (This can be especially frustrating for experienced computer users, who are accustomed to figuring out computers largely on their own.) The primary factor preventing such functionally computer illiterate users from self-educating may simply be fear (of losing data through doing the "wrong thing") or lack of motivation; in any case, more technically oriented friends and relatives often find themselves pressed into service as "free tech support" for such users.

In addition to classes, there are many How-to books that cover various aspects of computer training, such as the popular 'For Dummies' series. There are also many websites that devote themselves to this task, such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet Such tutorials often aim at gradually boosting readers' confidence, while teaching them how to troubleshoot computers, fix security issues, set up networks, and use software.

Computer Fluency

Computer fluency goes beyond computer literacy and has been argued to be an important goal of not only a computer education but a liberal arts education. The term probably originated in an important 1999 work, Being Fluent with Information Technology by the Committee on Information Technology Literacy of the U.S. National Research Council. In it the authors noted that computer curricula at educational institutions largely focused on software-bound skills, e.g., "which button to click" in a given piece of software to do a given task. Because the authors felt that such a computer literacy curriculum, which focused on skills, was insufficient for the demands of future knowledge workers, they argued that the ideal curriculum would equip students with computer fluency, which they defined as a "robust understanding of what is needed to use information technology effectively across a range of applications" . In addition to possessing the essential skills of software usage, computer-fluent individuals can apply information technology in novel situations, as well as understand the consequences of doing so. The authors observe, "These capabilities transcend particular software and hardware applications" . Equally essential to computer fluency is the mastering of fundamental computer concepts, such as the difference between absolute and relative cell references in an electronic spreadsheet program. The Linux computer operating system, Uber Student, asserts that one of its main goals for its users is their achievement of computer fluency.



Last Updated on Thursday, 03 November 2011 17:48
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