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  1. #1

    Default Computer literacy and current academic standards

    So, this first semester working at a college library has been enlightening for many reasons and critical to my professional outlook since I am working towards librarianship and serving the greater good. The most worrying observation I have at present, which I really had to see first-hand to believe it was true, is that there remains a shocking number of students entering college that are completely or partially computer illiterate. So much of the curriculum and the student’s academic success hinges on the assumption that they can navigate computers and the internet to complete their coursework that basic digital literacy really should be assessed as part of a student’s pre-enrollment process, and if it is found wanting, it should be made a prerequisite for their studies. It seems wrong for the college to accept the money of students enrolling in costly academic programs when the students lack the tools to succeed in the program. On a daily basis I am helping students that don’t know how to:
    · Print
    · Save files to a USB flash drive
    · Access and compose email
    · Draft and format an MS Word document
    · Perform a web search
    · Distinguish between a Windows (or any OS) user login and a website login
    · Distinguish between filetypes (.jpg, .pdf, .doc, .png)
    · Attach files to emails

    Twice I’ve had students discover college-provided email addresses with basic assistance that had hundreds of unopened emails from over their past two years of enrollment because they didn’t know it was available, or how to access it. (An overtaxed admissions staff and inexperienced students can be partly to blame for some of this due to not covering or retaining all of the information during OPTIONAL new student orientations.) For the 40-something+ students: I get this; but getting the same questions from the 20-somethings is pretty damn scary because I thought that this would've been covered in high school by now.

    And then there's the assumption by academic institutions that current students can succeed in any academic program and the workforce beyond without assessing and enforcing basic digital proficiency because it's assumed that they possess it, which is negligent, but not unusual. I know that since this is a community college I work at, the demographics and proficiencies vary significantly when compared to four-year institutions, but it’s also more reflective of the community’s abilities at large. Why in the world is this not an academic success standard if we know that it’s already a life success standard? None of the colleges I've attended (2 CCs in TX, 1 Uni in TX, 1 Uni in MI) require basic computer proficiency… are there any that do?

    I took a computer class in 7th grade 20 years ago! It’s hard to imagine that this isn’t a standard in secondary school’s curriculum. Your thoughts please...
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  2. #2
    Senior Member ptgatsby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iwakar View Post
    I took a computer class in 7th grade 20 years ago! It’s hard to imagine that this isn’t a standard in secondary school’s curriculum. Your thoughts please...
    No course will teach these things - most of the ones that you ran into have been shown how to do it. It's experience that teaches you. If you don't work with computers, ever, you simply never retain the basic skills required.

    So while I agree with the issue and that it should be a barrier... I see it as a social problem more than anything else. It needs to be addressed like basic literacy (over the years to produce familiarity).

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    Freaking Ratchet Rail Tracer's Avatar
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    Heh, my college librarians are more than willing to have students come up to them and help them navigate for books and sources and how to use the computers and laptops. Other than that, it is up to the students to come up to them and ask questions, or have professors do a remedial web studying guide on how to navigate the web and library. My college library have free classes on how to navigate the library databases and all those good stuff..... I mean... my campus library, apparently has gone through major changes for over two decades (it used to be filled with drawers with book numbers and all those snazzy typewriters for students to stay in for the whole day and night.) Most of everything is done electronically now.

    It drives me bonkers having to spend a day of class for every class just to learn how to look for sources and such and such. BUT, there are a lot of people who are computer illiterate or choose to be computer illiterate unless the class require internet use. I have an old professor who choose not to use computers... because he sees it as a bane to his studies and I know people who don't want to touch a computer because they don't know how and don't want to ask for help. I also know people who rarely ever use computers, like, literate enough to turn on the computer and use word document literate and downloading every single toolbar for a web browser literate <------ drives me insane when I ask them why they need all those toolbars for.

    addendum:

    However, you can't blame the people for being so computer illiterate. Much of the tax spending to make people more technology conscious has gotten nowhere. What was it again? When Microsoft was given money to teach people to be a little more technology conscious, all they did was teach them how to use word... and that was that. I assume that is where most of the money went when the government was trying to bring the people into the 21st century, teaching them programs beneficial to certain companies. They weren't taught about different OS', web-browsers, virus protection, phishing scams, open and closed source programs (why you see apple doing a lock and making people using apple to stay with apple) programming languages.......

    Also, much of our computer technology has made it easier and easier for people to get into computers without them thinking about what makes it run.... like the giant difference between using Debian and using Windows 7. Dear god, drop a computer illiterate person into using Debian instead of Windows 7, and they'd freak out within minutes.
    Last edited by Rail Tracer; 05-07-2014 at 11:42 AM.

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    Parody Parrot meowington's Avatar
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    I hear ya. I work as the only IT-guy for a construction firm. I used to think that computer stupidity was age related as well but now I know better.
    I doubt computer classes will make much of a difference. Tech world changes so fast that what you've seen in a course may be obsolete within years/months. Especially for people who try to memorize computer procedures rather than trying to intuitively understand what they are doing. You can give these people a new course every day, it still won't matter. Somehow, someway a lot of people just don't have a clue. I always thought it has something to do with underdeveloped intuition.

    What is also not helping is for instance is :
    -Big vendors (apple & MS ofcourse) and their idiot proof user interfaces. It only creates more idiots.
    -Big vendors and their decision to "hide extensions" by default. Creates more idiots.

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    Hmm... does it only need to be in secondary schools? I've been working with computers since as far back as 2nd grade (though back then, I mostly used it for 'educational' games that taught me some basic math and puzzle skills).
    Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible... and then some.

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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by ptgatsby View Post
    No course will teach these things - most of the ones that you ran into have been shown how to do it. It's experience that teaches you. If you don't work with computers, ever, you simply never retain the basic skills required.

    So while I agree with the issue and that it should be a barrier... I see it as a social problem more than anything else. It needs to be addressed like basic literacy (over the years to produce familiarity).
    If only experience taught us as opposed to instruction, we wouldn't bother with building schools, but since both ways can be useful, it's advantageous to utilize both.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rail Tracer View Post
    Heh, my college librarians are more than willing to have students come up to them and help them navigate for books and sources and how to use the computers and laptops. Other than that, it is up to the students to come up to them and ask questions, or have professors do a remedial web studying guide on how to navigate the web and library. My college library have free classes on how to navigate the library databases and all those good stuff..... I mean... my campus library, apparently has gone through major changes for over two decades (it used to be filled with drawers with book numbers and all those snazzy typewriters for students to stay in for the whole day and night.) Most of everything is done electronically now.

    It drives me bonkers having to spend a day of class for every class just to learn how to look for sources and such and such. BUT, there are a lot of people who are computer illiterate or choose to be computer illiterate unless the class require internet use. I have an old professor who choose not to use computers... because he sees it as a bane to his studies and I know people who don't want to touch a computer because they don't know how and don't want to ask for help. I also know people who rarely ever use computers, like, literate enough to turn on the computer and use word document literate and downloading every single toolbar for a web browser literate <------ drives me insane when I ask them why they need all those toolbars for.

    addendum:

    However, you can't blame the people for being so computer illiterate. Much of the tax spending to make people more technology conscious has gotten nowhere. What was it again? When Microsoft was given money to teach people to be a little more technology conscious, all they did was teach them how to use word... and that was that. I assume that is where most of the money went when the government was trying to bring the people into the 21st century, teaching them programs beneficial to certain companies. They weren't taught about different OS', web-browsers, virus protection, phishing scams, open and closed source programs (why you see apple doing a lock and making people using apple to stay with apple) programming languages.......

    Also, much of our computer technology has made it easier and easier for people to get into computers without them thinking about what makes it run.... like the giant difference between using Debian and using Windows 7. Dear god, drop a computer illiterate person into using Debian instead of Windows 7, and they'd freak out within minutes.
    We also perform library orientations here in the library for professors that request it for their classes. And while I know the students are not enthused about "wasting a day in the library" to learn the difference between an authoritative source and a questionable source, clearly their work demonstrates that they do. Recently we've encountered a problem with students requesting assistance in formatting MS Word documents when it is a class assignment, therefore library staff have been instructed to no longer assist with those types of questions because we are in essence, doing the work for them. Students are being redirected to an open computer lab, local public libraries (because they are not liable for interfering or unfairly aiding students in their coursework, whereas because we are college employees, it can be construed as favoritism or inappropriate intervention), books on how to use MS Office, or to volunteer tutors and so on.

    In the absence of a comprehensive solution to these critical skill gaps, different course professors in English, Biology, Speech Etc. are trying to cover missed ground by incorporating basic computer tasks into the earliest course assignments. This is a temporary workaround as opposed to a solution because time normally dedicated to the subject material is being diverted to basic computer proficiency, or other narrow skillsets like 'how to format a Word document' in order to help the student succeed in the course section.

    Quote Originally Posted by meowington View Post
    I hear ya. I work as the only IT-guy for a construction firm. I used to think that computer stupidity was age related as well but now I know better.
    I doubt computer classes will make much of a difference. Tech world changes so fast that what you've seen in a course may be obsolete within years/months. Especially for people who try to memorize computer procedures rather than trying to intuitively understand what they are doing. You can give these people a new course every day, it still won't matter. Somehow, someway a lot of people just don't have a clue. I always thought it has something to do with underdeveloped intuition.

    What is also not helping is for instance is :
    -Big vendors (apple & MS ofcourse) and their idiot proof user interfaces. It only creates more idiots.
    -Big vendors and their decision to "hide extensions" by default. Creates more idiots.
    Both of your bolded remarks are absolutely true, but unavoidable I'm afraid... much in the same way that most of us drive cars every day and work in buildings every day, yet most of us cannot build either one or tell exactly how they are built.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morning Star View Post
    Hmm... does it only need to be in secondary schools? I've been working with computers since as far back as 2nd grade (though back then, I mostly used it for 'educational' games that taught me some basic math and puzzle skills).
    Surely not. The question more or less isn't specific to any level of schooling... only why isn't it being prioritized in general? I have no objection to basic computer instruction early in education.
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  8. #8
    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iwakar View Post
    So, this first semester working at a college library has been enlightening for many reasons and critical to my professional outlook since I am working towards librarianship and serving the greater good. The most worrying observation I have at present, which I really had to see first-hand to believe it was true, is that there remains a shocking number of students entering college that are completely or partially computer illiterate. So much of the curriculum and the student’s academic success hinges on the assumption that they can navigate computers and the internet to complete their coursework that basic digital literacy really should be assessed as part of a student’s pre-enrollment process, and if it is found wanting, it should be made a prerequisite for their studies. It seems wrong for the college to accept the money of students enrolling in costly academic programs when the students lack the tools to succeed in the program. On a daily basis I am helping students that don’t know how to:
    · Print
    · Save files to a USB flash drive
    · Access and compose email
    · Draft and format an MS Word document
    · Perform a web search
    · Distinguish between a Windows (or any OS) user login and a website login
    · Distinguish between filetypes (.jpg, .pdf, .doc, .png)
    · Attach files to emails

    Twice I’ve had students discover college-provided email addresses with basic assistance that had hundreds of unopened emails from over their past two years of enrollment because they didn’t know it was available, or how to access it. (An overtaxed admissions staff and inexperienced students can be partly to blame for some of this due to not covering or retaining all of the information during OPTIONAL new student orientations.) For the 40-something+ students: I get this; but getting the same questions from the 20-somethings is pretty damn scary because I thought that this would've been covered in high school by now.

    And then there's the assumption by academic institutions that current students can succeed in any academic program and the workforce beyond without assessing and enforcing basic digital proficiency because it's assumed that they possess it, which is negligent, but not unusual. I know that since this is a community college I work at, the demographics and proficiencies vary significantly when compared to four-year institutions, but it’s also more reflective of the community’s abilities at large. Why in the world is this not an academic success standard if we know that it’s already a life success standard? None of the colleges I've attended (2 CCs in TX, 1 Uni in TX, 1 Uni in MI) require basic computer proficiency… are there any that do?

    I took a computer class in 7th grade 20 years ago! It’s hard to imagine that this isn’t a standard in secondary school’s curriculum. Your thoughts please...

    We should take our hats off for a mindless machine?
    Do you know what literacy is?
    It is comprehending skills.

    Computor skills does matter I am sure.
    However. Computor "illiteracy" is not illiteracy.
    Computor skills is useful work.
    It is not about comprehending skills.

    How many personal secretaries did you have employed in the US. prior to the access to the modern computor?
    How many personal secretaries do you have employed in the US. today?
    And what might be the relationship of the two figures?

    It is not only about secretaries.
    What has been the effect of the computors to the employment?
    Say, how many people were employed in the insurance companies in the 50s-70s?
    And how many people do the insurance companies employ today?
    What is the reason of the discrepancy?

    Apropos do computors think?
    They do not.

    Old time secretaries were intelligent people. They did a lot more than mindless computors will ever do.

  9. #9
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iwakar View Post
    On a daily basis I am helping students that don’t know how to:
    · Print
    · Save files to a USB flash drive
    · Access and compose email
    · Draft and format an MS Word document
    · Perform a web search
    · Distinguish between a Windows (or any OS) user login and a website login
    · Distinguish between filetypes (.jpg, .pdf, .doc, .png)
    · Attach files to emails
    I often need to explain such things to people in a group I volunteer with, but then most of them are over 40. It is surprising and disappointing to hear even the younger set are challenged in this area.

    Quote Originally Posted by iwakar View Post
    None of the colleges I've attended (2 CCs in TX, 1 Uni in TX, 1 Uni in MI) require basic computer proficiency… are there any that do?
    When I started college, I had to take a test in basic programming, not just general computer use. If I didn't pass, I had to take a half-semester-long extra course to learn. Same for basic statistics. I had no problem passing either test, but the requirement definitely was there, and enforced.

    Quote Originally Posted by meowington View Post
    I hear ya. I work as the only IT-guy for a construction firm. I used to think that computer stupidity was age related as well but now I know better.
    I doubt computer classes will make much of a difference. Tech world changes so fast that what you've seen in a course may be obsolete within years/months. Especially for people who try to memorize computer procedures rather than trying to intuitively understand what they are doing. You can give these people a new course every day, it still won't matter. Somehow, someway a lot of people just don't have a clue. I always thought it has something to do with underdeveloped intuition.
    Courses that basically teach you how to use some application like MS Office are fairly useless, for the reasons you mention. Learning your way around a computer, on the other hand, will enable you to teach yourself whatever new program or app comes your way.

    Quote Originally Posted by meowington View Post
    What is also not helping is for instance is :
    -Big vendors (apple & MS ofcourse) and their idiot proof user interfaces. It only creates more idiots.
    -Big vendors and their decision to "hide extensions" by default. Creates more idiots.
    Don't get me started on this. More idiots indeed. Perhaps they are not really idiots, but they are not given the opportunity (i.e. need) to understand things, and thus remain ignorant of their own tools and dependent on others.

    This is a significant part of the problem. In my area, kids do use computers from elementary school on, but they are generally treated as black boxes. Most teachers don't know how to deal with issues that come up, and the kids without individual interest in computers or training at home never learn how to navigate the innards.

    Quote Originally Posted by wildcat View Post
    Old time secretaries were intelligent people. They did a lot more than mindless computors will ever do.
    Old-time secretaries did indeed earn their keep. Secretaries work for bosses, though, and sometimes entire departments/offices. These folks should be intelligent, too - intelligent enough to use their computer, just as the secretary could use her typewriter and dictaphone. If you can't learn to use the tools of your job, better find a different job.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by iwakar View Post
    On a daily basis I am helping students that don’t know how to:
    · Print
    · Save files to a USB flash drive
    · Access and compose email
    · Draft and format an MS Word document
    · Perform a web search
    · Distinguish between a Windows (or any OS) user login and a website login
    · Distinguish between filetypes (.jpg, .pdf, .doc, .png)
    · Attach files to emails
    While not all school settings are equal, as someone who's curriculum mandated almost all of the above in ~6th Grade, I have to question how much of your frustration is due to a mixture of freshman derpiness, their lack of familiarity with your devices in particular, their reluctance, and/or their laziness.

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