The Nebulous Notion of "Computer Literacy"
Techdirt stumbled onto a problem I think is worthy of note the other day.
Apparently studies have shown that a lack of good IT literacy can have someone waste up to 40 minutes per day. Of course, the real question is how to solve this problem. As the article notes, the answer is in better training for employees — but it’s not yet clear what kind of training is really needed. Perhaps part of the problem is that it’s different elements of basic IT skills that are tripping up people and there isn’t really one silver bullet for solving all those problems.
I think this presents an interesting paradigm shift that we’ll have to make in our day to day language and interaction in the near future. Namely, the question of “are you computer literate” no longer carries any real meaning.
Because computers can be used to do a thousand things, asking if one knows how to use a computer has become akin to asking if one knows how to use an education. To give a meaningful response, the counter question needs to immediately be asked, ” well, to do what?”
Several sectors of society have already shifted towards in this direction, asking for competence in specific software packages instead of general literacy. After all, in house a company tends to devote its entire IT layout to Microsoft or Lotus or some other all inclusive package. Without knowledge in that application, an employee would require nearly as much training as one who knew nothing about computers at all.
However the more important shift is a cultural one, one that will move the question of computer competency into the background instead of the foreground. I suppose this will move hand in hand with the gradual shift towards a more ubiquitous computing experience. I know I look forward to the day where computers fade nearly entirely into the background, allowing for free form creativity and action from it’s users.
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