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Computer Literacy [ Importance]

"Computer literacy is becoming an increasingly used term in education, and more and more schools are being asked to set computer literacy goals for their students. Unfortunately for too many, it means being able to use Microsoft products, and that's all. However, I see it much differently, and I cannot help but think that computer literacy is all about using computers to be able to communicate more effectively.

You can't measure computer literacy without a context because "computer" is such a vague term these days and "computers" are used by many people for many different things.

For the average office worker it's knowing how to use MS Office. For the Hardware Engineer it means something completely different and for the software developer it's different again.

You can only be "truly computer literate" in the context of a particular field.

It's like asking for a "skilled driver" - skilled to what level? Skilled enough to navigate through suburban traffic or to compete in a Gran Prix?

The low boundary is being able to perform common office tasks like email, word processing, and internet searches, and being able to understand and follow general instructions with regard to executing these tasks, and being able to describe specific tasks in these categories in an understandable way. A person who can do these things is going to be an asset to any company who hires them and we teach to this level of performance.

The lower middle part concerns being able to do all of the common office tasks with one brand of software, and being able to confidently learn how to do these tasks on unfamiliar software, and demonstrating a history of on-going acquisition of computer skills. I try to influence our courses so they foster the attitudes, curiosity, and ambition that would cause our students to seek this level of proficiency after they are employed.
The upper middle part concerns being able to contribute meaningfully to risk/benefit discussions about changing office software, policies, or procedures. 

This kind of work is to common office work as writing novels or poetry is to writing one's diary: it involves much more than technical proficiency with the software tools; it requires a degree of insight into the social and political aspects of software usage.
And the high boundary of computer literacy in this milieu is being able to develop and implement office policies and procedures that effectively exploit available software and computer resources. Certainly there are many technical skills like programming or database construction that might feed into this, but those skills are also clearly separate from shaping software tasks and job descriptions in useful ways. (This may sound like systems analyst work-- but in practice it is more like a merger of choreography and marriage counseling).
Note that it is entirely possible for someone with extensive programming or sysadmin skills to score pretty low on this continuum. I have met such people. It almost seems as though some people can learn to shoe a horse without ever learning the basics about how to ride one.

Basic filesystem knowledge - how to create/delete directories, move and copy files. Being able to use CD-ROM/DVD burners, USB keys

Basic keyboarding skills - being able to write punctuated text in a notepad style
text editor.

Basic computer communication skills - knowing how to receive, send, forward and edit E-mail. Understanding of mailing list etiquette. For large corporations, people would blindly use reply-to-all when they have received an E-mail from a mailing list that they were added to by default and tried to unsubscribe.

Basic workdprocessing/spreadsheet skills - being able to load, edit, print and save files, and export these in a variety of file formats.


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