Computing Skills For All: Changed Mantra Part 2

In a stack of papers called Reform.

  • May
  • 19
  • 2005

Mantra Two: Computers Belong in Computer Classes

Before you write this off as an uncommon belief, think about it: assuming you are not in a computer classroom, would you expect to find any direct instruction to the entire class about how a computer works, how certain applications work, or how to perform specific tasks with a computer, complete with handouts and homework and tests?

Oddly enough, this mantra is a prevailing belief about computer literacy on most campuses. It’s much the same attitude some teachers have about reading and writing: teaching reading and writing is an English teacher’s job; I don’t have to encourage that here. Just as they are wrong with regard to reading and writing, they are wrong about computer literacy.

Now, the elephant in the room of my last post was that many teachers aren’t knowledgable enough to incorporate technology into their classrooms and too often are unwilling to learn how.

The teacher training I received at San Jose State said little to nothing about this need in schools today. I went through the training in 1997-1998, so computers were quite well established in society and have only become more so. I recall writing a report about Cisneros’s House on Mango Street. I inserted a picture of the book at the top of my document, as a little stylistic element, and my teacher training professor was amazed, even wrote a little note about wanting to know how to perform such a feat.

A friend who went through the STEP program at Stanford University has never said anything to me about ideas on how to prepare kids to use a computer effectively (I’ll ask him tomorrow about this and post an update here). UPDATE: As I suspected, there was no mention of educating students in basic computer literacy in his training at Stanford. Plenty of discussion about use of technology in the classroom though, so at least STEP gets teachers thinking about how to implement technology. But still, that hidden curriculum goes unaddressed in a prestigious teacher training program such as STEP.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, nor do I claim that I am doing everything perfectly. On the contrary, much of what I write here comes from a shakey understanding of why I do what I do. These entries are often attempts to answer my own questions and face my own battles with how I can become better at what I do. What should I be expected to teach? Is computer literacy the charge of the entire campus in the same way that general literacy is something we want the entire campus to focus on? Do we need to have a push for comuter skills in all classes? Should there be a level of expectation for computer expertise of teachers? I simply do not know.

There are many teachers who don’t understand computers at all so it’s no wonder that students, with a bit of understanding about how to work comfortably around computers, seem to be experts. Some teachers glance at Johnny deftly manuvering through the internet, working on his latest report, and laugh at the thought of teaching Johnny anything new. Can a teacher who knows nothing teach a student who knows a little? Perhaps not. But does that mean the student doesn’t have anything to learn? Does that even mean the student is literate or is that student merely familiar?

The idea that computer literacy is so important that it should be developed in school, or that it should be a focus of teacher training programs, is a strange concept in a time where basic English language literacy skills seem to be low (recent standardized test performances perpetuate this idea, as do college assessments of the entering high school crowd).

I think we do our students a disservice when we ignore technology, specifically computers. Like it or not, computers are not going to go away. They will likely become more and more invasive in how we live our lives and will become essential in job skills our students need to have. To enter the work force without any kind of basic set of computer skills is tantamount to being without any kind of education.

Basic computer skills are necessary and students must learn them somewhere. I argue that specialized computer classes should not be the only place of computer literacy instruction. If English classrooms were the only places where students wrote essays, English teachers would have a much harder time developing those skills. It takes practice for anything to get better.


1. Raj Boora says:

[6/25/2005 - 8:01 am]

The Alberta Education ICT Curriculum tries to make sure that technology is not only taught in computer classes, but is integrated throughout the course of studies.

If you want to take a look –

2. Todd says:

[6/25/2005 - 9:34 am]

That’s an interesting idea to create a program like that. How thoroughly is it actually “infused within core courses and programs”? Is there an expectation that these concepts be covered at each grade level or is this simply a suggestion for those that want it?

3. Raj Boora says:

[6/30/2005 - 4:45 am]

The ICTs are supposed to be in every class at every level. The problem is that they are not currently being assessed so many teachers are tending to let ICTs fall by the way side. But there are a fair number who are on the other side and actively integrating ICT into their instruction.