Welcoming the Culture of Computing into the K-12 Classroom: Technological Fluency and Lessons Learned from Second Language Acquisition and Cross Cultural Studies

Article excerpt



The idea for this paper came from discussions that the authors had regarding the integration of innovative technologies into the current K-12 curriculum, as well as its impact on instructional programs for linguistically and culturally diverse students. While both of us are teacher educators, one specializes in Instructional Design/Technology, while the other specializes in Cross Cultural Studies and Bilingual/Bicultural Education. As our discussions evolved, we identified and examined multiple aspects of technology and several themes emerged.

One key theme was the common perception of a "culture of technology" and ways in which various perceptions of that culture influence the development of one's skill with computers and computing tools in particular. Another theme that permeated our discussions was that of "fluency," and the concept of developing technological fluency, currently a topic of much discussion among Information Technology specialists (Committee on Information Technology Literacy, 1999; Resnick, 2000).

As we worked to clarify our use of the phrase "technological fluency," we realized that the literature of language acquisition, multicultural studies, and information technology which framed our own perspectives have studied and defined fluency in different ways. We found that the combination of our differing perspectives enhanced our overall understanding of critical issues affecting technology integration in K-12 classrooms.

We begin with a description of the culture of computing and the debate that has shaped perceptions of that culture. We then present the recently developed technology standards for K-12 educators and the concept of technology fluency currently under consideration in the information technology literature. By extending the fluency metaphor with concepts from language acquisition theory, we examine its usefulness as a means of entry into the culture of computing and its implications for integrating innovative technologies into the K-12 classroom.


By the year 2000, virtually 100 percent of U.S. schools were in some way connected to the Internet. Developing ability and comfort with computers and computing tools, however, requires more than simply their presence (Brown, 2001; Cuban, Kirkpatrick and Peck, 2001; Kay, 1996). Ability and comfort with computing tools is based on a set of skills gained through specific training and experience (Schriver, 1997). Imparting these skills to students allows them access to computerbased information (i.e. what is available on the World Wide Web) as well as computer-based communities (e.g. online gaming simulations known as Multi-User Dungeons or "MUDS")While offering access may not always be a means of acculturating an individual, it is certainly a first step in the act of cultural reproduction as articulated by Miraglia, Law, and Collins (1999)-that is, inviting, inducing and compelling a younger generation to adopt a certain way of thinking and behaving.

This line of reasoning suggests that there is a "culture of computing." The idea of computing as a culture is open to discussion, but framing it as such may help articulate educators' needs and concerns meaningfully in order to, as Kay (1996) puts it, "reveal the elephant" (citing the ancient story of the blind men and the elephant), that is comprised of the challenges of incorporating computers and technology skills into the curriculum.

There exist among educators a variety of preconceptions about the culture of computing ranging from overconfidence in modern technology's ability to facilitate just about any activity for any individual, to fear of modern technology as a set of tools that only a select few can effectively use. The bases of these preconceptions can be found within popular culture and the conflicting presentations of the computer as a tool that makes media production or its use either accessible to the masses or the province of a select few (Brown, 2001). …