Serving Modern Students in a Modern Society at the Community College: Incorporating Basic Technological Literacy

Article excerpt

The new literacy for the 21st century and beyond is clearly the ability to utilize appropriate technological tools in an information society. The personal computer and its associated technological innovations -- the Internet, e-mail, word processing packages and personal Web sites -- have become commonplace.

Current industry standards demand skilled workers who are fluent in the use of these technological tools. Often, the higher education professorate assumes responsibility for transferal of many of these technological skills to students who ultimately become society's newly skilled workers.

A never-ending supply of information has initiated a need for efficient filters of raw data at virtually any place and any time. The proliferation of distance learning programs in higher education is a direct consequence of the demands of an information-based society. Course delivery of a distance learning class often presumes a certain degree of technological sophistication by the instructor. Obviously, students must have sufficient technological savvy as well.

To effectively serve modern students in a modern society, educators at all levels and in all classes must provide students with exposure to the bare minimum of technology. Educators and students need these skills, regardless of their participation in a distance learning class.

In an unlikely scenario, however, a literal and literacy information gap has developed in the community college and university arenas, as both faculty and students have had to scramble to learn technological skills. Many faculty, notwithstanding students, have discovered that they are technologically challenged, and relatively unprepared for the new literacy and its far-reaching consequences. Often, the addition of technological tools into a traditional classroom setting becomes a class in and of itself, with its own course goals and objectives to be achieved.

The new literacy -- technological literacy -- clearly requires an investment of time and learning which often competes directly with multiple entities. For faculty, primary competing factions include standard job responsibilities, course loads and possibly research requirements. Students, especially those enrolled in community colleges, often have to juggle responsibilities, including work, family and mastery of course content material. While it is not necessarily easy, integration of technology in traditional classroom settings by faculty and students is doable.

Basic Literacy in a Modern Society,

It is not so much that reading, writing, and arithmetic are outdated skills, replaced by more technological ones; rather, the forum for mastery of these time-honored skills has simply changed. Students now must read, write, and practice computational skills online via e-mail, word processors, list servers and Web sites. While basic literacy continues to involve the 3 R's, the environment in which individuals are expected to demonstrate competency has changed considerably. A dynamic change has taken place in the mode of delivery for mastery of fundamental literacy.

In order to ensure long range economic viability, educational institutions and industries alike demand a workforce skilled in technological applications. Following completion of college matriculation or comparable workforce-training programs, students are expected to demonstrate technological literacy -- the new literacy for modern students in a modern society. Universities have rushed to meet the technological revolution head on, and many institutions have begun to advise students to come to campus prepared to travel down the Information Superhighway.

The University of Florida, Gainesville, issued such an advisement beginning with the second session of its 1998 summer term. It is no surprise that technological literacy is in high demand by students who enroll at Santa Fe Community College, which exists as a primary feeder institution for students intent on transferring into upper division study at the University of Florida. …