Technology Education and Computer Literacy

Article excerpt

Most technology educators have at one time or another been frustrated by the confusion created by such terms as educational technology, computer technology, or instructional technology. In Pennsylvania the proposed Academic Standards for Science and Technology include computer literacy. The computer literacy standards were added in response to outcries from the community. Business leaders, parents, and others want students to know something about computers. Consensus concerning exactly What students should know about computers is not so clear.

Change and the resulting confusion create opportunities. Technology educators have a marvelous opening to lead schools toward a goal many hold -- computer literacy. A great need exists to help school people understand exactly what it is that students should know and be able to do with a computer. Taking advantage of this opportunity will require solid research; hopefully, this paper will help start that process. While helping schools navigate toward computer literacy, technology educators can expand the discussion and explain the need for technological literacy. The goal is not to stake out computer literacy as exclusively a component of technology education. If technology educators attempt to claim all of computer literacy, we will not have the time or resources to deliver other important aspects of our content. Moreover, it is essential that students experience computer literacy in a wide range of school subjects. As leaders, we should share the responsibility for creating computer literacy with our peers in other disciplines.

For educators of every discipline, the information revolution creates at least two important questions: What kinds of information technology-related experiences should all curriculums share? And, which information technology-related experiences should students encounter in my classroom?

What Are the Important Components of Computer Literacy?

The National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS) is a project of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Department of Education, the Milken Exchange on Education Technology, and Apple Computer, Inc. The objective is to define what computer literacy skills every student should obtain. These goals are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. NETS Goals: Who delivers?

NETS Goal(*)          NETS Sub-goal(*)        Discipline and Activity

1. Basic computer     Students demonstrate    Technology education:
technology            a sound understanding   basic experiences in
operations and        of the nature and       computer systems,
concepts              operation of computer   computer networking,
                      technology systems.     and computer control

                      Students are            Business or computer
                      proficient in the use   applications: basic
                      of computer             skills in word
                      technology.             processing, database
                                              and spreadsheet

2. Social, ethical,   Students understand     Technology education:
and human issues      the ethical,            impacts of technology
related to computer   cultural, and
technology            societal issues
                      related to computer
                      technology.

                      Students practice       All disciplines
                      responsible use of
                      computer technology
                      systems, information,
                      and software.

                      Students develop        All disciplines:
                      positive attitudes      teaching inquiry
                      toward computer         (information literacy)
                      technology uses that
                      support lifelong        See also NETS goals
                      learning,               3 - 6
                      collaboration,
                      personal pursuits,
                      and productivity

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