Technological Literacy


“Increasingly, literacy educators have recognized that Americans need help as they prepare to face the technological challenge of the next century, that the primary battles of the computer revolution are far from over. “ -Selfe, Cytnhia L., Literacy and Technology Linked: The National Project to Expand Technological Literacy, 4.

Ok, let’s think about this. This passage primarily serves as the thesis statement for Cynthia L. Selfe’s Literacy and Technology Linked: The National Project to Expand Technological Literacy. Selfe continues to talk about issues such as poverty and race, and how the two may be correlated. I want to go beyond that, though. I want to talk about issues that involve me, primarily, as a college student. It is becoming increasingly common for college students to be technologically literate. In fact, several professors I have talked to have told me that the workload for college students is becoming greater due to these emerging technologies. I will refuse to assert my own opinion here; I honestly do not know. But it is obvious that college students as a whole are expected to be technologically literate.

During my freshman year, I was forced to take College Comp 1. The professor I had, an adjunct, was really keen on using emerging technologies in her classroom. We were required to use WebCT, a blog, and our e-mail on a daily basis. First of all, I think that the workload was too strenuous for a freshman College Comp course. In addition, we were supposed to use these new technologies to submit our papers, and no one ever told us how to properly use them in the first place. The professor expected us to come into the classroom with a preexisting knowledge of these tools before class even began. I wound up transferring out of the class into a new Comp classroom with an experienced professor who required us to submit hard copies of our assignments.

The point of this is that technological literacy, or, “…computer skills and the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity, and performance…” (Selfe, 3) is a relative term. My mother enrolled in a night school that taught basic computer skills. Now, it is expected of me to know how to type efficiently, use a variety of computer applications, and know how to interact with online tools and programs. Communication technology is expanding and evolving at such an exponential rate that it feels like students who are not immersed in computers at a very early age will be lost before they even reach grammar school. While we are so concerned about students in developing neighborhoods and even nations, we forget that even who we consider the children of the “socially elite” are quickly being lost in the confusing fog of emerging communications technologies.

My question for you: What is the standard? When does it end, or at least become regulated? How much are we going to continue to pile onto future college students, and what is the norm that defines our current meaning of “technological literacy?”


One Response to “Technological Literacy”

  1. cioffi67 Says:

    Good question… In my opinion, this “standard” is a huge grey area, in that there are no real, clean-cut standards whatsoever. Instead of being a standard its really what you need to know to get by. Nobody sets these requirements or regulations and it happens pretty organically as technology evolves alongside and within society. Just thinking about it is kind of funny actually. Before the mid-nineties, you could easily get by having never used a computer. All of a sudden, the internet exploded like a bombshell and many people were left behind. Now there is an unspoken assumption that we have to go along with it and stay at the forefront. The problem is that this “forefront” is at the crest of an exponential growth curve of progress, making it harder and harder to stay ahead as time goes on and more and more people get screwed.

    The only way to determine what’s necessary to be technologically literate is to determine what allows for upward mobility and success in a technologically literate culture, as Selfe briefly mentions. You have to draw the line somewhere and I think that line falls between necessity and luxury. Knowledge of word processors, email clients and internet browsers are necessary, but being an avid facebooker or “tweeter” is a luxury.

    Yes, new technology will always be coming out, but I think common sense will guide us in what we need to know and what we don’t.

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