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What is computer literacy?

Posted by pbhanney on January 5, 2015

Computer Literacy Cartoon

Every student and person should be what is called "computer literacy." However, what does that mean? The definition is usually different for every person out there.

Well, according to Wikipedia: "Computer literacy is defined as the knowledge and ability to utilize computers and related technology efficiently, with a range of skills covering levels from elementary use to programming and advanced problem solving" (Wikipedia). OK, so that is all fine and dandy, but again, what does that mean? When we break it down, what EXACT skills should people have when sitting at a computer?

Obviously specific jobs will have specific needs, but what I am looking for here is the specific identifiable skills that anyone that sits at a computer should be able to do. These should be the skills that come naturally, meaning that we don't have to think about them. Much like using a pen or a pencil. We do teach these skills at the beginning, but hopefully most of us can use those tools without thinking about it.

Here are two of my ideas:

Mouse Skills
Being able to use a mouse is one of the most essential skills a person should have. Without this skill people have a difficult time using other parts of a computer. One person told me that when someone asks for help they usually will place the cursor at the top of the screen and the mouse near the edge of the desk and asks the person to move the cursor to the bottom of the screen. When the mouse reaches the bottom of the desk, if they pick up the mouse and move it, then my friend knows that the person has some basic skills. If the person stops and doesn't know what to do when the mouse reaches the edge of the desk, then my friend knows that this person needs a little more help then they are asking for.

I would probably add to this the ability to use a touch-screen device. As we are getting more and more devices (especially tablets and phones), it is becoming more and more essential to be able to know how to use a touchscreen as a "mouse" as well.

Keyboarding Skills
I have been teaching keyboarding classes for the past two decades. I have found that when a student learns how to type without looking at their fingers and then later takes my computer literacy classes, they are usually the ones to excel in understanding those higher skills. I'm not sure if a person needs to learn the "QWERTY" keyboard or if they can learn the Dvorak, Colemak, or whatever keyboard layout (I'm guessing the latter as there are different keyboard layouts for different languages as well). The major thing is that people need to learn how to use a keyboard without constantly looking at their fingers.

What are your thoughts? What essential skills do you think people need to have to use a computer?

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