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Subject: Are your teenagers/Yound Adults computer literate? rss

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Eric Pietrocupo
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When computer technology arrived, it was expected that the older generation of people had an harder time to adapt to using computer, but it was also expected that the younger generation would be more experienced with technology since they were born with it.

But after many events and observation, it seems that our younger generation is more technologically illeterate than our generation (I am reaching 40 years old). One of the possible reason could be that we had more interest to learn it because it was new.

So I wanted to know if it was also the case in your country or local area because here in Quebec, I know that people are resistant to technology so it could be the possible reason for this set back.
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larienna wrote:
When computer technology arrived, it was expected that the older generation of people had an harder time to adapt to using computer, but it was also expected that the younger generation would be more experienced with technology since they were born with it.

But after many events and observation, it seems that our younger generation is more technologically illeterate than our generation (I am reaching 40 years old). One of the possible reason could be that we had more interest to learn it because it was new.

So I wanted to know if it was also the case in your country or local area because here in Quebec, I know that people are resistant to technology so it could be the possible reason for this set back.

First of all, Dibs.

Second, you make some very good points there.
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Matthew M
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I don't think it's that we had more interest to learn computers because it was new. It was that we NEEDED to learn computers to be able to use them. Computers were nowhere NEAR as user friendly as they have become recently. We became computer literate out of necessity if we wanted to use computers. That is no longer a requirement.
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I would say that the younger generation can use and adapt technology better than us oldsters. But they don't necessarily understand how or why it works.
Whereas my generation (50+) grew up with mainframe computers becoming desktops, and we all (well, a lot of us) went to school to learn how to program code and to innovate.
So we know more about what's going on behind the curtain, so to speak.
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Octavian wrote:
That is no longer a requirement.


Thank god!

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Bryan Thunkd
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larienna wrote:
But after many events and observation, it seems that our younger generation is more technologically illeterate than our generation
Which generation are you referring to as the "younger" one? And how do you judge technical literacy? My kids are all proficient on a whole slew of gaming devices. My youngest was a whiz on an ipad from about age 3.
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Pete
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My daughter is 6, and she's on a laptop, desktop, smartphone, or tablet almost constantly. The rare exception is when she's watching TV.

Pete (is exaggerating only slightly)
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maf man
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sorry im not finding the study but...
There was a study that showed kids grow up with tech now that is simplified to the point that they don't really understand what their doing their just following a preset path. the main users of an ipad are kids but they don't get how any part of it works, they just expect it to work how they've seen it done. It's similar to the mindset that lead to piracy taking off. "If i can click it then its fine" kinda thing. I don't like thinking about the balance of money, power, and knowledge like this, it leaves an ominous end-of-human-civilization taste in my mouth.
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Matt B
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I think, like some people have already mentioned, that each generation has different areas of "technical literacy". From my experience (I'm 25), the younger generation is very attuned to how to use computers and technology, but most people have little interest in how they work. However, if they need to get it to do something, they know how to make it happen (how to find and change settings, how to google a problem, etc.).

That said, I live in Orange county where it seems like most elementary school children have iPhones. So that may have something to do with my perspective.



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maf man
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fastolfe wrote:
it seems like most elementary school children have iPhones. So that may have something to do with my perspective.

These kids don't actually understand it. They are simply trained. (This is being said from what my girlfriend has gone through as a 7th grade tech-ed and STEM teacher) If you walk them through using something even slightly different than what they know they don't get it because they don't understand what their steps do now or even have done on their ipads. If something doesn't work they assume the entire thing is broken and give up.
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mafman6 wrote:
If something doesn't work they assume the entire thing is broken and give up.


This is really the test, here, exactly.

Kids can spend all day banging away on their smartphone, but it stops syncing with their Fitbit once, and that's it - it's broken. Take it to someone to fix it. Bothering to check the settings to see if the Bluetooth is simply turned off? Why, what's Bluetooth?

Yeah...
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maf man
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oh man the one story that i nearly died laughing:
A kid comes in to work on his stuff. They are using chromebooks which are all stored on a cart plugged in and stacked up. The kid takes one, sits down and opens it. About 3 seconds later huffs, closes it and puts it back. This is repeated about three times and each chromebook is not plugged back in which drives the teacher crazy. At the forth one the kid lets out an exasperated "UGH, their all broken!"
"whats wrong?"
"none of these will turn on!"
teacher presses the on button.
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Geeky McGeekface
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fastolfe wrote:
I think, like some people have already mentioned, that each generation has different areas of "technical literacy". From my experience (I'm 25), the younger generation is very attuned to how to use computers and technology, but most people have little interest in how they work. However, if they need to get it to do something, they know how to make it happen (how to find and change settings, how to google a problem, etc.).

To a large extent, I think that's how it should be. The purpose of technology should be to make our lives easier and my life isn't much better if I constantly have to be fiddling with things under the hood. User friendliness is just as important as performance, power, and reliability.

Now people should still have an idea about how to maintain and troubleshoot their machines. But a useful device should allow people to operate it without having in-depth knowledge of its internal workings.

It's definitely true that much of the older generation has that in-depth knowledge because it was required way back when. And I know plenty of people who still think any OS that doesn't utilize a Command Line is a toy, because it doesn't give the user unlimited power. But I'm more impressed with a device that is easy for the vast majority of users to operate. Give the power users the option of mucking around with the innards, but make sure the rest of us can function without too much background knowledge.

To me, computer literacy entails being able to use these devices, not deeply understand them. My parent's generation has very little of that. For the Millenials and the next generation, this knowledge is almost universal and I think that's a wonderful thing. Obviously, we'll need that new generation to produce its share of engineers and scientists to keep the ball rolling, but a completely computer literate population is an amazing thing to contemplate.
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My 3 year old knows how to do stuff on the iPad that I don't. I think she may go sentient soon.
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Bryan Thunkd
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mafman6 wrote:
fastolfe wrote:
it seems like most elementary school children have iPhones. So that may have something to do with my perspective.

These kids don't actually understand it. They are simply trained.
Umm... when my daughter learned how to use an ipad at age 3, nobody taught her how to do it. She learned by watching people and messing around with it herself.

mafman6 wrote:
If you walk them through using something even slightly different than what they know they don't get it because they don't understand what their steps do now or even have done on their ipads.
Kids are learning machines. When I show my kids how to do something they've never seen before, they always want to know how to do it themselves... and usually end up figuring out how to use it better than I can.

mafman6 wrote:
If something doesn't work they assume the entire thing is broken and give up.
The amount of patience a child has is very different than the amount of patience an adult has. I suspect that if we traveled back in time and watched ourselves as kids, we'd see ourselves doing the same sort of thing.

On another note, it's not really important most of the time to know how something works. Or at least it's more important to know how to use it proficiently. I know a lot of people who can drive well, but probably couldn't explain very well the process of how a car works... certainly not to the point needed to fix a car. And for the most part, knowing how it works, and/or knowing how to fix it, is less important than knowing how to use it well.

I think the reason that people my age are so computer literate is that it was forced on us. Computers were buggy, difficult to figure out and often not very intuitive... but still really useful. If you wanted to be a computer user, you often had to spend time figuring out how to make it do what you wanted, or how to get it back when it was glitching. If I had grown up with computers that rarely had problems and were fairly intuitive to use, I probably wouldn't have bothered figuring out how to troubleshoot them or dig around behind the scenes. I would have been too busy doing cool stuff with them to bother learning stuff that wasn't needed.
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Mc Jarvis
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I think technical ineptitude is often blamed on unrelated things like age and less often on practice and time-spent-with-device.

I also think that some things are conflated with technical ineptitude, like the ability to properly use a keyboard and mouse.
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maf man
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Thunkd wrote:

On another note, it's not really important most of the time to know how something works. Or at least it's more important to know how to use it proficiently. I know a lot of people who can drive well, but probably couldn't explain very well the process of how a car works... certainly not to the point needed to fix a car. And for the most part, knowing how it works, and/or knowing how to fix it, is less important than knowing how to use it well.

yeah soooo
do you know cars = do you know computers
do you know how to drive = do you know how to open apps

When these studies say "technology literacy" they don't mean can they use a computer they mean do they understand whats going on. Blame the definitions of literacy for that one. Getting close to splitting hairs but that's where I'm coming from. Knowing how to use a machine is not the same as knowing about a machine.

your daughter didn't learn on her own, she was taught by others showing her, maybe they didn't mean to but thats how it works. And the ability to learn does not equal knowledge, literacy, or even aptitude. Sorry if I'm getting to attack-y but everywhere people say "oh my kid is so smart they know tech better than I do" and it erks me, hard. Just because they learned how to press a very fancy high tech expensive on button doesn't actually mean they know anything.

ps the last sentence I quoted makes me die a little inside
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Bryan Thunkd
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mafman6 wrote:
do you know how to drive = do you know how to open apps
No... knowing how to open an app would be more equivalent to knowing how to open the door to a car. Actually being able to do something interesting with a computer program would be a better equivalent to knowing how to drive.

mafman6 wrote:
Knowing how to use a machine is not the same as knowing about a machine.
I'd much rather have a working knowledge of how to use Adobe Photoshop than a knowledge of how the program renders images on the screen, the way the data needs to be formulated to create a .jpg image, etc. In the same way I'd rather know how to drive a car than understand how the engine works.

mafman6 wrote:
your daughter didn't learn on her own, she was taught by others showing her, maybe they didn't mean to but thats how it works.
There was some of that, but there are also kid's apps where she just played with it and clicked in different places to see what it did and figured it out. Regardless, she didn't simply learn a rote path and she is not completely helpless if she deviates from what she's already learned.

mafman6 wrote:
And the ability to learn does not equal knowledge, literacy, or even aptitude.
I'm not sure I claimed it did. But the ability to learn is probably the best path that leads to knowledge and literacy. And... I'm pretty sure that a lot of people consider the ability to learn one measure of aptitude.


mafman6 wrote:
Sorry if I'm getting to attack-y but everywhere people say "oh my kid is so smart they know tech better than I do" and it erks me, hard. Just because they learned how to press a very fancy high tech expensive on button doesn't actually mean they know anything.
Nor does the fact that I say my daughter is very good with technology mean that all she knows how to do is press a button on an ipad. Maybe... just maybe, I'm a better judge of my daughter's abilities than you?
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Thunkd wrote:
mafman6 wrote:
Knowing how to use a machine is not the same as knowing about a machine.
I'd much rather have a working knowledge of how to use Adobe Photoshop than a knowledge of how the program renders images on the screen, the way the data needs to be formulated to create a .jpg image, etc. In the same way I'd rather know how to drive a car than understand how the engine works.


I agree. For the AVERAGE user, knowing to use the machine is more important than knowing about the machine. That is a large part of what makes the machine useful, is that it can take care of things behind the scenes so that we don't have to. It is very important that we have SOME people that know how the machine works, but it doesn't have to be everybody.
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maf man
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Thunkd wrote:
Maybe... just maybe, I'm a better judge of my daughter's abilities than you?

FRIK!! this is not about your kid! 3 just happens to be the age kids begin to communicate with the world well enough for us to measure (and thus parents brag). An ipad is designed so that you don't have to be technologically literate to do interesting and worthwhile things. kids app are designed for the kids to figure out, thats a very defined path.

"...the ability to learn one measure of aptitude"....yeah there learning aptitude. If I have an aptitude for building that means I can build not learn how to build.

Knowing how a machine or adobe photoshop may be too complex of an example, there's levels of ability for that. But if someone can change a photo with a button called "negative" but they don't know what that means than its worthless. I can change backgrounds and such but I don't understand layers so I am not proficient even with what I can do.
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It depends on what you mean by the term.

I teach at a university and I get students from different backgrounds. The most technical ones did a few years of computer science, but many others did literature studies, or liberal arts, or computational linguistics, or something like that. One class I teach is a programming class for master students. You'd think that master students already know how to program, but many do not -- the class is meant in particular for those who skipped these kinds of courses in their bachelor years, but now find that they need to be able to program to do their chosen master.

What I find is that almost none of these students can think like a programmer. Sure, they can browse like there is no tomorrow, google anything they want, work miracles with text processors, and communicate through digital devices in many different forms. But they do not understand what it means to divide a problem into subproblems, specify steps needed to solve small problems, or translate a real-life relationship structure to a database. For them, writing a computer program equates writing English with a limited instructions set, not being able to understand the rigidity of syntax and the semantics of what they have written.

Fortunately, many pick it up after a few weeks, and become reasonably fluent in writing small bits of code, which usually suffices. But they do not have these skills to start with. So are they computer literate? I don't think so. Being able to use computers does not equate literacy.
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Quote:
Which generation are you referring to as the "younger" one? And how do you judge technical literacy? My kids are all proficient on a whole slew of gaming devices. My youngest was a whiz on an ipad from about age 3.


Just to give an example, my co-worker has 3 teenagers which range between 13 and 17 years old (If my memory is correct). They have been ownwing 2 Imac since their birth, and they all have an Ipad and some have iphones.

The mother asked them to get the official list of school supplies, compare them with the available supplies at home and send her the list of missing supplied so that she could buy them after work. Most of them had actually no clue how to do this. It basically consisted of the following step:

- Search your school's website
- Find the list on the site
- Compare with current available stocks
- Type down a list of missing supplies
- Send it by email.

As you can see, no fancy software required

She had to tell them what to do step by step, tell them which app to run and where to click. Then she started to receive tons of i-message from each of her kid for each missing supply. She becamege angry and ask them to use an app that came with all ipads that allowed to type down a list and send it by e-mail. But they never used that software before, so they did not know how to use it.


Quote:
If you walk them through using something even slightly different than what they know they don't get it because they don't understand what their steps do now or even have done on their ipads.


I was thinking once that it could be the reason why people don't understand how things works. And yes it can be important to know a bit how the internal stuff works especially for computers because they are not devices as ready to use as a toaster could be. For example, somebody who have been using Microsoft Word, who is now stuck using Libre Office Writer should not be confused and be forced to relearn the whole application over again. He sould be able to find the common points and differences between both applications.

This is why I thought that maybe we should teach how computer works by actually opening a computer and making them see and assemble the pieces. I imagine that if somebody see how an hard drive or a memory stick actually looks phisically, he might be more capable of understanding of what is actually hapenning when he opens a file to memory and save it on disk.

It could help demistify the machine and don't make it look like a magical black box. Still I am not sure if most people would have the interest and capabilities to learn things this way.
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I don't think the IT industry has ever figured out a good way to teach "users" the right amount about the underlying technology, and I'd be very surprised if it ever happened "organically"

As earlier posters have noted, there's a big difference between being able to use IT tools, and understanding at any level how they work. What's not obvious at first glance is that this has been true since everything was coded in mainframe assembler, user interfaces involved paper, and technical interfaces involved punched cards.

Note that I'm talking about users vs people with technical skills here - the gap has been about the same "forever", but of course the nature of the necessary contextual knowledge has changed a lot.

The reason for this hasn't changed much though. Normal people have to spend months learning the contextual knowledge required to understand the basics of the underlying technology (there's nothing odd about this BTW - the same was true for cars back when they could be repaired in a moderately-equipped home garage). So users learn, or are taught, only the specific tasks they need to use their "apps".

With IT, what's changed lately is mobile devices that have facilitated the spread of the "Apple effect" - systems can be effectively designed so users can work with them without being forced to understand the tech.

This doesn't mean all systems are designed that way of course, but most phones and tablets are. PCs continue to to be "user unfriendly", but that doesn't matter any more.

Current status with mobile is that almost anyone can learn how to use apps; most young people learn the standard UI conventions via simple games; adults with or without real IT knowledge can learn almost as easily as kids do.

As the OP points out (or asks), we're finally at a point where no actual IT knowledge is needed to use the majority of devices (mobile), and the proportion of users with real IT knowledge is dropping, though of course the total number of people with IT skill continues to grow as the business expands.

The TL;DR version of this: zero IT skill is required to use mobile apps. Using apps doesn't help people learn IT, but it does no harm either.
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
Fortunately, many pick it up after a few weeks, and become reasonably fluent in writing small bits of code, which usually suffices. But they do not have these skills to start with. So are they computer literate? I don't think so. Being able to use computers does not equate literacy.

I think this is purely a matter of terminology, Pieter. When I say "computer literate", I absolutely mean the ability to operate computers to create something useful or interesting. That does involve skills; if it didn't, my mother (who isn't a stupid woman) wouldn't struggle so much with simple things like email. But I've deliberately set my sights low, because I think just properly operating a computing device can yield valuable things.

You're talking about programming, which is a very different skill. It's obviously a useful one, but you can do a bunch of amazing things on a device and never program a single line. For you, "computer literacy" = programming (or other advanced skills). Any further discussion about the this term is pointless until we decide which of these different definitions we want to use.
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