Monday, September 10, 2012

What Does It Mean to Be Literate?

I have posted before about the value of literacy. As I contemplate the value of literacy, I consider what literacy really means. When I think of literacy, I naturally think of reading and writing and the benefits of being able to learn from print and communicate in written form. But with the rise of technology comes a need to consider literacy in technology contexts. Computer literacy, for example, demands the development of crucial skills--computer literacy skills--to enable them to be functional, contributing members of society.

I came across an article this morning that discusses this very topic: What Does It Mean to Be Literate? The author of the article asserts that there are three key skills individuals should learn in order to be considered "literate" (in addition to the ability to read and write, of course):

1) E-mail
Knowing how to email, including attaching documents and pictures, is a skill that not only enables individuals to remain in touch with the world around them, but to communicate quickly.

2) Word Processing
Students need to be taught formatting skills and applications to enable them to share their thoughts and ideas. It is interesting to recall those semesters past when I taught advanced writing to ESL students. We focused quite a bit of time on conventions and less time on computer literacy skills. With these students being advanced, they had experience with word processing prior to attending my class, but perhaps explicit instruction on word processing skills to fill in gaps would have been helpful...something to keep in mind for my future teaching.

3) Research
I remember when I wanted to learn something growing up, I would go into my dad's den and pull an encyclopedia from the bookshelf. I loved looking up new things, and I especially enjoyed accompanying illustrations and pictures. Now we use the Internet as our main resource to look things up. But without basic research skills in sorting through information, individuals may not be able to find the information they need, or they may stumble upon false information altogether.

In order to help students be competitive, functioning members of society, we need to consciously give attention to computer literacy skills in our curriculum. The skills taught should include the three skills mentioned above at a bare minimum. One-time exposure to these skills in our classrooms is not enough. Explicit instruction in these skills, combined with multiple opportunities to consistently apply these skills, are crucial components of our literacy instruction.

How computer literate are you?


  1. Hello! Beautifull Blog, i visited you from Argentina. Greetings! Pol

  2. Greetings to you in Argentina, Pol! Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comment!