Thursday, May 15, 2014

Going Digital

Heard it on the radio again this morning – the need for people to be educated for the “Digital Economy”. Schools have had “computer science” since the 1970s. Many schools now require students to have their own laptops or tablets. But how much better (digitally) educated are people? Recent interactions with people in the workforce make me wonder if any progress is being made.
Part of the problem is what is being taught. Way back when the computer classes were part of the maths syllabus. They taught how to analyse problems and solve them with computer code. It is this type of teaching that will lead to the high tech people some of the software development companies want. But it isn’t for everyone. True, good teaching can improve how well people can do this – and teach common solutions so people don’t have to reinvent the wheel or make avoidable mistakes. But it also takes specific types of intelligence and good memory to do well. You simply cannot retrain every unemployed youth to slot into the IT industry.

So, the syllabus changed and became more about using what is there. This won’t turn out computer scientists or software engineers but it should produce people who are able to function at a good level in an economy that uses a range of software every day. I’m out of touch these days so I’m unsure what is being taught, but I have my own little list – and I suspect it isn’t being taught – or at least not taught well. As a minimum I’d expect anyone under 35 to be able to handle all of the tasks below without thinking:
  • Look after their own computing housekeeping  – backups, virus protection, updates, organization of files (whether for desktop, tablet or smart phone)
  • Be able to search (efficiently) for information on the internet and be able to judge the reliability of the information found (Also understand concepts such as “intellectual property” and “copyright” and the need for acknowledging sources)
  • Be able to avoid common scams and malware attacks
  • Know how to use email effectively, know basic email etiquette and be able to find an important message quickly
  • Know how to use the basics of a word processor – ie know something about formatting, layout and templates
  • Know how to setup a simple spreadsheet with common formula

I certainly hope no school time is spent on gaming – because the first list doesn’t seem to be well addressed yet. So, I’m creating another Blog with some basic tips for people who may not have had the chance to pick some of the basics up. My first entry is on adding lines to a page. (There may be more involved than you think)