They should know how to operate extremely high level technology like a smart phone, which they already do. It’s no more of a concern for education than making sure students know the names of popular entertainers. Schools need to concentrate on skills students aren’t going to pick up on their own.
64% of Americans have smartphones. It’s probably higher among older kids, but certainly not 100%. I can tell you from extensive personal experience teaching people how to use computing devices that if you aren’t raised around the things, they don’t come naturally to you at all later on. But someone without facility in these devices is generally going to be severely hampered in their ability to find gainful and fulfilling employment. From this I conclude that it’s necessary to be sure that students have regular access to computing devices at school, and are given tasks which require substantial use of more than just their OS UI.
This is not even to say anything about knowing how to do more than just, for example, enter values into spreadsheets. That is certainly not something even kids who grow up with computers in the house pick up on their own with any reliability.
I’d want to see the school integrating Word into their English/Writing courses and perhaps Excel into math (via use of formulas and variables). I would also like to see a class like science or history use Google or other engines as a research tool. I think an introductory class – “Here’s the power switch, this is a file, etc” – would be appropriate for Freshman year or probably even earlier. I think those are appropriate uses of the computer within those spheres without sacrificing learning English/math/science.
Understanding the basic math processes you can perform with a spreadsheet.
Access? Eff that. I haven’t used Access in 20 years.
At the basic level, computers are just a tool you use to learn everything else. So, you need to learn how to write, and a word processor helps with that. You need to learn math, and a spreadsheet gives you a quick playground to learn in.
Seriously, these days, it wouldn’t surprise me if kids had these basic skills by the time they graduated from grade school, let alone high school.
Access? I worked as an Access developer and taught Access at college level for 16 years. While it would be nice to know about databases, I doubt that very many people actually need to know how to build a database and use it.
I’d say that a person should know how to use a word processor, web browser, and maybe a spreadsheet.
I’d much rather a kid know how to perform an effective “If/Then” formula in a spreadsheet than know how to multiply three digit numbers together using pen and paper. Think about it: when was the last time you were more than 100 feet away from a device that could multiply three-digit numbers for you? When was the last time you were near a device that could figure out how to return one value in a cell if the cell to the left contained a numerical value, and another value in the cell if the cell to the left did not?
In a nutshell, “Not be afraid of a modern computer in browser mode.” Not be utterly lost if they’re asked to sit down, pull up a browser, go to a web site, fill out a job application there, use some simple app to write a cover letter, and email a notice to the HR department.
Everything else can be taught, some things in minutes, others with a little more time.
I’d consider other things much more critical to teach - critical thinking (the real stuff), personal economics, basic business math (the kind they’d plug into a spreadsheet), solid basic language skills. And critical thinking. If you’re taught *how *to think… you don’t have to have someone else teach you everything.
I think everyone should take an introductory programming course in high school. Computer code is responsible for so much of what you’ll encounter in life that a basic understanding of what it is and what it does (and doesn’t do) is something that will benefit every student.
I tutor once a week at a high school (while in session). From what I’ve seen:
MS Word or like word-processor. Use of spell/grammar check. Basic cut and paste skills. This goes hand in hand with learning to type (beyond hunting and pecking) - which I see is essential these days.
A number of the teachers assign Powerpoint presentations as a way to present research papers. I am not sure how widespread this is in college. But I’m thinking knowledge of some graphical presentation tool would be useful.
Internet searching. Not just how to “google”, but how to then follow links and dig deeper into related topics. I guess this would require some basic browser knowledge, but more about what search engines are out there, and how to make the most of them.
Can come later as required:
Excel. This is more job/task specific. I have never seen any of the kids I tutor needing to do spreadsheet kinds of things.
In my opinion, every high school graduate should know:
how to use a keyboard and mouse / trackball
how to boot up a computer and log in
what “files” and “folders” are, and be aware of popular file types (EXE, PDF, GIF, etc.)
how to use a web browser
how to use the common features of word processor and spreadsheet programs
how to use the Internet for research (and how to filter out obvious bullshit)
On the more abstract end of the spectrum, graduates should understand how computer programming works. They should understand the basics of looping, conditional branching, data types, etc. They should have to do some (very simple) programming exercises. They should understand the concepts of validating user input and why it’s important. They should understand the idea of error handling. Most importantly, they need to be able to think algorithmically.
20 years ago? Are you familiar with the Hour of Code, a movement that’s gotten more than 100 million schoolkids around the world to spend at least an hour of schooltime coding every year, with the goal of much more time coding? This isn’t some old-school theory, it’s a major movement in education.
And yeah, a vast number of people won’t need to program during the rest of their lives. You may add that to the vast number of people who won’t need to graph an ellipse or analyze a sonnet or speak French or identify a pancreas or explain the causes of the War of 1812. We educate kids roundly not because every specific skill or concept set they learn will be specifically useful in later life, but first because a round education maximizes the chance of exposing each child to those ideas that will form their life’s passion or expertise (rarely both), and second because working with these broad ranges of skills gives kids cognitive tools that they can apply to whatever they do, whether it’s figuring out whom to vote for or how to woo a partner or how to retile their bathroom.
Sure, lots of kids won’t write software. But learning how to code entails learning how to think with rigorous logic, how to diagnose problems and eliminate errors, and other skills that will serve students well in their lives. And some of them will discover a passion and/or competence at coding.
Speaking of, it’d be great if there was a similar class for computers. I think there was a sweet spot for people who came into using computers in the late 80’s and into the 90’s where you had to tackle a lot of hardware issues and learned by fire what made the magic box work. Kids today (at least in my limited experience) have much less of an idea how it works and or what the components are. Heavens forbid things like different types of memory, bus speeds, why a 3Ghz duo-core is slower than a 2.7GHz quad core, etc. How to switch out a hard drive, how to run virus scans, stuff like that which makes too many users throw up their hands and call Best Buy when it breaks (not unlike changing your oil or switching out a bad electrical outlet).
I suppose it would be difficult for a school to keep a box of working processors, memory sticks and graphic cards around in the same way they used to have you wire a simple light switch but I don’t think it would be a wasted elective class either.
That’s daydreaming though. I fully agree that the kids should be able to competently read and write first.
I didn’t say it wasn’t still around, or that there’s no need for programming knowledge. It’s more that until maybe 10-15 years ago, “using a computer” and “programming” were seen as synonymous, or at least essential partners. Even as it got a lot less true, the idea that you have to have a grasp of programming to use, say, Word and a browser was pretty well embedded. (Especially in K-12 ed-think.)
Teaching programming is a valuable skill for students who will head into the nuts-and-bolts end of computer technology, IT, networks, communications etc. But it’s far from being a universal or essential need for all students, even that slight subset who will need to use computers at an office or research level.
I’m a (rather rusty) programmer. I enjoyed it. I still enjoy writing web, VBA and macro code when the need rises. The knowledge of source code was a huge asset in some jobs and projects. But I could do pretty much everything I do for a living now, as could anyone in my general, highly-computer-centric field, without knowing the simplest Hello World fragment.
I’d say that being able to use a COMPUTER, not a tablet, smartphone or other touchscreen app is an important skill to have. I have a suspicion that many modern day kids have the ability to do a lot of stuff using touchscreen apps, but are terribly undereducated in how to use laptops or desktops to do much of anything. Kind of like my mom, but younger. She can do all sorts of stuff on her iPhone or iPad, but is woefully incapable of using a PC or Mac to do most of the same things.
And when you get into the working world, it’s not touchscreens and flashy Apple shit; it’s ca. 2012 vintage laptop PCs running Win 8… if you’re lucky. You may well get stuck using a ca. 2008 desktop running Win 7. Both of which are a far cry from a cool little tablet or smartphone.
Beyond that, I think that some basic concepts of modern day operating systems should be known- files, file types and associations (in a broad sense), hierarchical folder structures, etc… so that they don’t do like my wife’s aunt and keep all their info in ONE huge word document that they continually append to, because she doesn’t know how to create new ones, and won’t be bothered to learn.
I don’t think coding is handy at all in the modern job world; probably 60% of jobs in IT don’t actually need programming knowledge as such, and it goes up to probably 99% outside of IT in most companies. The only place it would be helpful for the vast run of people is in it’s requirement that you actually organize your thoughts and decompose your problems if you want successful programs. But that kind of thing can be taught without having to make people bang out code.
For certain values of “programming.” I’d say that understanding a basic macro language is a low step on the “computer familiarity” scale but is not essential to app- and browser-based use.
Excellent observation. Yes, being able to use one simplified “computing” device model does not confer much ability to use a work-grade computer. It might help a little, but someone who’s only used an iPad is going to have a few minor come-ta-jeezus moments when they’re plopped in front of that Windows desktop with an array of office apps.
(And no, I don’t believe all business is on the verge of going to tablets and mobile devices. Call me old-fashioned.)