Sunday, January 1, 2012

Technology is more than social networking

Less technologically adept individuals tend to equate an ability to use social networking as sign of computer prowess. Howerver, texting and Facebook skills do not equate to an ability to reason and use a computer productively. Computer use has two major components, the motor skills necessary to use a keyboard, a mouse or a trackpad and the cognitive skills necessary to use the software programs. Using a computer instinctively, requires a monumental amount of practice with a fairly high degree of hand/eye coordination. But simply because you have the motor skills does not mean you can automatically run a computer.

My personal experience with younger computer users is that many of them have acquired the motor skills to operated the computer. They can use the mouse to open, close and move files, but have no idea about software. Learning to use moderately to extremely complicated computer programs requires the skills behind the program. For example, someone may be able to play computer games all day, but that does nothing to qualify him to use a computer based accounting system, or do online legal research or build a spreadsheet. A computer is a tool. If you give a hammer to a two year old he or she can do quite a bit of damage but are unlikely to build anything. I have used computers in my work since the 1970s and I view them as a tool to an end.

When was the last time you saw a young person use a computer for something other than entertainment or as a text entry device? To effectively use a computer, you need to have a concept of work. Unfortunately, this concept is sadly lacking in American society, especially by the youth. The first level of computer usage is keyboarding. A Nielsen Study found 13 to 17 years olds averaged 3,417 text messages a month. Typically 86% of those who own mobile devices use them while watching TV! See ReadWriteWeb. Looking at the U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 Statistical Abstract, almost half of the high school students in the U.S. or 45.16 percent still have no Internet use at all. Whereas only 6.17% of those people with a bachelor's degree do not have Internet access.

Interestingly the 2012 Statistical Abstract shows, 29.13% of the population of the state of Arkansas have no Internet use at all. The state with the most computer use is Utah with only 9.9% of the population with no Internet use. Total computer use in all the states combined is fairly evenly divided between those 18 to 34 or 30.48%, 35 to 54 37.77% and 55 and older 31.75%. 

Other than using social networking, playing games, or email, when was the last time you actually did some elective work on a computer? When was the last time anyone you know under the age of 18 did some work other than that required by a school class? How many different programs do you use regularly? How many do your below 18 year olds use?

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