Computer skills are not something I usually give a great deal of thought to. In my mind we live in a technological age wherein computer skills are a necessary part of life and there are certain basic skillsets that everyone knows.
I have no idea why I still maintain such illusions.
My students prove each semester that this is absolutely not the case, and for some reason I’m always shocked. It’s kind of the same thing when that naive optimist is shocked when people are mean and self-absorbed. It’s a fact of life that just does not fit with my schema.
In any event, a couple of things recently have me thinking about computer skills. The first was that my mom asked me to help her update her resume, which I happily did (the job she found a listing for could have had her name at the top–it was perfect for her qualifications). She sent me the base info with jobs and duties and assorted relevant stuff, including a section for computer skills, which listed proficiencies in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Okay, these are things she has to use with her current job. So I format and tweak and play and send it back. She tells me she hasn’t finished adding job experience, so I tell her, “That’s fine, just add them and I’ll fix the formatting if it gets wonky.” (which of course it will because that is the nature of resumes…they are a PITA that way). As she’s going she says “How did you get those little dot things by stuff?” “Um, you mean the bullet points?” So I tell her where that setting is. And then she says “I don’t know how to center things.” At which point I pick up the phone, “Um, Mom, if you don’t know what bullets are and you don’t know how to center something, you really probably can’t list Microsoft Word as a computer proficiency.” We wound up taking the computer skills section out.
The other thing that has me thinking about computers is a survey I recently gave at the Evil Day Job annual meeting. We have about 80 professionals who teach our program around the state. Currently they do so using DVD players and projectors for the powerpoint based DVDs for each session. There are a number of problems we’ve had over the years with this method that would be solved entirely by each location getting a laptop and running the powerpoints AS powerpoints. It’s something our group is looking toward in the future. In preparation for that, I wrote up a very brief survey looking at computer skills, whether they had a home computer, home internet, if they knew what operating system they were running, and assorted questions about email and online activities (shopping, banking, bill pay, etc.). The results were…enlightening. There are people in the world still on dial up. Poor souls. About 75% of our people (who are definitely not of my generation) are comfortable with email and some level of online activity, but ultimately they don’t know squat about computers. One person, when asked what kind of processor he had replied “Dell.” :headdesk: Did I mention I’m the informal tech guru for our team? Jesus.
Here’s the thing. Computers are not going anywhere. More and more of our lives are being taken over by them in one form or another. Now I’m not saying everybody needs to go out and learn HTML or CSS or Python or DOS (does anybody use DOS anymore?) or any other programming language. But you should have a basic proficiency in an office suite. You should have a clue what kind of operating system your computer is running (and here’s a hint, it will flash on the screen when you boot up). You should know what a blog is, even if you don’t do it. You should know how to shop and research online. You should have some notion of computer processor speed and the difference between RAM and hard drive size. You should be aware that you never, ever open an email from an address you don’t know and that you should keep your anti-virus up to date. You should know that anti-virus is not enough and that you should also be maintaining anti-spyware and anti-malware programs. You should be aware of Snopes.com and always check these lunatic internet rumors that fly around on email before you clutter up someone’s inbox with crap (sorry, pet peeve). You should be aware of nettiquette like the fact that TYPING IN ALL CAPS MEANS YOU ARE YELLING. And while I’m at it, if you are not computer proficient, do not have a home computer with internet or easy daily acceess to a computer with internet, don’t sign up for online classes. Particularly mine.
Okay I think I’m finished now.