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What to do about electronic literacy

            Computers are now integral to work of all kinds, and public support for educational technology clearly reflects an appreciation of that fact. Seeing the extent of invasion of computers into almost every domain of our lives, how then should we tackle the problem of electronic literacy? Computers are now not only objects for instruction but have themselves become objects of instruction. There is a need to equip people at all levels to be literate in computer technology to make them ‘citizens in good standing of the information age’, (Roszak, 1994) with the difference lying only in the depth, extent and sophistication depending on the field or context.

            At a general level, daily living will no longer be the same. Family life will revolve around the computers more and more. It will be important to educate all family members about computer literacy, especially older members in the household so that they will be able to appreciate the full value of the new family life based on family electronic literacy.

            Parents and care-takers will now play a greater role in helping their children "emigrate" into the new world of information technology. They themselves will have to be electronically literate before they can guide them. As educator Barbara Deane says ‘Here we stand, not only waving our children off into a brave new world that we can scarcely imagine, but expected somehow to provide them with guidance in the use of computers – giving them maps, so to speak, of a land we do not know.’ (Roszak, 1994) Even at a young age, children will have to be socialized into knowing about computers.

            At play, the use of computers has significant impact on the acquisition of both commonsense knowledge and uncommon sense knowledge i.e. formal education. Increasingly, more and more computer terminology will be integrated into the realm of commonsense knowledge and this will have to be recognized.

            With greater use of computers in the workplace, it will be important for workers to have the knowledge of computers in order for them to have a competitive advantage over those who do not. Especially in a society such as Singapore in which the government is placing a lot of emphasis on the knowledge economy, computer literacy will be an undeniable necessity. Older workers and those without computer literacy will have to be retrained to equip them with these skills.

            Companies will also have to adapt themselves to the creation of new jobs, such as telecommuters as employees and will have to have the resources necessary for this to take place, e.g. video-conferencing facilities.

            Production workers in industries that use computers as part of their product manufacturing will have to equip employees with the relevant technological knowledge so that they will know the operations be able to work with the machines and not end up with the machines replacing them.

            At the community level, it will be important to provide access to computers by locating cost friendly equipment so that no one will be left out of this new Information Age. It is important that the whole society moves together if we are all to survive and be able to contribute to it.

            At the most fundamental level, education will no longer be sufficient without the knowledge of computer literacy because in lacking that skill, children would grow up to be unemployable. This is the hard but cold truth of the dawn of the information age. Computers in education will not only be vehicles of instruction but also subjects of instruction. Teachers will have to improve on their own electronic literacy before they can be educators to the children. Educational course structures will also change -especially with the onset of the option of distance learning – in order to equip students with lifelong learning, job skills and community building.

            As with everything, learning is a lifelong process and as Information Technology changes, new things will have to be learnt and new adaptations made.