Conferences are a great opportunity for professionals to come together and share ideas about industry trends. The DevLearn conference is held annually in Las Vegas and is sponsored by the The eLearning Guild. At the DevLearn2013 conference held this year from October 23-25, there were several presentations that included discussion about computing skills and digital literacy. There is a growing concern about basic computing skills and the effective use of the internet. Both corporate industry professionals and academic experts shared some interesting concerns about the lack of basic computing and information retrieval skills across the general population.
There has been much written about the classification of digital immigrants and digital natives. Digital immigrants are identified as those that have grown up with digital devices and internet technologies. Digital natives are those that have adopted the use of computing and internet technologies. The general premise has been that the natives possess skills beyond those of immigrants because they have grown up in a digital world. However, this idea is not only being challenged, but is a misconception. It is becoming more apparent that although natives have grown up with technology, they do not necessarily possess skills to use the internet effectively or have a good understanding of basic computing. The rise of smartphones has contributed to the myth of digital competence. It is likely more accurate to suggest that digital natives have less fear of technology, but not necessarily possess effective technology skills.
Corporate professionals pointed out that organizations are struggling with employees that cannot effectively navigate and use productivity software tools. Similarly, educators in academic environments shared that teachers often lack basic computer knowledge and therefore cannot effectively use technology as a learning tool. The assumption that anyone is more naturally suited to digital tools is a false premise. Computing skills and internet expertise must be taught; it is not instinctive or happens as a byproduct of exposure to digital devices! The concern across industries and learning environments was palpable during discussions at DevLearn2013, and requires remediation.
As we rely more and more on computing tools and internet based applications, the need for a basic understanding of computing and digital information is becoming more profoundly necessary. One remedy that organizations can consider is to adopt a formalized program that would strongly indicate a baseline level of computer skills. A good option is the use of a certification process. IC3 is a global certification for Internet and Computing Core Certification. The certification is offered by the organization Certiport. As stated by Certiport on their website, “IC³ certification is an excellent way to tell teachers, potential and current employers, academic institutions, government agencies, and the whole world that you have the digital literacy skills to function successfully, effectively, and productively. IC³ certification is the one credential that applies to whatever direction your education or career pursuits take you."
The certification requires three areas of study: (a) Key Applications, (b) Computing Fundamentals, and (c) Living Online. The knowledge required to earn this certification includes key applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, basic computing principles, and skills for effective internet use. All organizations can potentially benefit across all organizational levels from such a program to address the need to for a baseline of computer competence. Many of the participants at the DevLearn2013 were not aware of such a certification program, and were very interested in exploring this option. It is becoming more apparent that it is necessary not only to teach the digital skills we require, but also to demonstrate competence.