Computer Literacy Subcommittee – A Starting Point
My vision of computer literacy at
As we know, keyboarding and computer literacy are still not required at many high schools. Many districts have instated a requirement at the middle school level, feeling that this satisfies the requirement and prepares the students thoroughly in the use of keyboarding, operating systems/interfaces and the Office Suite. My experience and that of many others is that it does not prepare them adequately. Therefore, students come in having taken some Word, PowerPoint and Access, but focusing on breadth and not depth. In my recent articulation with La Costa Canyon High, this is exactly what was found in their Computer Applications class. Additionally, during a visit last spring from hundreds of area high school students, coordinated by Rita Campos in Tech Prep, a show of hands demonstrated that students are taking classes in Word and PowerPoint primarily, some in Excel, and very few in PowerPoint. Employers at advisory meetings stress the increasing need for higher level computer skills and the frustration that many if not most employees do not even possess fundamental skills. Microsoft testing in staffing agencies is increasingly being used as a model for testing, and students are frequently tested in basic computer skills when looking for a job, as they have been tested in various occupations in basic writing and computational skills.
Additionally, during a student’s tenure at
Currently there is no systematic program of assessment and placement on our campus. There is, however, precedent for this on other community college and state college campuses. Anecdotally, a student recently entered my evening Job Search class and was amazed to see certificates in the Office Suite programs on the wall, commenting that the 4 year state university that he attended expected him to already possess these skills, and stating that there was no formal remediation offered if you did not.
The issue of declining enrollment in Computer Literacy classes needs to be addressed. This decline is paradoxical, because there is more need than ever in industry for yet higher level computer skills. There are reasons and theories for the decline, and these need to be addressed, in order to prepare a new direction for the labs, classes, and programs.
In addition to the need to test and place in the area of computer literacy, the second pressing issue regarding the teaching and acquisition of these skills at Palomar is the very rapidly changing nature of the field. What should our future labs look like? How should they be equipped? What should we be teaching? That is all changing rapidly. Bill Gates envisioned and discussed in the mid-late 90’s that application software would be designed to be web-centric. We are now seeing the result of that shift. The 2003 version of the Office Suite is very web centric. He also speaks of the prototype computer, as not the desktop personal computer that we see today in our labs, but as a unit that fits in the palm of your hand, uses voice recognition, and is integrated with the cell phone, among other features. I believe that the “outfitting” of equipment in the labs will need to undergo a very serious change in the near future, for the community college to fulfill its mission of representing not only what is current in industry, but equally as important, to equip our labs with machines of the future, be it laptops, docking stations, wireless technology, etc. SANDAG issued a report in December 2004 listing wireless technology as one of the top three emerging fields. It is difficult but imperative to not only keep abreast of but to anticipate the quickly changing needs in the area of computer technology.
It is paramount, in my opinion, for appropriate departments on this campus to continue collaborative working partnerships, planning and dialogue towards this end. Some of this, I expect, will be accomplished with the design, planning and implementation of the technology building. I would urge that ROP, the Business Department and CSIS be represented by faculty and administrative personnel towards this end in various committee work and communications related to the new technology building; and others with certificates and AA’s that require computer classes be apprised of our developments on the Computer Literacy Subcommittee.
So what should the students be required to take? Keyboarding, Windows, and Computer Fundamentals should be requirements for the Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint) class (CSIS 120/RCSIS 120). Testing should be in place for any incoming student in the areas of Keyboarding and Windows. Minimum requirements could be set by the departments currently teaching these classes. This would be a nice partnership between the departments with Business setting the standards for and testing in Keyboarding, ROP doing the same with Windows, with students then being properly prepared to funnel into further Computer Applications classes in Business, ROP and CSIS.
This would be a starting point, and quite an accomplishment, for all Certificate of Achievement and AA graduates. Institution of this procedure would serve students well in two primary fashions. It would serve students going on to employment because computer literacy skills are an expectation at any level of employment; also students transferring to 4 year institutions where the expectation is that entering students already possess these skills.
Looking forward to the committee’s feedback and direction.