Computer literacy

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Computer literacy is the ability to use computers and related technology efficiently, with a range of skills covering levels from elementary use to programming and advanced problem solving.[1] Computer literacy can also refer to the comfort level someone has with using computer programs and other applications that are associated with computers. Another valuable component is understanding how computers work and operate. Computer literacy may be distinguished from computer programming which is design and coding of computer programs rather than familiarity and skill in their use.

In developed countries[edit]

Computer literacy is considered to be a very important skill to possess in developed countries. Employers want their workers to have basic computer skills because their company becomes ever more dependent on computers. Many companies try to use computers and other technology to improve business efficiency.[2]

Computers are just as common as pen and paper are for writing, especially among youth. For many applications - especially communicating - computers are preferred over pen, paper, and typewriters because of their ability to duplicate and retain information and ease of editing.

As personal computers become commonplace and they become more powerful, the concept of computer literacy is moving beyond basic functionality to more powerful applications under the heading of multimedia literacy or new literacies.

It is frequently assumed that as computer and Internet access is common-place in the first world, everyone in those countries must have equal and ready access to this technology, and to skills in how to effectively use it. There is, however, a significant digital divide in even the most technologically advanced and enabled countries, with digital haves and have-nots.[3] Older workers who do not use the internet at home and are computer illiterate may be frozen out of the job market even for relatively unskilled jobs such as clerking in an auto parts store.[4]

The Digital Inclusion Forum,[5] a consortium set up through joint participation from the Wireless Internet Institute,[6] IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Ohio's OneCommunity,[7] is just one organization developed to address this. Their organizational mission in this is to provide a "comprehensive resource center to inform, educate and share best practices among state and local government leaders, industry and institutional stakeholders on identifying and implementing sustainable market solutions to bridge the digital divide in North America."

A variety of private sector nonprofits and foundations also contribute to this, in addressing the needs of underserved communities. Per Scholas, for example runs programs offering free and low cost computers to children and their families in underserved communities in the South Bronx, New York, Miami, Florida and in Columbus, Ohio.[8]

Importance of Computer Literacy[edit]

Computer literacy has value in other areas of Australian life outside of professional development. As time passes, the importance of computer literacy continually increases, as it is a key aspect to helping businesses, schools, and people (in general), equip themselves for the future.

While the world continues to advance with smarter, faster technology, the need to be computer literate becomes more imperative. Computer literacy is helpful for researching important topics or personal concerns. Knowing how to properly use a computer and navigate the digital terrain helps to keep life organised and streamlined. Mobile media devices are becoming increasingly popular, reinforcing the need for computer illiterates to consider taking a skill course.[9][10]

Australian Workforce[edit]

In Australia, the majority of occupations give employees access to computers and the internet as part of their job. Having computer skills simply refers to the ability to quickly and easily navigate a computer workspace. Familiarity with office programs, such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and QuickBooks used to be the standard skill set for most business operations. True computer literacy today is demonstrated through exceptional knowledge of Internet search engines, social media expertise, and in some cases, website building and management; furthermore, to have experience working with all these has become a common prerequisite for most jobs.

As the digital world continues to advance, technology’s place in society can only develop and strengthen, hence the reason behind encouraging a culture of computer literacy.[9][11]

Australian Schools[edit]

Computer literacy is taken seriously, especially for children in younger ages. Australian schools have also incorporated technology into the school curriculums as a way to start developing the students’ computer literacy skills. The use of computers and the societal adoption of computers in education has been brought upon by the advancements of the technological world — very much the same concept as the workforce in Australia. The combination of technology and education is not something that is new to the Australian school curriculum; Between their early learning stages and university education, students are steadily introduced to a range of different digital devices to further develop their computer skills; these include, PCs, interactive whiteboards, laptops, and iPads. Computers have changed almost every aspect of daily life, and people can be sure that the use of computers will only become more prevalent.[12][13]

The Issue Concerning the Multiple Definitions of Computer Literacy, and Lack of Agreement[edit]

There seems to be an underlying lack of agreement among scholars and authors alike, with regard to a general definition of computer literacy. As noted in the summary of this wikipedia article, to some, computer literacy encompasses basic computer proficiency, whereas to others, it also includes advanced computer usage such as those found among computer scientists, software engineers, and software developers/programmers.

In his article titled Planning for Computer Literacy, Roger W. Haigh defines computer literacy as ″[T]hat compendium of knowledge and skill which ordinary, educated people need to have about computers in order to function effectively at work and in their private lives in American society for the remainder of this century."[14]

However, Catherine D. Tobin looks at it from a different angle. In her article Developing Computer Literacy, she states "There are almost as many definitions of computer literacy as there are people thinking about the topic. The definitions range from descriptions of computer literacy with a major emphasis on programming to those that highlight computer awareness and stress the recognition of facts about computers. Computer literacy is simply the ability to utilize the capabilities of computers intelligently."[15]

Due to our technologically inclined society, at some point, there should be a standardization in the correct definition of computer literacy in addition to a universal agreement.

Computer Literacy in K-12[edit]

Education in the United States is introducing computers to children in preschool and kindergarten through the use of tablet computers. Tablet computers are more suitable for child use due to the small size and touchscreen accessibly.[16] The simple tap and swipe features of tablet computers are convenient for the under-developed motor skills of young children and similarly present the functions of the mouse and keyboard.[17] Early childhood educators use student-centered instruction to guide the young student through various activities on the tablet computer.[18] Often this includes web browsing and the use of applications, familiarizing the young student with a basic level of computer proficiency.[17]

The usage of computers in K-12 education has been growing since the introduction of the personal computer in the early 1980s.


  1. Teaching computer literacy will improve the thinking abilities of students.[19]
  2. The need to train students in job-related skills that require the use of computers.[19]
  3. The notion that there will be a large number of higher paying jobs for computer programmers.[19]
  4. Exposure to computers will reduce "technological fear" among students.[19]
  5. A knowledge for computer has become a "basic skill" in society.[19]


  1. Many—perhaps most—computer literacy courses center on programming as the basis for computer literacy.[19]
  2. While there are notable exceptions, for the most part, teachers are not very skilled in programming or any other aspect of computing and are not likely to develop these skills. As a group, teachers have simply not had the necessary experience to qualify them to teach credible computer literacy courses.[19]
  3. Expanding computer literacy to include computer programming parallels expanding the curriculum to include Latin as a means of increasing problem solving abilities. Computer programming has become the "new Latin."[19]
  4. The experience that students often get in computer literacy courses provide only "watered down" skills.[19]
  5. Many software packages allow the user to develop programs for specific applications without having to learn a programming language.[19]
  6. When computer literacy is included in the curriculum, there is rarely enough time available on a computer for the students to become proficient, much less minimally literate in computer use.[19]
  7. There is a widely misunderstood, and overestimated, demand for employees who are sophisticated in the use of computers.[19]

Computer Literacy in Higher Education[edit]

Computer Literacy Course in Higher Education[edit]

In the United States, there is a strong urge for new college students to have adequate computer knowledge when they start their college career. If students are required to take a basic computer literacy course when they enter college, then students will be better prepared for their college career. In addition, this course would provide students from less fortunate backgrounds or students who never had the desire to obtain this knowledge a new oppurtunity at learning this subject. Students should be provided an introduction to computer literacy course that provides them knowledge in commonly used software, hardware, and terminology. Nataraj an academic director states in 2014, a common theory that “Entering freshmen nowadays do not need an introductory computer class since they have learnt all the necessary computer skills at the high school level” has been proven to be invalid with his research results.[20] After students completed a given computer literacy course there was a significant increase in understanding of course material.

Presence of computer usage in and out of the classroom[edit]

In the United States, it is common for classes at the university level to require students to perform a wide array of tasks that use a variety of technologies. Students are often required to perform research, participate in online discussions, or submit entire assignments online. As stated by Marcel in 2015, "Various online homework systems have become more advanced and availible to the mathematics instructors and students."[21] These tasks and many others all require some level of basic computer literacy. Therefore, obtaining adequate computer literacy should be a top priority for all students.

Levels of Computer Literacy[edit]

There are various levels (basic, intermediate, proficient) of comfort and capability for computer literacy.[22]

Basic – Foundational computer literacy skills

Intermediate – Computer literacy and competency beyond the foundational level

Proficient – Computer literacy and competency beyond the intermediate level applied in educational and work settings.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Computerized Manufacturing Automation: Employment, Education and the Workplace, Washington, US Congress of Technology Assessment, OTA CIT-235 April 1984, page 234
  2. ^ "Computer Literacy in the Workforce". Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  3. ^ "Educational Initiatives Focusing on Computer Literacy & Online Education". Online Schools Offering Laptops. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  4. ^ Edward Wyatt (18 August 2013). "Most of U.S. Is Wired, but Millions Aren't Plugged In". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "The Digital Inclusion Forum". Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  6. ^ "The Wireless Internet Institute". Retrieved February 13, 2011. [dead link]
  7. ^ "One Community". Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Per Scholas; Affordable Technology Finally Available to Bronx Residents". Pediatrics Week: 42. 27 August 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "Chapter 01 Summary.pdf - Why Is Computer Literacy Important? Computer". Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  10. ^ "Computer-Literacry". Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  11. ^ Willox, Innes (January 2016). "Tackling Foundation Skills in the Workforce" (PDF). The Australian Industry Group. [dead link]
  12. ^ "The role of ICT in Western Australian Education: Living and Working in a Digital World" (PDF). Education and Health Standing Committee. Parliament of Western Australia, Perth. September 2012. 
  13. ^ Tatnall, Arthur. "Computer education and societal change". Information Technology & People. 28 (4): 742–757. doi:10.1108/itp-09-2014-0202. 
  14. ^ Haigh, Robert W. (March–April 1985). "Planning for Computer Literacy". The Journal of Higher Education. 56 (2): 161–171. doi:10.2307/1981664. Retrieved 26 November 2016. 
  15. ^ Tobin, Catherine D. (February 1983). "Developing Computer Literacy". The Arithmetic Teacher. 30 (6): 22–23, 60. Retrieved 26 November 2016. 
  16. ^ Neumann, M.M. & Neumann, D.L. (Sept. 4 2013). Touch Screen Tablets and Emergent Literacy. Early Childhood Education 42: 231
  17. ^ a b Blackwell C, Lauricella A, Wartella E (July 1, 2016). The influence of TPACK contextual factors on early childhood educators’ tablet computer use. Computers & Education 98:57-69.
  18. ^ Beschorner, Beth and Hutchison, Amy C. (2013). iPads as a Literacy Teaching Tool in Early Childhood. Education Publications. Paper 26.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Hannum, Wallace (February–March 1992). "Reconcidering Computer Literacy: A Critique of Current Efforts". The High School Journal. 74 (3): 152–159. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  20. ^ Nataraj, S (2014). "The Need for an Introductory Computer Literacy Course at the University Level". International Journal Of Business Management & Economic Research. 
  21. ^ Marcel, Koressa, (2015-01-20). "Evaluation of Computer-Based Math Homework and Students' Satisfaction with Online Math Classes". 
  22. ^ a b "Computer Literacy Skills" (PDF). Computer Literacy Skills.