Saturday, April 5, 2008

What today's students know (and don't know) about information technology

Most of today's students are familiar with email, SMS, Web search, digital cameras, MP3 players, word processing, etc. Four reminders of their familiarity with information technology are:

However, like drivers of cars with automatic transmissions, our students may use these tools without having mental model of the underlying technology -- their skills typically outstrip their conceptual knowledge.

Nearly all of today's students can surf the Web, but many do so without understanding that there are multiple Web servers on the Internet and that "Internet" and "Web" are not synonyms. They can email photos, but have no idea why they are so big when they arrive and why it takes so long to download them. They are both inefficient users and poorly prepared for making business and application decisions.

Few have thought about the implications of information technology for individuals, organizations and society, leaving them poorly prepared to make political judgements.

Finally, as Ivan Illich has pointed out, working with poorly understood technology can lead to a feeling of intimidation and alienation.

(For further thoughts on this topic see this post).

No comments: