Computer IT or ICT) literacy has been familiar in schools since the introduction of computers in the 1980s. Martin and Grudzieki argue that this area has undergone three stages since its inception in the 1960s (Martin and Grudziecki 2006). The first was mastery which lasted up until the late 1980s when emphasis was placed on gaining specialist knowledge through basic programming. With the introduction of simpler user interfaces in the late 80s came what Martin and Grudzieki refer to as the application phase:
In this phase the computer is seen as a tool which can be applied in education, work, leisure and the home. Use of applications software becomes the focus of literacy activity, and definitions of computer or IT literacy focus on practical competences rather than specialist knowledge.
At the third, reflective level, specific skills were superseded by meta-skills and the purposes of ICT become central. The authors suggest that IT could facilitate student-centred pedagogy in a similar way to the critical approaches to literacy described in the section above.
A recent report by the Royal Society described the current delivery of computing as highly unsatisfactory and argued that pupils ‘gain nothing beyond basic digital literacy skills such as how to use a word-processor or a database’ (The Royal Society 2012). The Report defines digital literacy as the ‘general ability to use computers’ seen as a secondary skill. In a similar vein a speech given by the Google chairman, Eric Schmidt last year he argued that:
The current incarnation of ICT taught in UK schools is creating a generation of technology consumers; ‘digital literacy’ is important, but this is not computing. You can use and innovate with technology more effectively if you understand how it works
This adds fuel a growing sense of dissatisfaction with what the ICT curriculum is about and has caused some to suggest that a greater emphasis on computer studies, programming and creative production would lead to a more skilled workforce with the resultant economic benefits (NESTA, 2011). This has recently resulted in the ‘disapplication’ of the ICT programmes of study in the compulsory school sector.
References: see 3.1.4 References / Links to Further Resources