Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Commentary: Sotir

I started using computers in the late 80's. The changes within the last 25 years or so have been amazing. Who would have thought that those original Apples would lead to a revolution that has literally changed the world. We've moved from FTP Bulletin Boards to the World Wide Web and blogs and wikis and podcasts. We survived the dreaded Y2K crash of the Millennium (OK, it never happened, but we were really scared anyway...).

So what has this done to education in general? We have moved from a society of digital immigrants to a generation of digital natives. Kids of the new Millennnia have embraced this new technical world. I was thrilled to have a transistor radio that my parents hated, and I loved being able to take my music with me wherever I go. Now we have cell phones that play music and videos, take pictures, IM our friends and read our email. Apple has made a fortune on the tiny little iPods, that get tinier all the time...check out the Nano... The demand for technology in education has become the norm, no matter what the type of institution. The National Center for Education Statistics notes:

** in 2002 the average public school had 131 institutional computers
** from 1994 to 2002 the percentage of public schools with Internet access increased from 35% to 99%

For adult education, those statistics do not always apply. But you, as the instructor, need to help your students transition into the digital world. True, our students are not always at the forefront of technology. But just as you give them the skills to speak English or use math effectively, they need to learn technology. Give them the skills they need to be better parents, or more successful employees, or to simply adapt to the world around them. Adults will never be as savvy at computers as the children, but they can build a comfort zone. I've done some quick surveys of students in the AELC. About 75% of them either have computers at home, or have access to computers (families and friends). They need to know how to use them. Give them Websites to try at home. Show them how to access the Internet. Give them the tools to create their own success.