computer literacy vs. digital natives

The interesting thing about technology is that early adopters tend to be very technical people. The average person who owned a computer in 1982 was probably educated and very interested in technology. A Popular Mechanics reader, if you will. Later, there is nothing remarkable about computer owners. Scientific literacy is not a precondition for computer use.

That leads me to a distinction: computer literacy vs. digital natives. The computer literate is someone who is steeped in the ways of computing. Not a professional engineer, but they approach a computer the way some people approach a car. It’s a machine, you can take it apart, make it do things, and so forth. The digital native is some who is comfortable with computers because they grew up around them. They are consumers of computers, not builders. They know how to use computer, but they can’t really write code or otherwise command a computer. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It should be expected that when a technology is well diffused that it is easy to use and requires little training or knowledge.

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Written by fabiorojas

January 3, 2013 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, technology

2 Responses

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  1. IMO, being a digital native does not imply that you know how to use a computer on more than the most basic level. I had had many traditionally-aged college students who do not know how to make a table in a word processing document, locate a file that they have saved in the wrong place, effectively deal with a computer crash, upload a file into our LMS, etc.I suspect it is something like language–the fact that an individual is a native speaker of a language does not mean their facility is sufficient to allow them to function fluently in academic or professional contexts, even if we are considering only oral skills and ignoring literacy.



    January 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm

  2. I think Hargattai has written on this: Hargittai, E. (2010). Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation”. Sociological Inquiry. 80(1):92-113.


    Chris Bail

    January 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm

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