Living in an age where everything we do or we don’t have a direct correlation with bits and bytes of computers, being ignorant of the way this ubiquitous technology works is a luxury that none of the self-reliant individuals can afford. It wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Computer literacy is almost akin to preliminary education, a birth right of every individual of 21st century.
One look at the job descriptions across different fields, different positions and levels on a job recruitment portal threw a surprise that I was actually expecting to see. 90% of these jobs required the person to be hands-on with the current computer technology, with around 50% looking for a person with advanced level skills. In fact, as I write this article it dawns to me had I not been well versed with the workings of computer it wouldn’t have been possible for me to get my article to the audience of thousands on the internet. In what is a funny corollary, if you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you are computer literate with at least basic hands-on experience.
What is computer literacy after all?
Aren’t the words self explanatory? Basically, computer literacy is the understanding and knowledge of computers, their real world applications and limitations. In simple words, the level of comfort that an individual experiences with operating compute programs and other applications related to computer can be referred to as his computer literacy level.
The exact definition of this term varies at an individual level as literacy itself is a term that connotes a person who can at least read a book in his native language, and when it comes to computer literacy, here are some of the things that a person should know to be considered as a computer literate even if it is not in the strictest of sense.
Things one should know to be computer literate in 21st century
As this term gains in importance in education, our schools are responding by setting up computer literacy goals for their students. However, almost by unfortunate circumstances, all these efforts are directed towards teaching the students a particular suite of products, limiting their skills severely. When a child grows while learning that Microsoft suite is all he needs to know to be computer literate he is being oblivious to one of the biggest advantages that these machines provide; versatility. Therefore, even if at basic level you want to harness the true potential of a computer here are some of the things that you should know in addition to the normal rote of spreadsheets and word-processing programs:
With internet penetration reaching a new height, so is the usefulness of search engines. Search Engines provide a gateway to a city called Internet without which most of us wouldn’t know where to start exploring. Want to know the distance of New York to San Francisco? Google it! Want to know which is the best restaurant in London? Google it!
Using a search engine is much more than typing in your query in the give n search box and clicking on the first few results. An experienced used knows that the results that the search engine throws are the closest to what it thinks you might be looking for, but is not always what you want. Besides, time is a limited commodity and therefore, instead of applying hit and trial method all the time, learn to differentiate bad results from good results. Then there is advanced search, Boolean operators, and special commands all that can be easily learned by a common man.
Your computer suaveness is at risk if you fail to operate the new browsers to their full potential. Most new browsers are designed for simple and fast functionality and therefore learning how they operate isn’t a tough task at all. There are features like private browsing and cookies which, of course, doesn’t concern a layman but knowing them is also a part of the entire drill. A computer literate person masters smart techniques like managing multiple tabs and downloads, using bookmarks, editing URLs and even understanding the common error messages that are always waiting to jump in front of the user.
To perform any function on a computer it must act like a stable machine, fully under your control. However, viruses, malwares, spywares and similar programs ensure that they don’t. If you want your machine to not let you down at the most crucial moments, make sure it is entirely free from viruses by installing and maintaining a fully loaded antivirus suite. Much of the functioning of these programs is highly automated; still at time, you have to manually change settings for better health of your system. Scheduling a scan for a future time is just one example of this. And remember, an antivirus suite is MUST for every personal computer.
Basic hardware terminology
Your system crashed and it wouldn’t boot. You called up the customer service only to wonder how to explain the problem to the support guy as the only term that you ever knew about your computer was “computer”. Many times there are misunderstandings amongst hardware ports, cables and other physical components leading to a lot of problem. A computer literate person must be educated about the basic hardware terminology.
It is true that computer literacy without a particular context is a term too vague to understand and explain as computers are used for a zillion applications. One can be a computer literate in the context of a particular field only. However, if taught as a subject to children, computer literacy would entail all the above said points.