Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Computer Literacy Support should not be Conditional: Joanne Jacobs comment

By on June 18, 2008

In today’s Joanne Jacobs article, Computers Don’t Boots Poor Kids’ Grades,” I commented that they may not boost them now, but as we all know, our mission as educators is not just to increase test scores, but also to create life long learners.  Look, I think that if we as educators are charged with preparing students with the strategies that are their future, we must make them computer literate. That means doing everything we can to promote safe and easy computer usage in the home.

Just as we as educators strive to make books accessible to those who are struggling readers, so too must we add computers to that list, for technology is not just for the elite anymore. The Home Ec and Shop classes of yesteryear are dwindling away and in their place needs to be classes and encouragement in those skills that will be our students’ future blue-collar skills…those in technology.

The statistics of what the kids do with a computer once it’s in the homes can’t derail us from our mission, to educate and prepare. Get those computers in the homes and in the schools. Then we’ll tackle responsible usage. But if we allowed the irresponsible to dictate every generation’s movement towards their future success, TV would have been banned long ago and books would still be in pyres.

When I worked up in Dublin Unified, my husband and I began a program of recycling computers into kids’ homes.  Royce is a computer consultant and many times he would come home with a computer that a client wanted him to get rid of.  He would strip them at night and create “frankencomputers” made up of a monitor here, a keyboard there, until he had a working machine.  I, in the meantime, would conduct a survey at school of who did not have a computer at home, what the student imagined they would use it for, how many siblings would also benefit, etc…I would choose the student; Royce would deliver and install the computer.  By the time I left that district, we had somehow distributed 120-something computers into the community and left behind the bible to continue running the program through the middle school. 
We received many thanks, the best Chinese food you could imagine, and a jar of homemade salsa.  For us, it wasn’t about making the kids vow to only use the computers for school.  It was about giving them the tools that allow them access to knowledge and communication.  
So what if they the first accessory they saved for was a controller?  You want the kid to think of computers as a limb.  You want them to love it and take care of it.  You want it to be a part of their lives in any way. Remember, when a child first learns to read, you don’t first give them textbooks, you give them Goodnight Gorilla.  But we as educators need to be on the side of computer literacy, not computer conditional literacy.
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