Basic Information Technology Literacy and Why We Need It

Many of the people who have been using computers, even more than a decade, may still not be familiar with the fundamental information technology concepts. Words like, Megabyte, Kilobyte, Resolution, Bits, Bandwidth etc. buzz around most of us, but do we really now what they mean? Or, may be, more importantly, does it matter if we know what they mean? I think it does. Many of our misconceptions and failures involving technology are grounded in our lack of understanding of how technology works. For example, people who send email attachments as big as 50MB probably do not understand that 50MB is to big to send as an email, because it might completely fill the recipient’s Inbox and make it stop receiving new emails.

Since online learning is becoming more prevalent now, instructors’ knowledge of basic information technology  concepts sometimes determine the success of the instruction. For example when an instructor posts a video file of 700 MB to her students, while there might be students participating from locations where they only have dial-up, or some other form of low speed Internet access, they actually exclude these students from that part of the course. In this sense, especially online instructors often need to assess the affordances of technologies used and make contextual decisions as to how the technology will be used. This requires having a fairly good understanding of basic computer file management, operating systems, network usage, and software.

The problem is many of us got away with using computers in our classes without really understanding fundamentals. The support was always there, either from the software companies, or from the institutions we are working for. But now as technology becomes more ubiquitous we more and more use technology in places where we have no support. Or, often we need the solution to a problem immediately because we are at the middle of a online class or meeting. In such situations it is us, as the user, who needs to solve the problem because of time and location constraints. Having a good understanding of computer fundamentals allows us to come up with creative solutions fairly quickly, where contacting support personnel might take hours or days even.

In the Instructional Consulting Office we are enthusiastic about helping faculty not only to solve their problems with technology, but also to help them understand the reason for the problem. This sometimes involves helping our clients fill-in some gaps in the knowledge of information technology literacy. As a part of our effort to improve the computer knowledge and skills of our clients we create monthly QuickTips podcasts that address practical issues in educational computing.  You can watch our podcasts either by going to http://podcast.iu.edu and selecting QuickTips (look for the icon on the right) under Education, or you can directly go to our QuickTips podcast site from the link below:

http://podcast.iu.edu/Portal/PodcastPage.aspx?podid=470c3de3-9c5d-44e2-baa4-298dfc892f8f

Also, please let us know, at ic@indiana.edu, if there are any topics you want us to address in our podcast.

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