December 8, 2015

Defining Technology Literacy: Skills Students Need for Personal and Professional Success

By Caitrin Blake, Contributing Writer | Literacy Resources What is Technology Literacy

Technology use is integral to functioning in everyday life. Very few of today’s educational and professional paths do not require using technology to communicate, problem-solve or complete research. Students who attain technology literacy have an easier time achieving education goals and entering into their career of choice.

Defining technology literacy

The Colorado Department of Education defines technology literacy as the ability to appropriately select and responsibly use technology. Students who have attained technological literacy are able to:

  • Problem-solve
  • Communicate
  • Locate, use and synthesize information found using technology
  • Develop skills necessary to function in the 21st century

Skills required for technology literacy

According to the International Society for Technology in Education, technology literacy requires students to demonstrate skills in several areas, including:

  • Creativity and innovation: Students use technology to demonstrate creative thinking, problem solving and knowledge construction
  • Communication and collaboration: Students use technology to communicate and collaborate in order to enhance their learning or the learning of others
  • Research and information fluency: Students use technology to find and use accurate, up-to-date information
  • Digital citizenship: Students understand what it means to be a citizen in the digital world and practice ethical behavior when they use technology
  • Technology operations and concepts: Students illustrate an understanding of technological systems and concepts

Why is technological literacy important?

Achieving technology literacy helps students function in the world they live in. Not only is technology necessary in education and work arenas, it also helps students learn to become better decision-makers. Learning how to use technology enables students to access reliable and pertinent information regarding their health, safety and attainment of life goals. Students must understand not only how and where to look for information, but also how to discern whether sources are reliable or exhibit bias.

Moreover, an ability to access and use technology helps to decrease the digital divide, with students better able to access information. Without technological literacy, students will be unable to compete with those who have similar qualifications or skill sets.

Technology literacy rate

Access to computers and the Internet is an integral part of everyday life. The latest available data (2011) from the U.S. Department of Commerce includes this information about the economy:

  • More than 96 percent of jobs use communications technologies
  • 62 percent of the population uses the Internet as a part of their job
  • Technology-related jobs grew 26 percent between 1998 and 2008
  • 28 percent of Americans did not use the Internet at all

These facts illustrate the importance of ensuring that everyone has access to and the skills needed for using the Internet and computer technologies. People from low-income communities with low levels of education tend to have the least amount of access, increasing the necessity of these skills being taught at school.

Assessing technological literacy

In 2013, No Child Left Behind required all students to attain technology literacy by the end of the eighth grade. However, assessment of achievement of technological standards differs between states.

TechYes, a program from the organization Generation Yes, advocates for project-based learning to teach and assess technology literacy. TechYes promotes peer mentoring and authentic assessment of technology-based skills rather than using traditional assessment.

Evaluating technology skills requires teachers to review projects subjectively to determine if the student’s work showcases their technological knowledge, capabilities and critical thinking skills. This will require reviewing projects for both content and the skills used in their creation.

Technology literacy is necessary to function and compete in today’s world. Students need to know how to effectively use technology to complete their schoolwork and find, apply for, and maintain careers.

Caitrin Blake has a B.A. in English and Sociology from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado Denver. She teaches composition at Arapahoe Community College.

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