Computer "Illiteracy" is NOT about Grammar!!!
Lately the vocabulary list to my teacher’s reportoire has been ”Keywords” and “research databases.” For years I’ve been instructing first year composition students on the virtues of “thesis statements” and “working bibliographies.” One of the students whose thesis statements I checked yesterday, while conducting classes in the library’s Computer Lab, was writing on the topic of “computer illiteracy.” She had inserted in her thesis statement, without having done any exploratory searches on EBSCOhost, ProQuest or J-Stor about how grammar is not being used correctly while using the computer. Oh, does she have a LOT to learn when it comes to what real “illiteracy” is about. Essentially, it is not about grammar but about properly using the computer tools to GET to the original journal sources. “InfoLiteracy” is all about knowing how to access the exact information that you need from scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. (Caveat: I don’t agree with all journals and their thrust but at least there is an author’s name next to the article titles, whereas you won’t often find that on the Internet by doing a simple Google search.)
I’m having an American friend of mine give a talk next week titled “Desparate for Relevant Articles in Kazakhstan!” He did beta testing for J-Stor years ago since he knew he needed to access information for his doctoral program while living in Central Asia. He has lived in Kazakhstan for 12 years and knows the Kazakh language. He is deeply invested in the life here and knows painfully well that it is too difficult to bring books or journals to the “ends of the earth.” The next best thing is to read information that others have authored on any given topic on your computer. This means that it has nothing to do with grammar and everything to do with spelling the keywords correctly while reading material so you can get better ideas for even better, informed searches.
Obviously the teaching methodology of post-Soviet teachers still embraces grammar and translation based instruction when teaching English. However, when teaching computer skills, it is all about taking risks while making mistakes on the computer. You learn by doing. So too with being literate in English, it should mean being able to read and write. That is only accomplished by DOING! Learning to talk means taking risks and sorting out the grammar but TALK!!!
Therefore, I’m excited to see the eyes of many Kazakhstani students opened up to the world beyond their borders of Kazakhstan and to witness that they are eager to learn. Once they see that they can be “literate” with accessing information from the research databases, I’m hoping they will be literate enough in English to write about their wonderful country so that others from the outside will know what a great land this really is!!!
So, to the Kazakh teachers who remain “computer illiterate,” they do so to the detriment of their students who are like sponges and want to learn. These same teachers are usually the same ones who turn a blind eye to plagiarism. This disease will dissipate if they get their young charges turned on to the power of using strong “keywords” and finding topics they are passionate to read about and then write on as it relates to Kazakhstan. A dearth of information about Kazakhstan prevails because noone is writing about it. Those best to write in English about this country are Kazakhstanis who know Kazakh AND English!!!
Some of the dissenters who are against the forces of ”InfoLiteracy” would have held the “Industrial Revolution” at arms length if they lived back in those times. Computer literacy is NOT about grammar but about knowing how to access key information!!! InfoLiteracy will not be going away unless someone pulls the plug on all our computers world wide.