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Before we move to CS for all, can we at least solve the problem of Computer Literacy for all!?

There's a huge population of people who simply cannot effectively use a computer. Can we fix that first? Otherwise we're leaving them behind and that's not right.




Computer literacy and computer science are two different things with two very different pedagogical objectives.

Often times, when people say "computer literacy", they mean popular software competency. It often means ad-hoc comfort with specific software interfaces and solutions.

So if I've learned the steps necessary to attach files into Gmail, browse in Safari, download and remove apps, use Dropbox, and so on, then I'm considered computer literate. At one time, employees were expected to type in DOS commands. Now command line is considered hacker territory.

Almost everyone in the world is living very high away from computer science, and instead they are living in the world of corporate designers. They are living in a world where people at Apple build app experiences called "Mail", "Calendar", "Reminders", and you swipe left to delete. Soon you'll be asking Cortana or Siri to do things for you.

In that designer world of proprietary software and aesthetic trends, what does computer literacy mean? It sounds like a class on Microsoft Word or Outlook. It sounds like a class on how to use the App Store.


Those of us in computing sometimes tend to forget that there's a whole world of people for whom computers are not a passion, they are simply something they have to deal with whether they like it or not.

I know MD's who have no love or interest in computers at all. No interest in becoming "computer literate" as defined by people like us. These are not dinosaurs. Yet, some of them live in a world where pen-and-paper are more efficient and safer than paging through text boxes in a shitty UI on an equally shitty medical data entry program.

Some of them couldn't scan-and-email a document if their lives depended on it. They screw-up sending links to websites and have crap spread all over their computers rather than organized in a sensible way within a directory structure.

This is either a case of literacy or one where computers and UI design still have a lot to be desired before any human being can walk-up to a computer and get things done. And, BTW, this isn't a Mac vs. PC issue as these people are equally clueless regardless of platform.

I know music teachers who can barely send email and school teachers who get flustered within anything more complex than an iPad.

None of these people are stupid.

And, to some extent, I am not sure anyone needs to actively pursue a "solution". Most of this will resolve itself with generations of people who grew up with computers. Sad to put it that way, but I think there might be a degree of truth in that.

I've made this comment multiple times: I told my son that his generation is likely to be the last to actually drive a car. It is almost guaranteed that his kids will have no need to drive a car and will, instead, use fully automated vehicles. A human driving a car might become a recreational activity. Two hundred years ago nobody would have though of running or jogging as a recreational activity. Today we do.

The point is, things change, some are left behind and some adapt.


> And, to some extent, I am not sure anyone needs to actively pursue a "solution". Most of this will resolve itself with generations of people who grew up with computers.

Well then we should speed it up somehow. People die due to shoddy writing and missing/unindexed/unsearchable paperwork by MDs. Revoke the licenses of those who refuse to join the 21st century.


This aversion to software you describe may just be an age / generational thing, because I've noticed that almost all "older" people have issues with technology.

I think that being a med school student today probably means osmosis of cultural information from other med students, including student solutions like Google Drive and Dropbox, as well as Tinder. Along the way, that probably means comfort with email, chat, downloading apps and files, browsing, buying, PDF reading, and so on.


> Before we move to CS for all, can we at least solve the problem of Computer Literacy for all!?

This is only "CS for All" Harvey Mudd students; I don't think real computer illiteracy problem there.

> There's a huge population of people who simply cannot effectively use a computer. Can we fix that first?

If you mean to shift topic from what "CS for All" means in the title to "CS for All in the world", obviously, that inherently requires solving Computer Literacy for all. So, yes, we can solve that first, if we can solve either at all.

If you mean "CS for All" in the sense actually used in the title, then, demonstrably, no. Since the source linked from the title is the solution to "CS for All" in the sense used in the title, and yet, as you note, Computer Literacy for all (in the broader sense of "all" that you wish it solved for) is not solved.


This. I believe very strongly in the importance of touch-typing. I went to an inner city school for elementary and high school. And when I arrived at university computer science I felt like I was light years behind my peers. A lot of that stemmed from not being able to type as fast as them. Hunting and pecking typing while trying to wrap your head around making abstractions and recursion is enough to make anyone frustrated.

Teach touch-typing!


You learn touch typing by having something to type, not by having it drilled into at school. There are better things to teach.


I completely disagree with this. Despite being a fast typist when I first started high school from years of computer use, I still consider my typing class to be one of the best bang-for-the-buck classes I took in terms of what I have gotten out of it since graduating.

My form was not perfect before taking the class. I would often do something slightly weird with my right hand where my it would "walk" to slightly incorrect positions to reach keys that my other hand should be hitting.

My typing teacher put covers over the keyboard so we couldn't see our hands and then had us do typing drills. She would strictly enforce that we maintain our hands on the correct home-row position, wrist positioning, etc.

After a semester of this class, despite an initial drop in my speed, I can now touch type correctly and my speed is now faster than ever.

I work with professional programmers who hunt and peck and it drives me crazy. For something that you interact with daily and is the instrument of your profession, taking an hour a day for a few months is a no brainer to perfect your form.


I would like to suggest touch typing tool TypingStudy for everyone who think he wants to improve his or her efficiency. Strongly suggested - http://www.typingstudy.com


My elementary school (circa 1998) struggled to teach me touch-typing with both in-person instruction and Mavis Beacon. I also tried learning at home. It was fruitless.

How did I actually learn to touch-type? AOL Instant Messenger.


agreed, for me it was a few years earlier with BBSes in the early/mid 90's after High School... When you have to not only type for you conversations, but add in commands to send direct and channel messages, you get fast, or you don't chat.


I could already touch type sloppily in the 90s when I took a keyboarding class in Gr 9. The class taught me proper hand/wrist positioning to avoid strain which I attribute to helping me avoid wrist problems over the years. Of course I also taught myself how to program the 90s typewriters so I could create macros and slack my way through the rest of the semester.

I don't think it mattered in programming classes that I could touch type, just meant I could multi task distractions easier like being on IRC during lectures and appearing to be paying attention.


I don't think this is a solvable problem, especially when people just don't care. There are plenty of resources from websites to youtube videos to teach users how to be more computer literate. But instead of learning, people would rather watch someone unbox candy on youtube.


"... people would rather watch someone unbox candy on youtube."

That made me laugh out loud. Then it made me sad again.

Look, I get we can't all know everything. I mean, we can't all be mechanics, right? But every driver should know how to check their fluids, air, etc. Maybe change a tire.

Same with computers. I don't think everyone should have to learn to code. I think that's not an ideal scenario. But I do think everyone should be computer literate for some basic definition of computer literate.


This is exactly what I rant to people. Working IT support at a library where I sometimes help out patrons on public computers, it boggles my mind that many people still don't know how to do simple things like double-click or copy text.

We've changed our policy where we don't provide instructional services anymore, only tech support, because it would take up so much of our time trying to teach basic concepts.


Why not approach a local user group to offer to do tutorials one Saturday a month? I know a lot of guys at Linux user groups in particular would be willing to help... they may not like helping with mac/linux as much, but many would be happy to do so just the same.


Give them all copies of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Maybe they will spot the connection between John's behavior and they own.


I tend to think computer literacy is the wrong approach. I think the right approach looks like "interfaces that don't require literacy" (one of the reasons why I think human-quality NLU for command & control systems are going to be amazing). Most people don't need most of the functionality of a computer.


> Before we move to CS for all, can we at least solve the problem of Computer Literacy for all!?

I see no reason that they can't be tackled concurrently!


How about we try to solve them simultaneously?


A huge proportion of the population doesn't have the knowledge to make healthy meals.

A huge proportion of the population does not know how to manage a few acres of crops, raise chicken and cows for milk and eggs, etc.

How about we try to solve them simultaneously?


Sounds good.

In fact, I think we are trying to solve them simultaneously.


We live in a world of limited resources.




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