While it is hard to imagine a student entering college today without basic computer skills, I’m sure there are still a few. Most students entering college know more than I do about computers, and have skills well above most of their professors.

IF you are not one of these students, IF you have questions such as
Do I really need a computer in college?
What computer skills do I need for college?

The rest of you can skip it unless you are just curious about what I chose to include.  Yes it includes turning the computer on and off and using a mouse.

I found Don Tapscott’s book, Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Next Generation, the most helpful resource in this area even though, being published in 1998, it should be way out of date. The girl in the picture grew up with computers and, like many students, knows more about computers than her parents or teachers

For the first time in history youth are an authority on an innovation central to society’s development… And they are an unprecedented force for change. We wonder how big e-commerce will be. How fast will technology change the schools, firms, governments, society? It’s as if we’ve all been sitting on the beach wondering what kind of day it’s going to be — and no one notices the tsunami just off the horizon.
—  Don Tapscott  from the preface  ix (bold print added)

Nearly fifteen years have passed since Tapscott wrote this. He asks “How fast will schools change?” My guess is that the better schools offer and probably require students to learn wordprocessing skills, and possible more. But, in the rest of your high school and college classes, I wonder how much has changed.

I’d like to hear your opinions about technology in your high school and in college classes. Because most of your professors grew up without computer skills, I would predict that their teaching hasn’t changed very much.

We know how big e-commerce has become! It’s huge. Most companies and many governments have certainly made changes, especially in record-keeping. Some companies have incorporated computers in their production and in their products.

I wonder if Tapscott would be surprised about how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. I think he would be disappointed in how slowly some areas have changed, but amazed in the changes in cellphones and other hand-held devices

Tapscott describes the Baby Boomers as being defined by television. This is where they got their information, their entertainment, their ideas about what they wanted to buy. But watching television is a passive activity. Today’s generation, with its focus on computers are involved in an interactive activity. Tapscott lists the ways we use the computer today:  Fun, Learning, Research, Writing, Communication, Shopping, Staying connected with friends, Manage personal finances, Organize protests, Cast votes, Listen to music,  and we could add so much more. We can also watch movies or short videos, and post our own videos for others to see. We can pay our bills online, create websites, post pictures there or on social networking sites or on our email… and so much more.

Tapscott describes the students who have grown up with computers as more knowledgeable and determined than in other generations. I’m not convinced that this is generally true. Many students are certainly knowledgeable about computers and other kinds of technology, but I don’t really believe they are spending much of their computer time for learning about other subjects. I did find this next statement about this generation intriguing:

They thrive on collaboration and many find the notions of a boss somewhat bizarre. Their first point of reference is the Net. They are driven to innovate and have a mindset of immediacy requiring fast results. They love hard work because working, learning, and playing are the same thing to them. They are creative in ways their parents could only imagine. The N-Generation has been told that it will be hard to find good jobs, so they have developed great determination. A bigger proportion than in any other generation will seek to be entrepreneurs. Corporations who hire them should be prepared to have their windows and walls shaken. pp 9-10.

Wow! This is powerful stuff. I only wish it was true.  But I think this applies to only a small number of people in this generation — to the students who will be the Bill Gates, the Steve Jobs, the Mark Zuckerberg of the next generation.

Perhaps we can take this statement as a vision of what you can be. If you picture yourself becoming this sort of person, you must:

1.  continue to develop your computer and technological skills.

2.  push yourself to develop your creativity.

3.  be determined, and willing to work hard.

4.  learn as much as possible in a wide variety of fields.

5. learn to work collaboratively both in person and online.

6.  either work in a company that encourages innovation, or take the risk of being an entrepreneur, possibly working with a few like – minded people.

7.  continually ask how you can make a difference in the world.

8.  stay aware of what changes are taking place and be ready to develop innovative ideas and technologies to meet the changing needs.

You, like the young man in the picture, might take Tapscott’s vision of what you could be, and make it your personal vision.

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