Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Digital Illiteracy

I once wrote a post asking if a Blackberry could save our kids.

Time has answered that question in two ways:

  • The Blackberry is very much yesterday’s product. Email is also yesterday’s communication method as kids flock to text messaging and (shudder) twitter
  • Kids are becoming illiterate at an alarming rate, as you will read in this article, largely because so many don’t care about basic computer skills any more … Microsoft Word and Excel for example

Some quick excerpts from the quoted article, and this should scare the shti out of you ….

Today's teens grew up on SMS and Facebook.

"The kids I have, and that is roughly two dozen of the brightest young digital artists a semester, often have no idea what Microsoft Word is. They can't tell a Mac from a PC. And forget Excel," he says. He struggles to get his students to use basic computing etiquette.

"They will not use e-mail," he says. They can't manage a crowded inbox. "It's a constant struggle to have them simply stop SMSing me."

The investor pain looming with the breaking wave of digital illiteracy is significant. First, this new generation of low-functioning computer users will almost certainly require near full-time handholding from software vendors – which will not be cheap.

"It has gotten to the point now that if it takes something basic like a password, they can't figure it out," Mr. Bae said of his students. How will the average Macbook user deal with a problem? Go down to the Genius Bar and stand in line for two hours?

But finally – and most ominously of all – it will become increasingly difficult for app makers to strike the right balance demanded by today's computer-challenged.

I always thought that kids would get more and more sophisticated as computers became more and more ubiquitous. But the drive to make things easier and appeal to the, frankly, “challenged” has also destroyed the wherewithal that today’s youth would have had for learning anything complex. Facebook and twitter are in your face all the time and you just don’t have to think.

Twitter has always struck me as a joke … I think I know why, now.

But we can all take solace that the rich got richer by driving volumes so high. And they will be punished in the long run because their fortunes will be inherited by this new "idiocracy” :-)