Computer literacy is key, professor urges

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Emphasis should be placed on online, not offline, reading comprehension, said an education professor who specializes in computer literacy. Early education in Internet literacy may hold the key to maintaining the United States’ standing as a global power, educators learned at a lecture during the 2011 Texas Association of School Administrators Midwinter Conference on Monday. Donald J. Leu, education professor at the University of Connecticut, focused on the need for students to be efficient at solving problems through Internet use, a project he said should begin as early as second grade, when students are first introduced to reading comprehension. “Students do more reading online than they do offline these days, so it follows that we would change our curriculum to reflect that,” Leu said. Teachers should teach skills such as building websites, differentiating between reliable and possibly misleading search results and engaging students with their peers on a global level, Leu said. But before students can connect to their peers worldwide, teachers must first need to learn basic Internet literacy skills. To do this, Leu recommended his own initiative, the Internet Reciprocal Teaching Study. The study is a two-month program that takes 100 educators through the ins and outs of computer literacy. “I was glad to hear him speak about educating teachers about computer use,” said Linda Crownover, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Weatherford school district. “How long it takes for teachers to become proficient in leading classrooms in Internet literacy has been our biggest challenge.” Along with a strong educating force, Leu suggests every student should have a laptop. Shelly Blank, a counselor at Westlake High School, said she was skeptical of this policy, citing recent talks about budget cuts in public education. “It would of course be nice to be able to have a 1-1 laptop ratio in schools, but it hardly seems like a feasible goal, especially the way spending is being discussed these days,” she said. According to a set of recommendations from the Legislative Budget Board — a joint legislative committee that recommends funding for state agencies — the state could cut up to $10 billion from public education funding for the next biennium. But even if teachers have the information and tools, their primary job is to prepare students for assessment testing, Leu said. And although computer literacy is included in what English teachers should cover in preparation for the TEKS test, the state has yet to include any measure of comprehension within the test itself. Still, the interest in focusing on Internet mobility remains strong. “It’s worth it, just to see kids be able to reach out to countries where they couldn’t before due to language barriers,” Crownover said. “The Internet has changed that, connecting students intellectually as well as socially.”