Computer Literacy Skills of Net Generation Learners



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Younger learners are widely considered to be technologically savvy and computer literate because of their lifelong exposure to ubiquitous technology. Educators often rely on that assumption to justify changes to institutional curricula, technology initiatives, new classroom strategies, and calls for educators to meet the educational demands of the younger generation. This study examines the computer literacy skills of Net Generation Learners (NGLs).

This dissertation is composed of a systematic literature review, an examination of learner computer literacy skills prior to completing a college level course, and an investigation of the effects of different types of instruction on learner computer literacy skills. In the systematic literature review, identified studies focused primarily on learner familiarity with emerging technologies and relied heavily on self-reported data. Few studies directly measured learner computer literacy skills, and none compared the skills of NGLs and non-NGLs.

A causal-comparative examination of learner computer literacy skills prior to a college level computer literacy course found that both NGLs and non-NGLs exhibited inadequate computer literacy skill. A 1-way ANOVA indicated NGLs performed significantly better than non-NGLs on a computer literacy skills assessment; however, examining learner age as a continuous variable via regression yielded different results. There may be validity to claims regarding the comparative computer proficiency of NGLs to non-NGLs, but the level of skill exhibited by learners does not warrant calls for radical educational changes, and the imprecision of arbitrarily defining age as a dichotomous variable produces potentially erroneous results.

The effect of type of instruction on learner computer literacy skills was explored. Based on the results in this study, direct instruction focused on a comprehensive scope of computer literacy skills better supports learner acquisition of skills than does informal instruction or instruction focused on a limited range of skills. Future research should use statistical methods that analyze age as a continuous variable while continuing to examine directly the comparative computer literacy skills of NGLs and non-NGLs at all levels of education. Further inquiry into the effectiveness of different types of instruction to support learner acquisition of computer literacy skills should also be conducted.