Is learning coding and computing enough? (Part 3 of 3)

by Michael Tighe


Posted on 7th September 2018 at 4:32 pm



There is a bigger challenge when it comes to computing for everyone and in particular for young people. Even those who have an aptitude for coding may not have the maturity to discern the difference between reliable and unreliable information.

Information literacy is one of the key skills everyone needs in a world of fake news, satirical sites like ‘Waterford Whispers News’ or ‘The Onion’, Wiki pages of varying integrity and reliable sites like the Times for example.

That’s why we developed the ECDL ‘Information Literacy’ course. It sets out the essential concepts and skills relating to identifying, searching, evaluating, organising and communicating online information. It teaches us to determine what online information is needed to meet a particular requirement. It teaches you or your kids how to search securely for online information using search engines and social media applications.

You need to critically evaluate the information you find using a range of criteria, know how to manage and organise the information and then be able to plan, draft, review and deliver online information.

We need to certify best practice in information literacy because this is one thing we can’t be vague about when educating our children. We need these key skills when researching and evaluating topics on the web because for a lot of people (and children in particular) the first answer we find on a search engine is the truth. It is not!

The ECDL Information Literacy course can be applied to research and information search relating to any topic area and ensures that you can create factually sound, well-structured, well-researched, and appropriately expressed opinions.

Ok, so we need IT Office Skills, IT Research Skills and Coding, is that it?

Unfortunately, no! But I promise I’m nearly finished. The last bit we need is the most important bit. We need to be safe.

We need our children to be safe online and we need them to know that not only could they be putting themselves at risk online when the visit a site or a social media application, they could also be putting their family or friends or colleagues online if they are hacked or phished.

For this we have developed two more courses – in fact everyone at ECDL Ireland is made to do these courses when they start to work here – so it really is not just for kids, it’s for teachers parents, everyone.

One is called ‘IT Security’ and it teaches you to understand the key concepts relating to the importance of secure information and data, physical security, privacy and identity theft. It gives you the basics in how to protect a computer, device, or network from malware and unauthorised access. How to browse the web and communicate on the internet securely and the security issues related to communications, including e-mail and instant messaging.

This stuff is essential for everyone, it is not the IT department’s responsibility to keep you safe, you are responsible for the sites you visit and the information you give so be careful!

The last thing I would recommend is our Data Protection course. Again this isn’t just good-to-know stuff, it is essential. If you don’t know how to protect your own data and respect other people’s privacy online you are going to make some pretty big mistakes and could find yourself in real trouble one day.

We had a girl come in here last term, she was only 15. Her school wasn’t teaching ECDL but her teachers kept giving her projects that relied on internet research. And asking her to use what she found for her homework. Her parents didn’t have the time or the skills to teach her properly how to do everything she wanted. So they paid for her themselves to learn ECDL online and then come in to our exam centre for her tests.

She absolutely aced every exam, 90%+ in every test (far higher than almost every other person in the room – they were all adults). Her family were so proud, and I was proud a little bit myself too I have to say. But the point I’m making is there are parents out there who get it. They know that to learn everything I’ve mentioned above isn’t something that you just pick up, no more than Science or Geography or Mathematics. It has to be learned, and it has to be learned at as young an age as possible.

References:

http://ecdl.org/media/creating_the_future_paper_final_web.pdf
http://ecdl.org/media/position_paper_-_computing_and_digital_literacy.pdf
http://ecdl.org/ecdl-news?i=1786
https://spunout.ie/opinion/article/fake-news
https://www.ics.ie/news/computing-and-digital-literacy-call-for-a-holistic-approach