ERIC Identifier: ED254210
Publication Date: 1984-05-00
Author: Geisert, Paul - Futrell, Mynga
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.

Computer Literacy for Teachers. ERIC Digest.

Although the need for teachers who are computer literate is recognized, the best methods of producing such teachers and the definition of computer literacy are still controversial. Major issues focus on programming, competencies, and differing teacher needs.


The term "literacy" evokes the concept of reading and writing, and some writers equate computer programming with literacy. Other writers see reading and writing programs as only one part of the concept. The Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), in defining the scope and substance of teacher training needed to integrate computing into schools, takes the latter position. ACM's set of competencies, developed in 1980, includes the ability to:

--Read and write simple computer programs

--Use educational computer programs and documentation

--Use computer hardware terminology

--Recognize the limits of solving educational problems using the computer

--Locate information on computing in education

--Discuss the historical development of computer technology for education

--Discuss the moral and human impact issues relating to societal and educational use of computers (Taylor and others 1980).

On the other hand, some writers believe that users can be uninformed about the mechanisms of the computer and still use it effectively as an instructional tool. There is no generally accepted operational definition for the more comprehensive set of knowledge and skills that are associated with teacher computer literacy.


Individuals and groups have proposed various computer literacy goals for teachers. Rawitsch (1981) outlined six major goal areas that should be mastered in the following sequence: operating computers, using computer applications, integrating applications into curricula, evaluating applications, designing new applications, and programming computers.

To guide the development of a computer literacy curriculum for educators, the state of Texas (1982) identified over 50 competencies in 10 areas that all public school teachers should master.

Concern over defining and teaching computer literacy has led North Carolina (1983) to develop a State Plan for Computer Utilization in North Carolina Public Schools. This plan identifies essential elements to include in a computer literacy program for teachers:

--Overcoming negative attitudes or fears

--Familiarizing users with the basic components of a microcomputer

--Describing what computers and computer programs can and cannot do

--Introducing computer programming

--Identifying sources of information about computers and software

--Discussing the impact of computers on society (Foell 1983).

Despite a lack of consensus on the nature of teacher computer literacy, educators have produced de facto definitions through program development; computer literacy is included in the programs of some teacher training institutions, such as Arizona State Univeristy, Columbia University Teacher's College, Stanford University, North Texas State University, and Lesley College. According to the American Association for Higher Education-ERIC Higher Education Research Report No. 6 (Masat 1981), however, teacher training programs on the whole presently neglect computers.

One of the best-known endeavors to help teachers become computer literate is the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC). In addition to providing extensive inservice training of teachers, MECC offers instructional computing assistance, technical support, management information services, and materials and software development (Rawitsch 1982).


Teachers who teach computing or computer literacy need different competencies than teachers who only use a computer in their teaching; teachers who neither use nor teach about computers need only general awareness of computers.

In addition to differing viewpoints about its meaning and the practices that take place in its name, computer literacy confounds two ideas: (1)the computer as a classroom tool and (2)the computer as a subject of instruction.

In the classroom a computer may serve a teacher as a medium of instruction (e.g., CAI, drill-and-practice, and simulation); as a means of managing instruction (for example, gradebook, diagnostic testing, lesson prescription, and CMI); and in various other ways (for example, in producing worksheets, printing home reports, managing data files, producing tests, and word processing).

Computing is also becoming increasingly important as the subject of instruction. The literature reveals a growing consensus that every student should acquire some computer literacy by the secondary school level.


The specific skills and knowledge required to make teachers computer literate remain undefined. An approach that might facilitate agreement would be to accept the premise that "responsible curriculum choice must always attend to what knowledge for whom and for what possible uses" (Davis 1983).

Acknowledgment of this concept would admit the impossibility of defining computer literate skills or knowledge for all teachers. Individual teachers need specific competencies to deal with specific classroom situations. Moursund (1983) directs teachers to specify their own computer literacy needs and to pursue their own individual computer literacy education plans (ICLEPs).


Bitter, Gary. "Computer Literacy for Teacher Certification." EDUCATIONAL COMPUTER MAGAZINE 3 (January/February 1983):22.

Davis, O.T., Jr. "Liberating Learning." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP (October 1983):58-60.

Foell, Nelson A. "A New Concern for Teacher Educators: Computer Literacy." JOURNAL OF TEACHER EDUCATION 34 (September/October 1983):19-22.

Masat, Francis E. COMPUTER LITERACY IN HIGHER EDUCATION. AAHE-ERIC/HIGHER EDUCATION RESEARCH REPORT NUMBER 6. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1981.

Moursund, David. "ICLEP (Individual Computer Literacy Education Plan): A Powerful Idea." THE COMPUTING TEACHER 11 (November 1983):3-4.

North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction. STATE PLAN FOR COMPUTER UTILIZATION IN NORTH CAROLINA PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Raleigh, NC: Educational Media and Technology Services, 1983. ED 230 191.

Rawitsch, Don G. "Minnesota's Statewide Push for Computer Literacy." INSTRUCTIONAL INNOVATOR 27 (February 1982):34-35.

Taylor, Robert P., James L. Poirot, and James D. Powell. "Computing Competencies for School Teachers." In NATIONAL COMPUTING CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS, edited by Diana Harris and Beth Collison. 1980. ED 194 060.

Office of the Texas Deputy Commissioner for Professional Development and Support. ESSENTIAL COMPUTER COMPETENCIES FOR EDUCATORS. Austin, TX: Texas Education Agency, 1982. ED 234 746.

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