Importance of technology literacy in 21st-century America

Just as America was challenged with the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial society, it has been grappling with the transition from the industrial society to a global, technological society for more than ten years. Legislation has been introduced and implemented as far back as 1996 to encourage this transition in our school systems.

It is critical that our students and our teachers be technologically savvy. Computer literacy is an essential skill to enter and succeed in the modern job market. \”Today, technological literacy computer skills and the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity and performance is a new basic (skill) that our students must master. Preparing our children for a lifetime of computer use is now just as essential as teaching them to read and write and do math\” (Clinton, 1997).

Succeeding in the Global Job Market

For the next generations to be competitive and successful in the global job market, they must be as competent with technology as they are driving their cars (or riding their bikes!). From checking your email on your blackberry to developing queries to extract applicable data from your company\’s database, your capabilities with technology will determine your success.

Technologically literate students are more capable of gathering and organizing information to allow for better critical thinking. Employers are looking for individuals that can organize information, evaluate and think critically. These problem solving skills are essential to the future generation\’s success.

Regulatory Options

Many states have already adopted some form of regulatory standards for defining, teaching, and testing the knowledge and skills necessary for current students to be technologically literate. Most of these regulations\’ purpose is to provide teachers and school officials with the tools they need to allow students to access and use readily available information with technology to allow greater practice at using information to think critically.

The North Dakota Library/Technology Literacy Standards defines the following standards as essential as part of a technology literacy program:

RESEARCH The ability of the student to be able to conduct research that is linked to content standards and problem-solving processes. The ability to access, evaluate and organize information.

DEVELOPING PRODUTS USING MULTI-MEDIA The ability to develop products that communicate information and ideas using technology and multi-media.

TECHNOLOGICAL SYSTEMS The ability to describe functions, operations and scope of current technology.

COLLABORATIVE SKILLS/INDEPENDENT LEARNING/PERSONAL ENJOYMENT The development of collaborative skills, independent learning skills and using resources for personal enjoyment including literature and other creative expressions.

ETHICAL, LEGAL, AND SOCIAL USAGE The understanding of ethical, legal and social uses of technology and other information resources.

These skill sets are critical to a successful Technology Literacy program. The ability to use the technology, understanding how the technology works, and the ethics and legalities associated with modern technology are the foundation of any technology literacy program.

It is essential that we develop the programs that ensure our schools prepare students for that job market. Computers and technology integrated into school systems will better provide that knowledge and experience to these students, slowly leaving the school system of the 1950\’s behind.

Reliable and Objective Testing and Computerized Teaching Platforms

It is equally essential that our educators be technically capable. Teachers and school districts need to support the use of new tools using the most technologically advanced systems. These platforms improve student learning, both in retention and efficiency and allow for the accurate evaluation of students, enabling educators to better recognize areas for improvement.

\”scores on standardized tests of basic skills for children taught with computers rise by 10 to 15 percent compared to the scores of those taught using conventional instruction\” (Carter, 1997). It also takes children 30 percent less time to master a skill set using a computer.

Technology literacy is the foundation that students need to be prepared for and successful in the global job market. Regulatory standards should be put in place to allow for the funding and milestone achievements of the standards. Educators should embrace new teaching and evaluation methods that will make learning more effective and efficient, enabling the students to succeed both now and in their future careers.


Clinton, Bill (1997), President Clinton\’s Call to Action for American Education in
the 21st Century. Retrieved on October 22, 2008 from

North Dakota Standards and Benchmarks, Content Standards, Library/Technology Literacy (2003), North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. Retrieved on October 25, 2008 from