Learning by Accident or Design - Should Computer Tech Classes Be Required in High School?
The Texas Legislature has agreed to allow individual districts to decide whether to continue requiring credits of health, PE, and computer applications for graduation. The issue of whether or not computer literacy should be a requirement to graduate from high school raises interesting issues.
One argument for the elimination of the requirement is that today's students are so immersed in technology - starting in kindergarten - that by the time they take a basic computer class in high school the content is already mastered.
Is there a problem assuming students will learn everything they need to know simply by progressing through school and acquiring tech skills by applying them to various assignments? From a curriculum design perspective, this "learn as you go along" approach would appear to leave a great deal to chance. While the major pieces of knowledge might be picked up along the way, unless it is an organized and planned sequence with adequate assessments, too many gaps in the learning are likely to occur.
Complicating the issue is the fact that there are various definitions of "computer literacy". In addition, there is the point that computer literacy is very different from proficiency in the use of various applications. Nonetheless, there are basic competencies that every student graduating from high school should have. Today's success (survival) in nearly all colleges and businesses requires a basic ability to use various tech applications to retrieve, manipulate, appraise, and apply information.
Eliminating the high school credit requirement also assumes that all students have access to a sufficiently wide range of basic hardware and software technologies and applications outside of the campus. For many, their only access is whatever is provided at school.
Any district considering dropping the credit requirement should consider establishing a competency measurement of some type. Along with a high school diploma arguably representing that students have demonstrated competencies in language arts, social studies, math, and science; a diploma should also represent competencies with basic computer literacy and technology application skills.
Until schools can guarantee equal access to appropriate technologies for every student and a systematic scope and sequence of teaching computer literacy and application of various technologies, it is inappropriate to consider dropping the credit requirement from the high school curriculum.