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Why Computer Literacy is Important for Foreign Language Teachers

written by: Larry M. Lynch • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

From primary school levels and secondary school to post-secondary education, computer literacy skills are more important than ever before. The 21st century, the Digital Age, is in full swing, but where are you? Have you missed the boat, so to speak? Here we detail what to do if you're still behind.

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    Where Are You?

    Are you one of those semi-computer literate teachers who may only use a PC for sending an occasional e-mail, reading news updates, or even (gasp!) playing solitaire or some other basic computer game online when you’re bored? Then you need to wake up and smell the coffee, as they say. This is now the twenty-first century, in case you haven’t been paying attention. There is a definite need for computer literacy skills in foreign language teachers. Not only are computer literacy skills like using Twitter and Facebook important to have, but the list of essential computer skills keeps growing. How far could you get in society without being able to read and write? Soon, computer literacy skills will be added to the trilogy. In many areas of endeavor, it already has. If you have to ask what Twitter is, you’re in more trouble than you know. Is your school on Facebook? Without a growing cadre of computer skills, you’ll not only miss the boat; likely, you’ll never even see the boat. Even my students tweet, language learners especially. Do your language learners use Twitter in school? It's very likely that they do. Do you?

    What are basic computer literacy skills then? Exactly what types of skills should you as a foreign language teacher consider?

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    Skills to Consider

    Some of the basic skills you’ll need to consider and improve on depending on the areas of expertise, ages, and language levels of your learners include:

    • Keyboarding (typing at 80 to 100 words per minute [wpm] or faster)
    • Using MS Office or Open Office software packages
    • Using PDF reading, packaging, and production software
    • Social media websites accounts and use (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, My Space, etc.)
    • File and document converters (.txt to PDF, Ipod, MP3 and MP4, etc.)
    • Video production and editing software such as Camtasia, ULead, etc.
    • Using web cams, screen capture, and other audio-visual media software packages
    • Setup RSS feeds to your e-mail, blog, or website
    • Manage a personal blog or website

    Possession of this type of knowledge and these skills can quickly and easily position you well in your particular niche or area of expertise. Did you know that “the average Twitter user can influence about 500 people each day” according to online marketer Perry Belcher? They don’t even have to be people who you personally know either. Many blogs and vlogs can regularly tap into hundreds and even thousands of people worldwide every week or every month.

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    How and Where to Acquire Knowledge

    What are basic computer literacy skills? Check around locally for technical-vocational schools, community colleges, and, of course, online for available short courses, tutorials, and how-to videos for learning those computer skills you feel you need most. Does your school or institute offer in-house training?

    Here are a few suggested sites to start off with. The links to these resources are listed in the References section at the end of this article.

    • MIT Open Courseware: The leader in free online university level courses, MIT has thousands of high-level courses in hundreds of topic themes and academic subjects online.
    • Master list of free online college courses: If you're feeling a bit lost, start off here.
    • Free-ed Net has hundreds of free online courses in dozens of categories.
    • Education Portal offers a list of colleges and universities that offer free courses online.
    • Learn Out Loud offers an extensive selection of audio college-level courses which can be downloaded free and listened to at your leisure.

    Do a quick Google search, and you’ll likely come up with dozens more depending on your specific needs and interests.

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    Using Twitter and Facebook

    To get up to speed on using Twitter, there are tons of tutorials online starting at the Twitter homepage. To get a Facebook login, simply go to the Facebook homepage where you can sign up for free and view online tutorials, too. If you’d like video tutorials, then search YouTube, and you’ll find plenty of video step-by-step instruction.

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    Evaluate Your Learners

    Yet another reason to consider updating your computer literacy skills relates to your language learners. What do they normally know and use? How important are these skills in their daily life? How might you tap into this to increase your rapport and usefulness? What equipment, technology, and software are they normally familiar with or use with regularity? Don’t forget, you’ll be in a far better position to relate to their particular interests and needs once you are more up-to-speed with their daily goings-on. If they have Facebook, My Space, or Twitter accounts, do you have them too? Get online and check out some of them. You’d be surprised at the insight that may well be available at their social networking media sites and in their postings. Often, there are personal photos and interests noted, along with potentially useful, detailed information like birthdays, anniversaries, preferred music, entertainment and interests, data on family and friends and the latest happenings, good and bad, in their world.

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    Maintain Key Business and Educational Relationships

    An increasing range of computer literacy skills can be essential in maintaining key business and educational relationships with emphasis on staying current with your foreign language learners personal interests. You can frequently find information which might well prove to be an invaluable insight into the thoughts, minds, and interests of your foreign language learners. By the way, you’ll also need to boost your web presence in this modern-day, digital age to even be considered as a knowledgeable authority in your areas of expertise. So, what are you waiting for? Get to clicking now and see what’s online and in store for you. Don’t continue to be one of those semi-computer literate types who may only use a PC for sending an occasional e-mail or reading news updates. Quit playing solitaire, too, while you’re at it. There are far more constructive and fun activities awaiting you online once you’ve improved your computer literacy skills.