The Importance of Digital Literacy.

Literacy is one of the key measures of a society’s vibrancy. Unfortunately, there are a number of downsides to advancing technologies. One major one is the tendency for both young and old to rely on a particular device rather than one’s own intuitive knowledge and ability.

Take a moment to consider the lowly electronic calculator. Today, calculators are everywhere. They come bundled as software in computers, phones, iPods, iPads and other mobile devices. Stand alone devices are often given away for free. They are all essentially so-called Scientific Calculators to boot! Generally, the basic hardware models are priced under $10.

The Original HP 35 in 1972.

The Original $395 HP 35 in 1972.

When I was in Prep School during the late 60s and early 70s, it was unthinkable to bring a calculator into an Algebra or Trigonometry class. Doing so would land you right in the Dean of Men’s office. The punishment could be severe. We learned how to calculate Sines, Cosines, Tangents and Logarithms the “Old Fashion Way” with a Slide Rule! These days, if a slide rule is used at all, it’s as a “straight edge.” In fact, the only places you’re likely to find these analog computers are at Flea Markets or eBay. The Times? They sure did change.

The Slide Rule - Virus Free, Analog Computer

The Slide Rule – Virus Free, Analog Computer

Another technology cutting both ways is portable automotive GPS devices. Over reliance on these helpful devices can leave you frustrated, worried and worst of all, LOST! Don’t become too dependent on the device at the expense of you’re ability to read a physical map. If you do, you become a slave to the technology instead of the master of your destiny, not to mention your travel destination.

Computers are transforming the way we do many things. I have often observed the parallel between computer literacy today with general literacy 75 to 100 years ago. Not knowing how to effectively navigate the world of 1s & 0s these days is detrimental to one’s future potential. Such a disadvantage is similar to not knowing how to read and write in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Knowing how to effectively use a computer is the gateway key to the vast knowledge base collected throughout history. It can inoculate students from indoctrination masquerading as education. It can transform a young person from being a “Low Information” functional illiterate, to a more fully informed, literate member of our modern technological society.

One of the best means available to insure that even economically disadvantaged kids have access to affordable computers is the previously owned marketplace. There are great computers available for such kids. School systems are a fantastic source for these quality alternatives to expensive new computers.

The Apple MacBook!

The Apple MacBook!

Tablets are also proving to be a viable new option for students everywhere. There has been explosive growth of the tablet computer, fueled by the incredible success of iPad. Price as a barrier to computer literacy is becoming less of an obstacle even for families facing tougher economic times.

The residual value in previously owned Macintosh laptops is exceptional. Over the past eight weeks, I have acquired no less than seven of these computers. Each one of these MacBooks originally cost $1,299 – $1,499! Yet i was able to purchase them at prices that ranged between $225 and $290! The less costly units were produced in late 2006. But five of the seven units were manufactured in February 2008.

Families on restricted budgets would be well served by considering such an alternative to a costlier new laptop. These laptops are relatively easy to upgrade as well. Adding RAM, replacing hard drives, even changing keyboards are simple “Do it Yourself” repairs. There are countless “How To” video guides available on YouTube to assist you along the way.

Finally, don’t discount the emerging market for eBooks. Reading Books had become less of an interest for youngsters. Over the past 40 years or so, more and more homes had both parents working. Additionally, many kids were in single parent homes. Simply getting kids to do their basic homework assignments was hard enough. The television, game box and computer had replaced reading as an education supplement.

Happily, things are changing in a good way. The sales volume of mobile devices that can be used as eReaders is booming. Dedicated eReaders like Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook are very popular. and tablets, led by iPad are great as eReaders too. Suddenly, parents are finding it easier to motivate their kids to read eBooks. And some kids, once they get in the habit of reading, are picking up real books are finding how exciting and fun a good “Page Turner” can be.

iPad is a Great Laptop alternative and eBook reader!

iPad is a Great Laptop alternative and eBook reader!

So don’t let the cost of a new computer keep you from making sure your kids are well prepared for life in the digitally demanding 21st Century. Consider buying a quality previously owned Macintosh laptop as an alternative. You and your kids will be glad you did!

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