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Technical Literacy: Is it an institutional responsibility? You bet!

Aug. 19, 2014
Most of us think of technical literacy as related to students. Personally, I’m not too worried about their technical literacy. I’m much more worried about trustees, cabinet members, staff and faculty.

With technology burgeoning at schools today and more coming tomorrow, technical literacy is a critical skill. Most of us think of technical literacy as related to students. Personally, I’m not too worried about their technical literacy. I’m much more worried about trustees, cabinet members, staff and faculty.

Students, particularly those younger than 25 grew up as digital natives, which is why I’m not too concerned about their technical literacy. That’s not to say further effort isn’t warranted, however, with limited resources available, others at most schools are in much greater need.

Let’s start with trustees and members of cabinet. Most are middle age or older, and so didn’t grow up as digital natives. Some are prolific technology users but they are the exception, not the rule. However, at this level, they are the “deciders” on major spending initiatives, which are chock full of technology. Does their general lack of technology literacy create issues? I believe so.

Many staff and faculty are also not digital natives but rely heavily on technology for admissions, advancement, facilities management, and academic affairs efforts. Could they and the institution benefit from increased technical literacy? Absolutely!

I believe that to move ahead on increasing the technical literacy with any or all of these groups, one must first address the “resistance factor.” Many will publicly or privately admit they don’t want or need to improve their technical literacy. And it’s important to change that view such that they want it (create demand) versus making it some type of institutional mandate.

Since schools and universities are centers of learning, an initiative to increase technical literacy is a natural fit. Moreover, this will strengthen communications with students, both prospective and matriculating. Perhaps a technical literacy contest or game will entice folks to participate.

Depending upon the size of the institution, using a department-by-department approach may be more successful than an institution-wide effort. Such smaller efforts are easier to get going and stimulate adoption more quickly.

Short workshops, lunch & learn sessions, and discussion groups are effective approaches. Mix and match these and publish a schedule so folks can plan their calendars. Self-paced programs including videos and online programs are also effective. Again, I believe a mixture of approaches will work best.

If there are folks across the institution who are technically savvy, consider asking them to be “coaches/mentors” for their peers. It might work with students as coaches but they will need to be chosen carefully; most might be very knowledgeable but aren’t good at sharing their knowledge.

I recommend you identify and share supplemental resources such as “cheat sheets” or glossaries of terms. There are also some good websites such as and Wikipedia.

Increasing the technical literacy of staff, faculty and other key constituents is a worthwhile endeavor, don’t wait another day to get started!

Robert Johnson is Senior Director of Strategic Intelligence at Atrion Networking Corporation where he’s responsible for market analysis and growth strategies. Robert is a veteran of the IT industry having held executive positions with CGI Inc., Deloitte Consulting and Digital Equipment Corp. Robert can be reached at [email protected]. To learn more about Atrion, please visit

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