About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Literacy Gap

While I have previously written about the trends I see happening in education and the workplace as a result of new technologies, I think there are many other issues that will contribute to the work literacy gap.

First, let me begin by saying that I don't think the technology and its adoption is necessarily the debate here. Studies indicate that, contrary to popular belief, older workers do adopt new technologies. However, their reasons are different than younger workers (Morris and Venkatesh, 2000). Younger workers embrace new technology because it is new and the intrinsic value of anything new, whereas older workers adopt it either because it is required (through policy or, informally, required to stay within the organizational power structure) or because it is demonstrated to achieve results (later adoption).

However, I think this is true of any generation and technology. My generation embraced the PC because it was new and we were learning how to use it in school, whereas my father embraced it after other workers started to use it and demonstrated how it could impact the organization. I am sure the same happened when the xerox machine and telephone was introduced. That said, I feel that work literacy as we are discussing today is really based on two main changes: the change in organizational structures (from vertical to flat, corporate to module, long-term stability to just-in-time) and the change in the basis of our economy from agricultural to service. The result is that we expect more flexibility of our workers, while at the same time expect them to work in a much more dynamic environment, constantly changing. The paradox to this is that "content" is now a product (transitioning to the service economy) which means we want our knowledge workers to "know more".

As I see it, the real problem is that our educational system is still set in traditional structures (due in part to businesses wanting more "content" which will be a product for them to sell in the future). The true gap, therefore, is between those educated in a traditional way and the new "skills" needed to work in a module setting (able to move people, companies, offices, departments around without losing knowledge or the knowledge product) communicating through a network (rather than the old vertical structures) with critical thinking and problem solving skills that allow workers to react to the environment as it changes and create new knowledge (or knowledge products) in a short period of time.

Looking at work literacy from this viewpoint, technology is only a tool with which these knowledge workers will be able to draw on. If students coming out of high schools and college are ill prepared for these new structures, then the workplace will need to start training new workers in terms of critical thinking and problem solving skills, new communication skills (including how to interact without "authority" figures and initiate communication), team and group work skills (as module structures require participation in groups), and metacognitive skills (in order to be aware of what is going on in the work environment and retooling as appropriate).


Tony Karrer said...

Interesting to see your post and Harold's post. Similar themes.

V Yonkers said...

I know. I commented on his blog that we posted within minutes on the same themes.