Tech Savvy and Computer Literate-Are They One and the Same?

Let’s face it – we are in the midst of a technology explosion! As newer and more advanced digital devices and gadgets are introduced, educators and students alike are continually challenged to become increasingly tech savvy and computer literate. Have we gotten into a bad habit of using these terms side-by-side (computer literate and tech savvy) and interchangeably when describing the technological skill level of our adult education students (and even adult education instructors)? Are they really the same thing? And are we really using all of these digital devices to their capacity to guide self-directed learning? As we assess student’s computer skills and tweak instruction in the adult education classroom to fit the growing technological expectations driven by computer-based GED® Testing, success in post-secondary education and the workplace, we may find that computer literacy and digital device tech abilities are two very different skill sets.




Digital device users may have rounded the corner of a new learning curve when it comes to smart phone and mobile device operation, but put that same user at the helm of a desktop or laptop computer and you may see a student who lacks the very basic computer skills needed to comfortably navigate a computer operating system.


Many students will have had some, if not extensive, experience with social media and the Internet, but again, these same students may or may not have had much seat time in front of an actual computer desktop/laptop utilizing mouseing, keyboarding or word processing skills. Furthermore, in most instances, students that are primarily digital device users will not be able to just simply transfer what they know about digital device operation and navigation and apply that to desktop/laptop computer functionality. In fact, those with singular proficiency usage with touch screen technology like smart phones and tablets will need to relearn navigational and operational skills in order to carry out the same basic navigation tasks on a desktop/laptop computer.


See i-Pathways Computer Skills Inventory to help you determine the computer skills necessary for CBT and transitioning to high education or the workplace.  Click on the link to download the document.



In order to address this emerging skill gap, it will be important for administrators of adult education programs and classroom teachers to increase their own computer literacy skills, recognize the differences between digital devices operation and desktop/laptop computer navigation and understand how to assess, identify and address the problems that may stem from it. Just like we assess skill levels in math, reading and writing, it will be important to assess the GED test candidate’s basic computer skills for the classroom as well. It will be equally important to provide GED students with classroom computer-based learning and experiences that will provide the students with the basic skills that they will need for the computer-based testing, post-secondary education and the workplace. Preferably, the seat time should be spent engaged in a GED prep curriculum like i-Pathways that will provide students with opportunities to practice basic computer skills while learning GED content.


Here are some other great ideas for building staff and student computer skills as they relate to computer-based testing, workplace essential skills, and higher education technology expectations.


1.)   Use the GEDTS GED® Test Tutorial as an orientation for administrators, instructors and students.


This tutorial walks through all the navigational skills needed for the GED® Test.  Consider using it as a part of an orientation for instructors to help them to feel familiar and confident with the computer literacy skills necessary for the computer-based GED® Test. Then transition that same idea to an orientation for students, carefully going over the skills in the tutorial to help alleviate student concerns about the nature of the computer skills needed.  Then go one step further and show them how those navigational skills are addressed in i-Pathways.  It will become quite clear to them how their work with the i-Pathways system and curriculum can assist them. 


2.)   Use the GEDTS Calculator Emulator Video as an orientation to the calculator for administrators, instructors, and students.


The calculator emulator will help prep students for the calculator on the GED Test.  Do a calculator emulator or scientific calculator tutorial search on YouTube, look at these calculator tutorials with your students. Build your confidence and their confidence in how to use a variety of scientific calculators.  Help students realize that once you know what the shift key does on one calculator you know what it does on most if not all other calculators, same with the square root key and the multiplication key.  It pathways has a scientific calculator tutorial housed within the math content module.  Use the i-Pathways tutorial and handheld calculators to get even more familiar with the features and functionality needed for the GED® Test and beyond.


Here is a video to get you started thinking about how to help students get a better understanding of the calculators on PCs.


3.) Students will be expected to read complex text on a computer screen and to answer questions that follow what they read. This is a skill that needs to be practiced. i-Pathways provide the opportunity to read complex text related to the knowledge needed top pass any high school equivalency exam. The i-Pathways project team consists of instructional designers, web developers and graphic artists who understand instruction design and visual literacy. The content, developed by adult education teachers and content experts consists of a rigorous design process. The student experience focuses on relevant curriculum which is organized in chunks to give students the opportunity to practice and develop both the academic reading skills with reading from a computer screen. Combining these skills makes the test preparation process streamlined, relevant, and meaningful.



This is not an impossible task, but it will be a challenge and it will take some forethought and planning to restructure classes with the right components to meet the growing needs of the 21st century learner in the GED® classroom. Let i-Pathways help you help your learners.  Contact Crystal Hack at to find out how to become an i-Pathways program user. 


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