The computer is, primarily, an advanced communications tool as evidenced by the fact that nearly all human/computer interaction ends with the creation of a document to be consumed by others. The expert computer user is technically eloquent and efficient, capable of communicating subtleties in a variety of media including text (email, chat, online forums, wiki, blogs, newsletters, “PowerPoint” presentations, reports), graphics (graphs, charts, diagrams, digital images and video, animation), audio (podcasts, soundtracks), and a combination of these (interactive multimedia). Even applications such as airline reservations systems are ultimately just messages sent from the customer to the airline stating all the facts necessary to reserve a seat on a plane.

The expert computer user is defined by her level of mastery of computer mediated communication and not just on her knowledge of software or hardware. She is liberated by the computer as a communications tool, not burdened by it. She looks for, and recognizes, consistent user interfaces in all the systems she encounters. She takes risks when using automated systems to increase her efficiency and isn’t disheartened when something doesn’t respond as expected, in fact, she always has a backup plan. She has a clear idea of what she wants to say and how she wants to say it. She has a clear understanding of who her audience is including their level of computer expertise. She understands and can elaborate on the strengths and weaknesses of communicating a message in one medium over another. We recognize this user by her adeptness and lack of fear when interacting with computers.

The expert computer user types with all 10 fingers and without looking at her hands at more than 50 words per minute. She uses keyboard shortcuts rather than reaching for the mouse. She is autonomous. She searches the internet for answers and ponders the authority with which the answers are written prior to taking action. She synthesizes and shares her findings with her peers via email, chat, blogs, and wikis or any media she feels will best communicate her intended message. She participates actively in a variety of online networks sharing and garnering knowledge in a variety of subjects, not just computers.


Whenever I’m asked for help, I’m always trying to raise the level of computer literacy to something close to the above description. Unfortunately, most people aren’t interested in climbing quite so high and alas, my hopes are almost always dashed on the rocks of unrealistic expectations. Have you any interest in raising your level of computer literacy?