IT versus English: How should we train our kids?

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By Sean Marshall
@seanismarshall
Apr 25, 2016,  9:41 PM

Most people think they have a good understanding of computers. That is until your aggregate data becomes corrupted due to a bad batch processing job then the only solution is to rely on a sketchy background processing check. If that last sentence was so confusing it may have well been in ancient Sanskrit, it gives you an idea of the problem with IT languages.

This concept is relatively easy to understand, it follows the theory that the more advanced our computer technology becomes the more advanced the terminology becomes. When computers were first created there were many different terms for what was going on. That was the eighties: a time where not everyone had computers, and those who did would often know their ins and outs. Now we live in an era where most people have access to a computer, or a device that operates using similar technology; but the fact is many of us don't know the terminology. 

Computer technology has not stopped evolving, and the same can be said about the terms used to describe everything they do. At this point in time it's safe to say that that computer terminology has developed its own language. An IT language, if you will. 

Some feel that this IT language may one day rival traditional forms of communication. That people will need to learn IT as a second language just to fully grasp what their smart phone is doing. An avid programmer named Allen Carte is one of those people. 

He believes that one day IT classes could be mandatory in schools, “It'll be like English or Math,” says Carte.

Carte may believe a generation of thoroughly tech savvy people are not far off but he knows that tech talk will never replace traditional languages. Carte even notes that “the English language always seems to be constantly evolving.” He mentions that many times tech terms do, in fact, get added to the dictionary.

Despite what die hard literature professors and crotchety English teachers have to say, Carte's claims aren't wrong. In 2014 the Oxford English Dictionary added YOLO, amazeballs and selfie to its current usage dictionary.  

So is this our best hope, to teach the next generation an entirely new way to speak specifically about computers? It doesn't sound like the worst option. An entire group of people who could always be relied upon for IT help. Josh Nolet, Director of Technology at the Mohawk College Student Association, thinks this is unlikely to be a possible future.  

Nolet's job includes dealing with a wide variety of issues that almost always involve the latest technological trends. Nolet usually handles computer operations and he feels that having everyone learn all aspects of the IT world is great, but not possible. He talks about how having the subject be taught in school is a wonderful idea, but in reality almost impossible. 

Nolet points out that the simplest reason is that funding wouldn't permit it. That children will only have a computer class if their school can afford it. That the general public is more concerned with people being able to read, write and do math more than defrag a hard drive. 

Despite what Nolet has said, he does understand Carte's point of view. “I get the idea of everyone being knowledgeable in computers, it's just not what everyone wants to know.” He goes so far as to say “we all need to have a basic grasp of new technology but it can't be taught universally, not yet.” He does however, have his own solution. 

Nolet thinks the best way to deal with the new IT language issue is to do what we've always done: To rely on trained IT professionals to get other people through. He wants to stress that it isn't bad to have knowledge of computers but that it's impossible to know everything about the computer world and not dedicate your life to it. “We can't all be computer programmers or IT people.”

“People have and will always have trouble with computers based off of what they don't know.” Nolet goes on to say that “you can't know everything, so you need people who have skills in being able to translate tech jargon to regular English.” He looks at it as a middle man solution. 

Nolet mentions that the main reason why there is even an issue is because people get overwhelmed by tech words. “When it's one or two tech terms in a sentence most people can look it up or ask a friend what to do. When there's three or four tech terms, that’s when the average person gets confused, frustrated and think they need to be a computer genius to ever understand anything.”

The IT professional even admits that from time to time a new term or phase comes up and even he gets stumped. “I just take a deep breath calm down and look it up, most times a simple Google search will give the best results. It may even tell you what to do next.” 

He also stresses that no one is ever too old or too far gone for the tech world. “I can't think of anyone that ever had computer problems that made them so far gone as to keep them from ever again using technology.” He even mentions that, “my grandparents are capable of using a computer when given the right advice from a well trained professional.”  

Computers aren't going anywhere and neither is the technological language they bring with them. 

Which means this issue is only going to get more complex. What we do know is that is that the English language really isn’t going anywhere, but neither is technological jargon. Similar to the languages used in mathematics, it seems like English will most likely absorb tech words into itself, but this is just speculation.  The real thing we can change is our attitude about what we know. 

There are qualified people that can help most people with their tech problems right now. In the future we may have a generation of young people who are taught how to deal with these issue by themselves, but for now it's best to rely on what we know. 

Now all we have to do is choose the right way to tackle this theory of IT clashing with traditional languages and do it. Only time will tell which solution will be the best. What happens next will certainly be interesting. 

Impact (ONLY use the 'Paste From Word' button to safely copy and paste text from a Word doc) 

These tech languages are constantly changing because computer technology is always changing. Unfortunately change can often be scary, hard to deal with and bring out the worst in people. So to compensate, our way of dealing with IT languages may have to change. 

Public Release Year: 
2016
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