Ctrl: CORE and Digital Literacy

Caio Brighenti, Maroon-News Staff

Every ten years, Colgate embarks on a revision of the CORE Curriculum, a set of course categories every student must complete to graduate. Led by the heads of each of the University’s academic divisions, and depending on the approval of the entire faculty, this revision process has the potential to drastically alter the experience of future Colgate students. The CORE is really the only thing universal to every Colgate academic experience, which is why a revision of the curriculum is such a powerful opportunity to improve and modernize the Colgate education.

Unfortunately, the result is often merely a slight improvement to the CORE, as opposed to a thorough rethinking. No doubt, this is due in large part to the challenge of devising a structure that is feasible, thoughtful and palatable to the faculty and students as a whole. The CORE is an enormous undertaking, accounting for a massive number of courses—all it takes to see this is to glance at the sheer number of CORE 151 and 152 offerings in each semester’s catalogue. But, if Colgate is to continue to be a leader in higher education entering into its bicentennial year, then we must be bolder and not be content with incremental changes.

To this end, I believe it imperative that the next CORE revision make digital literacy a key learning objective for all its students. By this, I mean that all Colgate students in their first two years should become proficient in basic computer usage, such as installing software and managing files; learning how to make professional text documents and presentations and most importantly, learn how to find and assess information online. These are skills that any prepared digital citizen should have, and that no student should leave Colgate without.

In my second year at Colgate, I was shocked to find that other students in my 300-level Geology class struggled to create simple formulas and plots in Google Sheets or Excel. Now, I realize this was less so their fault than the fault of the educational system. I was fortunate to attend a high school where computer proficiency was explicitly taught, but we can hardly expect this to be the case for all incoming students. Such a policy no doubt works against students coming from less fortunate communities, where modern computer and internet access is not ubiquitous.

I recognize that a key tension in designing learning objectives for the CORE is the dichotomy between teaching intellectual concepts versus teaching skills—this is a higher education university, not a technical institution. But to pretend as if no skills are ever made a learning objective at this institution would be disingenuous. Is improv- ing writing skills not a key part of the FSEM? Does every CORE Communities class not dedicate time to learning research skills?

The difference is these skills have been labeled as academic, while computer skills have not. But surely this is not a fair distinction. Can even the purest academic find success without basic computer skills? In today’s world, no one, whether they be a businessman or a tenured professor, can perform quality work without a capacity in digital literacy. This CORE revision is the perfect opportunity to recognize this, and it would be a shame if we did not capitalize on it.

Contact Caio Brighenti at [email protected]