I know three-year-olds who can surf the web and download games off the internet. I now also know 16, 17 and 18-year-olds who have never clicked a mouse. I have had computers at school and in my home for as long as I can remember. I spent hours in elementary school searching for the missing gold coins in Jumpstart 2nd Grade as I used my computer to improve my math skills. I rely on Google to answer just about everything and Wikipedia is my best friend. I haven't turned in a hand written paper since the 5th grade and coming to Africa without my pink laptop was completely out of the question. But what I have quickly learned as I've spent the last few weeks teaching these 16, 17, and 18 year old high school students how open a word documents or right click a mouse, is that I am so privileged to be part of the technological world.
I wasn't too keen on sitting at a computer everyday and explaining over and over how to open a folder or make a capital letter. But each time I see a student's face light up when they discover their document is inside the folder with their name on it or their excitement when a click of a button turns the text from black to blue, every second has been worth it. It's something I never thought about as I powered on my laptop, so many people in this world grow up using pen and paper to write their term papers. It's not just my parents or grandparents generation; here children younger than me have never had the opportunity to type their name. My eyes have been opened to what I will call the age of the technology-less. How in a world where we can start cars with the touch of a button are these children just learning how to turn on an out-dated computer? How does the developed world expect the rest of the world to "catch up" when everything is now on a screen that they don't get to look at. Its just another way we leave the "third world" in the dark.
My hope is that by showing these students how to copy and paste and open a document they will be able open doors to new opportunities, to a whole new world that was kept hidden from them, from those who didn't have the chance to spend their early years banging on a keyboard. These students are brillant and talented, but in this age of technology your options are very limited when you are computer illiterate. I feel lucky that I have had the opportunity to spend a few hours each day with these kids sharing something that, for me, was second nature, and hopefully I have left them with a little wider veiw of this great big world that they have in turn opened my eyes to.