375,000 active players in 2003, World of Warcraft probably has many more—is a social phenomenon of immense proportions and unpredictable potential, affecting young people disproportionately (the mean age of Starcraft players is 18.3).2

Cellphones are rapidly becoming computers (or is it the other way around?) that kids learn about and, for the most part, use outside the classroom. Should ICT fluency encompass these and other emerging technologies? If so, should fluency with them be the subject of school-based curricula? Though I would answer “yes” to the first question, my tendency is to say “no” to the second in most cases. Every sufficiently powerful new technology brings new challenges and opportunities; that doesn’t mean that every such technology should be taught in school. The automobile, for instance, is certainly a powerful, ubiquitous, and potentially dangerous technology, yet although driver’s education courses are taught in many schools, they are hardly considered part of the core curriculum. They are offered on the school premises as a convenience, not because mastery of the automobile is seen as an important goal of education. If kids become fluent in ICT largely outside of school, that is probably a desirable, as much as inevitable, outcome.

Yet, as I touched on above, I have a feeling (though I have no statistics to back up this up) that people—youngsters and adults alike—have a tendency to trust computers much too much and then to be unduly critical when a technological model leads them astray. A weather model is not, and never can be, 100 percent accurate; yet weather predictions based on computer models are more reliable than horoscopes (which may well be generated by computers, for all I know). To the extent that an ever-increasing percentage of what we believe to be true is based on computer models, people need to be sophisticated in their assessments of the value and reliability of those beliefs. To instill that sophistication should be a primary goal of 21st century schools.

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