What do you mean by ICT?
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Posted by PeterT on 08 Jun 2012
One of the major problems surrounding the use of ICT in education, and in particular the current debate about the role of new technologies in the revised National Curriculum, is that we talk at cross-purposes. This is because we use the same words to mean different things. Thus, for example, people criticize the teaching of ICT when what they really mean is the teaching of IT at Key Stage 4, or [more…] they talk about Computer Science in one breath and ‘knowledge age skills’ in the next as if they were the same (or even similar) things.
We need to agree some definitions for key terms related to the use of new technologies in the National Curriculum.
Given the high profile of the Royal Society Report on Computing in Schools (2011) it makes sense to base our definitions on the ones that they suggested – though with some adaptations to reflect the very particular focus of that study, which for example, explicitly excluded cross-curricula use of new technologies.
Computing: a broad term that the Royal Society report equates to ICT.
ICT: The National Curriculum subject (in effect a container), which should encompass:
Computer Science: the scientific discipline of Computer Science, covering principles such as algorithms, data structures, programming, systems architecture, design, problem solving etc.
Information Technology (IT): the assembly, deployment, and configuration of digital systems to meet user needs for particular purposes. (Note that this is narrower than the use in industry, which generally encompasses Computer Science as well)
Digital literacy: the ability to operate effectively as a citizen in the 21st century. It covers the following areas:
• Understanding the impact of new technologies on society, including the ways in which new technologies change disciplines (e.g. history, chemistry, English, etc)
• Understanding the nature of digital identities and being able to manage your digital identities appropriately
• Being able to interact safely in a digital world (encompassing e-safety, cyber-bullying, data security, etc)
• Being able to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, analyze and (re)present information using digital technology (including using dynamic and procedural representations)
The Royal Society Report explicitly excluded the use of new technologies across the curriculum. I have therefore added another key term that relates to this:
Embedded Technology (ET): the use of new technologies across the curriculum (i.e. in all subjects other than ICT). This requires understanding how new technologies change the discipline (which the school subject relates to), and how new technologies extend the range of pedagogical strategies available. It also requires competence in using relevant technologies.
There is overlap between ET and areas of ICT - but it is important at present to have an explicit term within education for cross-curricular use of new technology where learning through rather than learning about the technology is the primary focus.
The current debate often seems to confuse the preceding terms with what might be called ‘knowledge age skills’. ‘Knowledge age skills’, would include such things as: team working, collaboration, leadership, communication, learning to learn, real problem solving, creativity, etc.. Whilst ‘knowledge age skills’ may be learnt in the context of ICT (i.e. Computer Science, IT and Digital Literacy) they are NOT the same things, and teaching ICT may not be the most effective way to develop ‘knowledge age skills’.
The Royal Society (2011) Computing in Schools: Shut down or restart? London: Royal Society. http://royalsociety.org/education/policy/computing-in-schools/report/ (accessed 23-Mar-2012)