Being Fluent with Information Technology

Committee on Information Technology Literacy

Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.



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--> Being Fluent with Information Technology Committee on Information Technology Literacy Computer Science and Telecommunications Board Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C.

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--> NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. Support for this project was provided by the National Science Foundation under Contract Number CDA-9616681. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 99-63379 International Standard Book Number 0-309-06399-X Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, Box 285, Washington, DC 20055 800/624-6242, 202/334–3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area), http://www.nap.edu Copyright 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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--> COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY LITERACY LAWRENCE SNYDER, University of Washington, Chair ALFRED V. AHO, Lucent Technologies, Inc. MARCIA LINN, University of California at Berkeley ARNOLD PACKER, Johns Hopkins University ALLEN TUCKER, Bowdoin College JEFFREY ULLMAN, Stanford University ANDRIES VAN DAM, Brown University Staff HERBERT S. LIN, Senior Scientist and Study Director GAIL PRITCHARD, Research Associate LISA SHUM, Project Assistant (through August 1998) RITA GASKINS, Project Assistant (from August 1998)

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--> COMPUTER SCIENCE AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS BOARD DAVID D. CLARK, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chair FRANCES E. ALLEN, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center JAMES CHIDDIX, Time Warner Cable JOHN M. CIOFFI, Stanford University W. BRUCE CROFT, University of Massachusetts at Amherst A.G. (SANDY) FRASER, AT&T SUSAN L. GRAHAM, University of California at Berkeley JAMES GRAY, Microsoft Corporation PATRICK M. HANRAHAN, Stanford University JUDITH HEMPEL, University of California at San Francisco BUTLER W. LAMPSON, Microsoft Corporation EDWARD D. LAZOWSKA, University of Washington DAVID LIDDLE, Interval Research JOHN MAJOR, Wireless Knowledge TOM M. MITCHELL, Carnegie Mellon University DONALD NORMAN, Nielsen Norman Group RAYMOND OZZIE, Groove Networks DAVID A. PATTERSON, University of California at Berkeley LEE SPROULL, Boston University LESLIE L. VADASZ, Intel Corporation Staff MARJORY S. BLUMENTHAL, Director HERBERT S. LIN, Senior Scientist JERRY R. SHEEHAN, Senior Program Officer ALAN S. INOUYE, Program Officer JON EISENBERG, Program Officer JANET D. BRISCOE, Administrative Associate RITA GASKINS, Project Assistant NICCI T. DOWD, Project Assistant DAVID PADGHAM, Project Assistant MARGARET MARSH, Project Assistant

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--> COMMISSION ON PHYSICAL SCIENCES, MATHEMATICS, AND APPLICATIONS PETER M. BANKS, ERIM International, Inc., Co-chair W. CARL LINEBERGER, University of Colorado, Co-chair WILLIAM BROWDER, Princeton University LAWRENCE D. BROWN, University of Pennsylvania MARSHALL H. COHEN, California Institute of Technology RONALD G. DOUGLAS, Texas A&M University JOHN E. ESTES, University of California at Santa Barbara JERRY P. GOLLUB, Haverford College MARTHA P. HAYNES, Cornell University JOHN L. HENNESSY, Stanford University CAROL M. JANTZEN, Westinghouse Savannah River Company PAUL G. KAMINSKI, Technovation, Inc. KENNETH H. KELLER, University of Minnesota MARGARET G. KIVELSON, University of California at Los Angeles DANIEL KLEPPNER, Massachusetts Institute of Technology JOHN KREICK, Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company MARSHA I. LESTER, University of Pennsylvania M. ELISABETH PATÉ-CORNELL, Stanford University NICHOLAS P. SAMIOS, Brookhaven National Laboratory CHANG-LIN TIEN, University of California at Berkeley NORMAN METZGER, Executive Director

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--> Preface In response to a request from the National Science Foundation, the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National Research Council initiated a study in August 1997 to address the subject of information technology literacy. The rationale for such a study was that the increasing importance and ubiquity of information technology in daily life make it essential to articulate what everyone needs to know and understand about information technology. Such an articulation would be an essential first step toward empowering all citizens to participate in the information age. Information technology as a topic for literacy has multiple constituencies. For example, the library science community has developed a conceptual underpinning for skills that are important for finding, evaluating, and using information, all of which are important aspects of any definition of information technology literacy. Because they spend their professional lives as creators of information technology, computer scientists have their own perspectives, as do practitioners in disciplines that have traditionally relied on computational tools, such as science and engineering. Disciplines in the arts and humanities are just beginning to tap the potential of information technology and will become (indeed, some would argue are now) important stakeholders. More generally, the broad category "knowledge worker" encompasses many professions in the workplace, and virtually all knowledge workers make use in greater and lesser degrees (increasingly greater) of information technology. Traditionally "blue-collar" workers such as auto mechanics and heating / air-conditioning technicians must also cope with a proliferation of embedded comput-

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--> ing devices. And as government begins to provide more services to the public using information technology, the citizenry itself becomes an interested constituent. The Committee's Approach In addressing its charge, the committee chose a broad definition of information technology. Information technology was defined to include the more traditional components of information technology (such as general-purpose computational devices, associated peripherals, operating environments, applications software, and information), as well as embedded computing devices, communications, and the science underlying the technology. As for the knowledge and understanding component of its charge, the committee decided to use the term "fluency." Professor Yasmin Kafai, who briefed the committee, noted that fluency connotes the ability to reformulate knowledge, to express oneself creatively and appropriately, and to produce and generate information (rather than simply to comprehend it). This report uses the term "fluency with information technology," or FITness, and it characterizes as fluent with information technology (FIT) those who use, understand, and know about information technology in the ways described in Chapter 2. Chapter 1 contrasts fluency with the more common term "literacy." All of the committee believed in the social desirability of the broadest possible dissemination of a set of fundamental concepts, skills, and capabilities. Good arguments were made to and by the committee for defining "everyone" in terms of all junior high school graduates, all high school graduates, all non-college-bound individuals, all college-bound individuals, and all adult citizens (as lifelong learners). But in the end, rather than argue that FITness was required of everyone in some demographic category of the population, the committee instead chose to make its case for the education of individuals who want to be able to use information technology effectively. Furthermore, issues of committee expertise and budget imposed some practical constraints on the committee's work, and the committee decided that it was best qualified to focus, as a first step toward fuller implementation, on the group of learners with which it was most familiar—the four-year college or university graduate. This first step toward implementation is discussed in Chapter 4. The intent of this report is to lay an intellectual framework for fluency with information technology that is useful for others in developing discipline-specific and / or grade-appropriate efforts to promote FITness. However, this report is not a FITness textbook, a curriculum for FITness, or even a description of standards for FITness.

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--> Methodology The committee sought input in three ways: through briefings on the topic from individuals who have worked in the field (Appendix C), from electronic input in response to a set of questions about FITness that the committee broadcast widely over the Internet, and from perspectives provided at an invitation-only workshop in Irvine, California, held to explore the subject, for which participants were sought from a broad range of backgrounds and interests (Appendix D). The committee, itself composed of individuals representing varied backgrounds and expertise (Appendix E), used this broad range of input in an integrative manner to inform its own deliberations on the appropriate scope and nature of FITness. Acknowledgments The committee appreciates the sponsorship of the Cross-Disciplinary Activities of the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering of the National Science Foundation for this project, and especially the support of John Cherniavsky. The committee benefited from input from a broad range of sources. A list of workshop participants is contained in Appendix D; a list of briefers is provided in Appendix C. Douglas Brown of Bellevue Community College and Mary Lindquist of Columbus State University provided useful comments on Chapter 2. Comments of reviewers (listed immediately following this preface) helped the committee to tighten its presentation and to determine the appropriate emphasis on the various topics contained in the report.

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--> Acknowledgment of Reviewers This report was reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council's (NRC's) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The contents of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: George Bugliarello, Polytechnic University, Robert Patterson Cook, University of Mississippi, Ronald Danielson, Santa Clara University, Scot Drysdale, Dartmouth College, John Hennessy, Stanford University, Leah Jamison, Purdue University, Joan Lippincott, Coalition for Networked Information, Arthur Melmed, George Mason University, Susan L. Perry, Mount Holyoke College, Jane Prey, University of Virginia, Harold Salzman, University of Massachusetts—Lowell, and Kendall N. Starkweather, International Technology Education Association. Although the individuals listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the study committee and the NRC.

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--> Contents     Executive Summary   1 1   Why Know About Information Technology?   6 2   The Intellectual Framework of Fluency with Information Technology   15 3   Collateral Issues   41 4   Implementation Considerations   51     Appendixes     A   Illustrative Projects   67 B   Related Work   78 C   Individuals Who Briefed the Committee   102 D   Workshop Participants and Questions Posted on the Internet   103 E   Members of the Committee   109

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