Saturday, April 5, 2008

About this blog

The idea of IT literacy began with John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz. In 1964, they developed the Dartmouth time-sharing system and the BASIC programming language in order to teach IT literacy at Dartmouth College. They were motivated by their conviction that

knowledge about computers and computing must become an essential part of a liberal education. Science and engineering students obviously need to know about computing in order to carry out their work. But, we felt exposure to computing and its practice, its powers and limitations must also be extended to non science students, many of whom will later be in decision-making roles in business, industry and government. (reference →).
Kemeny and Kurtz emphasized the skills and concepts needed to be successful as a student and after graduation as a professional and citizen. Those skills and concepts, and hence the IT literacy course, change when new application development and delivery platforms are invented.

IT literacy could not be taught well using a batch processing system, but time sharing made it feasible. The skill component of the first generation course (called "computer literacy" at the time) stressed algorithmic thinking and programming using BASIC and the concepts focused on hardware, software, applications, and social implications of computers.

The emergence of the personal computer as a platform led to the second generation IT literacy course. We revised the curriculum, substituting skill with productivity applications, and later, email and Web surfing, for programming. We retained, the old concepts, but had less time to cover them.

Today the Internet has become an important platform for developing and delivering applications and our students have been using it since they were children. We need a new definition of IT literacy, IT literacy 3.0.

This table summarize the evolution of IT literacy:

GenerationPlatformCourse content
Batch processingNo IT literacy courses
1Time sharingBASIC programming (algorithmic thinking), IT concepts
2PC with a command-line user interfaceProductivity applications, DOS, fewer concepts
2.5PC with a graphical user interfaceMicrosoft Office applications, Windows, email and Web search, fewer concepts
3The InternetCreate content, develop applications, different concepts
3.5?The mobile Internet and the Internet of things???

I offer the following as a starting topical outline for an IT Literacy 3 course:
  1. Internet concepts
    1. Applications
    2. Technology
    3. Implications for
      1. Individuals
      2. Organizations
      3. Society
  2. Internet skills
    1. Application development
    2. Content creation
      1. Text
      2. Images
      3. Audio
      4. Video

This blog is concerned with questions like:

  • What skills should be included in IT literacy 3.0?
  • What concepts should be included in IT literacy 3.0?
  • Who is developing courses that teach these skills and concepts?
  • How are our student's backgrounds and expectations changing?
  • Should we teach IT literacy as a stand alone course or disperse it throughout the curriculum?
  • Does IT literacy require two full courses?
  • Should all students take the same IT literacy course or should there be different versions?

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