Saturday, June 13, 2009

Will WolframAlpha impact the IT literacy curriculum?

I recently posted a few examples of symbolic math calculation using the WolframAlpha Internet service, and asked how it might affect math teaching. WolframAlpha, which presents a command-line interface to Wolfram's Mathematica symbolic math package, is capable of doing math homework and solving exam questions from junior high through graduate school.

The pros and cons of using WolframAlpha in teaching math are discussed in the article A Calculating Web Site Could Ignite a New Campus 'Math War', and there is a Wiki with many examples on teaching undergraduate math using WolframAlpha.

Math teacher Maria Andersen posted a discussion of the likely impact of WolframAlpha on math education, in which she predicts that students will flock to it and many, but not all, teachers will do the same. She uses innovation diffusion theory to analyze the likely rate of adoption of WolframAlpha relative to traditional symbolic math packages.

The conservative view of using tools like calculators or WolframAlpha is captured in Isaac Asimov's story The Feeling of Power, depicting a future in which a technician amazes people because he has memorized the multiplication tables and can do arithmetic without a calculator.

Are math skills and concepts part of IT literacy? Is there room for any math in an IT literacy course? Where can WolframAlpha be used in the IT literacy curriculum?

Friday, June 12, 2009

A textbook chapter with some IT literacy concepts

We talk about the skills and concepts making up an IT literacy course.

Some of the concepts I feel should be included in an IT literacy course are covered in a chapter I wrote for a textbook called Introduction to Information Technology a while ago.

The chapter, Technology trends, Internet Applications and Possible Roadblocks, does not cover all of the concepts I would include, and some are covered in too much depth. Here is an abstract of the chapter:

Information technology is improving at an accelerating rate. This opens the way for innovative applications, which make organizations and individuals more efficient and effective. This chapter outlines hardware progress, which has led to new forms of software and software development. Software evolution has brought us to the current era of Internet-based software. After describing some of the characteristics of Internet-based software, we ask whether the progress we have enjoyed will continue and conclude with a discussion of some of the non-technical issues, which tend to impede that progress.
  • Hardware progress
  • Software progress
  • Internet based software
  • Will the progress continue?
  • Bumps in the information technology road

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We should teach the skills necessary to build an e-portfolio

We've defined IT literacy as being comprised of the skills and concepts needed to succeed as a student and after graduation as a professional and a citizen.

But, which skills should be included? Today's student needs a mix of content creation and high-level application development skills.

One way to look at this is to say, they need the skills to create an valuable e-portfolio while in school and to continue it after graduation.

For more on e-portfolios, check this article, which discusses e-portfolios from both student and faculty perspectives .