There is concern on the part of some citizens that changes implied by information technology embody potential risks to social values, freedoms or economic interests, etc., obligating them to become informed.
And, naturally, there is simple curiosity about how this powerful and pervasive technology works.
These various motivations to learn more about information technology raise the general question, What should everyone know about information technology in order to use it more effectively now and in the future? Addressing that question is the subject of this report.
The answer to this question is complicated by the fact that information technology is changing rapidly. The electronic computer is just over 50 years old, “PC,” as in personal computer, is less than 20 years old, and the World Wide Web has been known to the public for less than five years. In the presence of rapid change, it is impossible to give a fixed, once-and-for-all course that will remain current and effective.
Generally, “computer literacy” has acquired a “skills” connotation, implying competency with a few of today’s computer applications, such as word processing and e-mail. Literacy is too modest a goal in the presence of rapid change, because it lacks the necessary “staying power.” As the technology changes by leaps and bounds, existing skills become antiquated and there is no migration path to new skills. A better solution is for the individual to plan to adapt to changes in the technology. This involves learning sufficient foundational material to enable one to acquire new skills independently after one’s formal education is complete.
This requirement of a deeper understanding than is implied by the rudimentary term “computer literacy” motivated the committee to adopt “fluency” as a term connoting a higher level of competency. People fluent with information technology (FIT persons) are able to express themselves creatively, to reformulate knowledge, and to synthesize new information. Fluency with information technology (i.e., what this report calls FITness) entails a process of lifelong learning in which individuals continually apply what they know to adapt to change and acquire more knowledge to be more effective at applying information technology to their work and personal lives.
Fluency with information technology requires three kinds of knowledge: contemporary skills, foundational concepts, and intellectual capabilities. These three kinds of knowledge prepare a person in different ways for FITness.
Contemporary skills, the ability to use today’s computer applications, enable people to apply information technology immediately. In the present labor market, skills are an essential component of job readiness. Most importantly, skills provide a store of practical experience on which to build new competence.
Foundational concepts, the basic principles and ideas of computers, networks, and information, underpin the technology. Concepts