The integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into every sphere of contemporary life has had profound implications for how people learn in school, solve practical problems, and function in the workplace. Networked computing and communications technologies and media have become essential tools of practically every profession and trade, including those of lawyers, doctors, artists, historians, electricians, mechanics, and salespersons. These devices make it possible to redistribute learning and work experiences over time and space. Tools employed in various professions and trades, such as word processors, spreadsheets, audio, video, and photo editing tools, models, visualizations, and mobile wireless devices, are, in turn, being put to work in the study of core school subjects. Students are able to connect, access, and communicate with the wider world in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago and that are continually changing. Particularly relevant for this framework is the fact that virtually all efforts to improve or create new technologies involve the use of ICT tools. And for many years to come, such novel technologies, computer-based and otherwise, will continue to bring about new approaches to education, work, entertainment, and daily life.
As the term is used in this framework, ICT includes a wide variety of technologies, including computers and software learning tools, networking systems and protocols, hand-held digital devices, digital cameras and camcorders, and other technologies, including those not yet developed, for accessing, managing, creating, and communicating information.
Although ICT is just one among many different types of technologies, it has achieved a special prominence in technology and engineering literacy because familiarity and facility with ICT is essential in virtually every profession in modern society, and its importance is expected to grow over the coming decades. A wide variety of ICT tools are routinely used in schools, the workplace, and homes. Rapidly evolving learning tools such as computers, online media, telecommunications, and networked technologies are becoming powerful supports for communities of learning and practice. Moving far beyond traditional text-based communication methods, the common language of global information sources and communication has broadened to include vast collections of images, music, video, and other media. Computers, networks, telecommunications, and media support collaboration, expression, and dissemination ranging from data organization and analysis, research, scholarship, and the arts to peer interactions. Ever-shrinking computer chips are put to work in a collection of devices that seems to be growing exponentially and that, at present, includes cellphones, digital assistants, media players, and geographical information systems, among a host of other devices.
Students should be aware of these devices and know how and when to use them. They must have mastered a wide range of ICT tools in common use, and they must have the confidence and capability to learn to use new ICT tools as they become available. Although students are not expected to understand the inner workings of these devices, they should have enough of an understanding of the principles underlying them to appreciate the basics of how they work. Five subareas of ICT literacy have been identified for assessment:
Each of the above subareas relates to one of the broad categories included in the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETSS), and standards and frameworks developed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the American Association of School Librarians, and the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association. The link between these subareas and the NETSS and the Framework for 21st Century Learning is outlined in Appendix E.