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Technology Across the Curriculum

Ten IT Goals

Information Technology Goals for Liberal Arts Students

Dee Ann Holisky,
Senior Associate Dean

The Technology Across the Curriculum Program has established ten technology goals. We believe these reflect the IT skills and knowledge that have the greatest relevance for liberal arts students. Developed with input from faculty, students, technology professionals, and prospective employers, these goals are addressed in proposals for TAC funding and in the assessment of TAC courses. Because they enable us to explicitly track the incorporation of technology into our curriculum, they are used in the evaluation of the TAC program as a whole.

In addition to learning these specific skills, as a result of the TAC program our graduates should demonstrate an increased use of technology and show an enhanced comfort level with technology for professional, classroom, and personal purposes (e.g. develop a spreadsheet to manage personal finances). They should be able to learn in an online environment. Though this list presents technology skills as discrete and unconnected, the ultimate liberal arts goal is to help students to integrate them so that when confronted by a complex problem, they will be able to choose the most appropriate technology tools to solve it. That is, as valuable as the skills identified below are, our most important job vis a vis information technology is to develop in our students a conceptual understanding. It is this understanding that will best prepare them for a future in which the only certain thing is rapid technology change.

Essential vs. Advanced Level Goals

For each goal, we have identified an essential level, which contains the specific skills and knowledge that we think most undergraduates should have, and an advanced level, which contains an open-ended list of skills and knowledge that should be achieved by some undergraduates, depending on major, minor, or other interests. It is a TAC goal that students will master all the skills listed under the essential level, but only some of those listed under the advanced level, if any. Moreover, because we expect the advanced level skills to vary from major to major, this list is more suggestive than definitive.

TAC Goals and the George Mason University Information Technology Proficiency Requirement

George Mason has an information technology proficiency requirement for all undergraduates. TAC goals are aligned with the goals of that requirement, though the latter are stated in more general terms: Students are expected to be able to use information technology for data presentation and communication (TAC goals 1, 2, 3, or 8), for data organization and search (TAC goals 4 or 5), and for data analysis (TAC goals 6 or 7). In addition, students are expected to possess a basic understanding of legal and ethical issues related to IT (TAC goal 9) and of basic computing concepts (TAC goal 10).

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1. Students will be able to engage in electronic collaboration.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Send and receive e-mail.
  2. Send/receive and open attachments.
  3. Participate in a listserv or other form of group electronic communication (discussion forum, bulletin board, synchronous/asynchronous chat).
  4. Understand the difference between different forms of electronic communication.
  5. Understand the principles of appropriate conduct in electronic communication (netiquette).

    Advanced level (selected examples):
  • Participate in the collaborative writing of a document.
  • Conference electronically using web conferencing, whiteboard, or video conferencing.
  • Complete a group project using advanced communication tools.

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2. Students will be able to use and create structured electronic documents.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Create, format, and edit a document using a word processing program.
  2. Introduce links into an electronic document.
  3. Ftp a document to a web server.
  4. Understand the principles of organization and navigation in hypertext documents.
  5. Design a new web page.
  6. Insert graphics into a web page.

Advanced level (selected examples):

  • Use templates, macros, and mail merge to automate repetitious tasks.
  • Insert audio and video files into web pages.
  • Be aware of accessibility issues in creating web pages (e.g. Americans with Disabilities Act requirements).
  • Use industry-standard desktop publishing programs.

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3. Students will be able to do technology-enhanced presentations.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Use a presentation software package to create, format, and edit an electronic presentation.
  2. Insert graphics and web links into an electronic presentation.
  3. Demonstrate appropriate and smooth integration of technology into a presentation.
  4. Demonstrate awarness of the debate over the appropriate use of electronic presentations and be able to critique the difference between effective and ineffective use of technology in presentations (e.g., knowing when to insert graphics, knowing how much is too much).
  5. Understand the technical infrastructure that is necessary when presenting with technology (e.g. hardware, software, internet hookup).

Advanced level (selected examples):

  • Modify standard templates and tools for presentations and develop their own.
  • Use transitions, animations, and other tools effectively to enhance electronic presentations.
  • Insert various kinds of media into a presentation (sound files, video, etc.).
  • Link objects in a presentation to another application.

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4. Students will be able to use electronic tools for research and evaluation.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Understand and apply search strategies appropriate to the WWW and online databases using keywords and appropriate search commands (Boolean operator AND, truncation and phrase).
  2. Understand the difference between the WWW and online databases, including basic structure of databases (records and fields), and types of databases (citation, abstract, full text, full context).
  3. Critically evaluate websites vis a vis issues of currency, authorship, authority, and design.
  4. Understand intellectual property issues and know how to cite online sources appropriately.

Advanced level (selected examples):

  • Select databases and other resources according to discipline, timeliness, and coverage.
  • Use appropriate controlled vocabulary for disciplines and databases.
  • Use advanced search techniques (wildcards, proximity/adjacency, specific field searches).
  • Evaluate and use topic and discipline specific Web sites and other information sources according to scope, coverage, timeliness, reliability, authority, and appropriateness.
  • Import data from web sources and databases into personal databases and reports.

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5. Students will be able to use databases to manage information.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Enter data into a pre-existing database.
  2. Conduct simple queries of a database.
  3. Sort records on multiple sort keys.
  4. Generate a report from a database.
  5. Understand appropriate applications for databases.

Advanced level (selected examples):

  • Understand the difference between a flat file and a relational database.
  • Set up a relational database (e.g. define fields, add labels, and enter data), using two or three tables.
  • Construct a query for a simple relational database.
  • Design and generate several kinds of standard reports from a relational database.
  • Transfer data among different databases including data definitions and formatting.
  • Design and implement forms for data entry.

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6. Students will be able to use spreadsheets to manage information.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Enter data into a new or existing spreadsheet.
  2. Format the layout of a spreadsheet (e.g. row widths, column heights).
  3. Perform basic algebraic calculations within a spreadsheet using cell addresses and formulas.
  4. Create and customize the format of simple graphs of data from a spreadsheet.
  5. Choose an appropriate chart or graph for effective visualization of information.
  6. Understand the appropriate applications of spreadsheets.
  7. Understand the difference between absolute and relative cell addresses/formulas.

Advanced level (selected examples):

  • Use templates and macros to automate repetitious tasks.
  • Use statistical, logical, and financial formulas.
  • Filter data to import into and export from spreadsheets.
  • Program spreadsheets for special purpose applications.

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7. Students will be able to use electronic tools for analyzing quantitative and qualitative data.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Use a statistical software package to enter data, name variables, and define variable values.
  2. Run descriptive statistics on individual variables.
  3. Use a statistical software package to create simple graphs of data (e.g. bar charts, histograms).
  4. Construct a basic crosstab table with percentages and be able to describe the relationship depicted in the table.

Advanced level (selected examples):

  • Perform reliability and validity analyses.
  • Run inferential statistics (e.g. ANOVAs, t-tests).
  • Examine associations between variables (e.g. correlation, regression).

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8. Students will be able to use graphical and multimedia representation technologies.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Perform simple manipulations on an existing image (download, upload, resize, crop, change format from one kind to another).
  2. Understand the different types of images (.gif, .jpg, .bitmap) and their characteristics and be able to choose among them appropriately.
  3. Insert an image into text, presentation, website.

Advanced level (selected examples):

  • Add special effects to an image (color, lighting, reverse image, etc.).
  • Create a new image and perform advanced manipulations of the image.
  • Perform simple manipulations on an existing digital video clip (download, upload, cut/paste/delete; add titles, transitions, etc.).
  • Use geographical information systems to handle and present geographical data.
  • Use one or more advanced programs appropriate to the major (modeling software, simulations, virtual reality, etc.).

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9. Students will be familiar with major legal, ethical, privacy and security issues in information technology.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Understand the basics of copyright and property law as they apply to electronic materials (e.g. copyright infringement, computer piracy, plagiarism) and apply them in creating and using electronic materials.
  2. Be aware of the existence of a commonly used code of ethics in the information technology field and be familiar with its content.
  3. Understand the importance of personal privacy as it relates to information technology (e.g. data mining, hacking, the posting of personal information, identity and anonymity in cyberspace); know to look for web page privacy policies; be aware of how cookies work.
  4. Understand the risks posed by rogue programs (computer viruses, Trojan horses, worms, etc.), the function of virus protection software, and security measures such as file protection, passwords, and backups.

Advanced level (selected examples):

  • Be familiar with public security technology (e.g. public key encryption, biometric security systems).
  • Understand the implications of information technology for democratic institutions and practices (e.g., government restrictions on computer use, free speech on the internet, cyber-democracy, the globalization of information technology, national borders and international business, etc.).
  • Understand various issues of justice and equality raised by information technology ("the digital divide," global inequalities in the information age, computer and information accessibility, etc.).
  • Understand various issues faced by computer professionals (issues in professional ethics such as professional accountability, electronic surveillance of employees, information stewardship and security, reliability and safety issues).
  • Understand the various ethical issues raised by robots, artificial intelligences, and virtual realities, etc.).

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10. Students will have a working knowledge of hardware and software.

Essential level (expected of all students):

  1. Perform basic software operations on at least one computer platform (Windows, Unix, Mac) (e.g. open/save/create/delete files, format text, cut/copy/paste, print).
  2. Cut and paste among applications (e.g. insert spreadsheets into a presentation, insert graphics into a word-processed document, etc.).
  3. Understand the properties of different types of storage media and their capacities.
  4. Understand file structure to create directories and to save, organize, and move files.
  5. Understand the basic structure of networks and be able to log on and transfer files using an appropriate protocol.
  6. Perform basic troubleshooting of both the machine and the applications (know how to use help files, be aware of rebooting procedures, and be able to distinguish between software, hardware, and communication problems).
  7. Install new software and set preferences.

Advanced level (selected examples):

  • Understand how information is encoded by the computer (ASCII and Unicode standards).
  • Install a new operating system.
  • Install basic peripheral devices (printer, zip drive, scanner).
  • Upload and download information from a handheld computer and connect to a local area network.
  • Understand how transmission speed of a modem is measured.
  • Given a task, be able to identify the appropriate application for the task and acknowledge the pros/cons of each application.
  • Understand productivity and efficiency tools (e.g. formatting toolbars, using macros, applying stylesheets).

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