So not the answer I am looking for, as it is just one big quote, and not the examples I am looking for.
Definitions of terms used in this report
Computer Science should be interpreted as referring to the scientific discipline of Computer Science, covering principles such as
algorithms, data structures, programming, systems architecture design,
problem solving etc.
Information Technology should be understood to mean the assembly, deployment, and configuration of digital systems to meet user needs
for particular purposes. We elaborate this definition in Chapter 2,
Often we use the phrase Computer Science and Information Technology to
indicate the union of the two, as this report reflects issues in both
areas. We avoid using the term ‘ICT’, except when referring to
existing curricula or qualifications that are labelled as such. We
elaborate on this definition in Chapter 2, section 2.4.
Digital literacy should be understood to mean the basic skill or ability to use a computer confidently, safely and effectively,
including: the ability to use office software such as word processors,
email and presentation software, the ability to create and edit
images, audio and video, and the ability to use a web browser and
internet search engines. These are the skills that teachers of other
subjects at secondary school should be able to assume that their
pupils have, as an analogue of being able to read and write. We
elaborate on this definition in Chapter 2, section 2.6.
Inevitably there will be topics that test the extent to which the
three areas above can be effectively disaggregated – there will always
be some blurring at the boundaries. Nevertheless, we maintain that it
is useful to make these distinctions as an aid to effective
communication between stakeholders.
2.4 The Nature of Computer Science It is the firm belief of the Advisory Group to this project that Computer Science is a rigorous
subject discipline, in the same way that Mathematics or Physics are.
The ‘Computing at School’ group8 characterises a ‘discipline’ as a
subject that has9:
- A body of knowledge, including widely applicable ideas and concepts, and a theoretical framework into which these ideas and
- A set of rigorous techniques and methods that may be applied in the solution of problems, and in the advancement of knowledge.
- A way of thinking and working that provides a perspective on the world that is distinct from other disciplines.
- A stable set of concepts: a discipline does not ‘date’ quickly. Although the subject advances, the underlying concepts and processes
remain relevant and enlightening.
- An existence that is independent from specific technologies especially those that have a short shelf-life.
Computer Science is a discipline with all of these characteristics 10.
It encompasses foundational principles (such as the theory of
computation) and widely applicable ideas and concepts (such as the use
of relational models to capture structure in data). It incorporates
techniques and methods for solving problems and advancing knowledge
(such as abstraction and logical reasoning), and a distinct way of
thinking (computational thinking) and working that sets it apart from
other disciplines. It has longevity (most of the ideas and concepts
that were current 50 or more years ago are still applicable today),
and every core principle can be taught or illustrated without relying
on the use of a specific technology.
- Programs: these tell a computer exactly what to do. Every program is written in some programming language, each with different
strengths. Good languages embody many abstraction mechanisms that
allow a piece of code to be written once, and reused repeatedly. This
abstraction is the key to controlling the enormous complexity of real
programs (e.g. a web browser), which consists of dozens of layers of
- Algorithms: re-usable procedures (often a sequence of steps) for getting something done. For example, plan the shortest delivery route
for a lorry, given the required stops on the route.
- Data structures: ways to organise data so that a program can operate quickly on it. For example, there are many different ways to
represent numbers (twos-complement, floating point, arbitrary
precision, etc) with different trade-offs. Another example: a lookup
table might be organised as a sorted array or as a hash table,
depending on the size of the table and key distribution.
- Architecture: this is the term used to describe the large scale structure of computer systems. At the bottom is real physical
hardware. On top of that are layered virtual machines. Compilers
translate from a high level programming language to the low-level
binary that the hardware or virtual machine executes. Operating
systems manage the resources of the machine.
- Communication: almost all computer systems consist of a collection of sub-computers, each running one or more programs, and communicating
with the others by sending messages or modifying shared memory. The
internet itself is a large-scale example of such a collection.
Alongside these concepts are a set of Computer Science ‘methods’ or
ways of thinking, including:
- Modelling: representing chosen aspects of a real-world situation in a computer.
- Decomposing problems into sub-problems, and decomposing data into its components.
- Generalising particular cases of algorithm or data into a more general-purpose, re-useable version.
- Designing, writing, testing, explaining, and debugging programs.
These ways of thinking have much in common with other sciences and
Moreover, Computer Science is an ‘underpinning’ subject, in the sense
that its concepts are useful to many other science and engineering
disciplines, particularly physics, and in some cases they are relied
upon to such an extent that they can be considered to be part of that
subject too. For example, algorithms are sometimes considered to be an
element of discrete mathematics, and the logical and rigorous approach
of Computer Science has much in common with mathematics in general 11.
Indeed, the use of digital technologies in the teaching of mathematics
(given the overlap in areas such as algorithms, and the need for
technology to teach mathematical modelling in particular) is the
subject of a report from the Joint Mathematical Council of the UK
released in November 2011.
Establishing territorial boundaries between subjects is problematic,
and in common with other fundamental disciplines, Computer Science can
sometimes suffer from being assumed to be primarily a ‘tool’ for other
sciences rather than a subject in its own right. It is both of these,
and in particular it is a science and an engineering discipline.
However most STEM initiatives do not explicitly refer to Computer
Science as a STEM discipline.
2.5 The Nature of Information Technology Information Technology is the application of computer systems and the use of pre-existing
software to meet user needs. It is the assembly, deployment and
configuration of digital systems to meet user needs for specific
purposes. Information Technology involves:
- Using software for storing and manipulating data (sorting, searching and reordering), file systems (naming, categorising and
organising), and the effective application of databases and
spreadsheets for particular tasks.
- Creating and presenting information within a variety of contexts with a sense of audience, fitness for purpose and drafting and
redrafting as key considerations.
- Designing and configuring systems for others to use including spreadsheets, databases, web- based interfaces such as quizzes, forum,
wiki and profile pages.
- Project planning and management including the identification of need, writing specifications, designing and creating products,
evaluating their effectiveness and so identifying the further
development to meets the needs of the user.
- Security, safety, and etiquette online, in particular when using email, forums, virtual worlds and social networks.
- The social, economic, ethical, moral, legal and political issues raised by the pervasive use of technology in the home, at work and for
Technology has evolved rapidly in recent years with the emergence of
multimedia computers, the internet and worldwide web, mobile Computing
and web 2.0 applications, and will continue to evolve in the future.
Despite these changes, the critical elements of Information Technology
as a subject will remain:
- handling and communicating information,
- designing and creating resources,
- evaluating and sensing fitness for purpose, and
- being aware of the implications of the pervasive use of technology in society.
2.6 The nature of digital literacy Digital literacy is the analogue of being able to read and write – a fundamental skill which it is
necessary to possess in order to access all subjects across the
curriculum, including Computer Science and Information Technology.
Digital literacy is not a ‘subject’ in itself – neither are reading
and writing – but is an essential skill for all in the modern age.
Digital literacy is the ability to use computer systems confidently
and effectively, including:
- ‘Office’ applications such as word processing, presentations and spreadsheets
- The use of the Internet, including browsing, searching and creating content for the Web and communication and collaboration via
e-mail, social networks, collaborative workspace and discussion forums
- Creative applications such as digital photography, video editing, audio editing.
We intend “digital literacy” to connote those skills that (say) a
history teacher can assume his / her students have, just as s/he
assumes they can spell (literacy) and do simple mental arithmetic
(numeracy). Higher level information handling skills are part of
Digital literacy does need to be taught: young people have usually
acquired some knowledge of computer systems, but their knowledge is
patchy. The idea that teaching this is unnecessary because of the
sheer ubiquity of technology that surrounds young people as they are
growing up – the ‘digital native’ – should be treated with great
In terms of delivery, digital literacy can be treated much like
literacy and numeracy are dealt with at school:
- Discrete lessons and teaching embedded within the broader curriculum throughout primary education and in the early part of
- Opportunities for pupils to apply and develop these skills through authentic, purposeful and collaborative projects in most or all
subject areas throughout primary and secondary education.
Whilst digital literacy skills can be taught and assessed using online
systems, at the pupil’s own pace, teacher- led lessons and project
work allow the teacher to focus on developing pupils’ knowledge and
understanding of the systems pupils use, and provide opportunity for
Conclusion Information Technology and Computer Science are distinct subjects, with different purposes, although they have areas of
synergy. Computer Science is an academic discipline, in the same way
that mathematics and physics are.
Digital literacy is a core skill for accessing subjects across the
curriculum, including Computer Science and Information Technology