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Public Release of "Being Fluent with Information Technology"

Please distribute widely to interested parties.

The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National
Research Council is pleased announce the public release of a new report
entitled "Being Fluent with Information Technology." Seeking to
understand what is necessary for people to use information technology
effectively today and to adapt to changes in information technology
tomorrow, the authoring committee (listed at the end of this note)
decided that "literacy in information technology"was too limited a
term, as it is usually limited in the information technology context to
the ability to use a few applications like a spreadsheet program or a
word processor.

     The new report approaches the problem of understanding information
technology from the standpoint of fluency.  Fluency requires a deeper
understanding of how computers work and mastery of technology for
information processing, communication, and problem solving.  Developing
fluency is a life-long learning process that requires people to
continually build on their knowledge of information technology to apply
it more effectively in their lives.  Fluency is also characterized by
different levels of sophistication in a person's understanding and use
of technology.

     The report articulates an intellectual framework for fluency with
information technology using three essential and interrelated components
for using information technology effectively.

*    Intellectual capabilities -- the application and interpretation of
computer concepts and skills used in problem solving.  Examples include
the ability to define and clarify a problem and know when it is solved;
to understand the advantages and disadvantages of apparent solutions to
problems; to cope with unexpected consequences, as when a computer
system does not work as intended; and to detect and correct faults, as
when a computer shuts down unexpectedly.

*    Concepts -- the fundamental ideas and processes that support
information technology, such as an algorithm; how information is
represented digitally; and the limitations of information technology.
Understanding basic concepts is important, the report says, because
technology changes rapidly and can render skills obsolete.  A basic
understanding also helps in quickly upgrading skills and exploiting new
opportunities offered by technology.

*    Skills -- abilities that are associated with particular hardware
and software systems.  Skills requirements will change as technology
advances, but currently they include using word processors, e-mail, the
Internet, and other appropriate information technology tools
effectively.  An individual fluent with information technology will
always be acquiring new skills and adapting other skills to a changing

Although the committee also believed that most people regardless of
grade level or experience can achieve some level of fluency, the
report's implementational focus is on college students because
institutions of higher learning have the most experience developing
courses about computers and related information systems.  Colleges also
serve a large constituency with a broad range of interests and
specializations to which information technology can be applied.

     The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

     The pre-publication version of this report (subject to further
editorial correction) is available on the Web at
http://www2.nas.edu/cstbweb/ (after 4:00 pm on April 9), and the final
version will be available at this address as well.  Hard copy of the
pre-publication version of this report is available on request.  The
final version will be available in book form by mid-May through the
National Academy Press (800-624-6242 , or http://www.nap.edu/).

     Also, CSTB welcomes opportunities to brief this report to
interested organizations and parties.  If you are interested in
arranging such a briefing, please contact Herb Lin (hlin@nas.edu,

                           NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
         Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications
                 Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

                  Committee on Information Technology Literacy

Lawrence Snyder (chair)
Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
University of Washington

Alfred V. Aho(superscript: *)
Associate Research Vice President
Communications Science Research Division
Bell Laboratories
Lucent Technologies
Holmdel, N.J.

Marcia C. Linn
Professor of Education, and
Director, Instructional Technology Program
Graduate School of Education
University of California

Arnold H. Packer
Senior Fellow
Institute for Policy Studies
Johns Hopkins University

Allen B. Tucker Jr.
Professor of Computer Science
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Bowdoin College
Brunswick, Maine

Jeffrey D. Ullman(superscript: *)
Stanford W. Ascherman Professor of Engineering
Department of Computer Science
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

Andries van Dam(superscript: *)
Thomas J. Watson Jr. University Professor of Technology and Education, and
Professor of Computer Science
Department of Computer Science
Brown University
Providence, R.I.

(superscript: _________________________________________)
(superscript: *) Member, National Academy of Engineering