Computer Applications Technology

Written by Matthew Hains

While many teachers and learners use the term “CAT”, I often prefer to speak it out fully. Computer Applications Technology. The reason for this is because, for me, it loses its lustre when a subject - the cornerstone of many a career and the source of skills desperately needed for today’s digital age - is reduced to a three-letter acronym and spoken of as if it were a second-rate, hand-me-down, last place, filler, “soft” option subject…instead of it being recognised as the crucial, essential subject for life that it has become.

A lack of knowledge is to blame for this unrealistic perception of such a wonderful subject. And, believe me, I know how the teachers fight for the rightful recognition of C.A.T. In many schools the battle rages between perception and position. The perception of learners and the position of C.A.T. in the context of subject choices and combinations for Grade 10’s, 11’s and 12’s. I, like a lot of other teachers across the country, take up the fight and present Computer Applications Technology to the Grade 9’s; introducing them to C.A.T. and explaining the future it is juxtaposed against, to give them some insight should they take it as a subject.

The number of learners taking Computer Applications Technology is increasing every year! This is true, especially as there is no more "designated list" of subjects! More learners are realising they need to take subjects that give them the skills they need for a future that they are, as yet, unprepared for. This means that more people joining our world, having Computer Applications Technology as their background, are ready and skilled to become productive and successful members of society.

With such focus in education now being aligned with 21st century learning, where does Computer Applications Technology stand?

21st Century skills

Collaboration and Teamwork

Sharing responsibility, working together and finding solutions together enhances the development of critical thinking skills. Computer Applications Technology and cloud computing work hand in hand, educating the learners about collaborating online with others to work towards a common goal using the Internet as a medium of communication.

Creativity and Imagination

Working with the various digital applications gives the learners many opportunities to put their problem-solving skills to work by being creative in how they work with data and come up with solutions. Everyone has creative potential! The apps are merely our tools. Technology opens up so many avenues of expression.

Critical Thinking

One needs the ability to logically assess contexts and apply sequential problem-solving skills. This also means knowing how to analyse a problem and determine the best solution. Computer Applications Technology combines theoretical concepts and practical outcomes in a well-balanced curriculum to challenge even the brightest of learners.

Problem Solving

Many of today’s jobs require workers to think outside of the box and problem-solve from different angles, always being ready to construct and defend a new way of thinking. With the many applications and practical case studies done in Computer Applications Technology, learners are exposed to multiple methods of problem solving using a variety of tools and outcomes.

Though the origins of Computer Applications Technology lie in a quagmire of typing classes and basic secretarial skills, the evolution of “Computyping” in the 80’s to the incredibly essential technology-orientated subject that is today has made it one of the most important subjects to take in school and even 1st and 2nd year level University.

What is Computer Applications Technology? *

Computer Applications Technology is the study of the integrated components of a computer system (hardware and software) and the practical techniques for their efficient use and application to solve everyday problems. The solutions to problems are designed, managed and processed via end-user applications and communicated using appropriate information and communication technologies (ICTs). ICTs are the combination of networks, hardware and software as well as the means of communication, collaboration and engagement that enable the processing, management and exchange of data, information and knowledge.

The Pillars of Computer Applications Technology

Solution Development

Word Processing; Spreadsheets; Databases; Presentations; HTML.

Solution development is the actions and processes involved in developing a computer-based solution by utilising appropriate tools such as application packages to solve a variety of problems represented by real-life scenarios.

Systems Technologies

Concepts of Computing; Hardware; Software; Computer Management.
Systems technologies refer to the physical and non-physical components of a computer system. The components of the system are independent units which are designed to perform a particular function. These components which include hardware, peripherals and software components are connected as a unit to perform the basic functions of a computing system, which include input, processing, output, storage, communication and transfer of data in an electronic format.

 Internet Technologies

Internet technologies include the WWW and all interrelated processes in the digital presentation of multimedia data on a web page. Internet technologies are defined as a set of related and interconnected technologies which enable the establishment of global networks, for various purposes such as collaboration, electronic data interchange, electronic commerce, electronic communication and social networking.

 Network Technologies

Network technologies include various network technologies to facilitate the management and dissemination of digital data from one point to another. Network technologies also refer to the electronic systems used for electronic data interchange used to facilitate information dissemination between various individuals or groups at a single point or dispersed locations.

 Information Management

Finding and Accessing Data and Information; Process Data and Information; Presenting Solutions.
Information management refers to the techniques and technologies involved in the collection, storage, processing of data into information that leads to knowledge and decision-making. It includes the use of appropriate communication and presentation tools to communicate new knowledge and recommendations.

 Social Implications

Impact on Society; Legal, Ethical and Security Issues; Health and Ergonomic Issues; Environmental Issues
Social implications refer to issues relating to the digital age and bridging the digital divide and include issues that lead to the responsible use of ICTs. This section of the CAT curriculum should consider the impact the use of computer technology has on everyday life.

The specific aims of Computer Applications Technology

In the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution and 21st Century Thinking skills, here are just some of the outcomes that a Computer Applications Technology learner can expect to be competent in:

  • using end-user software applications proficiently to produce solutions to problems within defined scenarios
  • using the Internet and the WWW and understanding the role that the Internet plays as part of the global information network
  • finding authentic and relevant information, processing the information to draw conclusions, making decisions and communicating the findings in appropriate presentation media
  • recognising the legal, ethical, environmental, social, security and health issues related to the use of ICTs and learning how to use ICTs responsibly

* Adapted from the Curriculum and Assessment Guidelines document from the South African Department of Basic Education