Computer Applications Technology is a subject of the future that gives learners 21st Century Skills. Find out why this is important!
The ability to effectively use a computer in day-to-day business is a definite advantage across many different jobs. Computers are used to streamline processes and make people more effective in their careers and studies. Computers manage many tasks, including communication via emails, recording data in Microsoft Excel, writing reports in Microsoft Word and researching on the Internet. This is by no means a complete list; the uses for computers and the associated technologies are endless. Developing computer skills while still in high school will be advantageous no matter what you pursue after high school. Often, the introduction is given in Grade 8, and Grade 9 Information Technology (IT) is not sufficient to be familiar enough with computers, which leads many learners to consider taking Computer Applications Technology as a subject in Grade 10 through to matric.
What is Computer Applications Technology?
Computer Applications Technology, usually referred to as CAT, is a high school subject option for Grade 10 to Grade 12 that teaches learners about the various components involved in computer systems and an introduction into how to use computers effectively in everyday situations. These solutions to everyday problems are achieved using applications (software) installed on computers (hardware). Computer Applications Technology, therefore, teaches learners about both the hardware and software involved in computing and all of the associated mechanisms that enable computers to be so helpful. Computer Applications Technology is a convenient subject that will be useful for entering the workforce after high school and tertiary studies. It is often compared to the other computer-based high school subject on offer for Grade 10 – Grade 12, Information Technology (IT). IT focuses more on programming and installing, and fixing hardware and software.
In contrast, Computer Applications Technology provides more general instruction on solving everyday problems using computers and a range of helpful software that is often encountered. Computer Applications Technology studies 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 and the means of communication, collaboration and engagement that enable the processing, management and exchange of data, information and knowledge.
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 often work hand in hand, educating the learners about collaborating online with others to work towards a common goal using the Internet as a communication medium.
- 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 working with data and coming up with solutions. The apps are merely our tools. Technology opens up so many avenues of expression.
- Critical Thinking – One needs the ability to assess contexts and apply sequential problem-solving skills logically. 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 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 problem-solving methods using a variety of tools and outcomes.
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:
- Use end-user software applications proficiently to produce solutions to problems within a defined scenario.
- Understand the concepts of ICTs about the technologies that make up a computing system.
- Understand the various technologies, standards, and protocols involved in electronically transmitting data via a computer-based network.
- Use the Internet and the WWW and understand the role of the Internet as part of the global information superhighway.
- Find authentic and relevant information, process the data to conclude, make decisions and communicate the findings appropriately.
- Recognise the legal, ethical, environmental, social, security and health issues related to the use of ICTs and learn how to use ICTs responsibly.
What do you learn in CAT?
The primary learning outcome for Computer Applications Technology is to help learners develop their computing skills to effectively use a computer in a future career or further studies. This learning outcome is achieved through several different topics that are relevant to developing computing skills.
The general curriculum outlining the important topics is given below:
- Solution Development – This involves learning how to use specific computer programs in the workplace and is commonly used by students pursuing tertiary education. Learners are taught to use programs such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, email applications, and internet applications used for surfing the web. Solution development is the actions and processes involved in developing a computer-based solution by utilising appropriate tools such as application packages to solve various problems represented by real-life scenarios.
- Systems Technologies – Learners, are taught to understand how information and communication technologies (ICTs) make up a computing system. ICTs represent the entire system that makes up a computing system, including the network, hardware, software, managing and processing data etc. Systems technologies refer to the physical and non-physical components of a computer system. The components of the system are independent units that are designed to perform a particular function. These components, including hardware, peripherals and software components, are connected as a unit to perform the essential functions of a computing system, including input, processing, output, storage, communication and transfer of data in an electronic format.
- Internet Technologies – In this topic, learners are taught how to use the Internet for research and the role the Internet plays in the transfer of data around the world. Using the Internet efficiently can be a tremendous advantage in a career or tertiary studies. 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. Internet technologies include the WWW and all interrelated processes in the digital presentation of multimedia data on a web page.
- Network Technologies – This topic teaches the learner to understand the technologies and protocols involved in the transfer of data through various computer networks. Transferring data through computers and over the Internet is a complex and confusing process, so this topic tries to simplify how this works. 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 to enable information dissemination between various individuals or groups at a single issue or dispersed locations.
- Information Management – With such a large amount of data available on the Internet, it is important to sort through this data to find authentic information. Information Management helps learners to be able to determine what information is valuable and then how to interpret that information and draw relevant conclusions. Finally, the learner is then taught how to present their findings efficiently and helpfully. Information management refers to the techniques and technologies involved in collecting, storing, and processing data into information, leading to knowledge and decision-making. It includes the use of appropriate communication and presentation tools to communicate new knowledge and recommendations.
- Social Implications – This topic helps learners understand the implications that computer technologies have on society. Specifically, the subject is designed to explain the legal, ethical, social and security issues surrounding computers and the Internet. It is essential to understand the role computer technology plays in modern society and use this technology responsibly. Social implications refer to issues relating to the digital age and bridging the digital divide and include issues that lead to responsible use. This section of the Computer Applications Technology curriculum should consider the impact of computer technology on everyday life.
Simply learning about the tools and methods used in computing is not the only objective in Computer Applications Technology. There is also an emphasis on developing the learner in other ways that will be beneficial when engaging with computer tasks in a job or a tertiary institution. In particular, learners are often put in groups to work on Computer Applications Technology projects as this helps develop leadership, management, and collaboration skills, all of which are useful ‘soft skills that are valuable when working or pursuing further studies.
Assessment for Computer Applications Technology
- Term 1: Two Tests (One Theory, One Practical)
- Term 2: One Test (Practical or Theory)
- Two Examinations (One Practical and One Theory)
- Term 3: Grade 10 and 11 – Two Tests (One Theory, One Practical)
- Grade 12 – One Test (Practical/Theory)
- – Two examinations (Trials – One Practical, One Theory)
- Term 4: Two examinations (One Practical and One Theory)
Practical Assessment Task
The Practical Assessment Task, consisting of 25% of the total mark, is a project that assesses the learner’s procedural skills and individual interaction with data and information and how they process, manipulate, and present the information. The information will finally be presented in several documents. These must be presented in the application programs studied. The PAT is done in class facilitated by the teacher, and it is done over an extended period of approximately three months.