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Technology at Your Fingertips
Technology @ Your Fingertips

Chapter 1: Knowing What to Do

Chapter 2: Knowing What You Need

Chapter 3: Knowing What You Have

Chapter 4: Knowing What to Get

Chapter 5: Knowing How to Implement Your Solution

Chapter 6: Knowing How to Train Users

Chapter 7: Knowing How to Support and Maintain Your Technology Solution


Glossary
UPDATED AS OF FEBRUARY 27, 2002
Select a letter:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A 

Acceptable use policy (AUP) - a policy designed to limit the ways in which a computer or network can be used. Acceptable Use Policies usually include explicit statements about the required procedures, rights, and responsibilities of a technology user. Users are expected to acknowledge and agree to all AUP stipulations as a condition of system use, as should be certified on the AUP by the user's signature. 

Administrative software - computer programs that are used to expedite the storage and use of education data for efficient functioning in education settings. Examples are student records systems, personnel records systems, and transportation mapping packages. 

Anti-virus software - computer programs designed to detect the presence or occurrence of a computer virus. The software subsequently signals an alert of such a detection via any of a variety of mechanisms and, in many commercial products, can then be used to delete the virus. 

Application software - computer programs that are used to accomplish specific tasks not related to the computer itself. Examples are word processors, spreadsheets, and accounting systems. 

ASP (Active Server Page) - is an HTML page that includes one or more scripts (small embedded programs) that are processed on a Microsoft Web server before the page is sent to the user. 

ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) - this high speed network protocol is composed of 53 byte "cells" having 5 byte headers and 48 byte payloads. Because of its short packet length, it is especially good for real time voice and video.  

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B 

Backup - (verb) to make a copy of a file or program for the purpose of restoring the data if the masters were to be lost, damaged, or otherwise unavailable for use. 2. (noun) a copy of a master file or program. To be most effective from a security standpoint, backup files are frequently stored at off-site locations. 

Bandwidth - the amount of data that can be moved through a particular interface in a given period of time. 

Bit - the smallest unit of computer memory, eight of which constitute a byte. The value of each bit, as limited by the "binary" code read by computers, is either 0 or 1. 

Bookmark - a shortcut to an Internet site that is stored and accessed via a Web browser (also called "favorite").  

Browser - see Web browser. 

Business process re-engineering - the process of solving an organizationís needs and problems by changing the organizationís policies and procedures. 

Bug - a glitch that keeps a software program from being able to perform all of its capabilities or that affects its ability to function. 

Build versus buy analysis - a process of considering the needs of the organization and the available options, costs, and staff to determine the most efficient way to obtain the desired technology solution. 

Business case - a document providing a description of the desired technology solution and the anticipated costs and benefits. 

Byte - the amount of memory space needed to store one number, letter or symbol in a computer.  
 
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C 

Cables - the collections of wires twined together to connect peripherals to the computer system unit. 

Cache - an area of disk space which stores the text and graphics of a viewed Web page. When the Web page is revisited, the Web browser will retrieve the data from the cache instead of downloading it again to save time. 

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) - are used to design web pages. They are Web pages derived from multiple sources with a defined order of precedence where the definitions of any style element conflict. CSS gives more control over the appearance of a Web page to the page creator than to the browser designer or the viewer. Since it's likely that different browsers will choose to implement CSS somewhat differently, the Web page creator must test the page with different browsers. 

CD-ROM (compact disc-read only memory) - a round silver colored plastic disk that comes with massive amounts of information embedded and ready to be used. Unlike diskettes, CD-ROM disks can be read by any type of computer with a CD-ROM drive. 

Central processing unit (CPU) - the brain of the computer that processes instructions and manages the flow of information through a computer system. 

Client/server network - a configuration where all people store their files on a central computer, and files are accessed directly from where they are stored on the central computer. The central computer is the server, and the client is the computer that can access the information from the central computer. 

Commercial service provider - a company that will connect one computer to other computers for the exchange of information. 

Computer - an electronic device that stores, retrieves, and processes data, and can be programmed with instructions. A computer is composed of hardware and software, and can exist in a variety of sizes and configurations. 

Computer case - the unit that contains the components of the computer system that enable data to be processed according to a series of instructions. It is also known as the system unit or console. 

Computer type - the classification of a computer according to its storage and computing capacity, the number of users that can be supported, the variety of input and output options, and the physical size. Three major types of computers are mainframe computers, minicomputers, and microcomputers. 

Conversion - the task of moving data from an existing computer system or from paper files to a new software application. 

Cookie - a string of text relating to your activity at a particular World Wide Web site that is downloaded to your hard disk and accessed by that site the next time you visit. 
 
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D 

Data base software - a computer program that allows the storage of large amounts of information and give the capacity to search, retrieve, sort, revise, analyze and order data quickly and efficiently (e.g., Access). There are two types of data bases, flat file data bases and relational data bases. 

Digital certificate - an attachment to an electronic message that allows the recipient to authenticate the identity of the sender via third party verification from an independent certificate authority. Digital certificates are used to identify encryption and decryption codes between message senders and recipients.  

Disk - a round plastic magnetic device on which computer programs and data are saved. There are three main types of disks: hard disks (maintained inside the computer), diskettes (a.k.a. floppy disks), and compact disks. 

Disk drive - a device that reads the information contained on a disk. The drive may be permanently installed inside the computer (hard disk drive) or contain a slot for entering the disk from outside the computer (floppy disk drive or compact disk drive). 

Diskette - a thin, plastic flexible disk on which computer programs and data can be saved outside of the computer. The two types of diskettes are 3.5 inch disks that come in a hard plastic case and 5.25 inch disks that come in thin pliable (floppy) cardboard-like cases. 

Downloading - the process of transferring information from a remote computer to yours.  

DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines) - this technology uses existing copper pair wiring that exists in almost every home and office. Special hardware attached to both the user and switch ends of line allows data transmission over the wires at far greater speed than the standard phone wiring. 

Dumb terminal - a unit that has a monitor and a keyboard and connects to another computer for itís processing power. These are sometimes called "tubes" or "CRTs." 

DVD-ROM (Digital Video Disc-Read Only Memory) - a disc like a CD-ROM that has more storage (4.7 gigabytes) and can provide digital video. 
 
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E 

Electronic data interchange (EDI) - a format that prescribes how specific elements of data should be combined and formatted for computer-to-computer exchange. 

Electronic mail (e-mail) software - the computer programs that facilitate computer-to-computer communications among users in any location. 

E-mail - electronic messages, typically addressed as person to person correspondence, that are transmitted between computers and across networks. 

E-mail address - an identifying address for a user's mailbox; characters identifying the user are followed by the @ symbol and the address of the mailbox's computer. 

Encryption - the process of translating a file into an apparently unintelligible format (i.e., to encode it) via the use of mathematic algorithms or other encoding mechanisms. In general terms, the recipient of an encrypted message must possess a matching key to decrypt and read the message. 

Ethical standards - guidelines for the appropriate use of the technology solution and the maintenance of privacy of the contents of the system. These are generally specified in an Acceptable Use Policy, particularly where there is concern about the security of the system or the availability of objectionable materials obtained through the system. 

Extranet - the part of a company or organization's internal computer network which is available to outside users, for example, information services for customers. 
 
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F 

File - a block of information stored on a magnetic media such as a floppy or hard disk or a tape. A file may contain a computer program, a document, or a collection of data. 

Firewall - an electronic boundary that prevents unauthorized users and/or packets of data or information (e.g., files and programs) from accessing a protected system. 

Flash - a popular authoring software developed by Macromedia. It is used to provide much in the way of web animation. It creates some vector graphics-based animation programs with full-screen navigation interfaces, graphic illustrations, and simple interactivity in an antialiased, resizable file format. 

Flat file data base - a data base where information is stored in a single table (e.g., a table in which there is a list of employees, where data about each employee follows the name). 

Floppy disk - see Diskette. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) - a listing of questions typically asked along with the answers to the questions. This list is prepared to help novice users as they begin to use computers or software. 

Functional specifications - a document that states in detail what a new (or upgraded) computer system should be expected to do, i.e., what services it delivers to those who will use and maintain it. This listing of a computer systemís capabilities can be compared to what can be bought from a commercial vendor or built by developers. 

Functions - the tasks or actions that software is intended to perform. 
 
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G 

Gantt chart - a diagram that shows tasks and deadlines necessary for completing a project. 

Gateway - an electronic device that allows for two different computer or networks to connect (i.e., it "translates" between networks that use different protocols). 
 
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H 

Handover- the point when an organization accepts that a technology solution is complete and ready for routine usage. 

Hard drive (a.k.a. hard disk drive) - a device used to "permanently" store information within a computer, such as programs and data. 

Hardware - the computer equipment used to do the work (i.e., operate software programs). It consists of the items you can touch, such as the computer case and the peripherals (e.g., monitor, keyboard, mouse) that are attached to the computer. 

Help desk - a set of procedures for getting speedy assistance to users concerning the use of a computer. Help may be provided by telephone, fax or e-mail, or through summary listings of typical questions and answers. 

Home page - the introductory page on a Web site that usually contains a table of contents for the site and hot links to other pages.  

HTML (Hyper-text markup language) - the formatting language used to create Web pages and specify how a page will appear on screen. 

Hub - a device that links all client computers to the server. 

Hypertext - text that contains links to other parts of a document, or to documents held on another computer. 
 
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I 

Implementation project manager - the person who directs the installation and implementation of a technology solution. 

Instructional management software - the computer programs that serve as tools to be used by teachers to prepare for instruction and maintain records. Some typical instructional management applications include gradebook programs and curriculum builders such as crossword puzzle generators. 

Instructional software - the computer programs that allow students to learn new content, practice using content already learned and/or be evaluated on how much they know. These programs allow teachers and students to demonstrate concepts, do simulations and record and analyze data. Often administrative applications like data base programs and spreadsheets are used within the instructional context to help analyze and present information. 

Interface - the connection between a computer and the person trying to use it. It can also be the connections required between computer systems so that communication and exchanges of data can take place. 

Internet - a world-wide network of computer networks through which people can exchange data and communications. 

Internet Explorer (IE) - is the most widely used World Wide Web browser. It comes with the Microsoft Windows operating system and can also be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site. 

Intranet - a localized network of computers that is used to communicate electronically within that specific area. 

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) - a digital phone line that can transmit data, video and voice. 

ISP (Internet Service Provider) - an entity that provides commercial access to the Internet. These can range in size from someone operating dial-up access with a 56 kilobit line and several dozens of customers to providers with multiple pops in multiple cities and substantial backbones and thousands or even tens of thousands of customers. 
 
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J 

Java - is a programming language expressly designed for use in the distributed environment of the Internet. It can be used to build a small application module or applet for use as part of a Web page. Applets make it possible for a Web page user to interact with the page. 
 
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K 

Keyboard - a device similar to a typewriter that is used to enter information and instructions into the computer. In addition to letter keys, most keyboards have number pads and function keys that make the computer software easier to use. 
 
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L 

Local area network (LAN) - the linkage of computers and/or peripherals (e.g., printer) confined to a limited area that may consist of a room, building or campus that allows users to communicate and share information. 

Log on - to connect to a computer or network, usually through the entry of an acceptable user ID and password (i.e., through appropriate authentication). 
 
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M 

Mainframe computer - a large computer that supports many users and has the storage and computing capacity needed for large data sets. It generally stores data on large reel-to-reel magnetic tapes that require extensive physical storage space. Users of mainframes use dumb terminals or "tubes" that have screens and keyboards to connect to the mainframe. 

Maintenance agreement - a contract with an outside service or agency to fix a computer system (or its components) when it breaks, or assist with upgrades to the system. 

Megabyte (MB) - the amount of computer memory needed to store 1,048,576 characters, which is approximately equal to one novel. Megabytes are used to describe the amount of memory on a hard disk or in random access memory. 

Megahertz (MHz) - a measure of the clock speed of a central processing unit expressed in millions of cycles per second. 

Microcomputer, a.k.a. Personal Computer or PC - a small computer that is desktop size and uses a microprocessor chip (the brains of the unit) to run the computer. It is generally used by only one person at a time, but it can be networked to provide communication with other PCs, mainframes and minicomputers. Both Macintosh and IBM-compatible computers are considered a part of this category of computers. 

Minicomputer - a computer that is between a mainframe and a microcomputer in size and capacity. It generally can serve between 10 and 100 users simultaneously. 

Modem - short for "modulator/demodulator." This device connects the computer to a telephone line for communication with another remotecomputer or information network. Modems may be internal or external to the computer case. Modems are classified according to the speed with which they send and receive information. 

Monitor - a device similar to a television screen that receives video signals from the computer and displays the information for the user. 

Mouse - a hard-held pointing device (used on top of a desk) that gives directions to the computer and moves information around on a monitor screen. 

Multimedia - a computer capable of utilizing more than one communication medium media such as CD-ROM, DVD, speakers, etc. 

Multitasking - the concurrent execution of several jobs. 
 
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N 

Needs assessment - an evaluation of the functions you want your computer and networking technology to have or the needs you hope this technology will meet. 

Needs statement - a description of the functional needs, technical requirements and security and ethical standards that need to be met by a technology solution. 

Netscape - is one of the two most popular used Web browsers and also the name of a company, Netscape Communications, now owned by America Online (AOL). Currently, almost all Internet users use either Netscape's browser or Microsoft's Internet Explorer (MSIE) browser, and many users use both. 

Network - a group of computers connected to each other to share computer software, data, communications and peripherals. Also, the hardware and software needed to connect the computers together. 
 
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O 

Online - the status of being connected to a computer or having information available through the use of a computer. 

Opera - is a Web browser that provides some differences with the two most popular browsers from Netscape and Microsoft. Much smaller in size, Opera is known for being fast and stable. 

Operating system software - the electronic instructions that control the computer and run the programs. This software is generally specific to a type of computer (e.g. Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT). 
 
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P 

Password - a secret sequence of letters and numbers that will enable users to log on to a computer and prevent unauthorized use. Passwords may be established by a system administrator or by the individual user. 

Peer-to-peer network - a configuration where people store their files on their own computers, and anyone on the network can access the files stored on the other networked computers. 
Peripheral - a device that is attached to a computer, such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse, modem, CD-ROM, DVD, printer, scanner, and speakers. 

Physical security - measures that must be taken to prevent theft, vandalism, and other types of harm to the technology equipment. 

Pixels - in computers, pixels per inch (ppi) is a measure of the sharpness (that is, the density of illuminated points) on a display screen. 

Platform - the computer hardware and operating system software that runs application software. 

Printer - a device that translates signals from a computer into words and images onto paper in black and white or color. Printer types include dot matrix, ink jet, laser, impact, fax, and pen and ink devices. 

Project management software - software programs that provide tools to help manage projects, such as integrated calendars, report generators, scheduling, charting, tracking, prioritizing, etc. 

Project team - the group of persons responsible for carrying out the successful implementation of the technology solution. 

Protocols - the set of standards and rules that let networked computers communicate or share information, such as Ethernet or token ring. 
 
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Q 

R 

Random access memory (RAM) - the space in the computer on which information is temporarily stored while the computer is on. 

Redeployment - the assignment of a computer to a new task or office once it has been replaced by a newer computer. 

Relational data base - a data base where data are stored in more than one table, each one containing different types of data. The different tables can be linked so that information from the separate files can be used together. 

Release - an edition of a software program released when minor changes or bug-fixes have been made. Releases are usually shown by a whole number (denoting the version) followed by a decimal number indicating the release number. 

Remote access - the act of accessing a computer or network from a location that is removed from the physical site of the computer or network. Remote access is often accomplished via the use of a modem. 

Resolution - the clarity of the images produced on a monitor screen. The sharpness of the image on a display depends on the resolution and the size of the monitor. 

Router - a device that regulates network traffic as its enters another network, and makes sure that messages go to the correct network site. 
 
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S 

Scanner - an input device that takes in an optical image and digitises it into an electronic image represented as binary data. This can be used to create a computerised version of a photo or illustration.  

Screen saver - a computer program that automatically displays a moving image or pattern on a monitor screen after a pre-set period of inactivity. 

Search engine - software that searches for specific information or files on the Internet using search criteria that you enter. 

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) - is a commonly-used protocol for managing the security of a message transmission on the Internet. SSL uses a public-and-private key encryption system, which also includes the use of a digital certificate. 

Security - protection from threats to the equipment, functioning and contents of a technology solution. 

Software - the computer programs that tell the computer what to do. Software can be divided into two groups, operating system software and application software. 

Software features - the capabilities offered by software that make it easy and effective to use. 

Spreadsheet software - computer programs (e.g. Excel, Lotus) that have efficient and accurate methods of working with numbers. They are used to perform a wide variety of simple to complex calculations, and offer charting and graphing capabilities. 

Steering committee - a group of persons who meet periodically to evaluate the progress and success of the implementation of the technology solution. 

Streaming Video - is a sequence of "moving images" that are sent in compressed form over the Internet and displayed by the viewer as they arrive. Streaming media is streaming video with sound. With streaming video or streaming media, a Web user does not have to wait to download a large file before seeing the video or hearing the sound. Instead, the media is sent in a continuous stream and is played as it arrives.  

Suite - a collection of software programs that are sold together and are supposed to work together efficiently and use similar commands. 

Surfing - exploring locations and scanning the contents of WWW sites on the Internet. 

System - a group of elements, components, or devices that are assembled to serve a common purpose. In a technological system, this refers to all hardware, software, networks, cables, peripheral equipment, information, data, personnel, and procedures (i.e., all technology resources) that comprise a computer environment. 

System architecture - a description of the design and contents of a computer system. If documented, it may include information such as a detailed inventory of current hardware, software and networking capabilities; a description of long-range plans and priorities for future purchases, and a plan for upgrading and/or replacing dated equipment and software. 

System functions - a list of the specific capabilities a system should be able to do or staff should be able to do using the system, such as system storage and retrieval capabilities, calculation and processing capabilities, reporting and output capabilities, and telecommunications capabilities. 
 
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T 

Technical requirements - simple statements of parameters for a technology solution addressing topics such as the number of people who will use the system and where they are located, the numbers and types of transactions that will need to be processed, and the types of technology components that need to interact. 

Technical support staff - the persons who support and maintain the technology solution once it is implemented. 

Technology resources - the hardware, software, networks and networking capability, staff, dollars and context which together can be used in the implementation of a technology solution. 

Termination point - the point where a communication line enters into a building. 

Topology - the geometric configuration of a computer network, or how the network is physically laid out. Common topologies are star (centralized), bus (decentralized), and ring (decentralized). 
 
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U 

Upgrade - to install a higher version or release of software on a computer system, or to add memory or newer types of equipment to a computer system. 

URL (Uniform resource locator) - a World Wide Web address composed of several parts including the protocol, the server where the resource resides, the path and the file name of the resource such as: http://nces.ed.gov. 

Users - the people who use technology as a tool to do their jobs. Typically users include instructional staff who provide instruction or do instructional management tasks using technology, and administrative staff who use technology to do the routine and non-routine administrative activities of the organization as efficiently as possible. Students, parents, and community members can also be users. In some cases, "users" are not really users at all; they are staff who wish they had technology to use. 

Utility software - computer programs that help to manage, recover, and back up files. 
 
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V 

Version - a major edition of a software program. The version number changes when a software developer makes major alterations to the software such as adding new features. The version number is a whole number following the name of the software. 
 
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W 

Web browser - software that allows a user to locate, view, and access information from World Wide Web sitesvia the use of a graphical interface (e.g. Internet Explorer, Netscape). 

Wide area network (WAN) - a data communications linkage (e.g. dedicated line, radio waves) designed to connect computers over distances greater than the distance transmitted by local area networks (e.g. building to building, city to city, across the country, internationally) that allows users to communicate and share information, such as the Internet, America Online, etc. 

Word processing software - computer programs that allow documents to be typed, revised, formatted and printed quickly and efficiently (e.g. Word, Word Perfect). 

World Wide Web (WWW) - a system that allows access to information sites all over the world using a standard, common interface to organize and search for information. The WWW simplifies the location and retrieval of various forms of information including text, audio and video files. 
 
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X 

XML (Extensible Markup Language) - is a flexible way to create common information formats and share both the format and the data on the World Wide Web, intranets, and elsewhere.  
 
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Y 

Y2K - raised questions for anyone who depended on a program in which the year was represented by a two-digit number, such as "97" for 1997. Many programs written years ago (when storage limitations encouraged such information economies) are still being used. The problem was that when the two-digit space allocated for "99" rolled over to 2000, the next number was "00." Frequently, program logic assumes that the year number gets larger, not smaller - so "00" was anticipated to wreak havoc in a program that hadn't been modified to account for the millennium. 
 
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Z 

Zip Drive - is a small, portable disk drive used primarily for backing up and archiving personal computer files. 
 


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