Skip Navigation
Forum Unified Education Technology Suite
  Home:  Acknowledgments and Introduction
  Part 1:  Planning Your Technology Initiatives
  Part 2:  Determining Your Technology Needs
  Part 3:  Selecting Your Technology Solutions
  Part 4:  Implementing Your Technology
  Part 5:  Safeguarding Your Technology
  Part 6:  Maintaining and Supporting Your Technology
  Part 7:  Training for Your Technology
  Part 8:  Integrating Your Technology
  Appendix A: Sample
Acceptable Use
Agreements and Policies
  Appendix B: FERPA Fact Sheet
  Appendix C: Web Guidelines
  Appendix D: Sample Security Agreements
  List of Tables and Figures
    Powerpoint Overview (700KB)
NCES Webmaster

A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · IJ · K · L · M · N · O · PQ · R · S · T · U · V ·W · X · YZ


Acceptable use policy (AUP):   A policy designed to describe the ways in which a computer or network may be used appropriately. AUPs usually include explicit statements about the required procedures, rights, and responsibilities of a technology user. As a condition of system use, users sign AUPs to certify intentions to follow all policies and procedures stipulated in the document.

Access:   To make use of a technology resource (e.g., a computer or network). Also, to make use of the information or data that resides on a computer or network.

Adaptive technologies:   External support, such as advanced voice recognition systems, Braille computer displays, and text-to-speech programs that can be used to enhance a person's ability to function within his or her environment. See also Assistive technologies.

Administrative software:   Computer programs that are used to expedite the use and storage of data and information. Examples of administrative software include student records systems, personnel records systems, and transportation mapping packages.

Administrative staff:   School personnel primarily engaged in administration, management, or support roles, as opposed to instruction.

Age-grouping (of computers):   The act of grouping computers based on their age (i.e., by the amount of time that has elapsed between the date of manufacture and the present).

Alignment (of software with curriculum standards):   The process of determining the extent to which instructional software supports specific standards for teaching and learning in a subject area.

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

Application software:   A computer program used to accomplish specific tasks not related to the computer itself (e.g., word processors, spreadsheets, accounting systems).

Appropriate use policy:   See also Acceptable use policy.

Asset:   Real property, including information, software, and hardware (i.e., those things an organization owns or needs to protect).

Assistive technologies:   An y item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. See also Adaptive technologies.

Asynchronous transfer mode (ATM):   The name given to a network technology based on transferring data in cells or packets of a fixed size. The cell used with ATM is relatively small compared to units used with older technologies. The small, constant cell size allows ATM equipment to transmit video, audio, and computer data over the same network, while ensuring that no single type of data dominates the line. See also Packet.

ATM:   See Asynchronous transfer mode.

Attack:   An attempt to violate information and technology security.

Audit:   See Security audit.

Audit trail:   A detailed record of user transactions that chronicles all system activity (from each user's log-on to log-off and everything in between). Review and analysis of audit trail records can lead to the detection of unauthorized or otherwise unacceptable system activity.

Authentication:   The act of verifying a user's identity in order to prevent unauthorized use. See also Digital certificate and Voice recognition.

back to top


Back door:   A mechanism for circumventing or disabling system security as purposefully devised and included by system designers. Back doors are sometimes "justified" because they offer system access to technicians and other administrators who have been made aware of the deliberate flaw. Unfortunately, searching for (and finding) back doors is a common and fairly effective attack technique used by uninvited system hackers as well.

Backup:   1. (Verb) To make a copy of a file or program for the purpose of restoring the data if the master copy were to be lost, damaged, or otherwise unavailable for use. 2. Backup (Noun) A copy of a file or program maintained for the purpose of restoring the data if the master copy were to be lost, damaged, or otherwise unavailable for use. See also Master file.

Bandwidth:   The amount of data that can be moved to a computer during a given period of time; or t he speed (usually expressed in kilobits per second [Kbps] or megabits per second [Mbps]) of the telecommunications link between a computer and a local-area network and/or an Internet service provider (ISP), routing service or other method of connection to the Internet. Example of bandwidth level ratings:  33.6 KBPS or under; 56 KBPS; 128 KBPS; 256 KBPS; 512 KBPS; 768 KBPS (.5 T1); T1; Ethernet; DS(1) or higher.

Banner advertisement:   A typically rectangular advertisement on a website placed above, below, or on the sides of the site's main content and linked to the advertiser's own website.

Biometrics:   The use of biological characteristics (e.g., retinal patterns, fingerprints, and voice properties) to uniquely identify a person. These measurements can then be used to authenticate computer users. See also Authentication and Voice recognition.

Bit:   A binary digit. 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. See also Byte and Megabyte.

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

Broadband:   Telecommunication in which a wide band of frequencies is available to transmit information.

Browser:   A software application used to locate and display webpages. The two most popular web browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla. Both are graphical browsers, meaning they can display graphics as well as text. In addition, most browsers can present multimedia information, including sound and video, though they may require plug-ins for some formats.

Bug:   A "glitch" that keeps a software program from being able to perform all of its capabilities or that otherwise 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 in order to determine the most efficient way to obtain (i.e., build versus buy) the desired technology solution.

Business case:   A document that provides a description of the desired technology solution and the anticipated costs and benefits.

Business process re-engineering:   The process of solving an organization's needs and problems by changing the organization's policies and procedures.

Byte:   Eight bits. The amount of computer memory needed to store one character (i.e., a number, letter, or symbol). See also Bit and Megabyte.

back to top


Cable:   The collections of wires twined together to connect peripherals to the computer system unit.

Cable Modem:   Hardware that encodes and decodes computer-based communications for transmission over a cable television system. A modem is designed to operate over cable-TV lines rather than phone lines.

Cache:   An area of disk space that stores the text and graphics of a viewed webpage. When the webpage is revisited, the web browser will retrieve the data from the cache instead of downloading it again to save time.

CD:   See Compact Disc, CD-ROM, CD-RW and DVD-ROM.

CD-ROM (Compact Disc-Read Only Memory):  An optical disk capable of storing large amounts of embedded electronic programs or files that can only be read from the disk (i.e., data can not be written to the disk after it has been produced). Unlike diskettes, CD-ROMs can be read by any type of computer with a CD-ROM disk drive. See also CD-RW, Compact disk and Diskette.

CD-RW:   An optical disk capable of storing large amounts of embedded electronic programs or files that can be both read from and written to the disk. Unlike diskettes, CD-RWs can be read by any type of computer with a CD-ROM disk drive. See also CD-ROM, Compact disk and Diskette.

Cellular wireless:   A method of connection to the Internet that does not use any ground lines. The existing standard protocol is relatively slow; however, newer standards are evolving. Care must be taken to secure these networks from hackers because cellular wireless is, to date, susceptible to interception.

Central processing unit (CPU):   The brain of the computer. Two components found in the CPU are the arithmetic logic unit, which performs calculations and logical operations, and the control unit, which decodes and executes instructions. See also Microprocessor.

Certificate:   See Digital certificate.

Certificate authority:   A "trusted" third-party entity that issues digital certificates to individuals or organizations. The digital certificates are then used to create digital signatures and other security mechanisms. By issuing a digital certificate, the certificate authority guarantees the recipient of the unique identifier is who he or she claims to be. See also Digital certificate and Digital signature.

Chip:   See Microchip.

Classroom:   The location in a school in which instructional services are regularly provided to groups of students. See also Instructional setting.

Client:   The computer (user) in a client/server network that requests files or services. The computer that supplies the services is the server. See also Client/server, Server, and Thin client.

Client/server network:   A network configuration in which all users access files stored on a central computer or several central computers. Each central computer is a server, and each user (actually each user's computer) is a client. See also Client, Network, Peer-to-peer network, Server, and Thin client.

Code:   1. (Noun) A familiar, if not precise, expression for a computer program, especially in its developmental form. 2. (Verb) A colloquial term for writing a computer program (i.e., a term for programming).

Cold site:   An off-site location that includes all files, data, and software (but not hardware) necessary for resuming critical systems after an emergency has rendered an organization's primary site inoperable. Because some time is usually required to purchase and install the missing hardware, cold sites are plausible contingency plans only when a delay in restoring operations is acceptable. On the positive side, maintaining a cold site also delays the expense of purchasing the hardware until it is absolutely necessary (i.e., if, and only if, there is an emergency that damages or destroys the organization's primary work site). See also Contingency plan, Critical system, Hot site, and Off-site.

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

Compact disk (CD):   A 4.75 inch optical disk that can store computer files and data, audio signals, video images, and other digital files. Compact discs are published in a variety of formats, including a read-only format (which are then called CD-ROM for Compact Disc-Read Only Memory) and a format that can be written to (called a CD-RW for Compact Disc-ReWritable). See also CD-ROM, CD-RW, and DVD-ROM.

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 enables data to be processed according to a series of instructions. It is also known as the system unit or console.

Computer laboratory:   In an instructional setting, a space in which computers are clustered, usually used by a group of students or a class, and reserved for teaching such topics as word processing or computer programming.

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. See also Personal computer.

Confidential information:   Private information about an individual that is protected by organizational policy or law (such as the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). See also Sensitive information.

Contingency plan:   A prepared plan that details an organization's anticipated response to potential emergency situations. The purpose of a contingency plan is to minimize the amount of planning necessary once an organization and its staff find themselves in an emergency situation (e.g., a fire, earthquake, or flood); instead, they can refer to, and enact, the pre-planned list of activities already identified as necessary for protecting lives, salvaging systems, and limiting damage. Well-designed contingency plans specify individual staff roles and responsibilities during an emergency. See also Cold site, Hot site, and Recovery plan.

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

Cookie:   A string of text relating to activity at a particular website that is downloaded to the users hard disk and accessed by that site during subsequent visits.

Countermeasure:   A step planned and taken in opposition to another act or potential act, including the introduction of security procedures to a system in order to minimize vulnerabilities and neutralize threats.

CPU:   See Central processing unit.

Critical system:   A computer, network, system or component that is absolutely essential (i.e., critical) to the operation of an information system. See also General system.

back to top


Data:   Raw information that lacks the context to be meaningful (e.g., "34" is data because it has no meaning unless some context is provided; "34 degrees Fahrenheit" has meaning and therefore becomes information). The terms "data" and "information" are often used to differentiate between computer-read (i.e., data) and human-read (i.e., information) figures and text. See also Database, Database software, and Information.

Data element:   A single entry of recorded information in a database-i.e., the lowest level of information that gets stored. For example, the date of purchase for a computer is a data element, and the current date is another. A "data element" may also be regarded as the "answer" to a survey question. See also Unit record.

Database:   A large collection of data that is developed and maintained for quick searching and retrieving. See also Data and Database software.

Database software:   Computer programs designed to store large amounts of data and allow for quick and efficient searching, retrieving, sorting, revising, analyzing, and ordering. There are two common types of databases:  flat file databases and relational databases. See also Data.

Decision support tool:   Software that organizes information to support planning, budgeting, or other priority-setting activities.

Decryption:   The process of translating an encrypted file back into its original unencrypted form via the use of a matching decryption key. See also Encryption.

Degauss:   To demagnetize. Disks and other electronic storage media are degaussed in order to completely remove magnetically encoded data. Degaussing is necessary because simply erasing files does not, in most cases, ensure complete data removal.

Dial-up services:   A dial-up service is a method of connection to the Internet through a modem and a traditional telephone line. Dial-up services are usually sufficient for using the web and e-mail applications, but are not as efficient for transferring larger files (e.g., video clips).

Digital certificate:   An attachment to an electronic transmission 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. See also Authentication, Certificate authority, Decryption, Digital signature, and Encryption.

Digital signature:   A code attached to an electronic message that is used to verify that the individual sending the message is really who he or she claims to be-much in the same way that a written signature identifies the sender of a piece of written correspondence. To be effective, digital signatures must be unique and must, therefore, be protected from theft and forgery. See also Certificate authority and Digital certificate.

Digital subscriber line (DSL):   A high-bandwidth technology for connecting to the Internet using the copper telephone lines that exist in almost every home and office. Special hardware attached to both ends of the line allows data transmission at far greater speeds than standard telephone wiring and dial-up connectivity.

Directory information:   Information about an individual that can legally be made public (e.g., name, street address, and telephone number). See also General information and Sensitive information.

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

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. See also Hard drive.

Diskette:   A thin, flexible, plastic disk on which computer programs and data can be saved outside of a computer. The two types of diskettes are 3.5 inch disks that come in hard plastic cases and 5.25 inch disks that come in thin, pliable, cardboard-like cases and are therefore referred to as floppy disks. See also Disk and Disk drive.

Distance education/distance learning:   Any of a number of technologies involving course-taking or educational participation at a distance, with synchronous or asynchronous communication, between student and teacher.

Domain name:   Used in URLs to identify particular webpages or sites located on the Internet. For example, the domain name "" represents the website for the National Center for Education Statistics.

Downloading:   The process of transferring information from a remote computer to a local computer.

Drill:   See Security drill.

Drive:   See Disk drive and Hard drive.

DSL:   See Digital Subscriber Line.

Dumb terminal:   A dumb terminal is a "computer unit" that has a monitor and a keyboard that must connect to another computer for processing power.

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.

back to top


E-mail:   Electronic messages, typically addressed as person-to-person correspondence, which are transmitted between computers and across networks. See also Electronic mail.

E-mail address:   A n identifying address for a user's mailbox; characters identifying the user are followed by the @ symbol and the address of the mailbox's computer. See also E-mail and Electronic mail.

Educational technology:   Educational computing and technology encompasses knowledge about and use of computers and related technologies in (a) delivery, development, prescription, and assessment of instruction; (b) effective uses of computers as an aid to problem solving; (c) school and classroom administration; (d) educational research; (e) electronic information access and exchange; (f) personal and professional productivity; and (g) computer science education. [Source:  ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS)]

Electronic data interchange (EDI):   The exchange of routine education (and business) information transactions in a computer-processable format.

Electronic mail (e-mail):   Asynchronous (time-independent) messages sent from a user to one or more recipients over computer networks. Contrasts with synchronous (time-dependent) messaging systems such as Internet chat. See also E-mail.

Electronic mail (e-mail) software:   The computer programs that facilitate computer-to-computer communications among users in any locations.

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. See also Decryption.

Ethical standards:   Guidelines for appropriate behavior based on the recognized standards of a profession or group (e.g., ethical standards of the workplace forbid displays of insulting and insensitive messages).

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.

Extranet:   The part of a company or organization's internal computer network that is available to outside users, for example, information services for customers.

back to top


File:   In technology systems, a file is a block of data stored on a magnetic medium such as a disk or tape. A file may contain a computer program, a document, or other collections of data and information.

File transfer protocol (FTP):   A standard Internet protocol for transferring files from one computer to another.

Filtering:   The process of controlling access to a network by analyzing the incoming and outgoing packets. A filter lets the packets pass, or not pass, based on the IP addresses of the source and/or destination. E-mail messages and websites can also be filtered based on content (e.g., code that may appear to be a computer virus or a website that posts objectionable material). See also Packet.

Firewall:   An electronic boundary (or physical piece of hardware) that prevents unauthorized users and/or packets of data or information (e.g., files and programs) from accessing a protected system.

Fixed wireless:   These "computers" are wireless devices or systems that are in fixed locations, such as an office or home, as opposed to devices that are mobile, such as cell phones or personal data assistants (PDAs).

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

Floppy disk:   See Diskette.

Frame relay:   A packet-switching protocol for connecting devices on a Wide Area Network (WAN). Frame relay networks in the United States support data transfer rates at T-1 (1.544 Mbps) and T-3 (45 Mbps) speeds. Most telephone companies now provide frame relay service for customers who want connections from 56 Kbps to T-1 speeds. See also Packet.

Frames:   A feature supported by most up to date web browsers than enables the website author to divide the browser display area into two or more sections (frames). The contents of each frame are taken from a different webpage. Frames provide great flexibility in designing webpages, but some designers avoid them because many currently used browsers support them unevenly.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs):   A listing of questions typically asked by system users and the answers to the questions. Such a list is prepared to help users without relying upon continuous staff support.

FTP:   See File transfer protocol.

Full-time equivalent (FTE):   Translation of hours of human labor into equivalent units of full-time work, usually at the rate of eight hours to one full-time day.

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 is expected to deliver to those who use and maintain it). This listing of a computer system's capabilities can be compared to what can be bought from a commercial vendor or built by developers. See also Needs statement.

Functions:   The tasks or actions that software is intended to perform. See also Software functions and System functions.

back to top


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

Gateway:   An electronic device that allows for two different computers or networks to connect (i.e., it "translates" between networks that use different protocols).

General information:   Information or data that is useful, but not (1) critical to an organization's mission, or (2) of a confidential or sensitive nature. See also Confidential information, Directory information, and Sensitive information.

General system:   A computer, network, system or component that, while useful, is not critical to the operation of an information and technology system. See also Critical system.

Gigabyte:   The amount of memory required to store 2exp30 bytes (1,073,741,824 bytes) or 1,024 (2exp10) Megabytes. See also Byte.

Gigahertz (GHz):   A measure of the clock speed of a central processing unit (CPU) expressed in billions of cycles per second. See also Central processing unit (CPU).

Graphing calculator:   An electronic calculator that has the capability to compute and display functions in graphical form.

back to top


Hacker:   An unauthorized user who attempts to access a system and its information.

Handover:   The point at which 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. See also Disk drive.

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

Help desk:   A source from which computer, network, or software users can receive assistance. Access to a Help desk is usually offered to users via telephone, fax, and/or e-mail.

High-speed dialup:   Sometimes advertised as broadband dialup, is an Internet service provider (ISP) feature that speeds up data transfer by using a special server, called an acceleration server, to act as a bridge between the user's dialup connection and a webpage.

Homepage:   The first page (i.e., the opening screen) of a website. See also World Wide Web (WWW).

Host:   1. (Noun) A computer system that is accessed by users from remote locations. The system that contains the data is called the host, while the computer at which a user sits is called the remote terminal. 2. (Verb) To provide the infrastructure for a computer service. For example, a company that "hosts" web servers may provide the content on the server (e.g., website or other content), but another company may control communications lines required by the server.

Hot site:   An off-site location that includes all resources (including files, data, software, and hardware) necessary for resuming critical systems after an emergency has rendered the organization's primary site inoperable. A hot site should require little to no delay in restoring operations because all resources are maintained in a ready state. See also Cold site, Contingency plan, Critical system, and Off-site.

HTML:   See Hypertext markup language.

Hub:   A device that links client computers to a server.

Hypertext markup language (HTML):   A formatting language used to create webpages and specify how a page will appear on screen.

back to top


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

Information:   Data that are meaningful (i.e., they are presented in a context that allows them to be read by a human as opposed to being read by a computer). See also Data.

Instructional management software:   Computer programs that serve as tools for 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 setting:   Any setting in a school in which regular instruction is provided, such as a classroom or laboratory. See also Classroom.

Instructional software:   Computer programs that allow students to learn new content, practice using content already learned, and/or be evaluated on how much content they currently know. These programs allow teachers and students to demonstrate concepts, perform simulations, and record and analyze data. Sometimes application software such as database programs and spreadsheets can also be used within the instructional context to help analyze and present data and information.

Instructional support applications:   Software or computer-based systems that support instruction or instructional management (e.g., lesson planning software and student attendance systems).

Integrated services digital network (ISDN):   A digital phone line that can transmit data, video, and voice. ISDN lines are "point-to-point" connections from the telephone company to the computer user.

Interface:   A shared boundary where independent systems meet. In computer systems, the term "interface" commonly refers to the mechanism through which a user communicates with a computer or network (e.g., via a monitor, keyboard, and/or mouse). It also refers to those connections that enable communication and exchanges of data to take place between separate systems.

Internet:   A world-wide network of computer networks through which people can exchange data and communications. See also World Wide Web (WWW).

Internet connection:   Telecommunications link between a computer or a local-area network and the global Internet. Examples of connection types include dial-up via modem, wired LAN and router, wireless LAN and router, cable modem, satellite/modem hybrid link, full satellite (two-way) link, and DSL.

Internet phone, voice-over-IP (VoIP):   Telephone communications, usually long-distance, that use the Internet as part of the communications link.

Internet protocol (IP):   A basic protocol for communicating over the Internet. An IP number is a numerical address (consisting of four numbers seperated by periods) which uniquely identifies individual computers on the Internet. See also IP address.

Internet service provider (ISP):   An entity that provides commercial access to the Internet. Service can range in size from dial-up access with a 56-Kbps over an ordinary telephone line with several dozen customers to multiple pops (i.e., connection points) in multiple cities with substantial backbones and thousands, tens of thousands, or more customers. ISPs may also provide web hosting and other services.

Intranet:   A localized network of computers that is used to communicate electronically within a specific and limited area.

IP address:   An identifier for a computer or device on a TCP/IP network. Networks using the TCP/IP protocol route messages according to the destination IP address. Within a private network, IP addresses can be assigned at random as long as each one is unique. However, connecting a private network to the Internet requires the use of a publicly registered IP address (called Internet addresses) to avoid duplication. See also Internet Protocol and TCP/IP.

ISDN:   See Integrated services digital network.

ISP:   See Internet service provider.

back to top


Key question:   Those questions that reflect the primary issues concerning policy makers, school administrators, researchers, and the interested public.

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. See also Peripheral.

Kilobit:   1,024 (2exp10) bits. See also Bit.

Kilobyte:   The amount of memory required to store 1,024 (2exp10) characters. See also Byte.

back to top


Label:   Information that identifies or describes that to which it is affixed. Printed paper labels are used to identify computer disks, whereas electronic labels can be used to identify electronic files. Labels are also affixed to backup tapes, storage cabinets, and other storage media and containers to identify contents. Proper labeling is an integral part of any effective security system.

Laboratory (computer):   See Computer laboratory.

LAN:   See Local area network.

Laptop:   A portable personal computer that is small enough to fit on a person's lap (i.e., it weighs less than eight pounds). Laptops are usually capable of being powered by rechargeable batteries. See also Personal computer.

Library:   See Media library.

List Server:   A device that operates mailing lists and distributes new messages, newsletters, or other postings from list members to the list's subscribers. Postings can be delivered as they are received or they can be digested and delivered on a scheduled basis.

Local area network (LAN):   A linkage of computers and/or peripherals (e.g., printers) confined to a limited area (e.g., a room, building, or campus) in order to enable users to communicate and share information. See also Network.

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).

Logic bomb:   A hidden computer program that, once activated, damages or destroys a computer or network (e.g., malicious code programmed to damage files at a certain time on a certain day). A logic bomb technically is not a virus because it can only be activated once, whereas a virus can replicate itself or otherwise resurface repeatedly. See also Trojan horse and Virus.

back to top


Macintosh:   A family of personal computers manufactured by Apple Computer. See also Dumb terminal.

Mainframe computer:   A computer that serves as central support to many users and has the storage and computing capacity needed for managing large sets of data and files. Mainframes often store data on large reel-to-reel magnetic tapes that require extensive physical storage space. Mainframe users frequently rely upon dumb terminals or "tubes" to connect to the mainframe. See also Computer.

Maintenance contract:  An agreement with an outside service or agency (e.g., the vendor who sold the equipment) to maintain or repair a computer system and/or its peripheral equipment.

Masquerading:   Impersonating an authorized user to gain access to a computer or network. One common act of masquerading is to "borrow" someone else's password. See also Spoofing.

Master file:   An original file from which copies and backups are made. See also Back up.

Media library:  An on-site location that serves as a repository for archived files and software, and allows for security measures to be concentrated and even intensified. Note that a media library is not a substitute for off-site storage of backups. See also Off-site storage.

Megabit:   1,048,576 (2exp20) bits. See also Bit.

Megabyte (MB):  The amount of computer memory needed to store 1,048,576 (2exp20) characters (which is roughly equivalent to a novel of average length). Megabytes are often used to describe the amount of memory on a disk or in random access memory (RAM). See also Byte.

Megahertz (MHz):   A measure of the clock speed of a central processing unit (CPU) expressed in millions of cycles per second. See also Central processing unit (CPU).

Memory:   In technological terms, the location and medium of data storage within a computer. See also Random access memory (RAM) and Storage media.

Meta tag:   A command inserted in a document that specifies how the document, or a portion of the document, should be formatted. Tags are used by all format specifications that store documents as text files.

Microchip:   A tiny piece of material (usually made of silicon) on which computer circuitry has been manufactured. A microchip, or "chip," is an integral piece of computer hardware and can contain the circuitry for the central processing unit, memory (including random access memory), or other important operations. See also Microprocessor.

Microcomputer:   See Personal computer.

Microprocessor:   The microchip that is responsible for a computer's logical operations. The microprocessor serves as the central processing unit (CPU) in a personal computer. See also Central processing unit (CPU) and Microchip.

Minicomputer:   A stand-alone computer system that generally supports anywhere from five to a few hundred users simultaneously. Traditional minicomputers have often been replaced by client/server networks and peer-to-peer networks. See also Computer.

Modem:   A device that connects a computer to a telephone line (or, perhaps, another wire) for communication with another remote computer 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. A contraction of "modulator/demodulator."

Monitor:  A device similar to a television screen that receives video signals from a computer and displays the information for the user. See also Peripheral.

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

Multimedia:   The simultaneous presentation of more than one media type (e.g., text, graphics, video, and audio).

Multimedia computer:   A computer capable of presenting more than one media type (e.g., text, graphics, video, and audio) simultaneously.

Multitasking:   The concurrent execution of several jobs.

back to top


Need-to-know:   1. A security principle that states that a system user should only be granted access to those components of the system (and its information) that he or she actually needs to perform his or her job. 2. A legal designation that indicates that an individual has a legitimate educational reason for accessing confidential information.

Needs assessment:   A process for determining the desired functionality of computer and networking technology and/or determining the needs this technology will meet. See also Needs statement.

Needs statement:  A description of the functional specifications, technical requirements, and security standards that dictate the selection of a technology solution. Accurate needs statements usually require input from a range of potential users and are the product of a needs assessment. See also Functional specifications, Needs assessment, and Technical requirements.

Network:   A group of computers connected to each other to share software, data, communications, and peripheral devices. Commonly, the term "network" includes the hardware and software needed to connect the computers together. See also Local area network (LAN) and Wide area network (WAN).

Node:   In a discussion of networks, a "node" refers to a processing location. A node can be a computer or some other device, such as a printer. Every node has a unique network address.

back to top


Off-site:   A location other than an organization's primary work site or place of business. See also Cold site, Hot site, and Off-site storage.

Off-site storage:   A location for the storage of backup files that is physically independent of the primary site of file use. The purpose of off-site storage is to decrease the likelihood of a single catastrophic event damaging or destroying both master and backup files. For example, if a fire were to break out in a building, it is conceivable that the entire structure could be destroyed. If backup files were maintained in that building, they would probably be lost with the originals; but if the backup files were at a different location (i.e., in off-site storage), they would be much more likely to survive the event.

Online:   The status of being connected to a computer or network or having access to information that is available through the use of a computer or network. See also Access and Remote access.

Operating System:   Software that contains the electronic instructions that control the computer and run the programs. This software is generally specific to a type of computer (e.g., Windows 2000, UNIX Linux, and Mac OS X).

back to top


Packet:   A message fragment containing data or information. When messages are sent on the Internet, they are broken into smaller, more easily transportable pieces called packets. Each packet consists of a header and a piece of the message. A single e-mail message may actually be broken into a several different packets. See also Asynchronous transfer mode (ATM).

Packet sniffing:   The collection and analysis of data packets (including contents) as they transit the network. See also Packet.

Packet switching:   Protocols within a network that determine how messages are broken into packets and routed to their destinations. See also Packet.

Password:   A secret sequence of letters, numbers, or symbols that enables a user to authenticate him- or herself to a secured computer or network. Passwords can be established by a system administrator or by the individual user. Effective password systems require that each user protect his or her password from being disclosed to anyone. See also Authentication and Log on.

PC:   See Personal computer.

PDA:   See Personal data assistant.

PDF:   See Portable document format.

Peer-to-peer network (P2P):   A configuration in which each computer on a network has the same capabilities as the other computers on the network and any one of them can initiate a communications session with another. Any peer computer or person on the network can acces files, add files, copy them, and move them to another peer computer on the network (where people store their files on their own computers). See also Client/server network.

Peripheral:   A device that is attached to a computer, such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse, external modem, external CD-ROM drive, external DVD drive, printer, scanner, and speakers.

Peripheral equipment:   Any of a variety of devices that are attached to a computer, including monitors, keyboards, modems, printers, scanners, and speakers.

Personal computer:   A "small" computer based on a microprocessor and designed for a single user, although personal computers can be networked to communicate with other personal computers, mainframes, or minicomputers. See also Computer and Laptop.

Personal data assistant (PDA):   A handheld device (e.g. Palm Pilot ®, PocketPC ®, etc.) that combines several computing activities. PDAs can function as cellular phones, fax transmitters, web browsers, and personal organizers.

Physical security:   Measures that must be taken to prevent theft, vandalism, and other types of harm to equipment and information.

Platform:   The hardware and operating system software that runs application software on a computer. See also Application software, Hardware, and Operating system.

Plug-ins:   Software that adds a specific feature or service to a larger system. For example, in order to view a PDF file, the Adobe Acrobat Reader® plug-in is required.

Pop-up ads:   Advertisements that appear in a separate browser window while a website is being viewed.

Portable document format (PDF):   A file format developed by Adobe Systems ® that captures formatting information from a variety of desktop publishing applications, making it possible to send formatted documents and have them appear on the recipient's monitor or printer as they were intended. A free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader ® can be downloaded from Adobe Systems at

Portal:   A website or service that offers a broad array of resources, such as e-mail, forums, search engines, and online shopping malls. The first web portals were online services, such as AOL, which provided access to the web; now most of the traditional search engines (e.g. Yahoo ®, Google ®, etc.) are web portals, modified to attract and keep a larger audience.

Printer:   A piece of peripheral equipment that translates electronic signals from a computer into images on paper. Common types of printers include dot matrix, ink jet, laser, impact, fax, and pen and ink devices; many are capable of producing either black-and-white or color images. See also Peripheral.

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

Project team:   A group of people responsible for carrying out the successful implementation of a project, such as the implementation of a new technology solution.

Protocols:   A set of standards and rules, such as Ethernet or token ring, that enable networked computers to communicate or share information.

P2P:   See Peer-to-peer network.

back to top


RAM:  See Random access memory.

Random access memory (RAM):  The place in the computer where programs and data in current use (e.g., the operating system, applications programs, a spreadsheet) are kept temporarily for more efficient access. When the computer is turned off, the data are removed from RAM. See also Memory.

Read-write drive:  A device that enables a computer to read or write data onto a disk. Laser technology is used to write data onto a compact disk (CD) or a digital versatile disk (DVD).

Recovery plan:  A detailed program for regaining an organization's critical systems and general systems (i.e., "normal" operations) after a disaster. As with all contingency planning, recovery plans should be prepared in advance of any such occurrence. They should specify individual roles and responsibilities for performing planned responses, and be coordinated with other contingency planning and emergency response efforts. See also Contingency plan.

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

Relational database:  A database in which data are stored in more than one table, each of which contains different types of data. The different tables are linked so that information in the separate files can be used together.

Release:  An intermediate edition of a computer program. Releases are usually offered when minor changes or bug-fixes have been made to the previous edition of the software. Releases are designated by a whole number (denoting the version) followed by a decimal number indicating the new release (e.g., Upgrade 2.1). See also Upgrade and Version.

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. See also Access and Telecommuter.

Resolution:  The clarity of an image produced on a monitor screen.

Resources:  See Technology resources.

Risk:  In information and technology security, a risk is any hazard or danger to which a system or its components (e.g., hardware, software, information, or data) is subjected. See also Asset, Attack, Countermeasure, Risk Assessment, Threat, and Vulnerability.

Risk assessment:  The process of identifying:  (1) all assets an organization possesses, (2) all potential threats to those assets, (3) all points of vulnerability to those threats, (4) the probability of potential threats being realized, and (5) the cost estimates of potential losses. Risk assessment enables an organization to at least consider the range of potential threats and vulnerabilities it faces, and is the first step in effectively securing an information and technology system. See also Asset, Attack, Countermeasure, Risk, Threat, and Vulnerability.

Rogue programming:  See Logic bomb, Trojan horse, Virus, and Worm.

Router:  The device or software that determines the next network point to which a packet will be forwarded. The packet travels from point to point along the network until it arrives at its destination. See also Packet.

back to top


Scanner:  An input device that takes in an optical image and digitizes it into an electronic image represented as binary data. See also Peripheral.

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 is entered.

Security:  Protecting equipment, performance, and contents in a technology solution.

Security audit:  A methodical examination and review of system and user activity.

Security drill:  Repetitive instruction or training designed to establish security concepts and procedures within an organization and its staff.

Security goal:  The primary goal of any information and technology security system is to protect information and system equipment without unnecessarily limiting access to authorized users and functions. See also Trusted system.

Security policy:  Clear, comprehensive, and well defined plans, rules, and practices designed to protect and regulate access to an organization's system and the information that comprises it. Security policy describes the ideal status toward which all organizational security efforts should lead.

Security signature:  See Digital signature.

Sensitive information:  Information or data which, if lost or compromised, might negatively affect the owner of the information or require substantial resources to recreate. See also Confidential information and General information.

Sequence numbering:  The use of embedded number patterns within a transmitted message to verify the integrity of file or data exchange. If the sequence of numbers in a received message is not consistent with the sequence in the sent message, it is possible that the message was tampered with or has otherwise lost its integrity.

Server:  A computer or device on a network that manages network resources. For example, a file server is a computer and storage device dedicated to storing files. Any user on the network can store files on the file server. A print server is a computer system that manages one or more printers, a network server manages network traffic, and a database server processes database queries. It is possible to partition the space on one computer to create more than one server. See also Client and Client/server network.

Signature:  See Digital signature.

Software:  Programs that tell a computer what to do. See also Administrative software, Antivirus software, Application software, Hardware, Instructional software, and Operating system.

Software features:  Those attributes offered by a particular piece of software that make it easy and effective to use (e.g., a "spell check" function in word processing software). See also Software.

Software functions:  The tasks, activities, or operations that a piece of software is intended to perform. See also Functional specifications, Needs assessment, Software, System functions, and Technical requirements.

Source code:  Instructions to a computer in their original form. Initially, a programmer writes a program in a particular programming language called the source code. To execute the program, the programmer must translate the code into "machine language," the only language a computer understands. Source code is the only format readable by humans.

Spam:  Electronic junk mail or junk newsgroup postings. Some people define spam even more generally as any unsolicited e-mail. In addition to being a nuisance, spam also consumes network bandwidth. Because the Internet is a public network, little has done to prevent spam, just as it is impossible to prevent junk mail in its paper form. However, the use of software filters in e-mail programs can be used to remove some spam sent through e-mail.

Spoofing:  An intentional act of misrepresentation in which an authorized user is tricked into thinking that he or she is communicating with another authorized user or site (but is not). See also Masquerading.

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.

Standards:  Guidelines for developing curriculum and guiding teacher and student behavior. Standards define a common agreement about what should be taught or learned.

Standards for technology competency:  Guidelines that specify what a teacher or a student should know and be able to accomplish with technology.

Steering committee:  A group of people who meet periodically to evaluate the progress and success of the implementation of the technology solution.

Storage media:  Any of a variety of agents or mechanisms for storing electronic data or files, including disks, tapes, compact discs, and digital video disks. See also Compact disc (CD), Disk, Diskette, DVD-ROM and Tape.

Student:  A person who is enrolled in a school, whether part- or full-time.

Style sheets:  Templates for webpage design that can be built into the programming of a site to provide continuity in appearance and layout across the various pages.

Suite:  A collection of software programs that are sold together, work together efficiently, and use similar commands.

Surfing:  To move from site to site on the Internet in a random or questing way while searching for topics of interest.

System:  A group of elements, components, or devices that interact, or 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. See also Data, Hardware, Information, Network, Software, and Technology resources.

System architecture:  A description of the design and contents of a computer system, including 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 outdated equipment and software.

System functions:  A list of the specific capabilities a computer or network should be able to perform (or staff should be able to do when using the system). Examples of possible functions include storage and retrieval capabilities, calculation and processing capabilities, reporting and output capabilities, and telecommunications capabilities. See also Functional specifications, Needs assessment, Software functions, System, and Technical requirements.

back to top


Tape:  A storage medium that is both "readable" (i.e., it can be read from) and "writable" (i.e., it can be written to). Tape was a primary storage method for early computers and systems, but has been replaced by disks, compact discs, and other less bulky media. Tape is still frequently used as a medium for making backups (e.g., backup tapes). See also Storage media.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol over Internet Protocol):   Communication protocols used to connect hosts on the Internet. TCP stands for Transmission Control Protocol, which is the main protocol in an IP (Internet Protocol) network. Whereas the IP deals solely with packet switching, TCP/IP allow two hosts to communicate with long streams of data at one time, thus always guaranteeing the packets arrive in the correct order. See also Internet protocol and IP address.

Teacher:  An instructional leader in a school setting.

Technical requirements:  Straightforward statements that describe the necessary parameters of a technology solution. These parameters should address topics such as:  the number of people who will use the system at a single time; where users are located; the numbers and types of transactions that need to be processed; and the types of technology components that need to interact. See also Needs assessment, Needs statement, Software functions, and System functions.

Technical support staff:  Those persons who support and maintain an information system once it has been established. See also Technology resources.

Technology plan:  A plan which guides decision-making in a technology initiative from inception through evaluation taking into account local, regional and state laws and the organization's:  (1) mission statements, (2) technology policies, (3) present technological capabilities, (4) future technology requirements, (5) facilities plans, (6) funding issues, (7) timelines, and (8) subsequent staff and student training. The overall goal of a sound plan is the successful integration of technology in support of student learning and school management. See also Technology policies.

Technology policies:   An evolving set of rules and regulations within an organization governing technology related issues, including but not limited to:  (1) the acquisition, maintenance, or disposal of school equipment or applications, (2) the security of information, equipment, and files, (3) acceptable use guidelines, (4) commercial advertising on school literature and websites, and (5) community or after-school access to technology resources. See also Acceptable use policy (AUP), Security policy and Technology plan.

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.

Telecommuter:  An individual who works at home or at another location that is physically removed from a place of employment via the use of technology (e.g., computers, modems, and fax machines). See also Remote access.

Termination point:  The point where a communication line enters into a building.

Thin client:  A network computer without a hard disk drive, which, in client/server applications, is designed to be especially small so that the bulk of the data processing occurs on the server. See also Client and Client/server network.

Threat:  Any actor, action, or event that contributes to the risk of an organizational asset. See also Asset, Attack, Countermeasure, Risk, Risk Assessment, and Vulnerability.

Time stamp:  The act of recording the date and time within a transmitted message to verify the integrity of file or data exchange. If the date and time of message receipt varies with the date and time of transmission beyond an acceptable period of delivery, it is possible the delay signifies the message was intercepted in transit (or has otherwise lost its integrity).

Trojan horse:  A type of programmed threat (i.e., a virus) that presents itself as an apparently useful function (e.g., a "thesaurus" upgrade for a word processing application) but actually conceals an unauthorized program designed to damage the system or the information it contains. See also Logic bomb, Threat, and Virus.

Trusted system:  An information and technology system that, while not invincible, can generally be "trusted". Since no system is foolproof, a trusted system is the ideal security state. See also Security goal and System.

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).

back to top


Unit record:  A collection of data elements for a given object. A row in a database. See also Data element.

Universal resource locator (URL):  A World Wide Web address composed of several parts including the protocol, the server where the "resource" (e.g., webpage) resides, the path, and the file name of the resource. An example of a URL is

Upgrade:  1. (Verb) T o 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. 2. (Noun) The new software or equipment that has been added to a system. See also Release and Version.

URL:  See Uniform resource locator.

User:  In information and technology systems, a user is a person who accesses a system. Education organization users typically include (1) instructional staff who provide instruction or perform instructional management tasks using technology; and (2) administrative staff who use technology to manage the routine and non-routine administrative activities of an organization as efficiently as possible. Students, parents, and community members can also be users.

Utility software:  Computer programs that help to manage, recover, and back up files.


Version:  A major edition of a computer program. The version number changes when a software developer makes major alterations to the software (e.g., significant new features are added). The version number is a whole number following the name of the software, in contrast to the release number, which is the decimal number after the version number. For example, when Software 2.0 undergoes minor changes, it could be re-released as Software 2.1 (i.e., it has been given a new release number in the decimal spot). When it later undergoes significant revamping, the new version would be Software 3.0. See also Release, Software, and Upgrade.

Videoconferencing:  Interactive video-based communication. Two-way (or multi-way) videoconferencing involves video links between all participants; one-way videoconferencing involves video in one direction, with audio links in the other.

Virus:  A computer program that destroys data, unnecessarily ties up resources, or otherwise damages a system. Viruses are often able to replicate themselves and can therefore be passed from one computer or network to another via file transfers (analogous to how a biological virus is passed from one host to the next). Viruses are combated by a variety of security techniques, most notably through the use of antivirus software and virus scanners. See also Antivirus software, Logic bomb, Threat, Trojan horse, Virus scanner, and Worm.

Virus scanner:  Software designed specifically to search files and disks for the presence of a virus. See also Antivirus software, Software, Trojan horse, Virus, and Worm.

Voice recognition:  The conversion of spoken language into a digital format by a computer. Voice recognition can be used as a method of user identification and authentication. See also Authentication and Biometrics.

Vulnerability:  A point within an information or technology system that is susceptible to attack from a threat. See also Asset, Attack, Countermeasure, Risk, Risk Assessment and Threat.

back to top


W3C:  See World Wide Web Consortium.

WAN:  See Wide Area Network.

Web:  See World Wide Web (WWW).

Web browser:  Software that allows a user to locate, view, and access information from World Wide Web sites via the use of a graphical interface (e.g. Internet Explorer and Mozilla).

Web portal:  See Portal.

Wide area network (WAN):  A data communications linkage (e.g., dedicated line, radio waves) that allows users to communicate and share information over distances greater than the distance transmitted by local area networks (e.g., building to building). See also Network.

Wireless:  A network system in which there is no physical connection between two pieces of equipment (i.e., instead of a wire or fiber optic links connecting computers, they communicate via radio waves).

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. See also Internet.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C):  W3C is a forum for information, commerce, and collective action by a consortium of respected web inventors and developers who seek to develop technologies to enhance use of the World Wide Web (http: //

Worm:  A computer program that can make copies of itself and spread through connected computers and networks, thereby using up system resources and/or causing other damage. See also Threat and Virus.

Write-protect:  Any of a variety of hardware or software mechanisms that prevent data from being written to a disk or other storage media.

WWW:  See World Wide Web.


XML:  See Extensible markup language.


Zip drive:  A disk that is able to store 25 megabytes to 250 megabytes of data onto removable cartridges (depending on the model of the drive), most frequently for the purpose of backing up data. See also Back up, Disk, Disk drive, and Storage media.

Previous Page -- Appendix D Next Page -- List of Tables and Figures