|The term "information technology" has gained widespread use in diverse contexts, and the only agreement seems to be that whatever it is, it's "hot." What do we mean by information technology at ITRC? We take two approaches to describing our vision of information technology, by illustrating what we think it is in this section, and by contrasting it with traditional fields in the next section.
The characterization given above of an information technologist as the "user's advocate" in the computing world seems to make sense to many people. Information technologists approach technology from the user's point of view rather than from the computer's point of view. We tend to think of the computer as a powerful tool for doing a great many things rather than as an end in itself, and our students tend to care more about how people use computers than about how computers work "under the hood." One of our freshmen several years ago phrased it well: "We bend technology to fit people."
This role of user's advocate is diverse and multifaceted. In order to "make things work" for people in today's (and tomorrow's) sophisticated computing environments, information technologists need three general competencies:1) facility with current tools and technologies for networking, application development, digital media, and electronic publishing; 2) experience with the process of technology integration and deployment in a user community, including needs assessment, design, development, technology transfer, and ongoing support; and 3) an individual professional focus in some area like network and system administration, Web and multimedia development, client-server databases, learning and performance technology, or custom application development.
layered over the curriculum are two major themes: the importance of communication skills and the acceptance of multi-platform, distributed computing environments. As important as technological skills clearly are, an information technologist's communication skills may be even more important in the long run. Specific technologies will continue to come and go, but the ability to communicate effectively will remain critically important for IT professionals as they focus the technology that they command on real-world problems..
Similarly, the IT professional needs to be familiar with a variety of hardware and software environments to provide solutions that best match users' needs. An over-reliance on a single computing platform or approach limits the scope and flexibility of potential solutions, and it also stunts the professional growth of the IT practitioner. The rapidly accelerating acceptance of both Inter- and intra-net solutions has addressed many cross-platform issues, but as the possibilities of this radically new computing world become apparent to more and more users, the demands on IT professionals to make the Web truly "seamless" accelerate rapidly. To put it mildly, it's an exciting time to be in this field!