Uganda has fully embraced Computer Studies at O’ Level and Subsidiary ICT at A’ level as part of the Secondary Schools curriculum. Computer studies in schools are important to a well-rounded education in this 21st century. Students are instructed on the basics of computer use. With Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) and Computer Aided Learning (CAL), educational software, is often presented and used by teachers and students to enhance the teaching and learning of the key concepts in the various subjects.
The computer is one of the most wonderful gifts of science. A computer is an electronic device that accepts user’s input (data), processes it under special instructions (programs), to produce the desired meaningful output (information).
The concept of today’s computers was originally developed by Charles Babbage (the father of computers) in 1812. Physically, First generation computers were very large. Machines with hundreds of thousands of vacuum tubes were built, taking up space of several floors in big buildings. They weighed about 30 tons. Today, with the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ technology, we are using fifth generation computers. Each new generation of computers has been smaller, lighter, speedier and more powerful than the earlier ones. Now note-book sized computers like laptops are fairly common.
In less than 50 years, computers have influenced practically every field of activity and every walk of life. Many of the routine activities today are being performed by computers. Use of computers has reduced the paperwork. Now most of the work is done directly on the computers. The traffic in large cities is controlled by computers. Automation in banks and railway stations has provided relief to the public and staff alike. Ticketing and reservation have become more efficient and convenient. Various types of games like chess and cards can also be played on computers. In medical diagnosis, computers are being used to locate and investigate accurately and precisely abnormalities and diseases. Business transactions and high volume of associated data are easily managed by using computers.
Speed, accuracy, diligence, adaptability, reliability and versatility are some of the characteristics of a computer. It can execute over a million instructions per second without committing and mistake. It can carry our calculations in just a few minutes that would require days if carried out manually. It helps us in solving many difficult problems in different environments. A Computer has a huge memory. It can hold a large amount of data. Yet it does not get tired nor does it need supervision to carry out given tasks.
The Computer is the backbone of information technology (IT) whose major application lies in, the interconnection of computers worldwide, i.e., the internet. Internet has some very useful applications in our day to day life. Telecommunication and satellite imageries are computer based. Visual and audio access to offices worldwide through the network has given rise to virtual offices. One can have easy access to information via internet. It is an ocean of knowledge for the students. It is a huge library. The Internet helps the student to study for the examinations. Students pursuing courses through distance education mode can study the subject online. The internet is the fastest and cheapest way to take admission in a foreign institution, collect geographical information of any region, or chat with anybody in any corner of the world.
Computing offers many types of highly rewarding careers. Computer studies provide a foundation that serves as a competitive advantage in a career, in whatever field one chooses. Examples of such jobs include: Typists, Computer operators, Computer technicians, System analysts, Computer programmers, Software engineers, Computer engineers, Database administrators, Website masters, Graphic designers, IT Teachers, etc.
The adoption of the new and emerging CAI and CAL technologies by schools and classrooms offers even more reasons to be hopeful. With sufficient access and support, teachers are able to; help their students comprehend difficult-to-understand concepts through computer based simulations; provide their students with access to information and resources; and better meet their students’ individual needs. If we take advantage of the opportunities presented to us, technology will enhance learning and improve student achievement for all students.
But the main argument used by parents, teachers, and policy makers who oppose CAI and CAL is that the money that schools spend on computers could be better used for other things, primarily hiring more teachers. However, the fundamental dilemma of computer-based instruction and other IT-based educational technologies is that their cost-effectiveness compared to other forms of instruction— for example, smaller class sizes, self-paced learning, peer teaching, small group learning, innovative curricula, and in-class tutors—has never been proven.
With computer studies, a student gets to acquire the following skills:
- Technology Skills: Nearly all students will be faced with the need for technology skills when they go to university or enter the workforce.
- Keyboarding Classes: Students learn at a young age how to use computers to generate reports, type essays and research homework assignments.
- Career Preparation: Computer skills learned in school will benefit students during higher education courses and their careers. Students as young as 12 learn how to create Electronic Spreadsheets, Power Point presentations, Databases and Website Design.
- Online Access: By learning how to use computers, students even in low-income areas have access to the world at large.
- Adult Learning: Students who are introduced to computer courses at an early age adapt quickly to advances in technology, and typically do not fear additional training and new concepts as adult learners.
The computer also has its negative side. The rise of cyber-crime, the presence of computer viruses which lead to loss of data, the use of chat rooms and social networks for indecent discussion, computer addiction and certain websites, which deal in pornographic material have been noticed. But the advantages and importance outweigh the disadvantages. Through computerization, the world has become a global village today.
Finally, I appeal to all of us to positively utilize the computer facilities available to make a positive difference in the world.