The ability to effectively use a computer in day-to-day business is a definite advantage across a large number of different jobs. Computers are used to streamline processes and make people more effective in their jobs and studies. In modern times, computers are used to manage many tasks including communication via emails, recording data in Microsoft Excel, writing reports in Microsoft Word and researching on the internet. This is by no means a complete list, the uses for computers and the associated technologies are endless. Developing computer skills while still in high school will be advantageous no matter what you go on to pursue after high school. Often, the introduction given in Grade 8 and Grade 9 Information Technology (IT) is not sufficient to be familiar enough with computers, which leads many students to consider taking Computer Applications Technology as subject in Grade 10 through to matric. This article will help to break down what CAT is, what you will learn in CAT, and the uses of CAT after high school.
What is Computer Applications Technology?
Computer Applications Technology, usually referred to as CAT, is a high school subject option for Grade 10 to Grade 12 that teaches students about the various components involved in computer systems, as well as an introduction into how to use computers effectively in every day situations. These solutions to every day problems are achieved using applications (software) installed on the computers (hardware). CAT therefore teaches students about both the hardware and software involved in computing, as well as all of the associated mechanisms that enable computers to be so useful. CAT is a very practical subject that will be useful for both entering the workforce after high school and tertiary studies. It is often compared to the other computer-based high school subject on offer for Grade 10 – Grade 12, Information Technology (IT). IT focuses more on programming and installing and fixing hardware and software, whereas CAT provides a more general instruction on how to solve every day problems using computers and a range of useful software that is often encountered.
What do you learn in CAT?
The primary learning outcome for CAT is to help students to develop their computing skills so that they can effectively use a computer in a future career or further studies. This learning outcome is achieved through a number of different topics that are relevant to developing computing skills. The general curriculum outlining the major topics is given below:
- Solution Development – This involves learning how to use certain computer programs that are common in the workplace and commonly used by students pursuing tertiary education. Students are taught to use programs such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, email applications, and internet applications used for surfing the web.
- Systems Technologies – Students are taught to understand how information and communication technologies (ICTs) make up a computing system. ICTs represent the entire system that makes up a computing system, including the network, hardware, software, managing and processing data etc.
- Internet Technologies – In this topic, students are taught how to use the internet for research as well as the role the internet plays in the transfer of data around the world. Being able to use the internet efficiently can be a tremendous advantage in a career or in tertiary studies.
- Network Technologies – This topic teaches the student to understand the technologies and protocols that are involved in the transfer of data through various computer networks. The transfer of data through computers and over the internet is a complex and confusing process, so this topic tries to simplify how this works.
- Information Management – With such a large amount of data available on the internet, it is important to be able to sort through this data to find authentic information. Information Management helps students to be able to determine what information is valuable, and then how to interpret that information and draw relevant conclusions. Finally, the student is then taught how to present their findings in an efficient and useful way.
- Social Implications – This is a topic that helps students to understand the implications that computer technologies have through society. Specifically, the topic is designed to explain the legal, ethical, social and security issues surrounding computers and the internet. It is important to understand the role that computer technology plays in modern society, and to use this technology responsibly.
Simply learning about the tools and methods used in computing is not the only objective in Computer Applications Technology. There is also an emphasis on trying to develop the student in other ways that will be beneficial when engaging with computer tasks in a job or in a tertiary institution. In particular, students are often put in groups to work on projects in CAT as this helps to develop leadership, management and collaboration skills, all of which are useful ‘soft skills’ that are valuable when working or pursuing further studies.
What study opportunities are there with CAT as a subject?
When it comes to study opportunities after high school, CAT is useful in many different fields. While it does not lead you towards a particular study path, it is useful across the board. Almost all tertiary studies will involve some form of computer interaction. To give a few examples, tertiary studies will usually involve report or essay writing, using more advanced software for things like engineering or accounting, researching on the web, creating slideshow presentations etc.
If you are pursuing a career straight after high school instead of tertiary studies, the likelihood is that you will have to operate a computer in some way. This might be through communications in emails or recording data or countless other tasks. Whatever the nature of the task, CAT can be beneficial, particularly if you do not already encounter computers and computer related tasks in your every day life.
If you are considering a degree such as Computer Science, where there will be extensive programming and more advanced use of computers, then consider taking Information Technology (IT) as opposed to CAT as a high school subject, as IT focuses more on programming and other topics that are more relevant to computer based qualifications.