That Blue Square Thing

Applied ICT A Level Unit 1 - ICT and Society

Note: this page applies to the AQA Applied ICT A level specification. This exam was withdrawn in 2012, with final exams in 2013. The content will be retained as an archive and because it has some stuff that might be quite useful for someone or other

Mobile phone imageBlock One - Where are we? Where have we been? Where are we going?

This block deals with how ICT systems have developed and how they may develop in the future. The key objectives are to:

ICT Past:

How did people use ICT in the past? When did we start to develop ICT in the ways we think about it today? What did people do before that?

PDF icon ICT in the Past - slides from the presentation introducing how ICT technologies have changed

PDF icon ICT technology developments - handout listing selected ICT technological developments for research in class

PDF iconStorage media and change - as an example to remind you of how fast change has taken place

PDF icon Wikipedia as a research source - a simple presentation introducing some of the issues

ICT Present:

ICT is all around it in our everyday lives. We're surrounded by networks - and increasingly dependent upon them. How do we use ICT in an "average" day?

The following extract is taken from a popular novel published in 2005. It demonstrates how mainstream computing has, arguably, become:

At lunchtime Salander booted up her iBook and opened Eudora to write an email. She typed: “Have you got time?” She signed it Wasp and sent it to the address <>. To be on the safe side, she ran the message through her PGP encryption program.
Larsson.S (2005) The girl with the dragon tatoo London: MacLehose, p.93
PDF icon ICT in the Present - presentation slides

PDF icon An average day - handout with the details of an "average" day in an ICT rich environment

The ICT uses in the average day text often use hidden computing. These are increasingly uses which we take for granted.

They breakdown into two main categories:

  • uses which involve ICT being used to monitor and/or control the environment
  • uses which provide information to people

It's important to have a basic understanding of the differences between these two types of use. Some examples may help:

Central Heating Thermostat:

You probably have a central heating system at home. There is likely to be a thermostat on a wall somewhere - a dial or set of buttons which you can use to adjust the temperature in the house. This works by a thermometer taking the temperature regularly. If the temperature is colder than the setting on the thermostat then the heating is turned on and the house warms up. By constantly taking the temperature the heating can be turned off when the house gets warm enough, which results in the house being kept warm but not too hot.

This is an example of monitoring and controlling using ICT - the thermometer monitors the temperature and controls when the heating comes on. If the thermostat displays the temperature (say on a digital display) then this can also be an example of information provision, but usually thermostats are seen as an example of monitoring and controlling.

Nursery Admin Computer:

Nurseries (and schools) keep records of children, including records of who has attended on any specific day. This is an example of information being provided. Someone has to enter information onto the system and can find specific information, e.g. a parents phone number, by interrogating the system. The system doesn't monitor where children are by itself - it can't "see" which children are in the building somehow - and it can't control what children do (not yet anyway...).

Electronic Tagging of the Elderly:

It has been proposed (see this Guardian article, for exampleexternal link) that vulnerable elderly people could be tracked using electronic tags, in the same ways in which offenders are sometimes tagged. This would allow their location to be monitored to ensure that people with, say, dementia were less likely to harm themselves. This would usually involve monitoring using ICT, although the information might be displayed for the use of someone (or an alert could be sounded if the wearer left a set area or was still for too long) so information provision could be part of this use.

Of course, it might also be useful to monitor the location of other groups of people - perhaps parents might like to track their children?

Why do you need to understand this? The information you need to write for your exam in this unit needs to concentrate on examples of ICT which deal with information. Exam papers will specifically say that "reference to control technology will not be awarded any marks". So you need to know the difference really...

ICT Future:

How might ICT develop in the future? What is this "Internet of things" all about? Will we have Smart Homes which respond to our wishes without the hassle of flicking switches? Will the fridge do the shopping? And when will I get my personal aerocar like in the Jetsons?

PDF icon ICT in the Future - presentation slides

PDF icon A Future House - an example of the ways we may use ICT in the future

PDF icon Future technology - a research framework

MS Word icon Future technology - a Word version of the same document for completion

You should probably look at That Blue Square Blog for all the really good other A Level stuff.