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Glossary of Terms


AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication )

All communication which supplements or augments speech, including words, sign systems and written symbols. The user indicates the symbol required from a book, chart or electronic aid to express what he wants to communicate. It attempts to provide those with severe expressive disorders with an efficient communication system.



Known as the National Association for Co-ordinators and Teachers of IT but for historical reasons continues to use the logo ACITT. The Association's aims are to advance for the public benefit by promoting and assisting in the promotion of the teaching and co-ordination of IT in schools.


Adventure Game

A game which allows the exploration of a scenario or story in which the player is an 'adventurer'. Adventure programs used to be in text form only, often with long narrative descriptions, but now have incorporated graphics. Some adventure games have graphics only. The user is encouraged to make decisions based on a limited set of rules predetermined by the author of the program. The outcome of the game will be determined by any decisions made.



The use to which a computer program is put. An application package is a program (and associated documentation) to carry out a particular task, such as word-processing or stock control.



Archie is an indexing tool for FTP archives. Archie servers allow users to track down files (software) available publicly anywhere on any anonymous server on the Internet. There are many Archie servers in the world. Archie does a string search on the filename index.



Storing old files which cannot be discarded but are taking up valuable space on a hard disc. This often involves backing up/saving to a separate hard disc, floppy disc or optical disc.


ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency network)

A system developed by the American defence industry in the 1960's as the first resilient large-scale packet switched network - a precursor to the Internet.


ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)

(pronounced ass-key). A method of encoding the letters, numbers and special characters used in computing as integers between 0 and 127. Thus, for example, the letter A is coded as 65. An ASCII file is a plain text file which contains no codes specific to the software the file was created with.


ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode)

A high-speed switching technology that uses short fix-length packets called cells to convey video, voice and data. Fixed-length packets make processing simpler, quicker and predictable, which is essential for time-sensitive services such as voice and data.



A narrow range of technologies combining a live voice link with a shared screen for computer graphics, real-time drawing or pre-prepared material. It has never become truly widespread partly due to ISDN.


The main type of component channel of ISDN services, used for carrying data or voice (B stands for bearer). Basic Rate ISDN consists of two B-channels and one D Channel. Primary Rate ISDN consists of 30 B-channels plus one D-channel. A B-channel has a bit rate of 64 Kbits/sec.


Back up

To make a duplicate copy of the contents of a computer held data set, software application , or individual files, (usually on a hard disc backed up to a floppy disc or tape). A back-up should be made regularly and stored away from the original, for reasons of safety and security.



The range of signal frequencies to indicate how much data can pass along a channel at one time. Broadband networks, the basis of the information superhighway, allows video signals to pass at high speed; narrowband tend to be text-only and are slower. For example, voice over the telephone network requires a bandwidth of 3 kHz, while uncompressed video requires a bandwidth of 6 MHz.


Bar Code

An arrangement of vertical lines of varying thickness with spaces in between. The spacing and line thickness represent a numeric code. A scanner is used to read the data. Most commonly used in the retail business, barcodes can also be used for educational purposes, e.g. A tutor can generate a bar code as part of a work card which can be used to pick out a snippet from an interactive video.


BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code)

One of the easiest languages for writing programs. Many computers come supplied with a version of BASIC.



A unit of data transfer speed ('Baud rate'). One baud equals one bit in most instances and is measured in bits (or Kbytes) per second. A baud, is one single event per second, therefore it can also be a character, digit or byte.


Binary (branching or decision) tree

The sorting of objects by asking questions which can only be answered 'yes' or 'no' will produce a binary tree. Objects for which the answer is 'yes' are put into one group and those for which the answer is 'no' are put into another. This process continues until each object has been individually identified.



A BInary digiT: the 'quantum' of information. The smallest unit of computer information, equal to either of the digits 0 or 1. A bit has only two values, on or off.


Bit rate

The number of bits per second in a bit stream. For example, the bit rate of widely used modems is in the range 300 to 28800 bits per second. A bit rate of an ISDN B-channel is 64000 bits per second.



When using the Internet, this is a method of saving addresses (URLs) of sites or pages that you frequently visit in a list. Internet Browsers such as Internet Explorer and Netscape use the concept of a bookmark. Some packages (e.g. Mosaic) use the term 'hotlist' instead.


Boolean operator (also known as Logical operator)

An operator which defines a logical relationship between two conditions. This relationship can be 'AND' 'OR' or 'NOT'.


Braille notebook

A portable computer in which the user keys in Braille. The output can be printed either as raised dots or regular text format.


Branching or (decision) tree - see Binary (branching or decision) tree



The informal meaning is 'faster than commonly occurring networks', and so the actual meaning depends on what is commonly occurring at the time. A modern approach is to regard broadband as starting at 34 Mbits/sec - under this classification, all commonly occurring local area networks (such as Ethernet) are narrowband.



A client program used to search and retrieve information. Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer are browsers which you can 'point' at URLs.



An error or fault in computer software, which causes it to malfunction.


Bulletin Board System (BBS)

Software which allows callers to exchange information electronically (read and write messages, store and retrieve files and generally communicate with other users and (often) other computers both internally within an organisation and outside). It differs from e-mail in that all messages posted can be read by all users (i.e. an electronic equivalent to a notice-board).



A unit of information equal to eight bits. Usually each byte stores one character

CableTeleVision (CATV)

The distribution of television in defined areas by the use of cable buried in ducts in the ground


CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design Computer Aided Manufacturing)

Drafting and design through the aid of a computer which can handle technical geometric detail. It allows the use to manipulate drawings and view them from all angles. CAM is a general term for computer support during the manufacturing process.



Circuit boards that plug into computers to provide new functions, such as sound and video input and output.


Carroll diagram

This is named after the author Lewis Carroll and is a simple way of sorting objects. The simplest diagram might only contain two boxes, one of which is labelled RED and the other NOT RED. More commonly, Carroll diagrams comprise four boxes arranged in two columns and two rows, the columns being allocated to the positive and negative of one property, e.g. RED and NOT RED, and the rows allocated to the positive and negative of another property, e.g. CIRCULAR and NOT CIRCULAR.


CCITT (Comité Consultatif International Télégraphique et Téléphonique) see ITU


CCTV (Closed Circuit Television)

Television which only broadcasts signals to a small, limited number of receivers that are linked by cable to a central point.


CD-ROM (Compact Disc Read-Only Memory)

A storage medium which resembles the 12cm audio CD, but contains a range of data types, e.g. words, graphics and sound rather than simply sound. CD-ROMs have a vast storage capacity (up to 250,000 pages of text) and require a specific CD-ROM drive which may be built into the computer or available as a separate item.


CDI (Compact Disc Interactive)

A machine which allows the user to access a CD-ROM without needing a separate computer system


CGS (Colour Graphics Adapter)

One of the earlier IBM standards for displaying colour information on a VDU.


Chat Mode

Where a BBS, using Internet relay chat (IRC) is used to host a live discussion between simultaneous users on a computer. Users type what they wish to say at the keyboard and see the conversation develop on the screen.



In the context of 'client-server' programs, a client is the software on the user's computer which sends commands to the server. The server program carries out the activities that the client software specifies and sends the output, e.g. information or a file back to the client program. Gopher, WAIS, WWW and ftp all have clients that the user runs on their computer in order to talk to the servers.


Clip Art

A library of freely copiable pictures (i.e. usually copyright free) stored on computer disc or CD-ROM, useful for importing into art, multimedia or desktop published files.


CMC (Computer Mediated Communications)

The use of computers to communicate as with computer conferencing and electronic mail.



Short for communications. A term, when used technically, refers to computer systems where one part is linked to another to allow transmission of information over a communications line which can be an ordinary telephone system using a modem, a dedicated fibre optic cable or a satellite.


Communication aid see Electronic communication aid



Pieces of equipment and/or software capable of being used together without special modification or adaptation are termed compatible.



A range of techniques which reduce the amount of space required to store a specific amount of data. There are general compression techniques which apply to any data, but better results are obtained when the compression techniques use characteristics of the particular type of information, such as text, audio, image or video.


Computer conferencing

A development of electronic mail designed for supporting many-to-many communication. Computer conferencing software includes features specifically designed to help in the organisation, storage, structuring and retrieval of messages. In particular, messages can be organised under different topics. Search commands can rapidly identify messages with particular keywords in their titles or in the body of the text. Special commands are available to the person responsible for a conference (the moderator) to assist in defining the membership of the conference, to keep the discussion on track, and to schedule the opening and closing of discussion topics. In some systems, messages can be linked to each other (for example, as comments).


Computer leasing

A financial arrangement with a supplier whereby the customer pays, for example, a monthly fee for the use of computer equipment installed at the customer's premises but owned and maintained by the supplier. Has tax, cash flow and maintenance cost advantages to corporate customers.


Computer program

A set of precise instructions to make a computer perform a particular task or sequence of tasks.


Computer system

A collection of hardware which usually consists of a computer, a monitor, a disc drive and a printer.


Concept ™ keyboard

A particular make of overlay keyboard used to input data into a computer. See also Overlay keyboard



On a BBS, a conference consists of a number of separate topics where each topic contains a number of threads, and each thread is a chain of related messages. A user can read the messages as if following the development of a conversation.



A generic term used to cover various types of system which link people together. The main variants are video conferencing, audio conferencing, audiographic conferencing and computer conferencing. All except the last link people together synchronously - that is, the people are present simultaneously, even if separated by space.


Content free programs

Programs which provide a framework and all necessary tools and utilities for the user, but which of themselves, contain no data until the user enters in their own, e.g. A word processing package, spreadsheet or timetabling software.


Continuing Professional Development (CPD) see INSET


Control interface

A box which has a number of output and input sockets and plugs into a computer. Lights, buzzers and motors are plugged into the output sockets and can be turned on and off by a set of instructions defined by the user. These instructions may respond to environmental changes detected by sensors plugged into the input sockets. See also Control System and Peripherals


Control system

Control systems measure environmental changes and perform actions in response to those changes. They can be dedicated systems like a central heating system, but in school they are likely to consist of a computer, an interface, and output devices such as lights and motors.



A term applied to the way in which computing, telecommunications and, more recently, television are moving towards a common technological basis characterised by the use of digital systems.


CPU (Central Processing Unit)

Generally means the processor inside a PC - the part of a computer system, usually situated on the desktop with the hard disc and linked to various peripheral devices. Often used when referring to the 'box' the monitor sits on.


CWIS (Campus wide information system)


A component channel of ISDN services, used for signalling and control purposes. Basic Rate ISDN consists of two B-channels and one D-channel. Primary Rate ISDN consists of 30 B-channels plus one D-channel. A D-channel has a bit rate of 16 kbits/sec.



Any set of information that has been collected for a purpose. See also Database, Data file



A collection of information that is organised and stored for a purpose. In computer terms, a database is a program which will allow information to be entered, searched, retrieved and presented. See also Data, Data file


Data capture

The gathering of data using, for example, surveys, questionnaires, tape records, interviews, light pens or barcodes.


Data compression see Compression


Data file

A collection of information which has been saved on disc and which can be read into a database program. See also Data, and Database.


Data logging

The use of sensors to measure and record environmental changes, for example the changes in temperature of water in a pond over the period of several hours.


Decision tree see Binary (branching or decision) tree


Dedicated word processor see Word processor


Desktop computer

The traditional office or personal computer. This has three or more parts linked together by cables: the system unit which houses the processor and memory and disc drives; the monitor; a keyboard; and a mouse.


Desktop conferencing

The use of desktop microcomputers for video conferencing. In general, the microcomputers used for this purpose have to be powerful and have a great deal of memory. See Video Conferencing


Desktop publishing (DTP)

A computer application which allows the user to create page layouts which combine words, graphics and images with different sizes and styles of type.



Connection to the Internet or an on-line database over an ordinary telephone line by dialling up a service providers PoP.



The matching of work to the differing capabilities of individuals or groups of pupils in order to extend their learning.


Digital data network

A network specifically designed for the transmission of data, wherever possible in digital form so that people, computers and other devices can communicate, e.g. ISDN


Digitised speech

An electronic way of recording, storing and reproducing human speech, similar to using a tape recorder. Digitised speech is increasingly used in electronic communication aids as well as or in place of synthesised speech. It has advantages over the robotic quality of synthesised speech, although each utterance takes up a great deal of computer memory.


Digitiser see Scanner


Display resolution

The clarity of pictures and letters drawn on a computer screen; often measured in dpi (dots per inch).


Domain Name Systems (DNS)

The Internet is divided up into domains on a hierarchical basis. A domain is an individual network. The domain name system maps Internet protocol addresses to individual computers within the domain. Internet e-mail addresses include dominion name information.


DOS (Disc Operating System)

An operating system designed for the access to the and management of files on a disc-based computer system, e.g. MS-DOS (Microsoft-Disk Operating System), which manages files on a hard disc on a PC.



To obtain data from another computer, electronically. Downloaded information can be incorporated into other files, displayed, printed or saved to disc.


DPI (Dots Per Inch)

Refers to the resolution or quality of display or printed word, often in association with monitors or printers. The higher the dpi the finer the quality.

Electronic mail (E-mail)

This allows users to send and receive printed messages over any distance by using a modem which connects their computers via a telephone line. The messages may contain words and/or graphics.


EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)

A system for exchanging trading information in standard form by computer systems through the use of electronic messaging systems e.g. examination entries, personnel records and transactions between trading partners.


EGA (Enhanced Graphics Adapter)

PC graphics standard which succeeded CGA (Colour Graphics Adapter). Now like CGA, virtually obsolete. See VGA.


Electronic Communication Aid

Used with a computer in order to allow a user to input words or phrases without typing. There are a number of alternative types of aid available but the basic principles remain the same. The front panel of the device has a grid of squares, with letters or symbols on each. The user selects a word or phrase by pressing or pointing to a square or sequence of squares and the text is then displayed on a screen or spoken through a built-in-speaker. Some aids use synthesised speech, in which case the aid recreates the speech from the text typed in. Others use digitised speech, in which case the helper or therapist needs to record the messages first. Some aids are suitable for switch users or head pointers.


Electronic Mail (E-mail)

The electronic transmission and reception of messages and text-based information without the recipient needing to be present at the time of transmission. This allows users to send and receive messages over any distance.


Electronic whiteboard

Originally, a device based on a whiteboard which transmitted pen movements to a pen moving over another whiteboard at the remote end.



A special type of printer that can produce Braille from a computer.



A piece of hardware or software which enables one computer to behave like another.



The most common networking technology used for connecting computers in a local area network enabling rapid transfer of data between machines over twisted pair cable, co-axial or optical fibre.



A popular e-mail reader for Apple Macintosh and PC.


Expanded keyboard

There are a range of expanded or extended keyboards available which can provide extra functionality for the user including additional formatting options, a numeric key pad and the ability to customise key press response times in order that it can be used by someone with specific physical needs.

FAQ (Frequently asked questions)

A document that contains common questions and answers, usually on-line and posted to Usenet lists.


Fax (Facsimile)

A technique for transmitting text and black and white pictures over the telephone network.


Fax Modem

A type of modem which, in addition to its normal data transmission capabilities, handles fax. In conjunction with suitable software, a fax modem allows a microcomputer to operate like a fax machine, in the sense that any electronic document can be 'printed' to the fax modem and thus sent out as a fax. Some fax modems with suitable software allow the receipt of faxes and their display on the computer screen.


Fibre optic cable

Very thin strands of pure glass, used for transmitting high volumes of data at high speed.



The headings under which data is collected, entered and stored in a database.


File Library

A collection of central files. These might be database files, e-mail system files or software files.


File see Data file


File server

In a network, a computer which holds the system software on its hard disc, the most powerful machine in the system. A network may have a number of fileservers storing data of a particular type. Network users can access their own files remotely and interchange information with these central stores.


File transfer

Copying a file from one computer to another


File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

A common method of transferring files from one computer to another over a TCP/IP network. Anonymous ftp is a way of copying files from an ftp server without having an account on the system in your name.



Organised collections of related data. These can be pieces of work created by the user in an application such as a word processor e.g. a document or a spreadsheet of database records. Each file need a unique label (name) in order to accessed.



An Internet application, that can find information about a named user.



A computer configured for security reasons to filer and control network traffic to and from the outside world.



Attacking an author of a Usenet posting in a personal and unpleasant manner.


Floor turtle

A programmable device, sometimes called a floor robot, controlled by Logo or Logo-like languages. The turtle has a pen holder which can be lifted or dropped to trace the turtle's movements on paper.


Floppy disc

A portable, magnetic disc storage device in which the disc is flexible. Usually 3.5 inch disc in a rigid plastic case.



A typestyle. Each font has a name and can be displayed in different sizes. Many fonts are available in different weights and variations, e.g. Times medium, Times bold, Times medium italics and so forth.


Framework Program

A content free program used in conjunction with associated resource packs.


Free text

A 'free text' database is one where the information is stored in normal written form. E.g. a written report could be held full text reflecting the printed version. All words (in fields specified as searchable) can be searched for individually but often controlled vocabulary e.g. keywords are used as well.


Full motion video

A video signal before it has been processed by video compression


A device connecting different networks by carrying out protocol conversion between them. E.g. Typically providing access to a WAN from a LAN environment.


GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)

Digitised pictures are often stored and exchanged in this format, as most popular software can cope with it.


Gigabyte (Gb)

1,024 megabytes or one thousand million



An Internet navigating facility used for accessing Internet resources using a hierarchical menu-based system. You need a Gopher client to connect to a remote server and retrieve the files you request.


Grammar checker

An application usually part of a word processing application, which scans through text on the screen and highlights any word or group of words where the grammar may need correcting. The user is given the option to ignore or correct the text. See also Spellchecker


Graphic calculators

A calculator which enables graphic displays of information on the LCD screen


Graphical User Interface (GUI)

A system such as Microsoft Windows or the Macintosh OS, in which anon-screen cursor is moved, usually with a mouse, and 'clicked' on pictorial representations or icons in order to make the computer perform various instructions (e.g. load a piece of software, open a file)



Graphics are pictures or symbols on a computer screen which may be printed out or saved to disc. See also Images


Graphics card

A board connected to the computer to drive the monitor



Used with an overlay or concept keyboard to separate information or concepts into key-press areas.



A rather vague term covering a range of existing and emerging computer technologies used for computer-supported group interaction. Examples include conferencing (audio, audiographics and video), electronic mail, computer conferencing, scheduling and diary management systems, shared desktop systems and multi-user editors.

Hard disc or disk

A rigid disc, usually made from aluminium, coated with magnetic material and hermetically sealed, and generally fitted internally in a personal computer.



The physical components of a computer or a communications system, including both mechanical and electronic parts: the processor, memory, keyboard, screen, mouse and printer.


Hardware compatibility

Computers that can use the same software because they share or can use the same operating system.


HDTV (High Definition Television)

A concept of higher-definition, wider-screen television, being piloted in a number of countries. HDTV signals require much more bandwidth than conventional TV, but data compression techniques can be applied.


High Density disc (HD)

A disc that is capable of carrying double the data of a normal disc. With 3.5 discs, the high density kind are usually marked HD and have an extra square hole at the opposite corner to the writer protect slider on the back of the disc.



An area of a document which, when the screen pointer is over it (highlighting it), and is clicked, tells the computer to go to another document or web site.



A way of storing frequently visited locations on the WWW (World Wide Web) in a list to aid easy retrieval. Works in the same way as a bookmark. Sometimes called Favourite in some Internet browsers.


HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language)

A language used to create documents on the WWW. HTML files are read by a Web browser which interprets codes determining the format and size of text and where links to other files or web sites are to be placed.



The centre of a star topology network or cabling system whereby each device is directly connected to a central computer.



This is software which allows the user to combine still and moving images, sound, words, graphics, and animation to be presented by a computer. See also Multimedia


A small symbol or picture on the computer screen, for example, representing a computer program or a data file.



Pictures which appear on the computer screen. They may be created by the user using an art package, scanned into the computer using a peripheral called a scanner, digitised using a peripheral called a video digitiser or accessed from an external device like a CD-ROM. See also Graphics.


Information age

A vague term applied to the present time, in which the dominant economic activity is said to be the processing of information, taking over from the processing of physical objects as in previous eras.


Information screens

Screens of information which look like teletext screens. The information can be entered and formatted by the user using a computer program which emulates a teletext system. The screens of information can be accessed in sequence or it is possible for the user to link pages of related information together to allow choices to be made about the order in which screens are read.


Information superhighway

The term 'superhighway' is usually taken to refer to a broadband network capable of transferring very large amounts of information, including video, still images, audio and text, at high speed between users. This has come about through the convergence of telecommunications, broadcasting and information technologies. See also Internet.


Information technology

The application of modern communications and computing technologies to the creation, management and use of information. IT includes, for example, video recorders, CD-ROM, telephones, calculators, and electronic cash tills as well as computers.


Input device

A device which is capable of entering programs and data to a computer system, such as a keyboard, mouse, scanner or microphone.



In-service education and training; the professional training and development of staff (including non-teaching and governors) working in schools. In-service training will continue to play an important part in equipping teachers to meet the challenge of the rapid changes in education and training methods in the years ahead. Also now known as Continuing Professional Development.


Integrated Learning System (ILS)

A computer-based system with a diagnostic capability that monitors and manages the delivery of curriculum material to students so that they are presented with individual programmes of work.


Integrated package

A suite of application programs which have a consistent interface and include a minimum of word-processor, spreadsheet and database, bundled together. Other programs may be included, such as graphics and communication modules. Data can be transferred easily between the applications. The may be parts of a single program or a collection of individual programs. Integrated packages tend to be cheaper and less fully-featured than their individual components when purchased separately.


Interactive Video (IV)

A computer linked by software to a video system which allows the user to control a video disc and explore the information on that disc; choices can be made abut the order in which the exploration takes place.



Equipment or software that enables users to communicate with the 'raw' system they are accessing. E.g. a menu or Windows.


Interface box - see Control Interface



The inter-communicating set of computer networks which provide access to the World Wide Web, on-line databases, file transfer, electronic mail, news and other services. See also Information superhighway


Internet Relay Chat (IRC)

Internet users would wide logged in simultaneously can 'talk' to each other by sending text messages. This is real-time communication, i.e. on a par with normal face-to-face conversation.


Internet Service Provider (ISP)

Internet Service Provider is an organisation with a direct connection to the Internet that provides a connections for other users to the Internet.



Framing a question which will allow you to extract information to answer a particular enquiry. The structure for obtaining the answer will depend on the database being used, but might include searching for particular words, looking for all the entries under a particular field, sorting into order or by carrying out mathematical calculations.


Ion Camera

A still video camera which captures video images as photographs which can then be used with a digitiser to create graphics.


ISDN - Basic Rate

A version of ISDN which allows a total of 144 kbits per second to be transferred between 2 points. This 144Kbits is split into 3 different channels to allow for simultaneous transfer of different types of data.


ISDN - Broadband

A version of ISDN allowing greater data transfer at a faster speed (essential for large data transfer such as video e.g. for video conferencing). Currently defined as 34 Mbits/sec+. It is proposed that Broadband ISDN rates will grow to 150Mbits/sec or 600 Mbits/sec.


ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)

An internationally compatible high speed network allowing the transfer of data between two points. Data may be text, graphics or voice and is transferred in a digital form.


ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation)

The ISO is a voluntary activity of the national standardisation organisations of each member country. ISO has been the primary force is developing the OSI architecture. ISO work closely with ITU in the development of standards.


ITU (International Telecommunications Union)

Previously known as the CCITT, this is part of a special agency of the United Nations with responsibility for standardising international communications systems and services.

JANET (Joint Academic NETwork)

A data communications network linking education and research communities, universities and other tertiary education institutions in the UK. JANET is a component network of the Internet. An upgraded network (SUPERJANET) has recently been implemented.



An input device which has a stick which can move left, right, forwards and backwards to control the movement of a pointer on screen. The stick has a press switch which has the same action as the 'select' switch on a mouse.



A data compression standard designed by the Joint Photographics Experts Group, to store digitised colour and black-and-white photographs.



A searching tool for finding information on specific Gophers. Unlike Veronica it only searches the menu items of a named Gopher. As with Veronica, you can use Boolean logic (such as AND, OR, NOT).



Text is said to be justified when the words line up along a margin. Most text is left justified but may also be justified to the right margin.


Kindergarten to 12th grade: the American primary and secondary sectors of education.



Transmission rate, 1000 bits per second.


Key Stages (KS1-4)

The four stages of pupils' progress in acquiring knowledge and skills as set out the National Curriculum. Pupils are tested at the end of each key stage. KS1 covers pupils between the ages of 5 and 7, KS2 ages 7 to 11, KS3 ages 11-14, KS4 14 to 16.


Key words

These are particularly associated with 'free text' databases. Important words within descriptions are 'tagged' to ease the retrieval of the information. A search using a key word will display each individual record which has been given that particular tag.


Keyboard emulator

A device attached to the computer which enables switch users to use standard software. A grid of numbers, letters, and symbols represents the standard keyboard. The user selects the characters required by scanning the device with the switches and the information is sent to the computer.


Keyboard overlay

A sheet that is placed over the touch-sensitive membrane of an overlay keyboard. The overlays can contain pictures, maps, diagrams, words or objects. Pressing on any part of the overlay causes a message relevant to that area to appear on the computer screen. The messages may already be defined in the software, or they may be defined by the user. Messages may be vocabulary, instructions, questions or information of varying complexity. See also Concept Keyboard, Overlay Keyboard.



A rigid frame place over the keyboard. It is raised above the keys and has holes in it to allow access to the individual keys through the holds. With the keyguard, children with poor fine motor skills may access the keyboard more accurately. An overlay keyguard works in the same way for use with an overlay keyboard.



A touch-sensitive pad which has letters, numbers or symbols on it. With the keypad, the user can give instructions to devices such as programmable toys, floor robots, washing machines and microwave ovens.


Kilobyte (K)

1,024 bytes or one thousand.

Laptop computers

Laptop or 'Notebook' computers are powered by rechargeable batteries and are small enough and light enough to be carried around They usually have a QWERTY keyboard, a fold-up screen and built-in disc drive or hard disc. Some laptop computers can only be used as a word processor.


Lease purchase

A lease whereby the customer has the option or may be obliged, to purchase the leased equipment at the end of a fixed period (typically 2 or 3 years), at its depreciated value. This has the benefit of eventual outright ownership with the associated tax penalties being deferred.


Leased line

A permanent connection over the telephone network to, for example, a Pop Telephone charges are per line rather than per call made. Therefore, regardless of use, the costs are fixed and predictable.


List server

A method of supporting a conferencing system using e-mail. There is no permanent message storage in the conference system. Instead, a message posted to the conference is sent to the list server. The list server then copies the message to every subscriber on its list. Each subscriber finds a copy of all the new conference messages waiting in the mail.


Local Area Network (LAN)

A communications system linking computers within a restricted geographical area such as a building or campus. This also allows computers to share information from a central source.


Logical operator see Boolean operator



Logo is a programming language. The name comes from the Greek 'logos', meaning 'word'. It allows the user to give instructions to a computer in words and numbers rather than codes. In its simplest form (turtle graphics) it allows the user to control the movements of a screen turtle. See also Floor turtle, Screen turtle.



One million bits per second


Megabyte (Mb)

1,024 kilobytes or one million bytes



The storage medium used by computer systems to hold programs and data. Usually RAM (a form of volatile memory, which is erased when the system is switched off) and ROM (which is a form of permanent memory).



A special microphone attached to the computer which acts as a switch triggered by the volume of the sounds that it captures. Using appropriate software, it allows the user's voice or other sounds to control the activity on the screen.


MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)

A device which allows the interchange of signals between a computer and a music synthesiser.


MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)

A standard for e-mail attachments on the Internet


Mini keyboard

A reduced size keyboard with small buttons to represent the keys. Can be useful for those with limited finger movement, e.g. muscular dystrophy



A representation of a real or imagined situation governed by certain rules which are managed by a computer program. The rules or data can be changed by the user and the outcome of the changes can be viewed on the computer screen. See also Adventure game, Simulation.


Modem (MODulator-dEMulator)

A modem converts computer information into a form which can be transmitted via a telephone line and vice versa. See also Electronic mail.



The screen used with a computer, also known as a VDU (visual display unit)



A peripheral which may be attached to the computer and is used as a tool for pointing to objects on the screen, for accessing menus within software packages or for highlighting and moving words or other objects around the screen.


Mouse pen

An input device that is shaped like a thick pen and has a ball on the end. It behaves in the same way as a mouse when run over a surface.



A standard drawn up by the Moving Photographic Experts Group for storing digitised video in compressed form.


MS-DOS (Microsoft Disc Operating System)

The most common operating system used with PC-compatible microcomputers.


MUD (Multi-User Dungeon/Dialogue/Dimension)

An interactive games environment allowing role play, e.g. on the Internet



A combination of hardware which accesses moving images, graphics, words and sound controlled by a computer. See also Hypermedia.


Multimedia PC (MPC)

A personal computer designed with built-in facilities for high quality graphics, text, video and sound and capable of interfacing with a variety of input-output devices

National Centre for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)


National Curriculum

The programmes of study laid down by law for all pupils aged from 5-16 in state schools


National Research and Education Network (NREN)

The proposed broadband successor to the Internet in the USA.



An electronic communications system that links computers, computer systems and peripherals such as file servers and printers.


Network News Transport Protocol (NNTP)

A method of retrieving a batch of articles from Usenet.



A Usenet bulletin board topic such as films, recipes, or education



This term is used to describe the most recent full size laptop computers. They are lighter and thinner than earlier models.


Office for Standards in Education: a non-ministerial government department established in 1992 to keep the Secretary of State informed about the standards and management of schools in England and to establish and monitor an independent inspection system for maintained schools in England.


On-line database

A remote database which can be accessed using a modem via a telephone line. See also Data, Database, Data file.


On-line service

A service, often but not always an electronic mail or database service, that is accessed remotely via telecommunication links.


Operating System (OS)

The software usually held on a ROM chip or loaded in from a disc, that provides all of the basic control functions to supervise the computer system. Not all computers use the same operating system.


Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

A type of scanner where light source and photo cell recognise patterns of dark and light on a sheet and can convert printed text to computer held text.


Optical head pointer

An input device which allows the user to control the computer with a pointer attached to a headband


Optical Mark Reader (OMR)

A scanner which can detect straight marks in given places on a sheet e.g. a completed multiple choice test or lottery ticket, and convert them to computer held data.



A development of the PC-DOS operating system for IBM PCs and compatible microcomputers using more powerful microprocessors than the original Intel 8086.


OSI (Open System Interconnection)

Standards relating to protocols allowing different communication systems to be linked together. Standardised by ISO.


Overlay keyboard

A flat, touch-sensitive surface on which paper overlays containing words, pictures or objects can be placed. The keyboard is used as a replacement or accompaniment to the conventional keyboard. See also QWERTY keyboard, Concept keyboard


Overlay see Keyboard overlay



A suite of related pre-written computer programs designed for a particular application or job, such as word processing or accounts. Software plus manuals.


Packet switching

A data transmission method that breaks down a flow of data into smaller units called packets. These are individually addressed and routed through a network. Advanced countries have at least one publicly available packet switching network. E.g. ATM or X-25.


Palmtop computer

Pocket-sized hand-held computer with a screen in a folding lid. The keyboards are very small and the screens less than half the size of a portable. Many models include a plastic 'stick' for the user to point at facilities they wish to use.



A device which can be plugged into the computer to perform some additional function, for example, a disc drive, a printer or an overlay keyboard.


Perkins Brailler

A machine for writing in Braille


Personal Computer (PC)

A computer designed to be used by an individual user rather than by several users at any one time.



An output device which draws on paper or film with pens usually to produce graphics.


Point to point

A term used to describe a data channel which connects two, and only two, terminals


Pop (Point of Presence)

A location and telephone number provided by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for local dial-up access to the Internet by users. The more PoPs in the country, the more likely a user is to pay only local call rates when connected to the Internet. (Do not confuse with POP, which stands for Post Office Protocol).


POP (Post Office Protocol)

POP2 and POP3 are e-mail standards.



An interface between the central processing unit and any peripheral devices.


Portable computer

A generic term covering all kinds of personal computers which are light enough to carry with one hand. These range from briefcase-size laptops, through telephone directory size notebook computers to palmtops.


PPP (Point to Point Protocol)

Permits interactive TCP/IP over telephone lines where Ethernet is not available, as if your computer was part of the host network. More sophisticated and more efficient than SLIP.


Predictive typing utility

Software which will attempt to anticipate words as text is entered into the computer. A useful utility for those who have difficulty with typing or spelling. Sometimes called predictive word processor.



A peripheral device used to obtain hard copy (paper copy) from a computer. Various types are available, each offering different price/quality options. Bubble or inkjet printers squirt or squeeze ink through pins and a laser printer works in a similar way to a photocopies. Dot matrix printers produce output by firing pins against an inked ribbon.



Ordered and structured commands to perform a particular task. For example a Logo procedure for turning two lights on and off, might be TURNON 1, WAIT 10, TURNOFF 1, WAIT 10, TURNON 2, WAIT 10, TURNOFF 2.



Instructions written for use by a computer.


Programmable toys

Toys which will obey a sequence of stored instructions entered by the user through a keypad. See also Floor turtle, Robot.


Programming language

An artificial language constructed to enable the user to communicate with a computer. The most common programming languages used in schools are Logo and BASIC.


Project Gutenberg

This project aims to encourage the creation and distribution of electronic text, particularly books.



A set of rules or procedures usually formally governed by an international standard, e.g. File Transfer Protocol, for using a system, e.g. a data communications network.


PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network)

The traditional analogue telephone network.


Public Telephone Operator (PTO)

BT, cable companies, etc.



A standard computer keyboard with keys laid out in the same order as a traditional typewriter. The first size keys in the top left-hand corner spell QWERTY.


QWERTY keyboard

A computer keyboard with keys laid out in the same order as a traditional typewriter (i.e., the first six keys in the top left-hand corner spell QWERTY.) See also Overlay keyboard.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

The memory used whilst executing a program, e.g. Word Processing. IT can both read and write (record) information but when the power is removed from RAM, its contents are lost.



A device that extends the maximum length of transmission line that can be used in a single network. They are used frequently over long distance telephone lines.


Request for Comment (RFC)

A set of Internet documents dealing with standards and proposals.



The 'calling back' into the computer's memory of data which has been previously entered and stored. This may be done by simply browsing through each entry or by a planned and structured search strategy.



A mechanical device which can be programmed by the user to follow a sequence of commands. See also Floor turtle, Programmable toys.


ROM (Read only Memory)

A form of memory whose contents are permanent, cannot be altered and does not lose data when the power is switched off. Used by hardware manufacturers to incorporate into programs and data that must be permanently available. One advantage of applications in ROM is that they cannot be accidentally deleted or corrupted.



A piece of hardware or a software routine that chooses which routes by which information should travel through a network.



The selection of a communications path for the transmission of information from source to destination. A router is a piece of hardware connecting networks, for example, a LAN to a WAN. Routers enable the networks on the Internet to communicate with each other and for messages to pass over it.

Satellite TV

A satellite can be used to relay telecommunications and TV broadcasts throughout the world. In order to receive programmes you need a satellite dish, a satellite receiver and a television set.



A peripheral which reads across a paper image and produces a signal which can be interpreted by a computer program to reproduce that image on the computer screen.



A selection method whereby pictures, words, symbols are presented on a grid; the highlight or selector moves from item to item and the user selects the item required by pressing a switch.


Screen saver

A facility to switch a computer screen off or alter the display if the keyboard or mouse has not been used for a while. Used to prevent the current image on the screen from being etched onto the screen, which can happen if it is left on for an extend period of time. The essence of screen saving is that nothing should stay in one place on the screen for any length of time.


Screen turtle

A representation of the floor turtle but shown on a computer screen. The screen turtle can be shaped like an arrowhead, a turtle or other user-defined shape. Referred to in Technology in the National Curriculum as a 'screen image'. See also Floor turtle, Logo.



To move through a document or window to view or access its contents.


SCI card (Small Computer Systems Interface card)

This card provides the computer with the standard (SCSI) used to connect high speed peripherals such as hard disks to personal computers.



Searching a database allows the user to specify which data is called back into the computer's memory and also the format in which the information is displayed on a screen.

Also refers to action required to find information on remote systems such as the Internet.



Special Educational Needs



A device used to measure environmental changes such as light, temperature and movement. Sensors may be connected to control interfaces or data-logging devices. See also Control interface, Control system.


Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP)

Permits interactive TCP/IP over telephone lines where Ethernet is not available, as if your computer was a part of the host network. Simpler and slower than PPP.



A computer system that provides a particular service to devices on a network. E.g. File server. In the context of the client-server model, a server is the software on a remote computer servicing the client with the resources the client requests.



Software that is obtained outside normal distribution channels. It may be freely available over the Internet (public domain software), or developers may ask for a fee.


Sign Language

Language that uses manual gestures rather than speech.



A pre-defined computer model of a situation which may allow the user to try different strategies and see what happens as a result. See also Adventure game, Model.


SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)

A standard on the Internet for electronic mail



Braille output provided by a computer attachment which uses small pins to produce Braille characters.



A generic term for all computer programs associated with a computer system. Software falls into two major types, applications programs such as word processors, spreadsheets and databases. And systems programs such as MS-DOS, Windows. In addition to these there are Utility programs.


Software compatibility

The ability of packages to work with one another.


Software upgrades

An improved version of a piece of software which is made available to existing users at a lower price than is charged to new users. Usually identified by a later version number or decimal e.g. 1.1, 1.2, 13., 3.0


Sound Card

A printed circuit board that can be plugged into a slot in the motherboard of a computer to expand its capabilities and allow sound output. Sometimes referred to as a Sound board.



A printed circuit board that can be plugged into a slot in the motherboard of a computer to expand its capabilities and allow sound output.


Speech synthesiser

A device that can be used with a computer to speak the text on the screen. Uses synthesised speech.



An electronic dictionary, usually part of a word processing application, which scans through text on the screen and highlights any word it does not recognise. The writer is given the option to correct, ignore or add the word to the dictionary. The spell check can be set to offer alternative spellings to the writer. See also Grammar checker.



A computer program which allows words and figures to be entered into cells on a grid format. Cells can be linked by formulae so that altering numbers in individual cells will produce an alternative set of results. Spreadsheets may be used to model situations whose rules are governed by mathematical relationships such as numerical series like the Fibonacci series or the management of a budget account.



A picture file. Many art packages save work produced on them as sprites. Some clip art is also saved the same way.


Standard keyboard

A keyboard with keys laid out in the same order as a traditional typewriter. See QWERTY.



The upgrade to the existing JANET network used by UK universities for high speed data traffic, including video and sound.


SVGA (Super Video Graphics Array)

An IBM graphics standard which superseded VGA.



An input device which at any time can be in one of two states, on or off. Where the child's physical movement is impaired, switches may be required to operate the computer. Many switches have been designed to meet the particular needs of disabled people.


Switch Interface box

A box with sockets into which switches can be connected which can in turn be attached to a computer.


Synthesised speech

Electronic speech produced by a computer or speech synthesiser from text rather than from a real voice. The vocabulary that can be spoken is not limited to the available memory as with digitised speech, but the accuracy and clarity of the speech may be affected, as the computer pronounces speech according to a set of rules stored inside the computer. Often you can adjust the spelling of a word to improve its pronunciation.


System unit

Usually taken to mean the box that houses the processing unit, the motherboard, expansion slots, hard disc and floppy disc(s) units, etc. Everything except the keyboard, mouse and screen. The same thing is often referred to as a CPU (Central Processing Unit).

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)

A collection of networking standards which underpin the Internet, enabling different computers to communicate.



A system which uses telephone lines, cables or satellite signals to transmit and receive images, sounds and words, for example, the transmission of a fax between two schools.



An ordered and structured system for displaying a limited number of information screens on a video or television monitor which has been adapted to receive this information. The two best known systems are those used by the BBC and ITV companies: CEEFAX and ORACLE. These systems allow users to make limited choices about the order in which they view the screens. See also Viewdata.



A protocol enabling a user to log on to other computers, usually over the Internet.


Terminal adapter

Interface equipment between a computer and an ISDN line (the equivalent of a modem).



The component at the end of a cable segment


Text manipulation program

A term increasingly used to embrace programs which allow the manipulation, storage, retrieval and printing of words, graphics and images. See also Desk-top publishing and Word Processor.


Touch screen

A frame attached to the front of the computer monitor; infra-red beams cross in front of the screen and touching the screen breaks the beam. The computer turns this interruption into a change on the screen.


Touch window

A clear plastic touch-sensitive membrane in a plastic frame which can be attached to the computer monitor. The computer can be operated by touching the clear surface.



An alternative pointing device frequently used in place of a mouse. The device is rather like an upside-down mouse and the user moves the ball which in turn moves the pointer on the screen. Selections is made by pressing the buttons on the device which is especially suited to pupils who find small hand movements difficult.


Turtle graphics

Diagrams drawn by a screen turtle controlled using Logo or a Logo-like program. It is also called 'turtle geometry' since it allows the user to explore shape, space and angle of turn.


Turtle see Floor Turtle


To transfer data from a smaller computer (such as a PC) to a more powerful one (such as a mainframe), also the transfer to data from a storage medium (floppy disc or CD-ROM) to a computer. It is the reverse of downloading.


URL (Uniform Resource Locator)

A unique reference locating a file on the WWW - the Lewisham Council's for instance is:




A world-wide news and message network


Usenet newsgroup

A collection of Usenet messages on a single subject


User Group

A collection of like-minded people who get together to discuss a particular product or technology. Each of the main computer manufacturers has one or more associated user groups.


Utility programs

Programs, usually small, which are designed to perform a single routine task. Either on whole files, such as copying, deleting and sorting files or as an extra bolt-on piece of software which extends a certain facility on an applications package.


UUCP (Unix-to-UNIX Copy Protocol)

Method of exchanging batches of news and mail with another computer, said to be dying out in favour of TCP/IP methods like SLIP and PPP.


The ITU standard for 2,400 bits/sec modems



The ITU standard for 14,400 bits/sec modems



The ITU standard for 28,800 bits/sec modems.


VDU (Visual Display Unit)

The monitor or screen part of a computer.


Veronica (Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Netwide Index to Computerised Archives)

A server which maintains an index of Gopher servers and can be searched using any Gopher client. It returns search results as a menu which allows direct access by clicking on the desired filename.


Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT)

A satellite system (for voice, data, or video) where the satellite dish is less than about 3 metres in diameter. VSATs are a type of downlink but may also have uplink capability.


VGA (Video Graphics Adapter)

An IBM standard for displaying information on a VDU which is the base standard for PC colour monitor displays.


Video clip

A short segment of video such as might be used in a video message or retrieved from a database


Video conferencing

This involves the use of video links to hold meetings between people who are in different locations. For example, students at remote sites see and hear the lecturer on several monitors positioned around the room. Using a telephone they can ask questions of the remote lecturer.


Video digitiser

A device which converts a video image into a form which can be stored and displayed on a computer screen.


Video telephony

This is a term similar to video conferencing. However, the general emphasis is different: video conferencing relates to the transmission of video between more than two sites, with several people a each site using large screens. Video telephony is rather the transmission of video between two sites, with one person at each site using a product not unrelated to a conventional telephone but with a small screen. This description is of the ideal system; in practice the terms are not clearly differentiated.



A generic term for a service concerned with the transmission of pages of data over telephone lines and their display on modified TV equipment. The service has different names in different countries - Prestel in the UK, Minitel in France. It is far more widespread in France than in the UK.



An interactive system using electronic information services that link remote computer databases to terminals by telephone lines, for example, a travel agent booking system. Viewdata software enables the user to construct a branching database which can be searched through the use of menus. See also Database, Electronic Mail, Teletext.



A program written with the deliberate intention of corrupting files which stores and sometimes replicates itself without the user's knowledge.

WAN (Wide Area Network)

As opposed to a local area network, which links computers at the same site, a WAN links computers over a large geographical area, including telecommunication links e.g. satellites.


Wide Area Information Service (WAIS)

A full text indexing tool for building keyword-searchable database servers.



A graphical user interface (GUI) between the applications and the operating system, developed by Microsoft, for IBM-compatible personal computers (MS-DOS/PC-DOS based systems).


Word processor

A program for computer-aided writing, editing, storage, revision and printing of words.


World Wide Web (WWW)

Also know as the WWW, W3 or simply the Web. A distributed information service on the Internet based around on-line hypertext HTML documents accessed using a Web Browser like Netscape or Internet Explorer. The system was developed by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, Europe's centre for research into particle physics in Switzerland.


WORM (Write Once Read Many)

This refers to optical discs on which information can not be erased or amended once it has been recorded.


Write Protect

To render a disc read-only so that its contents cannot be altered or erased, usually by moving a notch on the disc casing.


WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)

I t applies to programs that accurately represent on the screen the appearance of the final printed output.


A ITU international standard for public packet switched networks.



An ITU international standard for electronic mail.