Where to find ITGS news articles

News articles are one of the foundations of ITGS: a great source of discussion material, a way of keeping up to date with the latest developments, and now a key part of the paper 2 exam. In theory, finding ITGS news articles should be easy - we now have access to so many different newspapers, websites, and social media feeds. However, finding articles that clearly present social and ethical issues, relate specifically to information technology, and are written in a clear and engaging way suitable for international students is not always easy. Here is a list of my favourite sites that meet these criteria.

Do you have a suggestion for another ITGS news site? Please do add a comment at the bottom of this post.

The Atlantic
The Atlantic is one of my favourite sites for ITGS news articles. Its articles are longer than many other sites on this list, but also more detailed and often explain how IT systems work in a way that is perfect for strand 3 of the ITGS triangle.

The BBC seems to be the go-to example in lists like this. Its articles are always well researched and clearly written, and short enough for reading in ITGS class. However, it is worth bearing in mind that a lot of its articles focus on new product releases or similar events which do not tend to generate the social and ethical issues necessary for ITGS analysis.

New Scientist
New Scientist contains a wide range of articles on the latest IT developments, from computer crime to humanoids. Their topic guides include 60 Seconds - a short round up of stories from the past week. Some articles require a subsription to view in full, but many are free.

Communications of the ACM
The ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) covers a wide range of topics that relate directly to ITGS. Although quite long, the articles are clearly written and give enough technical detail to help students understand how the IT systems involved work - great for understanding strand 3, criterion B on paper 2, and ITGS in general.

MIT Technology Review
The Computing section of Technology Review contains the news articles most likely to be relevant to ITGS students and teachers, but it is also worth periodically checking others sections such as biomedicine too. Because the site focuses on upcoming technology and innovative research (often covering stories long before they appear on other sites), it is great for ethical discussions about the direction of technological development.

EdTech Magazine
EdTech features a great range of articles on the development and use of information technology in education. Their particular focus on social impacts makes them very useful for ITGS. In particular, the K-12 section of the site is useful for classroom discussion material.


PBS Frontline
PBS covers many contemporary news stories, some of which link up with the ITGS syllabus. Recent examples include United States of Secrets, covering US Internet spying, and Generation Like, an investigation into teenagers and social media. The great thing about the PBS stories is their depth: each includes a series of videos and related articles that put the story into context - great for addressing the different strands of the ITGS triangle.

IEEE Spectrum
This is another site I love for articles about leading edge technology articles. IEEE Spectrum has a reputation as a top-quality peer-reviewed publication, yet its articles are generally written in a style that is accessible to most readers. The Robotics and Computing sections are frequently updated and contain a great range of material to stimulate ethical debates in ITGS class.

Wired covers a lot of product releases and similar stories (which are generally not useful for ITGS), but the articles in their security section have a much greater focus on social impacts, making them very useful.

Newsweek features the some useful articles in its technology and science section. Although the articles do not appear as frequently as other sites, the depth of the investigations means they often cover several strands of the ITGS triangle.

News.com Australia
News Corp's Australia portal features breaking IT news and sometimes has stories not covered by other sites. The articles are long enough to provide sufficient detail, but short enough to be useful for ITGS paper 2 exams with minimal alteration.

The Australian
Another Australian site, which provides an interesting alternative perspective to the predominately US-focused sites. It can be very interesting to look at how major issues (such as government surveillance) are handled compared to the US. The Australian also features regular exclusive stories which investigate issues is more depth.

Of course, there are many other sources for ITGS news articles too. Most major newspapers have technology sections, including the New York Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the UK's Guardian, and Telegraph newspapers, and often articles that raise social and ethical issues can be found there.

If you have a suggestion for another ITGS news site, please do add a comment below.

ITGS Project: Criterion E: Product Development

Now you have your ITGS project's design and test plan complete, it is time to start producing your product, always using the specifications and designs that you created in criteria B and D. The development process needs carefully documenting in several ways:
  • You need to take screenshots of the key steps. These will be need to write up the documentation for criteria E. I recommend making dozens of screenshots during product development: if you don't need them later, you can delete them - but if you need a screenshot and you didn't take one, you cannot 'undo' the progress you have made since then.
  • Criteria C needs updating to reflect the progress you are making, as always.
  • I need to see you developing your project. Although the project can (and will) be homework, we need to have class time developing your product too. This gives you a chance to get guidance if you need it, to use the classroom resources, and it also helps me ensure you are developing the project yourself (sorry, but it is true).

Criterion E is not all about creating the product: you must also explain (with screenshots) the key steps you took during the creation, whilst referring to your three complex techniques that you selected earlier in the project. Your criterion E document should only contain details of these complex techniques - not the basic ones. Finally, you also need to justify your choice and use of techniques - often this can be done by referring to the client's needs or to accepted good practice in your product area (e.g. it is generally accepted good practice to use a consistent layout for most web pages or DTP products to aid user navigation).

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ITGS Project: Criterion D: Design

Criterion D - Design is where you actually start the process of designing and developing a product to fit your client's needs. You need to come up with a series of diagrams that reflect your product's overall and internal design. At this stage it is critical to remember that you are designing a product to meet your client's needs: everything you design should be based on their needs and / or good practice in your product area. Do not add features that do not solve the client's problems: they are unnecessary.

The overall design is an overview of the general components of your product - for example, in a DTP product, roughly what content will go on each page; in a website, which pages will exist and how they will be linked together (a sitemap is good for this); and in a database, a diagram of the tables, fields, and relationships.

The internal design goes into more detail for each of these components, for example, including details such as the typeface, font colour, font size, margin sizes, and so on for items such as DTP pages, web pages, and database forms. You will also want to include items such as validation fields in databases. The key here is to look at the ITGS project's rubric: for the highest marks, you must "...include sufficient detail for an IT-literate third party to see how the product was created."

For reasons of neatness and the ability to correct mistakes, I recommend you create your design digitally wherever possible. I know some of the IB examples and the example projects that scored 7 used paper designs, but overall I feel things look better digitally. That said, you should NOT use your intended production software to create the design (i.e. do not 'design' the table layout in Access, or 'design' the page layout in Dreamweaver). Also remember to update your criterion C as you generate your designs.

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ITGS Banned Words game - Computer Hardware

Banned Words is a game for ITGS students and teachers that makes for a useful starter or plenary activity. Students develop their vocabulary and explanation skills by explaining supplied term to their teammates, but without mentioning the banned words (similar to Taboo(TM) or Forbidden Words(TM)). Two or more teams can play.

Previously I have used paper cards to play this game (you can download them from my web site), but now I have gone hi-tech and paper free! This presentation covers the keywords related to Computer Hardware from the beginning of Strand 3 in the ITGS syllabus. If you download the presentation rather than view it on Slideshare, you can make use of the button which takes you to a random term each time until all terms are covered exactly once (this is achieved using VBA code, so Office may give you a security warning).

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ITGS Dragon's Den Lesson

This is a fun little activity which I tried recently with my new grade 11 ITGS students, based on the Dragon's Den TV series. We are in the middle of a unit covering sections 3.1 Hardware and 3.2 Software of the syllabus (chapters 1 to 3 of my textbook) and have learnt about common input, output, and storage devices as well as starting to analyse some of the social and ethical impacts of technology from strand 1. This activity synthesizes some of that knowledge, as well as giving students an opportunity to practise presentation skills (mine were surprisingly good) and involve some creativity (I think Creative really should be on the IB Learner Profile).

The lesson involves students inventing a (realistic, it must be stressed!) new use for one of six technologies, including RFID, QR codes, and GPS. Students sometimes struggle to come up with examples of these technologies in their exams and I found that in the process of this activity they not only came up with new ideas but also discovered a few existing ones too. In true Dragon's Den style, students must pitch their idea to the class, focusing on the positive social impacts in an attempt to earn the class' 'investment'.

My students came up with some quite innovative ideas, and it was interesting to see how they came to understand the capabilities and limitations of each technology, as well as how they viewed the role of technology in our lives (some had ideas which clearly raised a few social and ethical concerns, which enabled a further discussion about privacy and other issues).

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Interactive Computer Model Examples

Personally I find Models and Simulations one of the most interesting topics on the ITGS syllabus, but also one of the hardest in terms of finding appropriate resources. Whilst we cover many different types of models in class - earthquake models, climate models, car crash models, search and rescue models, and so on - finding good, free, interactive resources that would really help ITGS students understand the topic is much harder. Luckily I recently came across the Concord Consortium. Their main STEM page has links to a wide range of computer models divided by discipline and age group, many of which could be very useful for ITGS teachers. One of my favourites is Energy2D.

Energy2D, as its name suggests, is an "Interactive Heat Transfer" simulation with a wide range of potential uses and an easy to use interface. The program includes numerous example configurations that allow you to quickly get started modelling heat transfer in common scenarios. The image below, for example, shows the solar heating of a roof on a house.

Computer model of solar heating on the roof of a house

Energy2D also allows more advanced users can 'draw' their own shapes using the Energy2D interface and then add 'heat' and sensors to model energy transfer. Thermal and optical properties of these shapes can easily be altered by right-clicking on them (students will likely need to research the conductivity of common materials before class, or perhaps this could be a chance to link with students' IB science courses). In the example below, each simple 'house' has a circular heat source at the centre and two thermometers - one in the room and one above the roof. Although they look the same, the ceiling for the house on the left is made of a material with a much higher thermal conductivity. The result of this can easily be seen in the model as 'heat' escapes from the ceiling of the second house. The temperature inside the second house is also several degrees lower than the first.

Computer model: two boxes with different thermal properties

Even with a simple setup like this, students could examine the effect of different materials or construction methods (insulation, different shaped roofs) quite easily. The simulator can also be configured to include sunlight and day-night cycles, so students can seek a design that is both cool during the summer and warm during the winter. With a little thought, it might be possible to link this to a real world experiment - for example, by modelling a school building and then using data logging equipment (data logging is also part of the ITGS syllabus) to compare actual results with the model's predictions. This could leave to an interesting discussion of any differences and the limitations of computer models and simulations.

In addition to the simple examples shown here, Energy2D also has preset examples for particles, radiation, fluid dynamics and several other scenarios. The program is a Java application meaning it can be downloaded and used on all major desktop operating systems (mobile versions are promised soon). The same site also hosts a 3D version of the model which looks somewhat more complicated and is something I need to check out in the near future.

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4 More TED Talks for the ITGS classroom

All Your Devices Can Be Hacked
This extremely interesting talk discusses the security vulnerabilities in many modern devices that feature wireless networks, including implanted medical devices, car networks, police radios, and voting machines. The attacks described in the video, including disabling pacemaker devices and taking over control of a car, have all been successfully executed as proofs of concepts - some great fodder for class discussion which links to many areas of the ITGS syllabus.

The Curly Fry Conundrum: Why social media likes say more than you might think
"Likes" on social media sites like Facebook may reveal a lot more about you than you think, including providing the ability to predict characteristics that have nothing to do with the pages you view. Links to many areas of the ITGS syllabus including databases and the Internet.

Why Privacy Matters
Alessandro Acquisti presents a talk that reveals what exactly can be done with your public social media data when it is combined with facial recognition software and AI routines...

Your phone company is watching
Malte Spitz discusses the collection and retention of mobile phone data. The talk links to the databases and the Politics and Government area of the ITGS syllabus and features some great visualisations that show how large amounts of data can be combined to build up patterns about people's lives. Where do people live? Where do they sleep? Are they having an affair? All of these and more can be predicted from captured call data.

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ITGS Project: Criterion C - Schedule

Criterion C - Project Schedule - should detail all work on the project throughout the course of the internal assessment. It should include details of each significant event, the follow-up action you will take, the date the work was completed, and the criterion to which it relates. Most criteria in the project will have multiple entries in the schedule as work on them will take some time.

Note that because the schedule is criterion C (rather than A), your first task will be to create entries relating to me first introducing the ITGS project to the class, and the work you have done so far on criteria A and B. After that you should keep criterion C up to date as you progress.

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