Cobb Publishing 2014 Case Study: 7 Videos

The paper 3 case study for May and November 2014 (ITGS HL only) revolves around Cobb Publishing, a small company that is looking to improve its business in several areas, including e-book publishing and self-publishing. For paper 3 students need to conduct a variety of secondary and primary research, which they must then reference in the exam (particularly in the longer answer questions). Here are 7 videos related to different areas of the case study:

Introducing Google eBooks 
Lines 30-55 in the case study PDF explain how the e-book industry is changing, and one of the key changes is the move towards cloud based platforms which can offer features such as device synchronization. This short video introduces features of the Google eBooks platform. Although not as popular as other e-book platforms, many of the features and benefits listed here apply to other cloud-based e-book systems too.

E-Books or Print Books? 
This video examiners some of the changes in the book industry in the last few years and asks customers and readers what they think about e-books compared to printed books. This is important for the case study as Cobb Publishing want to understand more about their customers (perhaps using a data driven approach where data is collected from e-book readers) to inform their business decisions.

Why Publish with Kindle Direct Publishing + CreateSpace? 
We know from line 16 of the case study booklet that more writers are self-publishing, and line 76 explains that Cobb Publishing want to invest more in this marketplace. Although only very short, this video talks about Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program (KDP), one of the most well known self-publishing platforms for e-books. The video mentions several key benefits of self-publishing and e-book publishing which make good discussion points for further classroom investigation.

What is Kindle Direct Publishing? 
What is Kindle Direct Publishing? goes into greater detail about the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program, explaining how the process works from writing to publishing and marketing. The video also talks about KDP's analytics data, which we know from the case study booklet (lines 70+) is an area that Cobb Publishing want to examine, albeit with a concern about reader privacy.

What is enhanced eBook? 
The case study booklet says that more readers are looking for interactive material in their e-books (lines 15 and 42), and that Cobb Publishing is considering how to enter this market. 'What is an Enhanced E-Book' gives several examples of different books and different types of enhancements that can be included - including external links and videos. These enhancements are quite different to the ones shown in "The Question" (below), showing how enhancements can be important for many different genres or audiences. 

eBook App Development for iPad, iPhone, and Android 
This is another example of many different types of interactive and enhanced e-books, including examples in education. Combined with the video above and the video below, this should give ITGS students a good list of features that might be used by Cobb Publishing to enhance e-books.

"The Question" A New Enhanced eBook
This video is a marketing video, but it is a great example of the types of features that interactive e-books (also called enhanced e-books) can have. The video clearly shows different types of interaction, narration, and animation as well as other features.

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ITGS Paper 2 News articles

The ITGS Paper 2 exam requires students to write about a previously unseen news article, evaluating the impacts, explaining how the technology works, and evaluating a possible solution. Despite using unseen articles, students need to regularly practice paper 2 style questions to ensure they know what to expect in the final exam.

Below are 10 articles that will work well for paper 2. They may need some editing before they can be used - typically the paper 2 articles from the IB are around 25-30 lines long, but they provide a good basis for the exam and all raise clear social and ethical issues within one of the ITGS Areas of Application.

Article 1: Home and Leisure Your Tweets Reveal Your Home Location (Technology Review) is a little like the November 2012 paper 2 about the geo-tagging of photographs without users' knowledge, this article discusses how Tweets can be analysed to reveal the home location of the user. This technology is currently being developed at MIT, who hope to improve its accuracy in the future.

Article 2: Home and Leisure FC introduces tablet CCTV (BBC) discusses Fulham football club's intention to install CCTV technology throughout its stadium, connected to tablets and handheld devices that will allow security staff to monitor the grounds in real time.

 Article 3: Home and Leisure
Texting drivers kill 16,000 in the US. The article title sums it up clearly: distraction from mobile phones kills thousands of drivers every year. This article has a lot of potential for students to come up with some very interesting solutions - both technical and non-technical - to the problem.


Article 4: Politics and Government
Airline captain, lawyer, child on terror 'watch list' is an article focused on the potential problems with errors in databases, particularly high-risk databases such as those maintained by many governments. There are a lot of potential social impacts here (both positive and negative) which should lead to some interesting criteria Cs.

Article 5: Health
Doctors Wary about online house calls discusses the benefits and drawbacks of online consultations and telemedicine in general. This is a really good article for paper 2, dealing with fundamental hardware, software, and networking technologies as well as raising several social and ethical considerations and causing a wide range of impacts.

Article 6: Home and Leisure Malaysia missing plane: Armchair aeroplane hunters head online. Dealing with the (at the time of writing, still missing) Malaysia flight MH370, this article examines the use of crowd-sourcing in efforts to find the plane, by asking volunteers to scour satellite mapping images. A similar case is that of Steve Fossett, whose plane disappeared in 2007.

Article 7: Politics and Government
Government warned over 'them and us' online services. Governments of many countries, including the US and UK, are gradually moving towards online provision of services for their citizens. This article examines the benefits of these services and the potential problems caused by making them 'online only' - removing option of face-to-face or paper-based services.

Article 8: Politics and Government / Health over pro-suicide web pages. Tying in with both politics and government issues relating to censorship and health issues related to online medical advice, this article discusses the problem of  'pro-suicide' sites: sites that provide advice and sometimes encouragement to users who may be contemplating suicide.

 Article 9: Education
Professor Leaves a MOOC in Mid-Course in Dispute Over Teaching. Despite online courses becoming very popular recently, there is still considerable debate over their effectiveness. This article examines some of the problems encountered by teachers, students, and course providers in the early days of this technology.

Article 10: Business and Employment
How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did. ITGS students are probably more aware than most of the data collection techniques used by search engines, supermarket loyalty card systems, and so on. However, even they may be surprised at the potential impacts of some of the data that has been collected by the stakeholders in this example.

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5 Free Udemy courses for ITGS students

Online learning courses have become incredibly popular recently, with numerous top-ranking universities and schools making their content available, often for free. Whereas organisations like edX and Udacity tend to focus on longer, university-level courses, Udemy has a wide range of free and paid-for courses covering a huge variety of topics - many of which can be helpful to ITGS students. In fact, given that studying online learning technologies is a key part of the ITGS syllabus (2.2 Education and Training), what better way to help students understand the benefits and drawbacks of this learning medium than to have them experience it first hand? Here are five of the best courses that won't cost a penny:

Learn HTML5 Programming From Scratch
Practical website projects are great learner activities for ITGS students, enabling them to understand many topics related to e-commerce, online marketing, multimedia, and accessibility - and of course, many students also create websites for their clients in their internal assessment projects. This very complete HTML 5 tutorial covers everything from basic HTML through to advanced functionality like geo-location (which is also a good chance to bring up social/ethical issues like privacy). Most students will only need the first two sections that cover HTML and CSS, but it is good to know that further reference material is there if needed.
Despite the name, this free Access course covers quite a lot of Access' features, from basic table creation to query joins and forms. It is worth noting that the order of some of the lectures seems a bit strange (for example, queries and forms are covered before field data types), so it is better to pick the viewing order yourself. Despite this, the lectures are short and clear and make a good reference while Access is open in the background. This could be really useful resource to help ITGS students work at their own pace when studying databases or when developing their internal assessment projects.
This free course from Simon Sez IT covers something rather more advanced than most free Microsoft Office courses on Udemy: the mysteries of Pivot tables in Microsoft Excel. Given that this is not a beginner's topic, some knowledge of Excel is assumed. The course is clearly divided into two sets of videos depending on whether you are using Excel 2010 or Excel 2013. This is another useful course to extend more able students who want to work independently, or for those who need the functionality for their internal assessment projects. solution that students sometimes choose for their project client is the creation of a video - often a promotional product designed to be shown online or at the client's premises. Creating a professional looking video can be difficult - merely shooting with a typical compact camera and the built-in microphone is not enough for students to obtain the complex skills required for an ITGS project. In fact, the Guidance on Project Complexity document specifically mentions "Quality content captured for video using special hardware/software (such as external microphone, tripod, lighting or other special equipment)". This Udemy course gives a wide range of tips on improving lighting, sound and image quality, and editing to help students get the best results. The editing section has separate videos for After Effects and Final Cut - two popular editing programs.
Another good activity to help students understand the social impacts of online learning would be to have them create their own mini online course. Done with a full class, the resulting products could then be used as revision aids or for future students. How to teach an online course is, you guessed it, an online course about how to create online courses. Covering the basics from hardware and software selection to presentation techniques, a lot of students could benefit from this. The tips would also be helpful when students have finished their internal assessment projects and are creating their screencasts.

For more resources relating to online education and the ITGS course in general, you can visit the ITGS textbook website. And if you know of other Udemy courses that might help ITGS students, please leave a comment below.

How to Destroy a Hard Disk

Today I had a clear out of that cupboard containing all the old motherboards, spare power supplies, cables, converters, and hard disks - all computer geeks have one of these. In my case I had three old desktop hard drives that failed some months ago and were in need of disposal.

Of course, you should never dispose of a hard disk (working or non-working) without first taking steps to ensure the data is unrecoverable. Even though my drives had failed and were not even visible to the host computer when connected, the problem may have been something as simple as a failed drive motor which could be easily replaced by somebody attempting to recover the data. The chances are high that my data was still intact on the drive platters themselves, and as hard drives contain huge amounts of our personal data, the potential for identity theft and fraud is huge. You may think this is paranoid, but many studies have been done on this issue, including this one from MIT and this one from Science Daily. So, exactly how do you destroy the data on a hard disk?

Working hard disks
Wiping a hard disk (Source)
If your hard disk still works (perhaps you are just upgrading to a higher capacity model), a good option is to wipe the data. Note that I said 'wipe' - not 'delete the data', 'empty the recycle bin or trash can', or even 'format the disk'. None of those actions are enough to permanently remove data from your hard disk; a quick Google search reveals many tools for recovering such data. 

To truly erase data, it needs to be overwritten by other data ('disk wiping'). There are a number of tools to do this; they simply overwrite every single bit of data on your disk with a random 0 or 1. Most of the tools also make several passes because with very advanced tools it can still be possible to recover the data after a single wipe. The US Department of Defense standard requires 7 passes for secure data deletion; you probably don't need to go that far (and with large hard drives it takes a long time). A popular tool to achieve this is Darik's Boot And Nuke ( With the data securely wiped you can be sure it cannot be recovered.

However, if your disk has failed in some way, or simply if you are not donating it to another user, why not have some fun with some physical destruction too?

Non-Working Hard: Hello Physical Destruction
If your hard drive has failed you will be unable to use disk wiping tools, so you need to resort to physical destruction. It is not unusual for data to be recovered from hard drives that have been in fires, been submerged under water, or run over by vehicles. Data recovery specialist even recovered 99% of the data from hard drives that were aboard the space shuttle Columbia - so some serious destruction is needed. The key is to damage the disk platters which are inside the strong metal protective case. Only when they are damaged can you be sure of preventing recovery.

Method 1: Drilling holes
One common method of physically destroying drives is to drill holes in them, all the way through the disk platters. However, this is easier said than done; here is one of my hard disks after an attack with a drill:

As you can see, the drill hole (bottom right) has gone through the outer casing (which is actually quite thick) and has pierced right down to the disk platter - but to do this you need a strong drill bit and a lot of pressure. To be extra sure it would be a good idea to put several holes in the platters (and remember that disks contain multiple platters), but this seemed like a lot of work. There must be something more fun...

Method 2: The hammer
Sometimes you just need to go back to basics: pure physical force. Unfortunately, although hard disks might be relatively delicate while in use, their strong metal cases mean they can actually still withstand quite a beating, as you can see below.

Here is my hard disk after sustained attempts to destroy it using the hammer. It actually lasted quite a long time before failing catastrophically, with the case splitting open. Even after this the disk platters look relatively intact (though admittedly quite bent). It probably still needs a bit more force to properly destroy the platters.

Computer hardware, of course, should never just be thrown in the trash: the environmental impacts of  e-waste are huge and long-lasting, so appropriate disposal is essential. Unfortunately where I live there appear to be no manufacturer take-back schemes or safe recycling centres, so it looks like my now shattered hard drives will still be with me for a while longer.

5 Amazing Uses for 3D Printing

3D Printing technology has developed extremely rapidly in the last few years - so much so that it isn't even mentioned in the current ITGS syllabus, written around 2010. However, ITGS students need to stay up to date with all the latest developments in information technology, so here are five of the most interesting uses of 3D printing. Know of any more? Feel free to leave a comment.

University of Southern California Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis believes it will soon be possible to use dramatically upscaled 3D printer technology to "print" a house using concrete in less than 24 hours. If it happens, the development could have significance advantages in areas where low cost housing is needed, or in emergency situations where shelters must be constructed shelter. Using 3D CAD files that could be individually customised, the 3D house printer would build up layers on concrete, leaving conduits for electrical and water connections and able to construct multiple storeys.

Body Parts
The implant that saved Kaiba's life (Source)
When he was six weeks old Kaiba Gionfriddo was diagnosed with a condition that caused his windpipe to collapse and his breathing and heart to stop on a regular basis. Using a brand new technique and a 3D printer with a biodegradable polyster printing material, doctors were able to 3D print a special tracheal splint for Kaiba. Computer Aided Design software was used to design a splint that exactly fitted the shape and size Kaiba's windpipe. They implanted this in his throat, and three weeks later he was able to breathe on his own again. Elsewhere, 3D printing technology has been used to print low-cost prosthetics, including silicone noses. 

Spare Parts for the Military
Sgt Wes Calder RLC / Flickr (CC-BY-NC)
US Marines in isolated bases across Afghanistan may have to wait days or even weeks for resupply helicopters to bring them the equipment and spare parts they need. Now the US Army Rapid Equipping Force (REF) is developing a series of mobile laboratories that can be transported by helicopter to even the most remote regions. 

Each lab, which cost $2.8 million, contains the tools and equipment necessary for outposts to be more self-sufficient - including 3D printers that can plastic or metal objects. Troops have already used the 3D printers to produce spare parts for damaged robots and develop new tools to help them deal with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

3D Fetus Models
Source: YouTube / Gerard Bessette
Standard baby photographs taken from ultrasound scans could soon be old school: Californian company 3D Babies combines 4D scanning technology with 3D printing to produce models of babies while they are still in the womb. 

Two versions of the model are available, depending on whether or not the parents-to-be wish to know the sex of their baby. The models, however, are not cheap: a full scale (8 inch) model costs $600, while the smallest 2 inch model still costs $200. 

In the Future: Moon Bases?
Source: NASA
One of the key difficulties of developing colonies on the moon or further afield is the cost and difficulty of transporting building materials, tools, and equipment such large distances. Even one additional kilo of weight significantly increases mission cost and complexity. 

However, in the future NASA believe it may be possible to use moon rocks as a source material. Melted using a laser and combined with 3D printing technology, the moon rocks could be used to produce a large range of small items that would be useful for any colony. Such technology would be particularly helpful given that resupply missions can be weeks or even months away.

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5 More infographics for ITGS lessons

Here are five great infographics which make great discussion points in the ITGS classroom. Covering business and mobile technology, healthcare, data security and several other topics, there are clear links to the ITGS syllabus and lots of opportunity to discuss the pace at which technology changes and the social and ethical issues this causes.

1. Business and Mobile Technology

2. Driverless Cars and the End of Distracted Driving

3. Keeping Your Information Safe and Private Online

4. Is Mobile Health Poised to Explode?

5. The State of IT Security

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ITGS Games and Revision Activities

Revision for the ITGS mock exams should be under way now, and very soon the final IB exams will be upon us too. Active revision is much better than staring at notebooks for long periods of time, so here are a few revision resources and activities that can be tried in the ITGS classroom. Most of them also make good lesson starters for use throughout the two year course. 

If you have any other ideas for ITGS games or revision strategies, please do share them in the comments for this post.

ITGS revision gameTaboo
Played in teams, Taboo (also known as Forbidden Words) requires students to describe a word to their teammates without mentioning any of the 'taboo' words. Miming, 'sounds like', and 'first letter is' style answers are also out (students have a habit of developing new workarounds it seems!). The team has a minute to guess as many words as possible. This is a really good game for improving student vocabulary and helping them develop definitions of key ITGS terms in their own words. At the moment I have created cards for the topics Hardware, Software, Networks, Security, and Digital Media. They look quite nice when printed on coloured card and laminated. You can also download the blank cards to develop your own (if you do, I'd be grateful if you could share them with me). 

ITGS FlashcardsRevision Flashcards
Flashcards are very useful for revising ITGS key terms Quizlet is one of the better flashcard sites. It offers a number of different ways to learn, including various games and the option to see either the key term or the definition. 

I have created a complete set of ITGS flashcards covering all of the terms in the syllabus plus a few additional ones. They are divided by topic. 

ITGS keyword bingoKeyword Bingo
The concept is simple: each student is given a card with a variety of ITGS key terms on it (each card has a different subset of terms). The teacher reads out the definition of one of the terms, but does not say which term it is. If students believe they have the key word that matches the term, they cross it off. The first student to cross off all terms (correctly) wins.

You can download card and clue sets for the following ITGS topics: Hardware and Software (student cards, teacher's clues); Networks (cards, clues); Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Expert Systems (cards, clues); databases (cards, clues); Models and Simulations (cards, clues), and Business and Employment (cards, clues).

ITGS revision crosswordCrosswords
Crosswords are another useful lesson starter tool for checking understanding of vocabulary and key terms (getting students to construct their own crossword is also a very powerful technique). I like HotPotatoes as a crossword generator - true, it's output can be a little bit ugly, but it has a lot of features and can export interactive quizzes to HTML as well as to PDF for printing. 

Here are some online ITGS crosswords for the hardware and software topics. My textbook website has these available as PDFs on the appropriate chapter page.

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DARPA Robotics Challenge Results

In December I wrote about the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) and its relevance to ITGS, and gave some ideas for using it in classroom activities. The challenge was held over two days and involved 15 robots completing a series of difficult tasks likely to be faced in rescue situations such as collapsed buildings or nuclear disasters. You can read more about the challenges in my previous post

The two day trials were very interesting and many of the robots, all humanoids, did extremely well. Even basic tasks such as standing freely, walking, and balancing have traditionally been difficult for robots, but these entries managed to (generally) master these tasks and take technology to a new level, clambering over rubble, climbing ladders in various events, and even driving a vehicle.

DARPA Robotic Challenge
The debris removal challenge (Source: DARPA)
There is a lot of material and coverage available of the events online - below are some of the best examples and sources. If students completed the activities in my previous post and thought about the challenges and possible technical solutions, these videos should help them evaluate how right or wrong they were. I won't spoil the results right now (see the bottom of this post for the eventual winner, if you don't already know). 

First up, DARPA have excellent 2-3 minute wrap-up videos summarizing each of the two days of trials:

ComputerWorld also has a nice summary video covering the various challenges and related robotic events at the DRC:

If you have a bit (well, quite a lot) more time, DARPA has full videos of each of the eight challenges in the DRC. These are complete and unedited archives of the live feeds, covering everything from setting up to the actual trial, so they require some skipping through to find the interesting parts (each video is around 8 hours long!). To simplify logistics the robots were divided into two groups - Blue and Red - which is why you see two videos for each challenge.

Finally, if you (still) don't know the results of the DRC, stop reading now: the winner is covered by this BBC article and this IEEE Spectrum article (which contains a detailed breakdown of the points each robot earned), while this article from MIT Technology Review has a good write-up of the event with photographs.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge, combined with the previous DARPA Grand Challenges, make great examples for teaching ITGS students about the difficulties and the potential of robotics in the real world.

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