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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ITGS Project: Criterion B - Analysis

Criterion B, Analysis, is a key part of the ITGS project as it involves fully documenting the needs of the client and the requirements for any solution that will solve his / her problem. Criterion B consists of several parts, most of which can be written as bullet points. The sections are:

Proposed solution: after listing the various solutions you considered (which do not need to be IT-based solutions), you indicate the solution you have chosen.
Requirements specification: here you indicate the requirements that the solution must need, including inputs, outputs, and security requirements. In some cases it is a good idea to split the input requirements into two: the data that are input by you, the student, during the creation of the product, and the data entered by the client or user during use. In the same way, there may be different hardware and software requirements for developing the product compared to using it (for example, you will need web development software to create a website but not to host it).
Specific Performance Criteria: these are clear, specific bullet points which indicate the things your product must do in order to be considered a 'success'. You will assess yourself against these criteria in Criterion F, so it is essential to get them correct. Precision is vital: criteria must be specific and measurable. For example 'the website must be attractive' is hard to measure (it is subjective), whereas 'the website must have a consistent look and feel on all pages' can easily be measured.
Justification of Chosen Solution: here you write a short piece explaining why your chosen solution is the best solution. You should make clear reference to the client's problems at all times. You can also say why other solutions are weaker (why they don't solve the client's problems) and make reference to available tools and resources (for example, if you are familiar with Microsoft Access and have the skills to use it, that can be used as part of the justification).

In each part of this criterion, clarity and precision of language is essential. This is especially true in the Specific Performance Criteria, which you will use in Criterion F to assess the success of your final product. Mistakes or omissions in the analysis will only come back to bite you later as you try to design and implement your chosen product.

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