Case Studies for teaching ITGS

ITGS case studies

Case studies are excellent tools for teaching ITGS because they require students to read about, understand, and engage with complex real life situations. This creates the perfect environment for them to develop their higher-order thinking skills, including problem solving, analysis, and evaluation. Case studies also offer lots of flexibility in classroom setup – for example, will you assign students to the role of a particular stakeholder or have them consider the situation as a neutral observer?

The five case studies all fit straight in to the ITGS syllabus and I have used them all with success. They can be turned into a variety of activities, including presentations, essays, persuasive speeches, and class debates, depending on the students and the situation.

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics Ethics Cases page at Santa Clara University is an excellent resource containing a wide range of especially written case studies on many ITGS topics. Each case study is presented in a clear and uncluttered manner, at a length and level appropriate for IB students, and is often based on real events. ITGS issues including privacy and anonymity, digital citizenship, and intellectual property are all covered. Two of my favourite case studies from this site include:Facebook, Freedom of Speech, and Teens around the World deals with the social impacts of Facebook’s recent decision to allow teenagers to make public posts (previously they were limited to ‘Friend of Friends’ or ‘Friends only’). This is a great case study for discussing digital citizenship and the impact poor decisions can have on future employment – a very relevant issue for IB students.

Emails Exposed which focuses on university email systems and the line between ‘monitoring’ and ‘invasion of privacy’. This obviously links to 2.2 Education but could also be linked to Business and Employment.

Healthcare in an East African Country‘Healthcare in an East African Country’ was the ITGS Paper 3 case study in 2010. I have used it several times since then as a tool to teach the 2.4 Health unit, as it addresses issues as wide as the digital divide and equality of access, the need for IT training, reliability and integrity, privacy, and security. The case study involves a fictional country (Oobunta) and a doctor (Dr Ogola) who wishes to improve healthcare in the capital city and surrounding villages. This is a great opportunity for students to learn about tele-medicine, electronic medical records, diagnostic technology and their social impacts. The study also requires students to prioritize the deployment of new technology – a perfect opportunity to weighing up and evaluation skills. As an assessment, the 2010 Paper 3 could also be used.

The Health page on my textbook site contains lesson ideas and activities for this case study, and you can download the original PDF from the IB’s Online Curriculum Centre.

Therac-25 Therac-25 case one of the most notorious examples of software failure in safety critical systems and is often taught in university level software engineering courses. It is, however, still easily accessible for IB students. Near the beginning of the ITGS course it can provide ample opportunities to discuss the potential impacts of IT systems (particularly those relating to reliability of software and our dependence on technology), and it is also useful when studying IT projects and IT Systems in Organisation (especially with reference to testing). I normally find this case is an eye-opener for students who don’t typically believe ‘computers can kill’: debates on who is responsible for software failures often become very lively, and make a good introduction to more modern case studies (‘What might be the consequences of a software failure in your car? Who would be accountable?’). Two useful sources are ComputingCases: Therac-25 and Connexions.

EPIC – the Electronic Privacy and Information Center – works to protect privacy and civil liberties. Their web site contains up to date news, details of court rulings, and opinions on a wide range of privacy related isses. Their ‘Hot Policy Issues’ bar is always a good starting point: at the time of writing it contains links to Cloud Computing, Facebook’s facial recognition system, search engine privacy, and many other major topics. The great thing about EPIC is that the resources always reflect the latest developments in any given area, so your students can really feel as though they are dealing with relevant, cutting-edge topics.

Ethics in Computing in Computing has links to articles and cases in various areas, though it is more of a collection of links than pre-written case studies. Areas covered all relate to ITGS, including intellectual property, privacy, abuse, and reliability. The layout of the site and the complexity of some of the linked resources make this a slightly less accessible site than others (such as Santa Clara University) – but nevertheless it is a good resource for teachers.

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