It’s that time of year when we start budgeting for the next school year, which means selecting the resources I want to use for ITGS for 2019-2020.
I use a lot of ITGS books and films in my classroom, and often rotate the resources on display between there and the school library. My website has lists of the ITGS books I like and the ITGS related films I use. These cover topics on the syllabus, but also practical skills needed for the ITGS internal assessment project, and general wider reading. In particular, computer security books such as Kevin D. Mitnick’s non-fiction works have been very popular, so I’ll be adding more resources along these lines next year. I also want to update some of the resources I use for the ITGS internal assessment project, and acquire some new reference books that might help with ITGS Extended Essays.
Free audio books and free shipping
It’s hard to commit to buying expensive books with limited or no preview options available. A great feature of audiobook site Audible is that when you sign up for a free 30 day trial, you get two audio books of your choice for free. If you decide not to continue at the end of the 30 days, you still keep the books. This makes it great for investigating potential new purchases – especially when budgets are tight. I’ve indicated below which books are available on Audible. Another good choice for international schools is Book Depository – they offer free shipping worldwide, which is particularly useful if you are somewhere far away from Europe or North America.
Books for ITGS Internal Assessment
I’ve helped students with the ITGS internal assessment since the start of this syllabus (and the SL project before that). One thing that has become clear is the need for good references for software which pupils may not use on a daily basis. Often the advanced skills required by the IA project will push students’ understanding, and a good reference book can save a lot of time looking up tutorials online.
The Missing Manual Books
The Missing Manual has been my favourite series of reference / tutorial books for a while. I like the way the books are ordered, enabling students to easily dip into a section relevant to them. They are also very visual books, with plenty of screenshots showing the effects of the features described in the text. I’ve used Access 2010: The Missing Manual extensively (there are editions for other versions of Access too). Creating a WebSite: The Missing Manual is another excellent book and the latest 4th Edition includes HTML 5, so I will be updating my bookshelf with some copies of this. There are also Missing Manuals for PHP and SQL (this would be a more advanced ITGS project), Excel, and Photoshop (our Art teacher uses this).
Classroom reference books
Below are some of the books I’m hoping to add to my ITGS classroom’s mini-library next year. These are all non-fiction texts which I hope will be good reference material for pupils wanting to delve deeper into topics on the syllabus. They should also be useful for those pupils wanting to write an ITGS Extended Essay.
Dawn of the Code War
Dawn of the Code War is a relatively new release that I am looking forward to reading myself! It fits well into the ITGS security and politics topics. According to the synopsis the book covers a variety of topics from Operation Aurora (attacks on the US by groups of hackers linked to China) to the emergence of fake news. The audio version is available for free with the free Audible trial, and I’m looking forward to adding it to my ITGS bookshelf.
The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts
Like Rise of the Robots (below), The Future of the Professions examines the impact of information technology on jobs. Of course this places it firmly in the Business and Employment section of ITGS. There are obvious links to the HL robotics topic too. From the reviews and the online synopsis, it looks like this will be a good book to ‘dip’ into. It also looks like it contains plenty of examples that can be used as a basis for classsroom discussions, analysis, and debates. The Future of Professions is available for free with the free Audible trial. A Spanish version is also available.
Daydream Education Posters
I use Daydream Education’s Computer Science posters a lot in my classrooms. As their name suggests, their primary audience is Computer Science students. However, several of the sets (such as hardware and networks) are perfect for ITGS. They cover several of the topics in Strand 3 of the guide at a perfect level of detail. If you teach both ITGS and Computer Science, or share a classroom, their set of 31 posters is excellent.
Outnumbered: From Facebook and Google to Fake News and Filter-bubbles – The Algorithms That Control Our Lives
This book at least wins the prize for the longest title. I enjoyed reading The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser a few years ago. Outnumbered looks like it takes this theme further, looking not just at search engines but at the vast array of data about us which is collected each day. The book examines the Cambridge Analytica scandal and looks at ways we use data to make decisions. It sounds like there will be some good content for TOK – ITGS discussions here too, especially on topics like ‘can algorithms be racist or sexist?’. The final section of the book examines how and when we will start off-loading major decisions to machines, which may tie in with Rise of the Robots and The Future of Professions elsewhere in this post.
Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
This year I had a pupil who wrote an ITGS Extended Essay on robotics and their threat to jobs, and Rise of the Robots was one of the texts he used as a resource. Although it doesn’t always go into as much depth as I would like, it does generally avoid the wild speculation that a lot of similar books engage in. There is also enough name-dropping of examples to enable further, deeper research. Martin Ford has just released a new edition, so I will be adding this to my purchases for next year. You can sample it for free with the free Audible trial.
A Gift of Fire
A Gift of Fire is one of the classically recommended ITGS reference books, along with Discovering Computers. The language can be quite complex for IB students, and it hasn’t really been checked out of our library much. However, it is a great source of examples and case studies. These are perfect for ITGS discussions and debates. The latest version – the 5th – was published in 2017, with some of the examples being updated accordingly. If I’m looking for a reliable example with good references and clear facts, A Gift of Fire is often my first point of call.
The books in this section are wider reading that relates in some way to the issues raised in ITGS (though not necessarily directly to the ITGS syllabus points). I always like to keep a few fiction titles in my class as a way to encourage students in their wider reading, and to give them something ‘lighter’ than the regular textbooks they might find themselves reading.
Tell the Machine Goodnight
Tell the Machine Goodnight was recommended recently by another ITGS teacher. Although fiction, it delves into the impacts of technology on society and clearly links to ITGS. The major theme appears to be our over reliance on technology, and the Amazon synopsis suggests the conclusion isn’t going to be a positive one. I’ll look forward to reading this before I put it on the classroom bookshelf. Tell the Machine Goodnight is one of many ITGS related books available for free with the free Audible trial.
It’s true that a lot of the Wired magazine content is available online. We all know the benefits of digital content. However, there is one big advantage to paper magazines – I can place them in a news rack next to the door and hope they catch students’ eyes on their way in and out of the classroom. This is a great opportunity to encourage even reluctant readers to pick up a copy and read an article or two. Not all topics in Wired relate to ITGS (and early in the course pupils may have difficulty determining which do), but it is a great resource at a low price. The print edition subscription also offers full access to digital content.
Trojan Horse: A Jeff Aiken Novel
As a Microsoft software engineer, Mark Russinovich knows a lot about computer security. He was responsible for discovering the infamous Sony DRM rootkit in 2005 and the Norton rootkit in 2006. His first novel Zero Day introduced Jeff Aiken, a security analyst who investigates a serious of seemingly random computer system failures. (Spoiler alert: they’re not random). Trojan Horse is the second book in the series, focusing on a piece of malware that silently corrupts data on computer systems (think somewhere between Cryptolocker and Stuxnet). The third book in the series is Rogue Code, focusing on vulnerabilities in stock markets.
As you would expect, the level of detail and accuracy in these novels is excellent. Each book focuses on a different aspect of computer security, with a plot that is contemporary enough to maintain interest but realistic enough to be of use to ITGS students. For some reason I have read Zero Day and Rogue Code but not Trojan Horse (I think it was unavailable when I tried to order it). Both books have been popular loans from our library, so I will be adding a couple of copies of each, plus Trojan Horse, for next year.
All three books are also available as free audio books when you sign up for a free Audible 30 day trial.