The following describes the rationale behind the design of the first unit of work to be completed in a Year 11 Information and Processing Technology (IPT) course taught using the new senior Queensland IPT syllabus (QSA, 2010). The design of this unit is informed by the outcomes of a profile of potential students in this course. As such the design is informed by connectivism and attempts to embed students within authentic practice as an IPT professional. The contents of this document include the following sections:
Describes the rationale and purpose of the overall design approach for the 2-year senior IPT course.
- Unit overview;
Describes the rationale and purpose of this particular unit of work, the first unit in the course.
- Lessons overview; and
Provides an overview of the 12 lessons that make up this unit.
- Example artefacts.
Describes evidence to support the author’s ability to implement the technology necessary to fulfil this learning design.
As argued in the learner profile the design of this course and unit is based on the assumption that connectivism – and its resonances and overlaps with social constructivism and constuctionism – offer the most effective method for helping IPT students learn. As a result, the design of this course and unit is focused on creating a learning experience that engages the students within the community of users and developers around a popular open source tool. Throughout the 2 years of the course the students will use the open source tool and its community to engage in professional IPT practices and make the connections necessary to demonstrate learning.
The actual open source tool chosen is likely to change over the years and between schools. The criteria for tool selection will draw on the following criteria:
- How large, active, diverse, and open are the user and developer communities around the tool?
The bigger and more diverse, open, and active the user and developer communities are the more likely students are to generate many and diverse connections within that community.
- How often will the students be able to use the tool as part of their learning?
Allowing the students to become users of the tool – as well as developers – broadens their experience and knowledge of the tool. It helps them become more aware of possibilities for improvement. Where possible using the tool should become a key part of student learning within the course.
- How regularly others within the school or local communities use the tool?
The local presence of people using the tool will provide the possibility of the students providing technical assistance to those users as part of the class.
- How well does the tool matches the technical requirements of the course, the technical knowledge of the teacher and school technical support, and the technical infrastructure?
As part of the course, students will have to download, install and modify the chosen tool. For this to happen, such tasks should reasonably technically feasible within the school context and the topics of the IPT syllabus.
- How good is the tools plug-in architecture?
A plug-in architecture allows additional services to be added to a tool without having to understand the complexity of an entire large system. It reduces the entry barrier for students.
At the present time, the two most obvious candidate tools appear to be the WordPress blog engine and the Moodle Learning Management System. For the purposes of this course, WordPress has been selected because it is to some extent a more focused system – blogging is a somewhat narrower task than e-learning – and has larger, more open, and more diverse developer and user communities.
The entire course will be underpinned by a scenario in which the students take on the role of entry-level IPT professionals in an open source services company. The teacher takes on the role of lead developer in the same company. This particular company – to be named and branded by the students within this unit – aims to generate revenue through providing technical services to users of the chosen open source tool. Like other similar companies the students’ company must create a positive presence within the user and developer community around the tool. It is through the development of this community presence and fulfilling tasks for the company that the students gain experience with the topics of the course.
The company will – as with most technical services companies – employ a range of different information systems to manage its operations including: project management software, source code management software, developer blogs, company messaging network, and a company website. Not only will the students gain authentic experience using these systems as part of their study, these systems will also be used to structure the learning experience and as a part of assessment management.
Class routine and pedagogy
In keeping with the connectivist principles – especially the widespread availability of information about the chosen technical tool – there will be little to no direct instruction by the teacher. A typical lesson will revolve around the students being assigned a to do item within the company’s project management software. The to do item will typically: explain what the task is to complete; specify whether the task is to be completed alone or as part of a team; and, provide some initial pointers to information that may help in completing the task. Each to do is the next problem the students need to solve. It is their responsibility to identify how and what they need to solve each problem. The information within the to do is designed to act as scaffolding to provide students with some initial guidance in completing the to do. As the course progresses, the amount of this scaffolding will be reduced appropriately.
Solving each to do will involve application of the Design, Develop and Evaluate (DDE) cycle as explained in the learner profile and the IPT syllabus (QSA, 2010). In keeping with industry practice the students will be expected to update the project management software with the approach used to solve the problem, document any additional information, and to indicate the current status of the task. By late in the first year of the course it is expected that students will be starting to create to dos for themselves and other students as part of standard practice as an IPT professional.
As well as mirroring IPT industry practice, this information will also be used as part of student assessment and teaching. For example, the combination of project management software and individual student blogs will be used to aggregate and create the required student verification folio. In addition it is planned that the objectives and topics in the IPT syllabus will be used as tags within the project management software and student blogs to enable the construction of visual representations of how student tasks and artefacts relate to the syllabus. Such visualisations should help students, teachers, parents, and associated school and education partners understand what students have done and what is still required.
In keeping with industry practice the students will also establish company-based social bookmarking, blog, and micro-blogging (Twitter-like) networks. These are used to share information about problems, resources and tasks completed by students both within and outside the classroom. Some will also serve as a major component of how the trainee IPT professionals will make connections with existing developer and user communities. The individual student blogs and micro-blogging network will also be used to provide feedback to the students from the teacher.
As part of the scenario the students will design, implement, and maintain a company blog/web site fitting within industry expectations of such a site. This site will also serve as the public face of the course to parents, the school, and broader communities.
The QSA IPT Syllabus (QSA, 2010) identifies three main assessment techniques for IPT:
- Supervised written assessment;
In class, supervised tests with a variety of question types.
- Extended responses assessment;
Written assignments, of various types, which require students to analyse, synthesise, and evaluate information and offer recommendations.
- Product assessment;
Authentic tests of student ability to develop authentic products, such as software development.
The project management software, student blogs and other information systems used within the course will also be used for assessment purposes. For example, student reports and software development projects will be developed and submitted via the company’s project management and version control software. The combination of the project management software and student blogs will be aggregated to provide each student with the required student verification folio.
The 12 lessons within this unit constitute the first 12 lessons the students will complete as part of a Year 11 IPT course. Consequently, the focus of the unit is more on familiarising students with the course, its approach, the tools to be used over the course, and introduce them to some of the fundamental notions of the course. In particular, the Design-Development-Evaluate (DDE) cycle. A particular focus of this unit is engaging the students in some initial activities and experiences that they will revisit later in the course as they deepen their understanding of the principles. The last major aim of this unit is to firmly establish student ownership of the company and the scenario.
Topics and objectives
The unit will start the process of providing student with experience and exposure to the following objectives of the IPT syllabus (QSA, 2010, pp 2-4).
- Knowledge of the terminology, applications and effects of ICTs, and of the syntax and rules of programming languages and query languages.
- Understanding of applicable concepts, design processes, diagrammatical representations, and social and ethical issues.
- Application of processes and algorithms for the solution of simple and familiar problems.
- Define and explain information technology terminology, concepts, processes and principles.
- Apply set processes to solve simple or familiar information technology problems.
- Utilisation of appropriate design methods and principles
- Interpret and analyse problems and situations requiring information technology use.
- Use of logic and reason in a range of evaluation approaches to make judgments and recommendations.
- Construction of documentation using the information literacy, software, or information systems development cycles.
- Presentation of technical ideas, design concepts, solutions and evaluations.
- Develop responsible attitudes towards the use of information technology
- Appreciate the value of working independently and with others.
As the number of objectives covered suggest, coverage in this introductory unit aims at a broad, but shallow, coverage of the syllabus topics and objectives. It aims to give the students a broad taste for what they will experience in the course. This is the start of the spiral curriculum as identified in the learner profile. The specific objectives are drawn from across the four general objectives listed in the IPT syllabus.
In terms of assessment, there will be no formal assessment as part of this 12 lesson unit. Many of the tasks completed during this unit, however, will either form:
- the first step in a latter formal assessment task; or
e.g. The course will have a final extended response task that asks the student to re-read the artefact they completed for To do #3 (see Table 2 for a description) and describe how their conception of IPT and IPT professionals has changed over the two years of the course.
- offer some initial experience with a process that will be used as part of a formal assessment task.
e.g. To dos 1, 5 and 11 require students to develop and evaluate processes to achieve some specific goal. This connects with a number of the IPT syllabus objectives and will form an important component of a number of remaining assessment items in the class.
There will, however, be quite significant observation of student participation and progress through the use of blogs, micro-blogging, collaboration, and in-class discussion and presentations. Knowledge gained through these observations will be used to provide guidance and additional help where required.
Software and services
Table 1 offers a summary of all the software and services that will be used during this unit. It is a fairly long list, however, as with the objectives discussed above this is due to the nature of the spiral curriculum. The aim of this unit is to provide a shallow level of experience with a broad selection of the software to be used throughout the course. The software in Table 1 covers most of the major planned software and services, with version control software being the main omission. Given the flexible nature of a connectivist approach it is likely that additional software will be used by some or all of the students over the two years. Standard software and services such as Office applications, web browsers, and general web sites and services (e.g. YouTube) will be used but are not included in Table 1.
Table 1. Services and software used in this unit
|Basecamp||http://basecamphq.com||Project management software used to allocate and track student tasks.|
|Wordpress.com||http://wordpress.com||Individual student blogs, mostly as reflective journals. Also for course blog.|
|Wordpress software||http://Wordpress.org||The open source code the students will install and eventually modify.|
|RSS reader||Various Used by students to track various class related feeds including: blogs of other students, Basecamp information, social bookmarking, and other information sources.|
|Edmodo||http://edmodo.com||Private micro-blogging site for education that includes support for assignment submission and polling.|
|Google docs||http://docs.googlecom||Collaborative authoring of documents.|
|Skype||http://skype.com||Synchronous video/audio interview of IPT professionals|
As described in the Class routine and pedagogy section above students will be allocated a number of to dos via the class project management software. Table 2 provides a summary of the thirteen to dos planned for this unit. Some additional information is provided in the Lessons overview below.
Table 2. Description of to do tasks for this unit.
|1||Answer a basic question about how to complete a task within Basecamp. Requires understanding the interface and/or using the online help resources.|
|2||Create a personal blog on WordPress.com|
|3||Add a post to their blog describing current conceptions of IPT, what an IPT professional does, and what they need to know.|
|4||Set up an RSS reader and track feeds from the blogs of other students and the project management software.|
|5||As a pair (each member of the pair is identified within the to do) design a process to be used by the company to name and brand their company blog.|
|6||Join and commence using the class EdModo group.|
|7||Complete a reflective blog post using ??two quick questions??|
|8||Set up an account on Diigo. Use it and the class tag to share two links: an interesting example of using WordPress, and a company/individual providing technical services for WordPress.|
|9||Implement and reflect on the process to name and brand the company WordPress site.|
|10||As a pair, evaluate the WordPress installation process.|
|11||Students install the WordPress software on their computer/laptop.|
|12||In a group of 4, Identify each of the major components required to run WordPress and describe important relevant information.|
This unit consists of 12 lessons that are each described in the following sections.
Lesson 1 – Getting started
- Briefly introduce students to the course and how it will work with a focus on authentic learning.
- Start the students using Basecamp and their own WordPress blog.
- Enable the students to use ad hoc or unplanned processes in their use of these systems as a basis for discussion and reflection later in the unit.
- Brief explanation of the course and its processes. (Most of this information will be given out electronically and discussesd as we go).
- Hand out the students “new employee kit” which contains user account details for Basecamp and instructions to login.
- To do #1: Students told to individually learn how to perform a different task with the software. Little or no direction is given.
- After 15 minutes run a class discussion about what they found out and ask them how they went about the task. Did they use an explicit process or make it up as they went? What worked? What didn’t. Lead into discussion of the DDE, its connection with information literacy and general processes for solving problems. Explain a bit more about the aim of IPT.
- Have the students close off their to do in Basecamp and explain more about the purpose of Basecamp.
- Comment on the public nature of some of the work we’ll be doing in this course and offer some an initial simple rule – “If you don’t want your teacher, your parents, and the headmaster to read something, don’t post it”. Indicate more talk about this later.
- To do #2: Have students work in pairs to each create their own WordPress.com blog. The to do will offer a brief description of pair programming and the various roles each pair will take on.
- Close the lesson with a review and point them to their homework. Remind about the need to change the status of to dos as they complete the task.
- To do #3: Write a blog post that describes their currently conceptions of IPT, what an IPT professional does, and what they will be learning (perhaps a KWL).
Lesson 2 – What is IPT and what do IPT professionals do?
- Activate and discuss what students currently know about IPT.
- Expose them to a variety of different views on IPT.
- Get them working RSS readers and feeds.
- Start thinking about their company.
- Use Basecamp’s management interface to identify who has and hasn’t completed their blog post.
- To do #4: Students need to learn about RSS/Atom feeds, set up a news reader and subscribe to various course related feeds, including the blogs of other students.
- Ask students to do a think/pair/share exercise about their blog posts, using the RSS reader to read each others blog posts.
- Show students a range of different perspectives on IPT from existing professionals, either via online video or live Skype or similar. Aim to include some folk from WordPress or WordPress services companies.
- Expand on the scenario and the nature of the company we’re creating and its aim to help people using WordPress. Explain that we now need to name and brand our company, but that this is a complex process that needs to involve all members of the class.
- Introduce To do #5: Students are asked to work in pairs to design the process the class will use to name and brand our company. The best process developed by a pair will be selected and implemented by the class. Some prompts provided about the nature of the DDE cycle, the range of tasks to be considered, and other resources. Resources include the evaluation criteria for the process.
Lesson 3 – What is our name? (1 of 5)
- Continue to expand the students’ appreciation of the need for process and planning.
- Illustrate the need for process and planning when involving groups and connect this to To do #5.
- Students work in pairs on To do #5.
Lesson 4 – What is our name? (2 of 5)
- Continue developing and applying insights into planning and process.
- Commence some reflection.
- Start with some discussion about the use of blogs and Edmodo, based on what the students have or haven’t been doing. In particular, encourage constructive replies.
- Students aim to complete their process design 10 minutes before the end of the lesson and be prepared to do a 5 minute presentation based on their process at the next lesson.
- To do #7: Students write a blog post with their answers to a minute paper (Angelo & Cross, 1993) around the task of developing a process for naming and branding.
Lesson 5 – What is our name? (3 of 5)
- Start students thinking about how to analyse and evaluate different options.
- Give students some practice at presenting.
- The evaluation criteria for the naming and branding process are revisited.
- Each group has 5 minutes to present their designed process.
- Class discussion about presented processes in the context of the evaluation criteria.
- An Edmodo poll is used to select the best process. Rewards given.
- To do #8: Create a Diigo account and use the class tag to share two links. The first is for a company/person that is being paid to help people use WordPress. The second is for a WordPress site that is being used for something interesting. Links save via social bookmarking and tagged with class tag. No duplicates and points given for the biggest service company and the most interesting application of WordPress.
Lesson 6 – What is our name? (4 of 5)
- Give students an experience at following a pre-defined process.
- Develop the naming and branding of the company’s website.
- To do #9: The process chosen in the last lesson is implemented with the lead developer (teacher) as project manager who has developed appropriate to dos in Basecamp to schedule student sub-tasks.
- After class is finished, an Edmodo poll is sent out to select the best links from to do #8.
Lesson 7 – What is our name? (5 of 5)
- Give students an experience at following a pre-defined process.
- Develop the naming and branding of the company’s website.
- Reward for the best links from to do #8.
- To do #9: The task is completed.
- In class reflection and de-brief of the process. Discussion of the tools we’ve been using.
Lesson 8 – Evaluating the installation of WordPress (1 of 2)
- Apply experience in creating and evaluating processes to evaluate another process.
- Start developing the knowledge necessary to install and modify WordPress.
- To do #10: Evaluation of WordPress installation process. Students pair up with each pair, where possible, containing an ‘expert’ (student greater computer experience, especially programming) and a ‘novice’. The task is to read up and critically evaluate the instructions for installing WordPress on their computers. The aim is to prepare them for actually doing the installation, identify knowledge limitations, identify the information sources for installation, and re-apply recent knowledge about processes and their evaluation. Students are to use the Information literacy cycle to answer specific questions that is to be documented on their blogs.
Lesson 9 – Evaluating the installation of WordPress (2 of 2)
- Complete installation of WordPress.
- Share information gathered about WordPress.
- Reflect on difficulties in evaluating the process.
- Students have time to complete the evaluation and change the status of the to do.
- Use a whole class SWOT analysis to synthesise the knowledge gained by the students. Also reflect on the process of evaluating the installation process.
- To do #11: Students install WordPress onto their computers. Access necessary software from school servers. Will probably complete process at home. Required to use their blog as a development diary and record the installation. Encouraged to use Edmodo and other sources to share progress and ask for help. Students ask to document anything new that occurs that wasn’t identified during the evaluation process (to do #10).
Lesson 10 – Components of an Information System (1 of 3)
- Deepen awareness of just how difficult process design and evaluation is.
- Commence work on understanding the architecture and components of the WordPress software system.
- Class discussion about the installation process. What worked? What didn’t? What was new? Why? Identify any scope for improving the process? Reflect on any issues that hadn’t been identified during the process.
- To do #12: Working as a team of four, identify, describe and categorise the major components (e.g. database engine, PHP interpreter, IDE, etc.) required to run and modify the WordPress software. Identify important locations and commands for using, managing and modifying a WordPress installation. Identify communities and online resources that related to each of the components.
Lesson 11 – Components of an information system (2 of 3)
- Continue developing awareness of the different components that make up a working WordPress installation.
- Complete to do #12.
- Use class discussion and a Google document to synthesise all the information about the components identified.
Lesson 12 – Reflection and tidy up
- Reflect on what has been learned (or not) in this unit.
- Identify what is working or not.
- Identify what’s next.
- Break students up into groups and ask them to complete a KWL based on this unit. What do they know after completing the unit, what do they want to know, and what did they learn.
- Have groups present the outcomes and use them to build a Google document with a class KWL.
- Explain about the next planned unit – SQL and manipulating the WordPress database – and how it fits with the KWL. More briefly explain the initial plan for the subsequent units.
- Any spare time is given over for students to customise their WordPress blogs and search out interesting WordPress plugins.
Given that there is no chance to deliver this unit during EPL there has been no attempt to construct specific artefacts to demonstrate my ability to implement this approach. It is suggested, however, that my past work experience with these and related technologies provides sufficient evidence of it being plausible. Relevant experience includes:
- The design and development of a University course on Systems Administration that aimed to make learning more authentic through students managing their own system, system emergencies, and maintaining system logs (Jones, 1993; 1995; 1996; 1999).
- Work as the team leader of the Webfuse develoment team from 2000 through 2004, including use of a helpdesk system (Jones & Gregor, 2004; 2006).
- The use of student blogs for reflection and the implementation of both a Webfuse extension (Jones & Luck, 2009) and a Moodle module (Jones, 2010) to aggregate and manage those blogs. The Moodle work included using a WordPress blog as a development diary and seeking to become a member of the Moodle developer community.
- The design and implementation of a Web 2.0 course site that aggregated feeds from a range of external Web 2.0 applications, including social bookmarking, to automatically populate a course website (Jones, 2007).
- While working as part of the Curriculum Design and Development Unit at CQU I instigated the use of Basecamp as project management software and worked with Google docs to collaboratively author documents.
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