Category Archives: ipt

A course outline to increase relevance of IPT

A few weeks ago I posted about some apparent trends in the number of enrolments within the Queensland High School subject Information and Processing Technology (IPT). All things being equal, I’ll be qualified to teach that course in Queensland High Schools next year.

One of the assignments I had to complete was to design a work plan for a single year of an IPT course. The following is an edited extract of the design I came up with and its rationale. The design was expressed in the formal structure used in Queensland schools, the following just gives the main points.

Introduction

The Queensland Authority subject Information Processing and Technology (IPT), and other school subjects in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), are boring. That is one of the findings made by Anderson et al (2008) from their survey of 1453 Queensland senior high school girls. This is but one contributing factor to worldwide trends that show a reduction in total enrolments in IPT courses and a very low rate of female participation in those courses (Anderson et al., 2008; Koppi, Sheard, Naghdy, Edwards, & Brookes, 2010; Lasen, 2010).

These trends are visible in IPT enrolments in Queensland schools. Figure 1 shows the percentage of all Queensland OP students enrolled in IPT (1992-2010) split by gender. Male enrolment has dropped from a peak of just over 35% in 2002 to under 20% in 2010. The female participation rate has never exceeded 10% and currently sits at under 3%.

Percentage of gender enrolments
Figure 1. The percentage of male and female OP students enrolled in IPT (1992-2010)

Figure 2 shows the same trends using the average number of students per school that is offering IPT. On average, an IPT class in 2010 has less than 10 students with less than 2 of those students being female. Addressing these trends is seen as a major aim of the changes being made to this work program.

# of IPT students per school
Figure 2. Average number of students enrolled in an IPT course.

The aim of IPT is to provide students with knowledge and skills to create, manipulate, store, retrieve and communicate information with a range of technological devices (QSA, 2010, p. 1). While intended to be useful to all students, IPT is known to be “closely associated contingently with transition to University computing degree programs” (Anderson et al., 2008, p. 1305). This tendency contradicts the IPT syllabus’ perspective that IPT touches many aspects of human life and is applied to diverse fields of study (QSA, 2010). In an extension of this argument, Rushkoff (2010, p. 130) suggests the ability to understand IPT people will be left to conform to the needs of the technology, rather than the other way around.

The IPT syllabus (QSA, 2010) specifies four dimensions of general objectives that must be taught. These include three assessable general objectives (Knowledge and Application, Analysis and Synthesis, and Evaluation and Communication) and a fourth group of objectives (Attitudes and values) that are not directly assessed but should be covered by learning experiences (QSA, 2010, p. 2). The syllabus outlines a total of eight topics from which material may be drawn. Two of these topics (Intelligent Systems and Computer Systems) are considered additional material. Another two (Human Computer Interface and Social and Ethical Issues) are core, but are not taught separately from other topics. The remaining four are core topics (Relational Information Systems, SQL, Software Programming, and Algorithms).

The Units

The idea is that during Year 11 these IPT students will complete the following four, term-long (10 weeks) units

  1. What is IPT and why is it important?
  2. Telling computers what to do.
  3. Manipulating and visualising big data.
  4. Using IPT to make a difference.

The following provides the unit description for each of these units. The assignment had to show the direct connections with the IPT syllabus requirements.

What is IPT and why is it important?

As IPT becomes increasingly ubiquitous and important to society, enrolment numbers in Queensland high-school IPT classes are dropping. In this unit students are charged with developing – as a group – a website that uses a variety of multi-media resources to demonstrate what IPT is and why it is an essential skill to the future of a diverse collection of professions. Students will use the information systems design cycle to design, develop and evaluate their website. Students will be exposed to a range of perspectives on and examples of the value, nature, and societal impact of IPT. They will be required to gather, query and manipulate data about IPT enrolments, student perceptions of IPT, and the perceptions of the broader community. They will be introduced to and expected to apply knowledge and understanding of web design, peer review processes, copyright and intellectual property, user-centered design, and accessibility to develop their website.

Telling computers what to do

Computers are protean, a meta-medium, they are infinitely malleable. This unit focuses on showing students how they can get computers to carry out tasks relevant to a range of professions and careers. Students will be guided in selecting a 3GL programming environment that matches the careers they examined in the previous unit. They will use their chosen 3GL to develop software that is relevant to a particular career. To do this they will be introduced to the basics of algorithms and their basic elements, algorithm design, and the basics of 3GL programming languages.

Manipulating and visualising big data

One of the biggest of the current IPT challenges is figuring out how to make sense of all of the available data. This unit focuses on providing students within an introduction to how they can query, analyse, manipulate, visualise and generate insight from “big data”. Students will be shown how to combine 3rd generational programming languages with Structured Query Language and other formal methods for manipulating information to generate insight relevant to a range of professions. To achieve this, students will also examine relevant social and ethical issues and interface design methods.

Using IPT to make a difference

The focus of this unit is on the production of a complete information system that brings together and extends previous work from this year. Students will identify and then implement and document a program that fulfils useful task relevant to a particular profession. The system will need to draw upon and extend knowledge of programming, data manipulation, human computer interface and social and ethical issues. Students will be expected to complete the entire software development life cycle.

Assessment overview

Semester Unit Conditions
1 What is IPT and why is it important? 5 week, group website developed with SDLC. Individual work, including reflective blog posts. Completed 50:50 student:class time
Telling people and computers what to do 60 minute, closed book, theory exam
Students maintain a blog folio of 3GL programs in response to required exercises.
2 Querying, manipulating and visualising big data Students maintain over 6 weeks a personal blog with both reflective journal posts and folio items of their work with big data.
Using IPT to make a difference Students design, implement, evaluate and document over the entire term a relevant computer application using the complete SDLC.

Is IT a service industry, or is it “eating the world”?

In an earlier post I wondered if how high school classes in Information Technology(IT)/Computer Science(CS) are being taught is turning students off and, if so, is this why enrolment numbers are dropping. In the comments on that post Tony suggests some other reasons for this decline. Including the observation that IT courses in local schools (both Tony and I live in Queensland, Australia) are primarily seen to serve the needs of students who want to be IT professionals. The further suggestion is that since

IT is a service-based industry, there only needs to be 5%-10% of the population focused on it as a profession

Now I can agree somewhat with this perspective. It matches some of what I observe. It also reminds me of Nicholas Carr’s 2003 Harvard Business Review article titled IT doesn’t matter which included the following

The point is, however, that the technology’s potential for differentiating one company from the pack – its strategic potential – inexorably diminishes as it becomes accessible and affordable to all

Instead of being strategic, Carr sees IT becoming infrastructure somewhat like electricity etc.

The rise of the cloud seems to reinforce this perspective. Increasingly there is no strategic advantage for an institution having its own guru Systems Administrators running servers and managing networks. Instead they can outsource this to “the cloud” or more often service providers. For example, a number of Australian Universities have outsourced the hosting of their Learning Management Systems.

Combine this with the nerd image of IT, and you can see why more high school students aren’t taking classes in IT.

But what if software ate the world?

And then comes the recent article from Marc Andreessen on “Why software is eating the world”. In his own words

My own theory is that we are in the middle of a dramatic and broad technological and economic shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy

If true, this sort of shift suggests that having some IT, especially software, knowledge and capability could be a useful thing. The prediction is that industries with a significant physical component (e.g. oil and gas) the opportunity is there for existing companies. But in other industries, start-ups will have opportunities.

Andreessen argues that this shift is starting to happen now for much the same reason that Carr argued that IT didn’t matter anymore. i.e. the technology needed to fully harness software has become infrastructure, it’s become invisible. Huge numbers of people have smartphones and Internet access. The IT services industry and the cloud make it simple to develop a global software application.

Of course, one of the problems with this argument is confirmation bias, as put in this comment from the Slashdot post on the Andreessen article

THIS JUST IN
An expert of [field of study] believes [field of study] will change the world. Also emphasizes that other people are not taking [field of study] seriously.

What does this mean for high school IT classes

One of the problems that Andreessen identifies is that

many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution.

Give the dearth of enrolments in high school IPT in local schools and universities, I imagine that the same problem exists here in Australia. I believe this is also a major point that Rushkoff makes in his book “Program or be programmed”

So, obviously more people should enrol in the IT classes in high school.

No, I don’t think so. At least not as most stand at the moment.

This connects back to a point from my initial post. I believe that the current curriculum and teaching methods for these courses are generally not appropriate for the purpose of preparing people – beyond just the future IT professionals – for this world that software is eating.

The current curriculum appears aimed at providing the service providers. The folk who will keep the infrastructure going. What is needed is curriculum and teaching methods that will prepare the folk who are going to identify opportunities and transform industries. Or on a smaller scale, identify opportunities for how the IT infrastructure can be harnessed to improve their lives.

Design Rationale – ICTs for E-Learning A3

Introduction

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:

  • Rationale;
    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.

Rationale

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.

Tool selection

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 scenario

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.

Assessment

The QSA IPT Syllabus (QSA, 2010) identifies three main assessment techniques for IPT:

  1. Supervised written assessment;
    In class, supervised tests with a variety of question types.
  2. Extended responses assessment;
    Written assignments, of various types, which require students to analyse, synthesise, and evaluate information and offer recommendations.
  3. 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.

Unit overview

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.

Assessment

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

Service URL Purpose
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.
Diigo http://diigo.com Social bookmarking
Skype http://skype.com Synchronous video/audio interview of IPT professionals

To dos

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.

To do Description
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.

Lessons overview

This unit consists of 12 lessons that are each described in the following sections.

Lesson 1 – Getting started

Aim

  • 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.

Process

  • 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?

Aims

  • 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.

Process

  • 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)

Aims

  • Continue to expand the students’ appreciation of the need for process and planning.

Process

  • 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)

Aims

  • Continue developing and applying insights into planning and process.
  • Commence some reflection.

Process

  • 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)

Aims

  • Start students thinking about how to analyse and evaluate different options.
  • Give students some practice at presenting.

Process

  • 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)

Aims

  • Give students an experience at following a pre-defined process.
  • Develop the naming and branding of the company’s website.

Process

  • 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)

Aims

  • Give students an experience at following a pre-defined process.
  • Develop the naming and branding of the company’s website.

Process

  • 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)

Aims

  • Apply experience in creating and evaluating processes to evaluate another process.
  • Start developing the knowledge necessary to install and modify WordPress.

Process

  • 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)

Aim

  • Complete installation of WordPress.
  • Share information gathered about WordPress.
  • Reflect on difficulties in evaluating the process.

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)

Aim

  • Deepen awareness of just how difficult process design and evaluation is.
  • Commence work on understanding the architecture and components of the WordPress software system.

Process

  • 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)

Aim

  • Continue developing awareness of the different components that make up a working WordPress installation.

Process

  • 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

Aim

  • Reflect on what has been learned (or not) in this unit.
  • Identify what is working or not.
  • Identify what’s next.

Process

  • 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.

Example artefacts

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.

References

Angelo, T., & Cross, K. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (2nd ed., p. 448). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Jones, D. (1993). Teaching systems administration. Melbourne.

Jones, D. (1995). Teaching systems administration II. Wollongong: SAGE-AU.

Jones, D. (1996). Solving Some Problems of University Education: A Case Study. In R. Debreceny & A. Ellis (Eds.), (pp. 243-252). Gold Coast, QLD: Southern Cross University Press.

Jones, D. (1999). Solving some problems with university education: Part II. Balina, Australia.

Jones, D. (2007). CQUʼs first “web 2.0 course site” goes live. Retrieved from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2007/07/11/cqus-first-web-20-course-site-goes-live/.

Jones, D. (2010). Limits in developing innovative pedagogy with Moodle: The story of BIM. Melbourne. Retrieved from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/an-overview-of-bim/.

Jones, D., & Gregor, S. (2004). An information systems design theory for e-learning. In S. Elliot, M.-A. Williams, S. Williams, & C. Pollard (Eds.), . Hobart, Tasmania.

Jones, D., & Gregor, S. (2006). The formulation of an Information Systems Design Theory for E-Learning (pp. 356-373). Claremont, CA.

Jones, D., & Luck, J. (2009). Blog Aggregation Management: Reducing the Aggravation of Managing Student Blogging. AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/31530.

QSA. (2010). Information Processing and Technology (IPT): Senior Syllabus 2010. Assessment. Spring Hill, QLD, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.qsa.qld.edu.au/downloads/senior/snr_ipt_10_syll.pdf.

Learner profile – ICTs for E-Learning A3 – Part 1

Introduction

The following learner profile aims to provide a generic profile of Year 11 Queensland students enrolling in a senior course in Information and Processing Technology (IPT). While informed by observations of students gained during Embedded Professional Learning (EPL) it does not draw specifically on profiling activities of those students. Instead the profile draws on what is known about these students from the broader literature. The main reason for using a more general learner profile is that any limited profile of a single IPT class generated through activities organised by a student teacher is not likely to be as representative as drawing on an array of literature and supplementing this with classroom observation.

What does the learner already know?

As a senior course, students entering the course will have completed schooling up to Year 10. This may or may not have included formal study of Information Technology (IT). Where formal study of IT does occur in junior years of high school it is likely to focus on learning how to use various computer applications and general computer literacy. Some schools may offer courses in junior years that cover multi-media and programming/games development. It is also increasingly expected that the National Secondary School Computer Fund’s (DET, 2010) aim of a 1:1 computer to student ratio by 31 December 2011 will further impact students experience of computers in school-based learning. Not only should the students have ready access to computers and networks, they will increasingly have experience of using computers as part of school studies.

It is also expected that most students will have an increasing level of informal experience with the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in the form of either computers or mobile devices. Table 1 is a summary of how American teens (12-17) are using technology based on a survey of 800 teenagers in September 2009 by the Pew Research Centre (Lenhart, 2011). While based on usage by American teens these figures are broadly comparable to 2007 research on Australian children (ACMA, 2007) in showing that Internet, computer, and mobile phone usage have almost become ubiquitous.

Based on this increasing access, t has been suggested that people born since around 1980 – having been immersed in the use of ICTs for most of their lives – are somehow different in terms of skills and interests and that this has significant implications for education (Prensky, 2001; Tapscott, 1998). Bennet, Maton, and Kervin (2008, p. 776), however, suggest that these poorly evidenced claims have created a type of “moral panic” that has restricted critical and rational debate. Jones, Ramanau et al (2010, p. 772) through their examination of first year undergraduates at five English Universities found that

the generation is not homogenous in its use and appreciation of new technologies and that there are significant variations amongst students that lie within the Net generation age band

Table 1. ICT use reported by USA teenagers.

Statistic Percentage
Online 93%
No computer 8%
Own a cell phone 75%
Online with cell phone 21%
Own a game console 80%
Own a portable gaming device 51%
On a social networking service 73%
Write a blog 14%

Hargittai (2010) found that there is significant variation in Internet know-how amongst young adults and that those from more privileged backgrounds use the Internet in a larger number of activities and in more informed ways. It appears that while potential IPT students may be more prepared to use IPT for learning, there remain questions about the depth and spread of that preparation.

It is also likely that most potential IPT students will have little nuanced insights into the impact of IPT on society and the practices and processes of an IPT professional. Computer science – a disciplinary cousin of IPT – has long tried to dissuade people of the narrow and misleading image of computer science as programming (Fletcher & Lu, 2009). Stereotyping of computing and the people who do computing continues to limit the diversity of people studying to become computing professionals (Klawe, Whitney, & Simard, 2009). For example, Cooper (2006, p. 331) argues existing gender stereotypes around computing and subsequent social influences increase the level of computer anxiety felt by girls. Kaarst-Brown and Guzman (2010), however, argue that this focus on the characteristics of gender-based, or other, groupings is insufficient to explain individual attraction to a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career. Instead, they argue that a new cultural perspective – one of which they provide – is necessary to generate renewed thinking about attracting students to IT studies (Kaarst-Brown & Guzman, 2010).

Where does the learner need or want to be?

The 2010 Queensland Senior Syllabus (QSA, 2010) for Information and Processing Technology (IPT) Syllabus describes IPT as

an intellectual discipline that involves a study of information systems, algorithms, software programming, human–computer interaction, and the social and ethical issues associated with the use of information technology.

The general objectives of the syllabus are divided into four dimensions: knowledge and application; analysis and synthesis; evaluation and communication; and, attitudes and values. Course content is drawn from 8 topic areas. Figure 1 is a representation of the structure of these topic areas. Two of the eight topics – intelligent systems and computer systems – provide optional material to supplement the six core topics. Two of the core topics – social and ethical issues, and human-computer interaction – are intended to be embedded within the other topic areas. Table 2 provides an overview of each topic area.

Figure 1. The topic structure for a senior IPT course. Adapted from “Information Processing and Technology (IPT): Senior Syllabus 2010″ by QSA, 2010, p. 5.
Topic structure for QSA course on Information and Processing Technology

Table 2. Summary of IPT topic areas
* not a stand alone topic, should be embedded in other topics.

Topic Description
Algorithms Students are introduced to the notion of algorithm design, including at least one formal representational system.
Relational information systems Examines formal models for describing the architecture of information systems, presents methods for developing these systems, and allows students to implement these to produce working information systems
Software programming Study the development of software and provide students with some experience and skills in the design, development, and evaluation of computer programs to address practical problems or meet particular needs.
Structured query language The use of SQL to manipulate data within a database.
Social and ethical issues * Develop an appreciation and understanding of the impact of IPT on individuals and communities across the world. Including an appreciation of the social and ethical issues that arise from other sections.
Human-computer interaction * Understanding the interaction between humans and technology to inform better design and improve user interfaces.

Intelligent systems

Introduces a formal model to describe the architecture of intelligent systems, methods for the development of these systems, and allows students to implement these.
Computer systems How are computers and computer systems organised, designed, and implemented?

Fundamental to the presentation of the subject is the notion of the design-develop-evaluate (DDE) cycle Table 3 and one that should be embedded throughout IPT learning experiences. It is through the application of this cycle in a variety of learning experiences that an IPT class should aim to promote the teamwork, communication, and problem solving skills of students through the development of products (QSA, 2010). Learning experiences in an IPT class can include, but are not limited to: using information technology; solving problems in a variety of domains; extended writing including appropriate use of information sources, analysis and evaluation; presentation and communication of proposed solutions; and, collaboration within teams.

Table 3. The DDE cycle and other process cycles. Adapted from “Information Processing and Technology (IPT): Senior Syllabus 2010″ by QSA, 2010, p. 20. (Click on table to see large version).
The DDE cycle

How does the learner best learn?

For some there is an expectation that the question of learning styles will in some way be included as a response to this question. Pashler, McDaniel, and Bjork (2008) argue that while there is evidence of learning preferences there is little research that suggests a positive connection between learning outcomes and differentiation of learning based on those preferences. There is, however, evidence that teaching and learning strategies that support the learning style preferences students can increase the motivation of students to learn (Feldgen & Clua, 2004). Platsidou and Metallidou (2009) offer another perspective, suggesting that learning styles inventories are more useful as a tool to encourage self-development of individual students, rather than as a mechanism to categorise and group students. The preceding mixed messages along with the difficulty involved in effectively pre-designing teaching and learning strategies based on assumptions around the mix of potential learning styles of students limit the attraction of this approach. It does appear more effective to make students aware of their learning preferences, the existence of other learning styles, adopt a course design that allows students to adopt and adapt their own learning strategies, and embed into that design approaches that encourage students to reflect and modify their strategies.

In addition, the research literature around diversity within the computer-science related disciplines (e.g. Cooper, 2006; Kaarst-Brown & Guzman, 2010; Klawe et al., 2009) identify a range of strategies intended to aid non-traditional learners studying within these disciplines. A small sample of these include:

  • Allow female students to use computers in same sex groups or alone (Cooper, 2006).
  • Work with female students on how the attribute success and failure (Cooper, 2006).
  • Incorporate opportunities to see non-traditional role models (Cooper, 2006).
  • Engage students actively in their conceptions of the IT culture and demonstrate alternatives (Kaarst-Brown and Guzman, 2010).

The book “How People Learn” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 14-19) presents three key findings related to learning that have a good research based and implications for teaching. These three findings are:

  1. Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.
  2. To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.
  3. A “metacognitive” approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them.

As mentioned in previous work for this course (Jones, 2011)

Too many IT courses rely on simple and narrow problems in order to focus on the principles. The readings on constructivism, connectivism, and Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998) have reinforced the learning and motivational advantages of engaging students in authentic problems.

There is a body of literature around the teaching of computer science and related fields that reports on work seeking to build on these types of conclusions. For example, Maloney et al (2008) and McDougall and Boyle (2004) report on approaches where with appropriate scaffolding students are helped to learn via bricolage with much of the learning initiated by the student and help arising mostly from peers and mentors, rather than the teacher. The computer clubhouse model (Kafai, Peppler, & Chapman, 2009), an after-school learning environment, is based on four core principles: support learning through design experiences, help youth build on their own interests, cultivate an “emergent community”, and create and environment of respect and trust. Tagney et al (2010) build on the clubhouse model with a system where teams of students adopt a project-oriented approach working to meet set objectives with hard deadlines. The work of Tagney et al (2010), and some of the other work described here, is based on one or both of Vygotsky’s version of social constructivism and Papert’s constructionism (1993).

The position on learning being adopted in this work is based on connectivism (Downes, 2009). While there remains some discussion about the relationship beween connectivism, social constructivism, and connectionism (Kop & Hill, 2008), the position adopted here is pragmatic in terms of taking principles and practices from any source as long as it effectively connects with ideas of Downes’ (2007) basic theory of teaching and learning

to teach is to model and demonstrate, to learn is to practice and reflect

That is, the design here is based on the assumption that students learn best when they are actively engaged in the authentic practice of being an IPT professional and reflecting on that practice. This is especially so, if the students are able to observe and regularly interact with a range of people – including their teacher –actively modelling and demonstrating effective performance of those practices. The intent is to marry this with Bruner’s idea of a spiral curriculum that Harden and Stamper (1999, p. 141) describes as having the following features:

  1. Topics are revisited multiple times.
  2. There are increasing levels of difficulty.
  3. New learning is related to previous learning.
  4. The competence of the students increases.

In the context of an IPT course the adoption of a spiral curriculum not only generates the value associated with the idea, it can also be used to illustrate the important IPT concept of stepwise refinement.
As a consequence, it is thought that the best learning context for a Senior IPT course is one in which the students are working with a real information system. Especially when the chosen information system has a large, active, and open community of developers and users with which the students are able to actively engage. It is through this process that the students will aim to make a contribution to the community that is valued and used by others. It is through making this contribution that the students will best learn about the topic areas and objectives of the IPT course.

References

ACMA. (2007). Media and Communications in Australian Families 2007. Communications. Canberra, ACT, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.acma.gov.au/webwr/_assets/main/lib101058/maciaf2007_overview.pdf.

Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The Òdigital nativesÓ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775-786. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00793.x.

Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2000). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C. National Academy Press.

Cooper, J. (2006). The digital divide: The special case of gender. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22(5), 320–334. Wiley Online Library. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2006.00185.x.

DET. (2010). National Secondary School Computer Fund Queensland State Schools Guidelines Contents. Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Retrieved from http://education.qld.gov.au/smartclassrooms/pdf/nsscf-guidelines.pdf.

Downes, S. (2007). What connectivism is. Retrieved June 5, 2011, from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html.

Downes, S. (2009). Learning networks and connective knowledge. In H. H. Yang & S. C.-Y. Yuen (Eds.), Collective intelligence and elearning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking (pp. 1-22). IGI Global.

Feldgen, M., & Clua, O. (2004). Games as a motivation for freshman students to learn programming. Frontiers in Education (Vol. 3, p. S1H/11-S1H/16). Savannah, GA: IEEE.

Fletcher, G. H. L., & Lu, J. J. (2009). Human computing skills: Rethinking the K-12 experience. Communications of the ACM, 52(2), 23. doi: 10.1145/1461928.1461938.

Harden, R., & Stamper, N. (1999). What Is a Spiral Curriculum?. Medical Teacher, 21(2), 141–43. doi: 10.1080/01421599979752.

Hargittai, E. (2010). Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the ÒNet Generation.Ó Sociological Inquiry, 80(1), 92-113. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.2009.00317.x.

Jones, C., Ramanau, R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010). Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732. Elsevier Ltd. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2009.09.022.

Jones, D. (2011). Reflection and conclusions: Learning brief. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/reflection-and-conclusions-learning-brief/.

Kaarst-Brown, M. L., & Guzman, I. R. (2010). A cultural perspective on individual choices of STEM education and subsequent occupations. Proceedings of the 2010 Special Interest Group on Management Information Systemʼs 48th annual conference on Computer personnel research on Computer personnel research – SIGMIS-CPR Õ10 (p. 55). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi: 10.1145/1796900.1796926.

Kafai, Yasmin, Peppler, K., & Chapman, R. (2009). The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and creativity in youth communities (p. 162). New York: Teachers College Press.

Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, B. (1998). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Educational Technology, 38(5), 20-23.

Klawe, M., Whitney, T., & Simard, C. (2009). Women in computing—take 2. Communications of the ACM, 52(2), 68–76. ACM. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1461947.

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3). Retrieved February 28, 2011, from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewArticle/523/1103%22.

Lenhart, A. (2011). ÒHow do [they] even do that?Ó Myths and facts about the impact of technology on the lives of American teens. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from http://pewinternet.org/Presentations/2011/Apr/From-Texting-to-Twitter.aspx.

Maloney, J. H., Peppler, K., Kafai, Y., Resnick, M., & Rusk, N. (2008). Programming by choice: urban youth learning programming with scratch. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 40(1), 367–371. ACM. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1352322.1352260.

McDougall, A., & Boyle, M. (2004). Student Strategies for Learning Computer Programming: Implications for Pedagogy in Informatics. Education and Information Technologies, 9(2), 109–116. Springer. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from http://www.springerlink.com/index/H221286T0727KQ50.pdf.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105–119. Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved May 29, 2011, from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bpl/pspi/2008/00000009/00000003/art00002.

Platsidou, M., & Metallidou, P. (2009). Validity and Reliability Issues of Two Learning Style Inventories in a Greek Sample : Kolb Õ s Learning Style Inventory and Felder & Soloman Õ s Index of Learning Styles. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(3), 324-335.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

QSA. (2010). Information Processing and Technology (IPT): Senior Syllabus 2010. Assessment. Spring Hill, QLD, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.qsa.qld.edu.au/downloads/senior/snr_ipt_10_syll.pdf.

Tangney, B., Oldham, E., Conneely, C., Barrett, S., & Lawlor, J. (2010). Pedagogy and Processes for a Computer Programming Outreach Workshop—The Bridge to College Model. Education, IEEE Transactions on, 53(1), 53–60. IEEE. doi: 10.1109/TE.2009.2023210.

Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

A profile of learners in an IPT class

The last post was the first step in designing a unit of work for a senior IPT (Information and Processing Technology) course as part of an assignment for a course titled ICTs for Learning Design. The intent is to show an ability to integrate e-learning into learning design in effective ways. The first part of the assignment requires a profile of the learners. The following is my first attempt at such a profile. I’m very interested to hear comments from those folk who are currently teaching IPT. Am I on the right track? What have I missed?

Learning Management Questions: 1, 2, and 3

The course and program I am studying is based on the concept of “learning management” which has a technique called the Learning Design Process which is based on 8 Learning Management Questions that

that organises ‘information’ required of learning managers for the successful sequencing, pacing and importantly delivery of curriculum material for individual learners.

The notion of the teacher having to sequence, pace and deliver curriculum material is of itself a fairly specific and somewhat limiting perspective on teaching. A perspective that I’m not sure fits real well with the approach I’m thinking of for my design. I also have a problem with the teleological nature of the design

This process enables learning managers to focus their work on learner progress and future learning objectives; to assemble the required ‘ingredients’ for a successful learning program (design) and to then implement the plan using appropriate pedagogical strategies.

But let’s leave the questioning aside and tick the boxes.

The first three LM questions have to do with profiling the student, they are

  1. What does the learner already know?
  2. Where does the learner need/want to be?
  3. How does the learner best learn?

These are the questions I’m going to seek to answer in the following. The assignment suggests/requires that we do this profiling within the context of our existing school. I’m going to argue against that because what I’m designing is not going to be taught to these students, mainly because it is quite a radical departure from existing practice. But also because there is a tendency for IPT courses to be slightly idiosyncratic in their choice of tools and approaches. For example, my IPT mentor teacher has experience and knowledge with Visual Basic and Access. So his IPT curriculum is based around the use of those tools to achieve appropriate learning outcomes. I have little to no experience with those tools.

What does the learner already know?

As a senior course, students entering the course will have completed schooling up to Year 10. This may or may not have included formal study of Information Technology (IT). It is likely, however, that enrolling students will have had some formal experience of computing in the lower grades. It is also increasingly expected that enrolling students will have access to a computer through the National Secondary School Computer Fund’s (DET, 2010) aim of a 1:1 computer to student ratio by 31 December 2011. This access to computers should increase students’ formal experience of computing to support learning.

It is also expected that a majority of students will have some level of informal experience with the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in the form of either computers or mobile devices. The following table summarises some data from a talk on American teens (12-17) from the Pew Research Centre. The talk uses data from a survey of 800 teenagers from September 2009. Based on observations in local schools, these numbers seem, if anything, a bit low in the Australian context.

Statistics Percentage
Online 93%
No computer 8%
Own a cell phone 75%
Online with cell phone 21%
Own a game console 80%
Own a portable gaming device 51%
On a social networking service 73%
Blog 14%

It is widely suggested that people born since around 1980 – having been immersed in the use of ICTs for most of their lives – are somehow different in terms of skills and interests and that this has significant implications for education. Bennet et al (2008, p. 776) suggest that these poorly evidenced claims have created a a “moral panic” that has restricted critical and rational debate. Jones, Ramanau et al (2010, p 722) through their examination of first year undergraduates at five English Universities that

the generation is not homogenous in its use and appreciation of new technologies and that there are significant variations amongst students that lie within the Net generation age band

Hargittai (2010) found that there is significant variation in Internet know-how amongst young adults and that those from more privileged backgrounds use the Internet in a larger number of activities and in more informed ways.

The majority will not be familiar with the requirements and practices of a computing professional. In particular, the constraints and interesting effects that having real users can generate. In particular, the gulf that can be created between an IT team and its users. Students, like most people, tend to assume that IT is either programming or desktop support. Computer science – a more theoretical ancestor of IT – has long tried to dissuade people of the narrow and misleading image of computer science as programming (Fletcher and Lu, 2009).

It is also likely that the students enrolling in IPT will not be representative of the full diversity of senior students. Bias and stereotyping of computing and the people who do computing continues to limit the diversity of people actively studying and becoming computing professionals (Klawe, Whitney and Simard, 2009). Some have concluded that men have a relative advantage over women when learning about or using computers (Cooper, 2006). Kaarst-Brown and Guzman (2010), however, argue that this focus on the characteristics of gender-based, or other, groupings is insufficient to explain individual attraction to a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career. Instead, they argue that a new cultural perspective – one of which they provide – is necessary to generate renewed thinking about attracting students to IT studies (Kaarst-Brown and Guzman, 2010, p 63).

Where does the learner need/want to be?

This is where I’ll need to draw on some of the information from the last post which briefly examined the IPT syllabus for Queensland schools.

In terms of a hidden curriculum some of the following are potential candidates

  • An understanding of how creative working with IT can be.
  • A sense that they can produce something useful and make a contribution beyond school and family.

How does the learner best learn?

For some there is an expectation that the question of learning styles will in some way be included as a response to this question. Pashler, McDaniel et al (2008) argue that while there is evidence of learning preferences there is little research that suggests a positive connection between learning outcomes and differentiation of learning based on those preferences. There is, however, evidence that teaching and learning strategies that support the learning style preferences students can increase the motivation of students to learn (Feldgen and Clue, 2004). Platsidou and Metallidou (2009) offer another perspective, suggesting that learning styles inventories are more useful as a tool to encourage self-development of individual students, rather than as a mechanism to categorise and group students. The preceding mixed messages along with the difficulty involved in effectively pre-designing teaching and learning strategies based on assumptions around the mix of potential learning styles of students limit the attraction of this approach. It does appear more effective to make students aware of their learning preferences, the existence of other learning styles, adopt a course design that allows students to adopt and adapt their own learning strategies, and embed into that design approaches that encourage students to reflect and modify their strategies.

The book “How People Learn” (Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning, 2000, pp 14-19) presents three key findings related to learning that have a good research based and implications for teaching. These three findings are:

  1. Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.
  2. To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.
  3. A “metacognitive” approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them.

As mentioned in previous work for this course

Too many IT courses rely on simple and narrow problems in order to focus on the principles. The readings on constructivism, connectivism, and Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998) have reinforced the learning and motivational advantages of engaging students in authentic problems.

Within the literature on teaching IT, computer science, and related fields there has been a range of work that has arisen from this type of observation. Maloney et al (2008) and McDougall and Boyle (2004) report on approaches where with appropriate scaffolding students are helped to learn via bricolage with much of the learning initiated by the student and help arising mostly from peers and mentors, rather than the teacher. The computer clubhouse model (Kafai et al, 2009), an after-school learning environment, is based on four core principles: support learning through design experiences, help youth build on their own interests, cultivate an “emergent community”, and create and environment of respect and trust. Tagney et al (2010) build and extend on the clubhouse model with a team-based system with teams adopting a project-oriented approach working to meet set objectives with hard deadlines. The work of Tagney et al (2010), and some of the other work described here, is based on one or both of Vygotsky’s version of social constructivism and Papert’s constructionism (1993). I see some significant value from a connectivist perspective of encouraging students to interact with communities outside the classroom, especially existing communities associated with real life systems.

The research literature on encouraging greater diversity amongst IT related disciplines (e.g. Kaarst-Brown and Guzman, 2010; Cooper, 2006; Klawe et al, 2009) suggest a range of strategies that can aid non-traditional learners. A small sample of these include:

  • Allow female students to use computers in same sex groups or alone (Cooper, 2006).
  • Work with female students on how the attribute success and failure (Cooper, 2006).
  • Incorporate opportunities to see non-traditional role models (Cooper, 2006).
  • Engage students actively in their conceptions of the IT culture and demonstrate alternatives (Kaarst-Brown and Guzman, 2010).

Some conclusions from the profile

The following is a short list of arbitrary thoughts that arose while writing the above.

  • The class design should aim to dissuade students that IT is programming or desktop support.
    Don’t start with programming. Though Fletcher and Lu (2009) disagree, so more thought here. Give students experience at the full range of computing roles: from level 1 helpdesk support through to management.
  • Computational thinking is the new term to describe what some see as the predecessor to programming.
    This may also cover some of what the IT syllabus talks about. From Fletcher and Lu (2009)
    The redesign and implementation of K–12 curricula to provide adequate exposure to and practice in CT should, of course, be coupled with ongoing efforts to rethink the ways in which we transition students into programming and higher-level CS.

References

Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The Òdigital nativesÓ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775-786. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00793.x.

Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington DC: National Academy Press.

Cooper, J. (2006). The digital divide: The special case of gender. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 22(5), 320–334. Wiley Online Library. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2006.00185.x.

DET. (2010). National Secondary School Computer Fund Queensland State Schools Guidelines Contents. Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Retrieved from http://education.qld.gov.au/smartclassrooms/pdf/nsscf-guidelines.pdf.

Feldgen, M., & Clua, O. (2004). Games as a motivation for freshman students to learn programming. Frontiers in Education (Vol. 3, p. S1H/11-S1H/16). Savannah, GA: IEEE.

Fletcher, G. H. L., & Lu, J. J. (2009). Human computing skills: Rethinking the K-12 experience. Communications of the ACM, 52(2), 23. doi: 10.1145/1461928.1461938.

Hargittai, E. (2010). Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the ÒNet Generation.Ó Sociological Inquiry, 80(1), 92-113. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.2009.00317.x.

Jones, C., Ramanau, R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010). Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732. Elsevier Ltd. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2009.09.022.

Kaarst-Brown, M. L., & Guzman, I. R. (2010). A cultural perspective on individual choices of STEM education and subsequent occupations. Proceedings of the 2010 Special Interest Group on Management Information Systemʼs 48th annual conference on Computer personnel research on Computer personnel research – SIGMIS-CPR Õ10 (p. 55). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi: 10.1145/1796900.1796926.

Kafai, Yasmin, Peppler, K., & Chapman, R. (2009). The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and creativity in youth communities (p. 162). New York: Teachers College Press.

Klawe, M., Whitney, T., & Simard, C. (2009). Women in computing—take 2. Communications of the ACM, 52(2), 68–76. ACM. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1461947.

Maloney, J. H., Peppler, K., Kafai, Y., Resnick, M., & Rusk, N. (2008). Programming by choice: urban youth learning programming with scratch. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 40(1), 367–371. ACM. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1352322.1352260.

McDougall, A., & Boyle, M. (2004). Student Strategies for Learning Computer Programming: Implications for Pedagogy in Informatics. Education and Information Technologies, 9(2), 109–116. Springer. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from http://www.springerlink.com/index/H221286T0727KQ50.pdf.

Papert, S. (1993). The Childrenʼs Machine. New York: Basic Books.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105–119. Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved May 29, 2011, from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bpl/pspi/2008/00000009/00000003/art00002.

Platsidou, M., & Metallidou, P. (2009). Validity and Reliability Issues of Two Learning Style Inventories in a Greek Sample : Kolb Õ s Learning Style Inventory and Felder & Soloman Õ s Index of Learning Styles. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(3), 324-335.

Tangney, B., Oldham, E., Conneely, C., Barrett, S., & Lawlor, J. (2010). Pedagogy and Processes for a Computer Programming Outreach Workshop—The Bridge to College Model. Education, IEEE Transactions on, 53(1), 53–60. IEEE. doi: 10.1109/TE.2009.2023210.

Requirements and ideas for an eLearning design for IPT

This week is assignment week. One of the assignments I need to complete is for the course ICTs for Learning Design. This final assignment requires us to design a unit of work (a sequence of learning experiences) for a particular subject that makes effective use of eLearning. The following is the first step in this process.

The process started over a fortnight ago with a post asking where all the innovative IPT (Information Processing and Technology) courses were? Many thanks to @meganrodda for sharing her games design program.

The intent here is to look at the new (2010) Queensland Syllabus for IPT courses and use a unit of work from there as the basis for the assignment. The intent is to try to come up with something right out of left field. Something that avoids all of the common approaches and comes at the question of IPT from a different angle. In the context of this course, one that hits some of the theoretical buttons so desired in the e-learning course. After all, this just has to be a design. I don’t have to implement it, yet.

The idea that is in the back of my head is one I floated briefly in this post. i.e. structure an entire IPT course around a particular open source tool like Moodle or WordPress. Something that has a large community and a plugin architecture that allows fairly simple modification. The students would have to engage with the community, become familiar with the tool, start answering questions/writing documentation for the tool, creating instances of the tool (e.g. managing a Moodle instance for some folk), and finally modifying the tool in someway.

Some detail on IPT

The following are a few choice excerpts from the main IPT syllabus document that I’m hoping might inform my design.

What is it?

Information Processing and Technology is a course of study that provides students with
knowledge, skills, processes and understanding of information technology. It emphasises problem identification and solution rather than the use of specific applications, and is an intellectual discipline that involves a study of information systems, algorithms, software programming, human–computer interaction, and the social and ethical issues associated with the use of information technology.

Some important components

This course should prove especially relevant to students by helping them to engage with the rapid rate of change associated with information technology and to appreciate its advantages and disadvantages….It is therefore important that an approach be employed that enables students to develop higher order processes of analysis, synthesis and evaluation, and that will best equip them to communicate their understanding of the conceptual base integral to information technology.

General objectives

There are four general objectives that are required to be taught. The following table summarises the four.

Objective Encompasses Outcome
Knowledge and application
declarative knowledge and procedural application
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
Analysis and synthesis deconstruction of a setting to analyse a problem or situation to determine their salient features and their suitability for solution using information technology
utilisation of appropriate design methods and principles
synthesis of solutions to problems or situations that are unfamiliar, significant in scope or complex in nature.
interpret and analyse problems and situations requiring information technology use
design and develop solutions to unrehearsed or complex information technology problems.
Evaluation and communication use of logic and reason in a range of evaluation approaches to make judgments and recommendations
application of metrics and protocols to test solutions, and of prescribed criteria to draw conclusions and make recommendations
evaluation of processes for identified products and solutions
construction of documentation using the information literacy, software or information systems development cycles
presentation of technical ideas, design concepts, solutions and evaluations.
test processes and solutions, apply prescribed criteria, reasoning or evidence to draw conclusions and make recommendations
construct documentation and present information to convey meaning using communication conventions.
Attitudes and values It includes envisioning possible, probable and preferred futures, and taking responsibility for actions and decisions while promoting ethical practices. A course in Information Processing and Technology promotes problem solving skills, teamwork, and communication through the development of products, investigation and the completion of assessment instruments. appreciate the complex interactions between information technology and individuals, and information technology and society
recognise and value their potential to become productive participants in the development of information technology
develop responsible attitudes towards the use of information technology
appreciate the value of working independently and with others.

Course structure

55 hours per semester, over 4 semesters giving 220 hours.

165-180 hours comes from 6 core topics

  1. Algorithms.
    Use of a formal representation system to understand the basics of algorithms, development, sequence, selection etc. Aside: I’m not such a big fan of formal representation systems (e.g. Nassi-Schneidermann etc.)
  2. Relational information systems
    Arghh, they mention DIKW as part of the core. etc. etc.
    Interesting: “analyse an existing information system” is one of the listed outcomes. As is “create, document and evaluate a working information system”.
  3. Software Programming
    3GL programming, debugging, testing etc.
  4. Structured query language
    I find it interesting that this is a core topic separate from relational information systems. But basically it’s SQL.
  5. Social and ethical issues
  6. Human-computer interaction

There are two topics for additional material (as well as extension material for some of the core topics)

  • Intelligent systems.
    AI, knowledge-based systems etc. Gees, Prolog and LISP. There is a bit of deja vu from my undergrad CS days in the late 80s here.
  • Computer systems.
    Everything from processors and von Neuman architecture through to systems administration.

Where appropriate, topics should be investigated through the design–develop–evaluate cycle

A school’s implementation of the syllabus has to be described in a work program that is approved. There are one and two example work programs available.

Learning experience

The design-develop-evaluate (DDE) cycle is emphasised. Also, learning experiences should:

  • provide opportunities for students to achieve the general objectives of the syllabus
  • suit the particular needs, abilities, learning styles and interests of the students
  • provide opportunities for students to think and work individually and with others in a cooperative way
  • be interesting and challenging

The is explicit mention made of progressing from simple to more complex experiences. I find this somewhat contradictory to the ideas behind constructivism etc. Wouldn’t exposing students to complex, authentic experiences from the start be okay, as long as there was fairly significant scaffolding at the start?

And now a list commences of experiences students should have

  • Using information technology.
  • Solving problems.
  • Extended writing.
  • Presentation.
  • Collaboration.

Assessment

Some example types are given, with significant detail, including:

  • Supervised written assessment
  • Extended response.
  • Product assessment.

Each student needs to have a verification folio.

Some initial principles

Some misc. principles that I think might be useful in guiding the plan.

A real system for a real audience

One of the example work plans has the students developing a dynamic web application to keep a “travel blog”. This type of assessment is one of the problems I have with IPT (though I remain uncertain about how realistic addressing this problem is within the practical constraints of actually teaching it).

Here are the problems I have with this approach

  • You would never do it this way.
    Very, very few people would ever write their own travel blog software. They’d get an account on WordPress or some other blogging service. I’m quite sure if you looked through the content/criteria for IPT you would find something suggesting that writing your own travel blog software is inefficient and inappropriate.
  • Your friends and family know this.
    If a student runs to their friends to show off their travel blog, the friends will ask “Why don’t you just use WordPress?”.
  • There are no users of the tool.
    Having people using your tool is important.
  • There is no community of developers.
    The student is often relying on the teacher for advice. There are no other experts around to help.

Creation is the hardest task

Too often algorithm design or programming courses start with students creating algorithms and programs. I’ve never been a fan of this approach. I initially learned how to program by typing in programs from computer magazines, analysing those programs and stealing ideas. i.e I examined working programs first.

And that was in the day when it was quite common to create a brand new, stand alone program. Increasingly over recent years programmers seem more likely to be adding plugins or mods to an existing system. As a result, being able to analyse and become familiar with an existing system is an important skill.

Allowing space for the advanced students

On average, most senior high school students are going to be reasonable computer literate. There will, however, always be the hand full that are streets ahead. I’d like to see a design for IPT that provides a space for these students to learn and experience new things.

Increasing transparency and collaboration

What passes for collaboration in the IPT classes I’ve observed is fairly ad hoc and usually limited to friends helping friends or the smart kid being asked for advice. I’m interested in embedding collaboration more tightly into the class. In part through some of the practices of methodologies like eXtreme Programming (e.g pair programming, story board, standup meetings etc.).

Am also interested in using project management software like Basecamp to manage the workload and tasks. Have students project manage their learning, both individually and as a group. Make their progress transparent.

No or minimal teaching

The above ties into my desire to minimise or totally remove the need for me to be “the teacher”. I guess the ultimate aim would be for my role to be the “lead developer”. The guy with a bit more experience that guides the team members through there tasks with the aim of them not needing any help. I don’t want to be in the situation of having to give “lectures” on SQL, ORM or language syntax. That’s a task to be taken on by the resources that are out on the web. Some of which might be identified by me, but much of it would hopefully be identified by the students.

Realistic?

As mentioned above, I don’t imagine implementing something like this will be easy within the practical requirements and constraints of a school setting. Especially for a novice high school teacher. But you have to dream big. Next to connect this to the students.

Where are all the innovative high school IT/CS classes?

This post is a request for pointers to the examples of really innovative/effective/different high school classes in Information Technology (IT/IPT) or Computer Science (CS). Even with just 10 days of prac teaching within a school setting, I can recognise the rationale and constraints that contribute to the use of the apparently typical curriculum. I would, however, like to break that mould and do something different. I’m assuming/hoping that I’m not the first and would like to benefit from the experience and ideas of others.

The rest of the post outlines the status quo I see, the rationale, and the examples I’ve found so far.

Status quo

So far, all of the IT courses I’ve seen follow the same path. Students are introduced to project management, the software development life cycle (SDLC), a bit of artificial intelligence, creating a web page/site, database design and development and programming. The tools are usually the Microsoft suite, especially Access (for database) and Visual Basic (for programming).

The programming/database tasks are usually “pretend” systems. e.g. a local restaurant wants a system to take customer orders. Students are taught procedural programming using things like nassi-schneiderman diagrams etc.

Rationale

I have a significant disbelief in the benefit of the SDLC and similarly with the traditional psuedo-code/nassi-schneiderman approach to teaching programming. I also think that “pretend” systems development where the teacher plays the role of client, project manager, user and teacher is less than ideal for giving students a taste of the real challenge and excitement of IT. Much of this distate arises from teaching first year programming at University level a few years ago and seeing first hand how such approach destroy the joy that is software development.

I also have an assignment in which I’m meant to design a unit plan that demonstrates effective integration of ICTs into teaching. I’m thinking of doing this around a senior IT class.

What I’ve found so far

Based on previous experience, I am aware of a number of approaches/tools that aim to make programming more interesting. I’m pretty sure that some of these will have been applied to high school classes. The list includes:

  • Media computation – “a contextualized approach to introducing computing using a ubiquitous theme of manipulating media”.
  • Simple programming languages/environments such as Squeak, Scratch and Alice

For more specific high school examples, I thought I’d start with a look at the websites/conferences of a couple of Australian professional associations (e.g. QSITE). Here’s what I found.

Apparently, at least in 2009, Education Queensland allowed high school teachers to host PHP/MySQL on its servers. There’s also a bit more on different tools, but not much that I could see (with a limited search) on pedagogy or approach.

A bit of a broader search doesn’t reveal a great deal..I’m obviously not looking in the right places.