A New Approach to the IBDP Information Technology Course?

The “ITGS” (Information Technology in a Global Society) course was introduced to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in 2010. The course’s title suggests that it is part of a science curriculum, but has been included instead in history and social sciences, or as IB puts it “individuals and societies.” The teaches students how to use their computers while introduces the implications of using them. The course also examines the history of “information technology” and its impact on the world. There is considerable flexibility in what teachers can use in terms of themes and subjects for the course, and there are no specifications in what applications or computer-based skills they have to learn either. In light of these considerations, it seems wise to create a course that produces as much fluency as possible in computer use, while through inquiry and experimentation discovering the affordances and constraints of technology. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to introduce a program that intentionally causes dilemmas in technology use. Bear with me as I explain: I am in no way attempting to cause chaos in my classroom, as any good teacher knows the dangers of doing such a thing. I am attempting to find a straightforward way of demonstrating very real and basic problems associated with the global use of technology.

The course would begin with hardware. All students must use 11-inch MacBook Airs, each configured with both OS 10.8 and Windows 7 using BootCamp. The reasons for this are twofold: the highly portable MacBook Airs have the power and flexibility to handle both operating systems, are reasonably durable for a computer of their size, but most importantly have limited extensions. A laptop without DVD drive? Then there are potential issues with dual-booting Windows 7 in addition to the hardware limitations. You can imagine the stress that causes. I recall users of MacBook Airs having issues with connectivity in my courses at Michigan State, and I personally assisted teachers new to the devices with getting around connectivity issues. I know quite well the limitations and advantages of MacBook Airs.

The dual-platform configuration I would insist on would force students to examine different kinds of technology exclusive to each operating system, which I would then combine with lessons on the distribution of hardware worldwide, and how that distribution affects the software available by region and occupation. It is rare that students are openly exposed to different operating systems, and I consider it only practical that they are.
Because students have limited extensions and hardware on their computers, they must utilize cloud-based tools and problem solve based on what they do not have compared to “average” users. This creates a need for experiment, and a real-life desire to find solutions to common problems with connectivity. Students will have to build different presentations; they will have to test solutions more than merely learn to use them, and they will have to make honest judgments about when, how, and why they use tools. They will through their actions pus technology in different directions; whether that is “forward” or not will be a matter of discussion that the course would tackle directly.
Dealing with a piece of “cutting edge” hardware while outlining the history of informational technology seems poignant to me. Asking students to then imagine the “future” of information technology on said technology would be even more so. I can think of no greater lesson on the evolution of computers and the Internet than that.
An experimental class such as this fits perfectly into a TPACK format. Consider the answers to the following questions:
  • What are the pedagogical practices you would expect to see used to support your learning-technology initiative? (PK) 
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills takes the simplest approach to pedagogy that is both rich and relevant for technology integration. I also must use the guidelines for the course as outlined by the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, which has a very strong emphasis on “whole student” practices.
  • What content knowledge is needed to make the initiative a success? (CK) 

Teachers must have a good grasp of the history of technology along with a theoretical understanding of what “technology” is. Guiding students through a discussion on the definition of technology is essential. The course outlines IB provides are specific enough to give teachers a framework for how to go about presenting the material.

  • What operational skills do teachers need to be proficient users of the technology? (TK)

This course has heavy skill demands for any teacher: s/he must have knowledge of software and Web 2.0 options for both Windows and Apple operating systems, as well as an understanding of the constraints of netbooks. Ideally, the teacher has tested or knows how to test programs on both operating systems and knows the pitfalls behind the lack of extensions available on MacBook Airs. This is a course for a teacher who is familiar with computers and is ready to problem-solve on them.

  • How does technology, pedgagogy, and content knowledge shape each other?

Herein lies the proverbial “kicker” for the course. The course is intended to be “problematic.” TPACK happens in the experimentation: students learn the content, test the hardware, experiment with the software, and complete problem-solving and collaborative activities associated with 21st century skills outlined at Partnership. They also practice some of the IB Learner Profile traits the IBDP currently promotes as part of its agenda. This course would focus on IB students as “risk-takers,” “thinkers,” and “inquirers.”


One response to “A New Approach to the IBDP Information Technology Course?

  1. Pingback: Ideas for ITGS and TOK: Thinking About Thinking Digitally | teachbygoofyaccent·

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