ITGS SL Project: Project-based, Problem Solving Learning
Posted by togalearning
My first class of International Baccalaureate (IB) Standard Level (SL) Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) students finished their Internal Assessment (IA) project last week (wow, a lot of acronyms there!). Because we do the SL ITGS course in the same class as the HL’s, they got a lot of time to work on it- seven months to be exact. They started the work back in March. Because of having this amount of time, they took on projects that were a little bigger than most examples you’ll see from SL ITGS. Regardless of time spent, I do have to say that this process was a great experience for the students, providing a first-hand foray into project-based, problem solving work.
Each student has to find a client with a problem that can be solved with a tech-based solution/product, hopefully making work and/or life easier in some way for the end-user. Once that is established, the students explore a few different ways the problem can be solved. In consultation with the client and based off of the student’s informed judgement after some research, they chose one of the ways to solve the problem and proceed to create the product. Throughout this process, the students are keeping a log book, writing a report, and, of course, building the product. They also go through the process of beta testing and refining. In the end, they should have a functional product that the client/end-user can use immediately.
One student created an inventory database and a web-based checkout process of films for the IB Film teacher at ISB. The problem he solved was that the teacher usually had students just write down on a piece of paper the movie they checked out. These papers were often lost, however, and there was never an inventory of all the movies the teacher had; thus, movies would go missing. With this online checkout process, the teacher is now better able to keep track of his movies and know who has them checked out.
Another student, working with the Tech Office, created a database for teachers that allows them to access their students’ updated personal information and gives the ability to easily create electronic class lists for various purposes. This student wrote over 2000 lines of code that linked with both network protocols and the administrative software the high school uses. The problem he solved is that if teachers ever needed updated information about a student, they couldn’t access it. They would have to email or see a secretary in person. The gradebook software the teachers must use have personal information available, but it’s not automatically updated when it’s updated in the administrative software. Furthermore, the gradebook software doesn’t allow the teachers to copy and paste or export classlists to a spreadsheet or word processing program. This database fixed all of that.
The last student created a 36 question review game using Flash software for an IB Economics teacher. The game was modeled after the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” gameshow. The way the questions were worded and help options given were similar to that game show. The game focused on a part of the IB syllabus that tends to be difficult and typically causes problems for the students. The problem he solved is that the Econ teachers had to spend a lot of time on review for this section. This game would reduce that time.
These are the types of assessments that will really prepare students for their future, more so than any test they sit and write. The amount of learning and understanding acquired in the process of doing this kind of project is vast; the students will never forget it. These problem solving and innovation processes are what most of today’s students will be doing in the real world, so they should have opportunities to practice.
Working in international schools allows more freedom to pursue this kind of learning since we are not tied to district, state, and/or federal funding that can be determined by performance on standardized tests and not well thought through programs like ‘No Child Left Behind.’ International schools do rely on IB, AP tests, however, to help students experience rigorous left-brain academic environments and do what they need to do to get into university. The world is shifting, though- shifting more toward the need for right brain abilities. Those that will be successful this century are those who have the left brain logical and analytical abilities, but are even more creative and innovative (right brained) with their work. It is more of this type of project-based/problem solving rigor that we need to get into our classrooms, not more tests! Using technology in meaningful and compelling ways in the process, increases the students’ learning even more.
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