Proposal for the Development of a Distance Program
by Eileen Backofen

Part 1 -  Rationale
     IB Information Technology in a Global Society (ITGS) is a standard level, year long course currently offered in high schools world wide in a traditional manner under the auspices of the International Baccalaureate Organization.  Its primary focus is to explore how the social aspects and ethical considerations of information technology influence various segments of society while providing students with the skills necessary to make such a determination.  This course offers students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience utilizing information technology (IT) and to reflect thoughtfully about the impact of this technology on the individual and society. 

Students will:

  • Define IT terminology and concepts
  • Apply IT concepts to accomplish tasks
  • Describe IT developments and trends
  • Explain and analyze the social significance of IT
  • Evaluate the ethical considerations arising from IT
  • Explore and construct solutions to problems raised by the social significance and ethical considerations of IT

Audience Analysis
     The potential audience for this course consists of English speaking students attending small high schools that, although IB accredited, do not have a large enough student base to make offering this course economically feasible.  Initially, all students will reside in Virginia, but the scope of the program could be enlarged later to encompass a larger geographical area.  The students are located primarily in non-urban areas and represent diverse racial and socioeconomic groups. 

Content Overview
Introduction to Information Technology
Information Systems
Information Technologies
Individuals and Machines

Tools and Impact of Information Technology

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Input, Output, Storage
  • Operating Systems
  • Word Processing and Desktop Publishing
  • Graphics
  • Spreadsheets
  • Modeling and Simulations
  • Databases
  • Multimedia and Presentations
  • Tutorial and Training Software
  • Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems
  • Virtual Reality and Games

Converging Information Technologies

  • Broadcast vs. Non-broadcast Media
  • Visual and Performing Arts
  • Personal Communications

Networks and the Internet

  • Network topologies
  • Standards
  • Ethical Issues
     Several schools throughout the state report interest in this course as an IB elective.  However, the small number of potential students at each school limits the economic feasibility of the course.  Access to qualified instructors is also difficult.  Sharing the cost and expertise of one instructor would eliminate this problem.  Furthermore, each IB high school in Virginia currently has at least a small number of current generation computers installed for research, student open access and other technology courses.  Delivering this program through distance education technology to geographically dispersed students is a perfect example of the title of this course in action - Information Technology in a Global Society.

Part II - Technologies for Delivery
     Since one justification for this course includes providing access to increased numbers of students in an economically viable manner, delivery will be primarily through the Internet (WWW and email).  These are effective low cost options that also happen to be a subject of study of this curriculum.  Supplementary videotapes demonstrating use of the software will be available for those students who would benefit from visual demonstration. 

     Special facilities include a current generation computer for each student enrolled, equipped with a reliable Internet connection using a current version of Netscape or Internet Explorer.  The hardware must be maintained by the receiving school with required software installed and configured.  One laser printer and scanner are also necessary.  A digital camera is optional.  All students will need an email account which can be provided either by their home school or through a free web based service.  Access to a VCR will be necessary to view videotapes. 

     The IB coordinator at each school will serve as a contact person for the teacher and will also be responsible for reporting any local hardware or software problems to the on site technology staff.   The ITGS web site will reside on the web server of the originating school.  The technology staff at that site is already responsible for the maintenance of that equipment so this will not represent an increased cost.

     Students enrolled in the IB program have demonstrated a willingness to undertake a rigorous course of study and the maturity to meet pre-set standards and deadlines.  Therefore, an on site facilitator need not be employed to monitor the students' daily class activities.  The IB coordinator will handle the logistics as described throughout this proposal as part of his/her job description. 

Part III - Instructional Strategies and Assessment
     To achieve course objectives the instructor will employ a variety of teaching methods.  The web site will contain text based informational presentations on each topic in the syllabus, including links to relevant external web resources.  Students will be directed to on-line tutorials to assist them in mastering the required software.  Videotaped demonstrations of software use will be available at each receiving school. These tapes will also serve as a reference library for review of skills.  On-line instructor moderated discussion groups will facilitate the exchange of ideas necessary for students to formulate their positions on technology issues.  Discussion groups will also serve as a forum for tips and techniques of hardware and software use. 

     The nature of this course lends itself to a distance delivery system although some may question its appropriateness at the high school level.   However, the current tech savvy generation of students is quite capable of assimilating presentations done on-line with the videotape library providing a low-tech safety net.  These students are also used to visiting "chat rooms".  This course will build on that predisposition to develop on-line discussions of academic significance.

     The instructor will assign activities (10-50 points each) designed to show mastery of each tool as it is introduced.  Eight monthly issue papers (100 points each) will be assigned with the best four papers being added to the student's official portfolio as described below.  Activities and papers will be submitted to the instructor as email attachments.  Tests following each major topic (100 points each) will be taken on line and consist of both multiple choice and short answer responses.  The final project as described below will earn a maximum of 200 points.

     A major strength of the IB program is the standardization of assessment worldwide.  Thus, the students' work will be assessed by the classroom teacher as well as an IB examiner and judged according to extremely detailed rubrics prescribed by the organization. 

     Students will create a portfolio consisting of four 700-1000 word "issue papers" chosen from topics in the following areas: Abuse/Security/Crime, The Global Society, The Work Place, Privacy, Leisure, Home and Travel, Education, Networks/Communications.  Students will also produce a final project that involves the integration of at least three IT tools included in the course content.  The structure of the project is strictly prescribed by the IB organization.  Specifically, the project must include the 'end product' itself, a separate report (2000-2500 words) that summarizes the student's processes in the implementation of the project and a log book which is an informal, written chronological record of the development of the product.  The portfolio and project are evaluated by the classroom teacher and submitted to the IB organization for review.

     The IB ITGS course officially ends with an examination given in mid May on the same day worldwide.  This will not be done on-line.  In the IB tradition the exam will be administered by a teacher in another discipline.  It consists of two parts.  Part 1 (1 hour) contains 40 multiple-choice questions covering the content of the course syllabus.  Part 2 (2 hours) requires two extended response essay questions involving analysis, evaluation and exploration.  These are chosen from four possibilities.  In addition students must answer one compulsory question involving a series of short answer responses where analyses and inferences must be made from a set of data and text.  This examination will be graded by an off site IB examiner.

     Therefore, the student's grade for high school credit will be based on the total points earned in the instructor's evaluation.  IB credit will be granted based on the examiners grading of the IB examination and evaluation of the portfolio and project.

     These traditional methods of assessment transfer well to a DL environment. However, if the IB coordinator at the home school believes it necessary, a paraprofessional proctor can be assigned to monitor the tests given throughout the course. 

Part IV - Student support mechanisms
     The International Baccalaureate Program already has an on-line procedure in place for registration.  Currently, the IB coordinator at each school registers each student in each course through IBNET.  This procedure would continue with the only difference being that the instructor will not reside in the same building as all the students taking ITGS.   Registration information would also be forwarded electronically to the course instructor at the originating site by each IB coordinator. While this situation would have to be approved by the IB organization, there is currently precedent for IB courses being televised to schools in remote areas with data exchange being done by mail.  This proposal is merely an extension of that concept. 

     Before a school is accepted for participation in this distance education program,  the IB coordinator will be provided a list of necessary software required by the curriculum.  Since the titles most needed in this course are standard in instructional technology (MS Office, Pagemaker, Hyperstudio, Paint Shop Pro) this should not present a problem for the receiving IB school. 

     Prior to the beginning of the fall semester, each IB coordinator will receive by mail a packet of information for each student including a welcome and introduction from the instructor, the web address of the ITGS web site and basic navigation instructions.   A response form and survey will be provided, to be returned with basic demographic and background information and the student's email address.  Directions for obtaining a web based email account will be included in case the student does not have one already.

     The prerequisite technology skills necessary for enrollment in this course are keyboarding skills and experience using a graphical user interface (GUI).  Any operating system supported in the receiving school is acceptable.  I expect that 11th and 12th grade IB students greatly exceed these prerequisites. 

Communication mechanisms
     The first week of the course will set the tone for the instructor-student and student-student modes of communication that will prevail throughout the year.  In the web site discussion forum, students will be required to contribute their initial opinions about a variety of IT issues. Throughout the course these early ideas will be expanded and revised as students share their views and receive comments and suggestions from the instructor.   Students will also be encouraged to communicate regularly with the instructor by email.  Answers to common problems will be posted in the FAQs section of the web site. To foster group collegiality the discussion forum will also contain a "student lounge" area where non course topics may be discussed. 

     Regular feedback is very important in this environment.   Teacher comments on each activity and issue paper will be returned to the student by email.  Students will be allowed to revise and resubmit the paper before inclusion in the IB portfolio.

     The primary external resources needed by this course are specific software tools to fulfill the course content.  IB does not specify platform or required titles.   By relying on standard software most IB schools will not have to purchase anything out of the ordinary.  Software tutorials will be available on line.  Videotapes describing use of the software will be purchased by the receiving school. 

Part V - Evaluation Plan
     This IB course will be evaluated according to the standards of the parent organization.  If the students have produced quality work as judged against their peers world wide, the DL experience was a success and the instruction was effective.  The IB coordinator at each school will play a vital role in the evaluation of the program.  Through quarterly interviews and written questionnaires, he/she will discover whether or not students viewed their experience to date as positive.  He will also verify whether the students were able to access all the necessary resources.  This information will be reported to the instructor so that changes may be made in a timely manner to improve the course as the year progresses.