I.T. Fundamentals (ITF)
January - June, 2010
John Rayworth, International School of Prague
Introduction & Context
This is a course intended for all ISP Upper School students. In the past the ITF course struck a balance between expanding IT skills, knowledge, and attitudes that students should already have had, with new topics. With the evolution of the IT department in both the Middle School (MS) and Upper School (US), and particularly through the implementation of laptop programs in both schools, the ITF course now focuses primarily on topics not generally covered by integration projects. It should be noted that this places an increasing onus for acquisition, reinforcement, and application of traditional IT topics such as spreadsheets and presentations on the core MS and US classes via integration of the laptops.
As a course focused on IT for IT’s sake, software applications are seen to fall into three categories. “Tier 1 – Consumer Products” are those aimed purely at consumers, for example PowerPoint, GarageBand, or the software that powers an iPhone or Facebook. Tier 2 – “Applied Consumer Products” are those applications that can be used for fun, but may also be applied in a more sophisticated or professional way, for example Photoshop and Excel. And Tier 3 – “Professional Apps.” are those used almost purely by IT professionals. ITF focuses on the third, “prosumer” tier of IT software; so rather than looking at a computer as a communication tool and entertainment device, the computer will be seen in it’s more productive light, as something that computes, based on informed, intelligent, and creative input.
There are six overriding goals for this and other Upper School computer courses at ISP. Of the six, three – bolded below – are most focused on in ITF:
1) To increase students’ comfort and success with all aspects of technology.
2) To assure student competence with certain indispensable applications.
3) To foster the ability in students to learn new technology both on their own, and through collaboration with peers.
4) To promote the students’ productive integration of technology into the rest of their lives, both at home and at school.
5) To reinforce appropriate use of technology.
6) To introduce Information Technology as a distinct academic discipline.
The Three Threads of the Course
There are three threads of content in the course. The first is called “IT & Me”, and covers a variety of issues related to IT, but primarily centers around health issues and appropriate use. The “My Laptop” thread covers two main areas, software applications found on the laptop, and software maintenance of laptops. And making up the bulk of the course is the “ITP” steam. ITP stands for “IT As A Profession”. In this stream a variety of professional level computer applications will be introduced to a level that invokes interest.
Thread I – I.T. & Me
1. IT Health & Safety
a. Hands, Back, Eyes
b. Internet Personal Safety
c. Overuse of Computers & the Internet
2. Appropriate Use
b. Internet Personal Responsibility
3. IT Careers (mainly in association with the ITP thread)
Thread II – My Laptop
1. Theory & Maintenance
a. How Computers Work
b. Software Maintenance
2. Web Publishing iWeb
3. Other Apple Apps. iWork & iLife
Thread III – IT As A Profession
1. 3D Modeling & Animation Autodesk Maya
2. Pro Audio Editing Logic Express
3. Scripting & Web Animation Excel & Flash with Actionscript
4. Robotics (intro. only) Lego Mindstorms
You’ll note that most of the 80 minute classes will be divided into two approximately 40 minute areas of focus, for the purposes of variety, and to fit a typical student’s attention span.
All of the course material and assignments will be accessed through the course website johnrayworth.info (which may also be linked to from the ISP Stroodle portal).
Lab Computers and Student Laptops
Both lab desktop computers, and student’s laptops will be used for this course. For each application and topic, the most appropriate computer will be used. Throughout the course, approximately half the time the lab desktop machines will be used, about a quarter of the time the student’s laptops will be used, and the rest of the time no machines at all will be used, rather, we’ll sit around the central tables in the lab and have “live wikis” and “real-time blogs” (i.e. face-to-face discussions).
The advantages of the lab machines include their power, the ability for the instructor to see all screens easily, and the range and sophistication of the installed applications. Much emphasis will be given to the core set of Apple applications installed on the student laptops, but many other software applications key to this course remain only on the desktop computer, either because of expense or technical resource requirements. So, for example, the Adobe suite of applications installed on the lab computers will trump the laptop equivalents at times, and the use of Window XP, and Vista will only be technically possible on the lab computers (which run both Mac and Windows operating systems).
The advantages of the laptops center primarily on the fact that they are the student’s own, and they go home with them at the end of the day. The students’ websites, for example will be kept, and worked on with their laptops, so that they can be maintained from home both throughout the course, and afterward. And when it comes time for all things related to (Mac) maintenance, it is the laptops that will naturally be used.
This version of the ITF course still contains numerous topics within each stream and they range widely across many areas of IT. So the course is still very fast-paced, with a lot squeezed into just one semester. Because of this, it is important to note that any given topic may not be taken to the depth a student may wish. Given the limited time, it is hoped that the course will act as a stimulus for students to continue academic pursuit in areas of IT they find interesting. There are three courses that naturally follow on from ITF: Game Production with Maya and Flash, Multimedia, and Audio Editing. Furthermore, for eleventh and twelfth graders, there is IB Film and IB Computer Science.
Assessment Breakdown of Grade
~56% Major Assignments
- “Major assignments” are completed based on grade rubrics to be found on the johnrayworth.info website. They take several to many classes to complete.
- “Class work assignments” are assignments usually done within one class period, which will be saved, usually uploaded to your or my website, but which will not graded according to a structured rubric; these files simply have to be done and saved/uploaded for full value.
These are to be uploaded to the johnrayworth.info server by 11 p.m. the night before each class. Occasionally will they take more than 20 minutes, but usually they can be done in around 15 minutes. They are worth 5 marks each, and will be given for every class of the semester commencing around the third week.
The main reason for the frequency of homework is to have you do material that is better done thoughtfully and undistracted on your own, and for which you do not need the school computers. But a good side effect of daily homework is that once it starts, you’ll always know that you do have work for this class, since you always do – outside of guided study week at the end of the year.
If you miss the homework deadline, four times during the course you can use what I call a homework “Mulligan”. Each Mulligan allows you to upload a completed homework assignment at any time for full value, no questions asked. If you use up all your Mulligans, I’ll still accept homework assignments printed out, and will keep them until the end of the semester to use as rationale for bumping your grade up a little if needed to go up to the next highest letter grade.
If you are away on a trip, or are sick, you are not required to do the homework. But you are encouraged to do the assignment when you get back or feel better; the homework assignments are for you and your I.T. knowledge development. You will check the box “SOA” (meaning Sick or Away) when you submit either the completed homework, or the excuse for why you cannot make it up.
9% Class Mark
This a grade calculated twice: in the middle and at the end of the semester.
- on time for class** (3%)
- on task during class (3%)
- effort & attitude (3%)
** Each unexcused tardy lowers the 3% by 0.5%. So, at the maximum, six tardies (out of 40 classes in the semester) would result in minus 3%, taking a student’s semester grade down exactly one level (from a B+ to a B, for example). Though, fortunately, lately tardiness is not an issue at all.
See “Routines & Expectations” on the last page for more details on maintaining the 9/9% that you start with. The majority of students end up with a 9/9 by semester’s end.
Š Major assignments are generally due at the end of the month. They will be graded from your own website, so it’s important to keep your website properly updated.
Š Such major assignments will be graded, and the grading gone over in class within a week. The grades and completed rubrics appear on johnrayworth.info.
Š For major assignments the SSAC homework late policy applies.
Š The standard set for work in this class is B+; I consider B+ an appropriate reflection of work well done. By the end of the semester B+ is usually the average grade in the class. (The first semester 2009-2010 it was actually a bit higher.)
Š Assignments and quizzes achieving a grade above B+ will range from slightly above average, all the way up to displaying the exemplary work of an A+ level. Grades in the A range are within the reach of most students. Timely completion of all assignments and homework is central to the goal of achieving such a high grade.
Š A grade below B+ on a completed assignment or quiz indicates that based on work submitted, and on your own distinct learning style & ability, you can do better.
Š Over a grading period, a poor grade in this class usually results from one of two situations. Firstly, several missing homework assignments, which demonstrate the “power of 0” grading dynamic. Secondly, an inability to catch up on major assignments after absence, either due to school trips or illness.
Š The computer lab is available every day during breaks, during lunch, and after school from 2:45 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. So if you are unable to complete assignments during class time, or if you miss one or more classes, you will need to get to the lab during these times to make up work. Of these times, the best for seeking my help is after school.
Routines & Expectations Particular to this Course
1) Start of class routine: Chairs adjusted, desktop computers awake, but purple screens, laptops closed.
2) During traditional instruction times, and also during discussions, only one person at a time talks.
3) During step-by-step instruction times, I try not to repeat myself; if you miss something, please look to your neighbor's computer to see what you missed.
4) For questions, the best way is to raise your hand, even when everyone is quiet.
5) No food, drink (except for water) is allowed in the lab.
6) During traditional instructions times, if for a while I’m busy helping someone at their computer, you’re free to chat away, but when you hear the instructional-volume voice again, please switch your attention back to me.
7) Very little on the computers is locked. I trust you to leave everything the way that you find it.
8) During class time you are not to use headphones unless it’s part of the assignment, or if the class has been given permission to listen to music while working.
9) During times that music listening is allowed, you are to keep this to iTunes, and not access music via video sites, as these are distracting.
10) During times that music listening is allowed, if using your own mobile music device, be conscious of how distracting it may be to those around you, and so keep the volume down.
11) At times where laptops are not to be used, they need to be closed.
12) End of class routine: quit all applications,log off of johnrayworth.info and roll your chair in.
Note on gum: Please don’t chew gum in class. Though you may have had teachers in the past that did not mind, please note that I do. The way I put it is that, “If I can’t see it, smell it or hear it”, I won’t ask you to put it in the garbage. If I do see, smell, or hear it, I will ask you to put it in the garbage; please don’t take it personally.
Note on tardies: So that we can all start class at the same time, I do want you to be here when you are supposed to be. So in addition to the reduction of your class mark grade, with three tardies in one half of the semester, I’ll have you come to the lab and write out three times a silly sentence about being tardy. This hasn’t happened in over a year, but I include this information here just in case.
Note on dress code: Because of the way you sit at the computers, angled forward, there is one particular issue in the lab that I’d prefer not to have to deal with: underwear. Please do your best to abide by the dress code and not have (girls) exposed underwear due to bare-midriff attire, or (boys) saggy pants exposing a good portion of your boxers. Again, it’s not a big issue, and these fashions are generally out of date anyway, but again, it’s mentioned here just in case.
Here’s looking forward to a fun and productive semester. J.R.