Information Technology in a Global Society

This section contains updates to the website since the new layout was introduced in November 2014. You can find even older updates here.

Website updates

Facial recognition technology

  • Meadowhall shoppers scanned in facial recognition trial is a very recent (August 2019) article about the trial of facial recognition technology at a large shopping centre (mall) in the UK. Notably, this trial was conducted without the consent of the shoppers involved.
  • Data regulator probes King's Cross facial recognition tech. Similar to the article above, facial recognition technology was used in an area of London without informing the public or obtaining their consent. This seems to fly in the face of UK law, and the company is currently being investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
  • EFF, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, has an excellent page on facial recognition technology which covers how the technology works, its uses, and some very interesting potential problems. The article makes excellent background reading for the case study.

Updated: 2019-08-19
Applications of facial recognition technology

  • FaceFirst offers 'real time facial recognition' technology. Their website offers some interesting case studies highlighting the use of their products - such as reducing retail theft in stores and catching wanted criminals. As you might imagine, the website focuses solely on the positives of facial recognition technology, but it is still an essential read to understand the technology and how it might develop in the future.
  • Cognitec offer a range of facial recognition applications. These include security, law enforcement, and border control. However, the applications that stood out to me were those under the 'commercial' heading. Intelligent signage and VIP recognition could definitely be something that SEACS implement in their coffee shops.
  • Dynamic Imaging's Positive ID+ website focuses on the use of facial recognition technology to match images from crime scene videos to static photos in offender databases. It is easy to see how SEACS might implement a similar technology to (for example) recognise their customers as they enter a shop.
  • Face Plus is another facial recognition company. Their website contains a set of good images to help students understand the biometric process. One thing which stood out for me was the section of the site titled 'Image editing', which "edit probe images to perform a more effective facial recognition search". I found myself asking how this might affect the validity of the search and comparison.

Updated: 2019-08-19
How facial recognition works

  • How Facial Recognition Works. HowStuffWorks is a go-to site for understanding more about many technologies. Its pages on facial recognition technology have a great level of detail, explaining the different factors that are used to take measurements and how templates are constructed. This is an essential read for the 2020 case study.

Updated: 2019-08-19
Future applications

The Verge reports that the US plans to implement facial recognition technology at its top 20 airports for all international passengers, with the aim of improving security and efficiency. Forbes and CNET articles both question whether we should be concerned about this technology and its effects on privacy.

Updated: 2019-08-19
ACM Ethics

The ACM Code of Ethics

The ACM Code of Ethics is explicitly mentioned in the case study booklet. This code provides guidance for professionals who work in the computing industry; respecting privacy is one of its key requirements.

Updated: 2019-08-19

Facial recognition in China

Big Brother facial recognition needs ethical regulations discusses the rampant use of facial recognition technology in China. This includes a huge range of facial recognition technologies for everything from traffic cameras to public toilets. How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority explains how the technology can be used to discriminate against (in this case) Muslim minorities. In China, Facial Recognition Tech Is Watching You is another article on this theme, which even includes the use of AI-powered sunglasses by police officers. These are three truly frightening articles that highlight the potential for misuse and abuse of technologies such as facial recognition.

Updated: 2019-08-19
Ethical facial recognition

How To Run An Ethical IT Shop

This article from Microsoft highlights some best practices for companies who are considering implementing facial recognition technology in the workplace. It is easy to imagine how the SEACS shops would need to consider some of these.

Updated: 2019-08-19
Ethical use

The Ethics of Facial Recognition Software

This article starts with a discussion of 'celebrity recognition software', which builds upon facial recognition systems. However, the great thing about this article is the numerous links to related articles, covering everything from the risk of hacking facial recognition systems to a set of proposed ethical guidelines for companies using facial recognition.

Updated: 2019-08-19
AI racial bias

AI facial analysis demonstrates bias

This article discusses how artificial intelligence systems can demonstrate both gender and racial 'bias'. Of course, this bias stems from unrepresentative training data - such systems are better at recognising white males because they are given more images of white males as training data. The article and video could lead to some interesting TOK discussions such as 'Can machines be bias?' and 'can we ever escape bias?".

Updated: 2019-05-10
Fire computer models

Fire spread models

Computer models can be used to predict the chances of wildfires breaking out, and the path they may take if they do. Wilder wildfires? Computing helps predict their path and fury gives a good overview of these models. Burning Question (The Atlantic) discusses why computer models of wild fires are becoming less accurate.

There are also several interactive computer models that students can use. Fire! is the most basic model, really little more than a visualisation of probabilities. However, it is useful for discussions on the accuracy of models. A Better Fire is a more advanced version that includes wind direction and strength, as well as forest density.

Updated: 2019-03-22
Car crash computer model

Car crash models

Car crash models can be used to test the strength of different car designs, the effects of different safety measures, and the potential injuries to passengers and pedestrians. Car crash simulation is a comprehensive article that covers many aspects of car crash models and simulations. The following new articles and videos cover car crash models from standard road cars to racing cars:

Updated: 2019-03-22
Computer model

Various models

Updated: 2019-03-22
Driving simulator

Driving simulators

Along with flight simulators, driving simulators are the canonical example of simulator software. They range from quite basic software driving simulators (video) that run on most modern computers, to full-blown simulators with dedicated full motion hardware. Racing teams also make extensive use of simulators, as demonstrated by the Red Bull F1 Simulator with Mark Webber, On Board with Lewis Hamilton in the F1 Simulator, and Trying out Fernando Alonso's Ferrari F1 simulator (video).

Updated: 2019-03-22
Types of computer

Types of computer

Supercomputing Super Powers (BBC) provides a graphical breakdown of the fastest supercomputers by speed, country, and operating system, while the TOP500 Supercomputing Sites is a regularly updated list of world's fastest supercomputers. The Green500 list is a similar concept, but instead of measuring raw performance, measures performance per Watt.

Cray - The Supercomputer Company have many examples of specifications and applications of supercomputers - the site is an essential read for this topic. Titan supercomputer is the world's most powerful (Telegraph) discusses the Titan supercomputer, while Building Titan: The 'world's fastest' supercomputer is a more in-depth analysis of it, including examples of how it will be used. In June 2013 this record was re-taken by China's Tianhe-2 supercomputer. What Is A Supercomputer? and The supercomputer behind the US nuclear arsenal give a good overview of supercomputers and the kinds of specifications we can expect them to have as of 2019.

For smaller devices, Pocket marvels: 40 years of handheld computers (ComputerWorld) has an interesting slideshow showing the developments in processing power, storage capacities, screen sizes, and input devices over the past 40 years.

Updated: 2019-03-21
Software reliability

Computer Reliability Exercise 2

Research the following incidents. In each case, to what extent can the system software be blamed for causing the problem? What do these accidents tell us about the issue of software reliability?

Updated: 2019-03-19
Industrial robots

Case Study: Industrial robots resources

Industrial robots are becoming ever cheaper - and increasingly they are competing with people for jobs. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) produces annual statistics about global use of robotics, which makes an interesting read.

Robots and unemployment

The New York Times' article Skilled Work, Without the Worker is a great introduction to this topic, with many examples, photos and a video. A $22,000 humanoid robot that competes with low-wage workers (MIT Technology Review) provides a good insight into how businesses can save money with robots, and the related social impacts in the Business & Employment sector - particularly on poorer workers. It's a Man vs. Machine Recovery (Business Week) and Marathon machine (Economist) both examine this impact on unskilled workers in more detail. The Guardian argues that most people are unprepared for the pace of robotic development and unaware of the potential threat to their jobs.

More Jobs Predicted for Machines, Not People (NY Times) discusses the many areas in which robots are taking human jobs; Will there be jobs left for a human being? delves deeper into these social impacts and asks whether the end of mass employment is near. Will Robots Create New Jobs When They Take Over Existing Ones? also addresses the issues of unemployment and reskilling. How to Protect Workers From Job-Stealing Robots argues that rather than causing mass unemployment, robots will actually boost the economy. Other articles argue that robotics will cause unemployment, but that this may affect women more than men due to the nature of jobs that can be automated.

Shift Change is a YouTube series of videos about how robotic technology can change, improve, and sometimes replace jobs. It examines how current technology might progress and the social impacts this will cause. The last job on Earth: imagining a fully automated world is another video in a similar vein.

Robots and safety

Safety is a concern wherever robots and humans are working alongside each other; heavy robotic arms could easily kill or seriously injure a nearby human worker. For this reason, robots and humans normally work in separate, fenced areas. However, Robots and Humans, Learning to work together (NY Times) discusses a new generation of robot with improved ability to sense its surroundings and work cooperately with humans.

Updated: 2019-03-19
Robotic surgery

Robotic Surgery

The Da Vinci Surgical System is the most famous robotic tool to assist surgeons. HowStuffWorks is essential reading to understand the technology behind it.

Positive impacts

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many health care providers tout the benefits of robotic surgery. UC Health outlines these benefits, as does The Heart Hospital.

Negative impacts

Not everyone agrees that the impacts of such systems are positive, however. Robots Taking Record Number of Human Uteri (The Atlantic) charts the dramatic rise in robot-assisted operations, while Are Surgical Robots Worth It? (MIT) investigates some of the potential negative impacts that have been reported. Would you have robotic surgery? addresses similar issues. Cancer Patients Are Getting Robotic Surgery. There’s No Evidence It’s Better references an FDA study that found no overall benefits from robotic surgery, and found possible evidence of harm.

Training is an element of any IT system, but its importance can sometimes be forgotten. Salesmen in the Surgical suite (NY Times) is a tragic story of a patient whose operation was botched by a doctor with no previous experience on the Da Vinci Surgical System - a stark reminder that training is essential whenever new technologies are introduced.

Updated: 2019-03-19
ITGS Past papers

List of ITGS Past Paper Topics

This section of the site contains a list of all ITGS past papers from 2006 to November 2018 (both Higher Level and Standard Level) plus the IB specimen papers, broken down by paper, level, and question. The general topic of each question is given, allowing teachers to easily select exams to use with their students and helping students select appropriate papers to revise.

The style of ITGS exam papers has changed over the years, even within the lifetime of a syllabus. However, old exam papers can still be used with some modification:

Pre-2012 paper 1 exams: These papers contain shorter answer questions (generally Assessment Objectives 1 and 2) that are similar to the current paper 1. To use this as current paper 1 exams requires the addition of an 8 mark essay question at the end.

Pre-2012 paper 2 exams: These papers are very similar to the current paper 1, with the exception that the final essay question is worth 10 marks instead of the current 8 marks.

May 2012 - Nov 2015: These exams contain questions that are the same format as current exams. However, the instructions are different. The HL Paper 1 contained three sections (A, B, C). In May 2016 sections B and C were merged.

May 2016 to present: These exam papers represent the current layout and style.

Download the ITGS past exam papers list (.xls).

Updated: 2019-03-18
ITGS news articles

Introduction to ITGS: News articles

There are literally thousands of news articles students might choose for the introduction exercises 1.2 and 1.4 in the ITGS textbook. Below are a few that I have used successfully in class. You can also read the latest ITGS news articles by following our ITGS Twitter account.

There are also a number of articles which I have used in ITGS introduction lessons in the past. Although these articles are a bit older, they highlight the diverse topics and issues that will be covered in the ITGS course. They might also be useful for introduction lessons for pre-IB students.

Updated: 2018-08-17
Atlantic magazine cover

The Atlantic magazine

Print edition | Kindle edition
The Atlantic is another source of really good, in-depth ITGS-related articles. Many of the features are quite long, but they usually cover the social impacts on a variety of stakeholders, and are great for starting classroom discussions. The magazine is available in print and digital editions.

You should also check out the web site.
Updated: 2018-08-17
Textbook exercise

Exercise 1.8

ITGS Guide: "On what basis can we trust "knowledge" acquired from a range of sources?"
ITGS Links: 1.1 Reliability and Integrity, 1.12 Digital Citizenship, 3.5 Internet

The BBC article Are we trapped in our own web bubbles? and Eli Pariser's TED talk 'Beware online filter bubbles' are two resources that discuss how personalised search results could limit our access to new information.

Search engines play a major role in providing access to knowledge and information. The order of the links appearing in search results therefore has a significant impact on the types of information that will be accessed by the majority of people (witness how many people only ever use the first page - or even half page - of search results). Additionally, some search engines and social media sites have started to use personalised search results, which can prioritise results that are similar to pages we have previously viewed - thus forming a so-called 'search bubble' or 'filter bubble' that might limit our exposure to new views.

Despite this, there is still some debate over just how significant the filter bubble effect is. A 2015 study of Facebook data suggested the effect was minimal or non-existent - but the study itself was quickly criticised. Filter bubbles returned to the media spotlight after political events including the election of Donald Trump and the UK Brexit vote. The Guardian attempted to examine the effect in 2018, while the University of Illinois has an interesting page examining the effect and presenting an experiment you can try for yourself.

This can be a useful starting point for exercise 1.8, and also links closely to the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.

Updated: 2018-08-17
Artificial intelligence examples

Exercise 16.6: Artificial Intelligence Examples

The links below demonstrate different types of artificial intelligence, including natural language processing, expert systems, and games-playing AI. They should be helpful in getting students to understand what types of 'intelligent' programs are available, and how their intelligence may be achieved. 
  • Eliza - a version of Joseph Weizenbaum's 'computer therapist'.
  • CleverBot - another chat bot
  • Exsys Expert Systems - expert systems demonstrations, including a dog breed selector and a restaurant advisor.
  • START - a 'Natural Language Question Answering System'.
  • 20 Questions - think of an item and answer 20 questions to see if the computer can guess it.
  • Google Translate - Offers translation in many languages - choose two that you know and check its accuracy.
  • Tic-Tac-Toe - Try to beat the computer. What does this tell you about the nature of some games?
  • Connect-4 Another example of game-playing 'intelligence'.

Updated: 2018-08-17
ITGS Podcasts

ITGS Podcasts

Podcasts can be a great way for ITGS students to stay up to date with the latest technology news and issues. While many podcasts simply cover the latest releases and device udpates, several feature more in-depth analysis, discussion, and social-ethical impacts which directly relate to the ITGS syllabus.

  • NPR The NPR technology podcast focuses on in-depth discussion of technology issues, which is very useful for ITGS. The very useful archive has a back-catalog of all podcasts.
  • Spark is perfect for ITGS, focusing on the impact of technology on society and culture. Each episode is around an hour, but is also broken down into shorter, snappy extra stories of around ten minutes each.
  • BBC Click contain shorter, ITGS relevant stories in every episode. The Home tab contains the 'radio' style show, while the podcast contains separate downloadable content - so check out both.
  • Security Now! A more specialised podcast, which tends to be quite long but covers a wide range of security related issues from exploits to social engineering. The great thing about this podcast is that it is always very up-to-date.

Updated: 2018-08-17


ITGSopedia is a collection of links and resources for all topics in the ITGS syllabus. The original site was recently taken offline but a mirror is still available with all information intact.
Updated: 2018-08-01
Wired magazine cover

Wired Magazine

Wired Magazine regularly features technology related articles that are relevant to the ITGS course, and others that may provide interesting wider reading for teachers and students. Print and electronic subscription options are available.

I would strongly recommend you check out the Wired web site too, as it also contains very useful articles.

Updated: 2018-07-17
ITGS Triangle handouts

Introduction to ITGS: First lesson handouts

The ITGS Triangle and the IB Command Terms are essential resources to help get students in the "IB / ITGS mindset" from the start of the course. I give these handouts in the first ITGS lesson:
Updated: 2018-07-17
Search engine privacy

Privacy issues: Search engine data

A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749 (NYTimes) is an incredibly interesting - and frightening - look at "anonymity". In short, a New York Times journalist is able to track down an interview a woman based solely on her "anonymous" search queries. This article ties in well with exercise 9-14 on page 214 of the textbook.

The data, released by AOL and concerning about 650,000 users, was quickly removed but remains available on several mirror sites - further highlighting the privacy concerns about releasing information on the Internet.
Updated: 2018-06-11
Internet Statistics

Internet Statistics

Internet World Stats is a good site for interesting and often surprising statistics about Internet access and use across the world. It includes pages on penetration rates, languages, and much more, which provide a useful background for study the digital divide and cultural diversity.

Other sites include statistics about the language of websites which also make interesting reading.

It is easy to assume that many or most people have Internet access. However, this is far from the truth. According to a recent report in the Telegraph, more than half the world (57%) still do not have Internet access.

How Much of the World Has Regular Internet Access? is a UN report which reveals some interesting trends - including significant gaps between the percentage of women who have Internet access globally and the percentage of men. In some areas the difference is as high as 50%.

Even in more developed countries, there can still be a digital divide: the Pew Research Center claims 15% of Americans do not have Internet access - with age and lack of finance tending to be a barrier to uptake.

Of course, as with any statistics we should be careful to understand how, when, and by whom the measurements were made, as the Internet can evolve very quickly.

Updated: 2018-06-11
LIDAR visualization

LIDAR technology

LIDAR technology is often used by driverless vehicles to sense the environment around them. The technology works by emitting light pulses and measuring the time it takes for them to be reflected back to the vehicle. LIDAR is also used in remote sensing, which is part of the Environment topic in Strand 2. One of the best ways to understand how autonomous vehicles 'see' the world is to watch a visualization of LIDAR data.

Updated: 2018-06-08
Vehicle to Infrastructure (VTI) communication

Vehicle to Infrastructure (VTI) communication

Vehicle to Infrastructure communication (VTI) is one of the big issues in the case study. It is the process of vehicles (whether autonomous or not) communicating with infrastructure such as traffic lights and road signs to discover information about the environment. Vehicles can also relay requests to the infrastructure - for example, an emergency vehicle could request a smart traffic light to switch to green to facilitate its passage.

VTI is a potential economic concern because of the need to update large amounts of existing infrastucture. However, VTI can also have environmental and economic benefits by reducing idling at unnecessary traffic stops, and by encouraging vehicles to travel at the most fuel efficient speeds. This saves fuel and money, and reduces harmful vehicle emissions.

Smart Intersection Controller is a great example of this, and there are many other VTI videos on the ITGS YouTube Channel.

Updated: 2018-06-08
Vehicle to Vehicle communication

Vehicle to Vehicle Communication (VTV)

As the name suggests, Vehicle to Vehicle (VTV) communication allows vehicles (whether they are automated or not) they share information about the environment. This could include a vehicle warning following cars about a hazard (e.g. ice) ahead, vehicles working together to drive at the same speed to ensure smooth traffic flow, or vehicles communicating to avoid an imminent collision.

Honda V2X Communications and automated driving is a particularly good example video that shows how VTV can help protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. There are also numerous other VTV videos on the ITGS YouTube Channel.

Updated: 2018-06-08
Driverless vehicles and the law

Driverless vehicles and the law

Driverless vehicles is a good example of a situation where technology creates situations existing laws were not designed to deal with (we come across many of these in ITGS).


Which are the top autonomous vehicle ready countries? is a great top 20 table of countries across the world. Each is given a score based on factors including technology, infrastructure (for technology such as smart roads and Vehicle to Infrastructure communication), and legislative framework.

Global Survey of Autonomous Vehicle Regulations is a good summary of laws relating to driverless vehicles worldwide. In many cases countries have no specific laws relating to such vehicles, or they are implicitly banned by existing legislation. However, several countries have made changes in this area. Driverless Car Rules in Flux examines the situation in Japan, Singapore, and Germany.

United States

The NCSL has a good overview of the law regarding driverless vehicles in different US states. It is worth checking this site often as the legal situation changes quite frequently.

In February 2018 California moved to allow driverless cars to operate on its roads without a human backup driver being present. They would still require a human to remotely monitor the car however.


Autonomous Car Law in Europe summarises the legal situation, examining European Union laws and any changes made in individual countries.

United Kingdom

In the UK, a three year legal review will occur before driverless cars will be allowed on public roads. Driverless cars: the legal issues goes into more detail about some of the potential stumbling blocks for law makers.


In early 2018 China developed new regulations to catch up with the latest developments in self driving technology. Previously Beijing had allowed testing of autonomous vehicles within the region provided they met certain requirements, including the use of a human backup driver. The tests were also limited to designated roads at designated times.

Updated: 2018-06-02
Legal responsibility

Driverless vehicles and legal responsibility

Driverless cars and the law is a podcast from the BBC that deals with legal aspects of self driving cars. The particular focus is on legal responsibility in the event of an accident, and issues such as insurance and compensation in the event of an accident.

Updated: 2018-06-01
Intel self driving vehicles

Intel and self driving vehicles

Intel is one of the companies specifically mentioned in the case study booklet (line 16). Although Intel do not build their own driverless vehicles, they do supply to technology used by a large number of them. The Intel website offers insight into their various collaborations, the technology they use, and their vision for the future of automated driving.

Updated: 2018-06-01
Self driving accidents

Self-driving cars attacked by angry San Francisco residents

In an interesting development, in March 2018 the Independent reported on an increase in attacks on self driving vehicles in San Francisco. The article doesn't fully explain why people were angry with self driving cars, although this could be a good classroom discussion point.

Updated: 2018-06-01
Trust in self driving vehicles

Trust and autonomous driving

This excellent article and video from Intel offers great insight into a key problem of autonomous vehicles: getting humans to put their trust in machines. Although most accidents are caused by human error, getting putting to relinquish control of a vehicle is still a key challenge. This article examines some of the possible solutions to this psychological barrier.

Updated: 2018-06-01
Waymo (Google)

Waymo (Google)

Waymo is the new name of Google's driverless car project. The project's website has some interesting information, including a video showing how Waymo senses the road, complete with a visualisation of the data collected. There is even a project called Early Rider where members of the public can sign up to trial the driverless car in their everyday life!

In February 2018 Waymo also announced that they are planning a self-driving truck programme.

Updated: 2018-06-01
Homer (Voyage)

Homer (Voyage)

Concrete information on Voyage's self driving vehicles is hard to come by. Their attempt, named Homer, is a conversion of a regular vehicle into an autonomous taxi. The use of driverless taxis and other public transport could be very relevant for the environmental goals of the World Driverless Vehicle Federation (line 86). The Story of Homer is probably the best source of information on this project.

Updated: 2018-05-29
Self driving accident

Driverless vehicle accidents

Accidents are perhaps the greatest fear people have in relation to driverless vehicles. When developing IT systems, overcoming psychological issues can be as difficult as solving technical problems. TechRadar has a good series of articles about incidents involving driverless vehicles. The articles cover Uber's early accidents (before the fatality), Google's collision with a truck, a Tesla parking accident, and a fatality involving Tesla's Autopilot system. It should be noted that Tesla's Autopilot is not intended as a Level 5 automation feature.

Most recently a pedestrian in Arizona was killed after being hit by an Uber driverless vehicle that failed to avoid her as she crossed the road. Several theories about the cause of the crash have been put forward, but the most recent thinking is that the Uber vehicle detected the pedestrian but did not take evasive action because the emergency braking had been disabled. This raises several issues directly linked to the 2019 ITGS case study, including human complacency (the person monitoring the vehicle's driving was apparently distracted), and legal responsibilities and ramifications in the event of an accident.

Updated: 2018-05-29
The Trolley Problem

The Trolley Problem

The Trolley problem is not explicitly mentioned in the case study text, but it is included in the list of key terms at the end of the booklet. The trolley problem is a well known situation and clearly links ITGS with TOK. Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do? is an excellent video that investigates the trolley problem in an interactive manner. Don't be put off by the apparently lecture format - the first 15 to 20 minutes are very engaging and relevant.

Updated: 2018-05-29
Ethical decision making

Markkula (Santa Clara) ethical decision making

It isn't 100% clear why the IB have chosen this particular 'model' of ethical decision making for inclusion in the ITGS case study. However, Santa Clara University do have a very nice interactive Making an Ethical Decision page that guides users through the process. If you'd prefer to just read about it, they have a PDF summary sheet too.

Updated: 2018-05-29

GPS technology

How does GPS work? and How GPS works both do exactly what they say on the tin. It is worth noting that generally GPS does not provide sufficient accuracy or reliability for driverless vehicles to rely on for obstacle avoidance. Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) is one system designed to improve the accuracy of location systems.

Updated: 2018-05-29
Voyager Communities

Voyager Communities

The Communities section of the Voyage website has great examples of driverless vehicles being implemented in real world conditions. The two urban communities in San Jose and Florida are test beds where driverless vehicles are used over hundreds of kilometres of real roads. The web page features details of various Voyager users and how the driverless car systems benefit them.

Updated: 2018-05-29
Driverless trucks

Army marches forward with self-driving trucks

In 2016 the US Army experimented with self driving trucks in Michigan. The system relied heavily on Vehicle to Infrastructure (VTI) communication to inform the trucks about road conditions (such as lane closures). Replacing trucks with driverless vehicles clearly has potential to cause significant social impacts, including unemployment, making this article a good class discussion starter.

Updated: 2018-05-29
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)

Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) automation scale

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is mentioned in the case study booklet in reference to their six level scale for describing vehicle automation. This ranges from Level 0 (No automation), through Level 3 (Conditional automation), to Level 5 (Full automation). The SAE's own link is broken at the moment, but you can find out more about the SAE scale here.

Understanding the SAE automation scale may help students organise their understanding of the different driverless car technologies further down this page.

Updated: 2018-05-29
RoboRace self driving race car


This resource is probably slightly less useful for the Road to Driverless Cars case study. However, the ability to build a self driving vehicle that can negotiate a racetrack while competing against other cars is still pretty impressive. It could also be useful to discuss the difference between designing a car racing around a fixed track and a car that must negotiate city streets.

The RoboRace web page and YouTube channel are resources worth visiting.

Updated: 2018-05-29


Tesla is one of the companies explicitly mentioned in the case study booklet (line 16). Tesla's case is an interesting one: they actually claim their current vehicles are fully able to self drive (i.e. level 5 on the SAE scale). However, they say they are unable to activite this technology in their cars due to legal restrictions. This links directly with the legal challenges section of the case study booklet. The Tesla website has lots of useful information, including a video of their car in action (with the requisite visualization of sensor data).

Updated: 2018-05-29


What Uber Learned from a Year of Self Driving is a short video (produced before the March 2018 fatal accident) those guys into great depth about Uber's self driving car project. The technical aspects are probably more than is required for ITGS (although it doesn't hurt to understand them), but the discussion of social issues (such as the reluctance of people to use autonomous vehicles) is perfect.

Of course, sadly Uber has been in the limelight for the wrong reasons recently, with a pedestrian died in a collision with one of their driverless cars. Uber self-driving cars: everything you need to know goes into detail about the roots of the driverless car project and the accident.

Updated: 2018-05-29

Further Reading

Below are the main sites I use with my students for ITGS news articles. As ITGS encourages students to have a global perspective on events, pursuing local newspapers (both online and offline) is a very worthwhile exercise as they often contain news articles reporting how technology can affect the local community. These can be a great opportunity for students to apply their own experience.

Students can also import this RSS feed of ITGS related news sites.
Updated: 2018-05-21
Software reliability

Computer Reliability Exercise 1

The articles below cover different types of failure in computer controlled systems. A useful classroom task is to analyse these articles and consider how significant hardware failure, software failure, user failure, and corrupt data are in causing the problem.

RISKS and Risk Factor are two excellent resources frequently updated with reports of reliability and other ITGS related computing issues.

Updated: 2018-05-21
Civilian drones

Civilian applications for drones

The military applications of drones are covered on the politics and government page. In addition to the well-publicised military uses, drones are increasingly being used for civilian purposes across many areas of the ITGS triangle.

Current civilian applications of drones include monitoring wildlife areas for suspected poachers and other illegal activity (Guardian); using drones to monitor railways for graffiti in Germany (BBC), and monitoring vineyards (BBC). The use of drones to protect swimmers by spotting sharks is also being implemented in Australia. In the future it is possible that image recognition may enable these same drones to also spot swimmers in distress.

Updated: 2018-05-21
Passwords and biometrics

Passwords, biometrics, and two-factor authentication

The video Secure Passwords Explained by CommonCraft is a good introduction to this topic. Why passwords have never been weaker - and crackers have never been stronger and How I Became a Password Cracker (ARS Technica) explain the security threats facing passwords.

Two-Step Verification is inconvenient, but more secure (NY Times) and Google's Alternative to the Password (MIT) offer alternatives to passwords.

Biometrics (BBC) are often hailed as a better authentication mechanism, and modern systems can even recognise users by the way they walk (Science Daily).

Problems with biometrics

Questions have been raised about the accuracy of biometric systems. For example, in 2018 it was reported that facial recognition technology used by police is only about 10% accurate.

Contrary to popular belief, biometrics systems can be fooled. For example, by using fake silicone fingers (BBC) and even plastic fingerprint surgery (BBC). Voice recogition technology can also be fooled: the BBC fooled HSBC's voice recognition security system for online banking, for example. In 2018 an AI algorithm was revealed that could imitate a person's voice based on only a few samples.

Social and ethical issues

Biometric facial recognition systems can raise privacy issues as they are capable of surveillance without subjects' knowledge or permission - one such example is in the 2001 Super Bowl (The Register). The article You Cannot Encrypt your Face examines this issue in greater detail.

Another potential issue with biometrics is security - ironically there are several major security concerns about using such technology. This Wired article explains the concerns and how they affect stakeholders in various fields.

Updated: 2018-05-21
Digital citizenship - online behaviour

Digital Citizenship: Etiquette and behaviour online

Examples abound of employees being sacked for inappropriate behaviour online. One of the earliest examples was the Queen of the Sky (The Register), sacked by Delta Airlines for posts on her personal blog. Virgin Atlantic have also sacked crew (BBC) for social media use. Other relevant examples where people have lost their jobs include:

Business and Employment


Legal impacts

 What you can and can't say on Twitter and 10 legal risks in tweeting from or to the UK attempt to clarify the issue of freedom of speech online.

Finally, How easy is it to delete yourself from the web (Guardian) is an essential read, making it clear that the impacts of revealing too much data (or inappropriate data) can last a very long time - something that all IB students should consider.

This topic is closely linked to online filtering, censorship, and surveillance issues.
Updated: 2018-05-21
3D Printed skull

3D Printing and Healthcare

Hospitals are now using 3D printing technology to turn medical scans into 3D models to plan surgeries and other treatment. 3D Systems is one such company - their web page contains a wealth of information about the technologies and techniques they employ. Another good example is Simbionix, whose site has examples of 3D printing heart models, and videos of the process.

Two good case studies are Mina Khan, who had her life saved by a 3D printed heart,and a young baby called Kaiba had his life saved by doctors using a 3D printed component to help him breathe properly.

4D animated scans of unborn babies have been around for a while now; companies such as 3D babies now offer the chance to turn these scans into 3D models.

Some researchers are also investigating how 3D printing can be used in prosthetics, particularly with a view to improving facial prostheses. How 3-D-Printed Prosthetic Hands Are Changing These Kids Lives is a video well worth watching.

The Benefits of 3D Printing Healthcare is an article from Betanews which does a good job of explaining these technologies and how they might develop in the future.

Updated: 2018-05-21
Internet censorship

Exercise 14.1: Internet filtering, censorship, and surveillance

Internet censorship is a huge topic, and one that truly highlights the global nature of the ITGS course. It is also closely related to the IB TOK course.

As an introduction to this topic, asking students to discuss or research a little about censorship in their own countries (and their opinions of this) is often very englightening. The news articles below have been divided into general categories simply to facilitate navigation.

General articles about Internet censorship

Reporters without Borders and the Open Network Initiative (ONI) both maintain up to date information about global Internet surveillance and censorship. In addition, the following articles are useful for stimulating conversation about types of appropriate and inappropriate content, and whether government control of the internet is appropriate.

Internet censorship in Europe

Internet censorship in Asia

Internet censorship in Australia

Filtering by search engines and online services

Increasingly search engines, social networks, and other web sites may also be asked to block access to certain content - either locally or globally. This is particularly significant because millions of users rely on these services to access information: the absence of a piece of content may well be taken as an indication that the content simply does not exist. The news articles below provide examples of this type of filtering:

The digital citizenship page covers some of the potential legal impacts of online behaviour.

Updated: 2018-05-21
Electronic voting

Electronic Voting articles

E-Voting impacts and issues

Report: Voting Machine Errors Highlight Urgent Need for U.S. Database (Wired) describes many, many problems that have occurred with e-voting machines in recent years. Some of them are quite unusual.  E-voting system awards election to wrong candidates in Florida (ComputerWorld) and Voting Out E-Voting Machines (TIME) both detail further problems.

Oscar's E-Voting Problems Worse Than Feared analyses the problems that faced e-voting systems designed to vote for Oscar nominees, while 'Fake votes' cast in France's first digital election (BBC) explores France's June 2013 open primary mayoral election - both articles are a stark reminder of the myriad problems facing such systems.

Finally,  this is a letter to President Obama about e-voting, written by elections officers and computer security experts - and urging him to resist calls for Internet voting. Online voting is impossible to secure examines the various security issues related to online voting, and discusses why voting is much easier to attack than other secure applications such as online banking.


Science Daily's 'Voter-Verifiable' Voting System Ensures Accuracy And Privacy explains how paper-trails are needed on voting machines, while Aussies Do It Right: E-Voting (Wired) discusses another possible solution - open source voting software (this is a good article for students who believe open source software is "less secure".

Updated: 2018-05-21
Child with doll

Privacy issues: News articles

In the case study Mark and Margaret raise concerns about the privacy of the data collected by the Alicia doll. There are numerous articles online which raise concerns about existing interactive toys, robots, and dolls. Mark and Margaret (and ITGS students!) would be wise to read these to better understand the underlying social and ethical issues.

Updated: 2018-05-21
Self driving cars

Driverless cars and ethics

Driverless or self-driving vehicles are often promoted as being safer than human drivers. However, there may be situations in which an accident is unavoidable. In these situations, how should a driverless vehicle be programmed to behave? Which course of action should it take if all have negative outcomes? And, of course, who takes responsibility for any damage that is caused?

This is a topic which links to ITGS and TOK. The ethical dilemma of self-driving cars (video) is a good introduction. Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill and Ethics of Self-Driving Cars are great articles that examine the topic in more detail.

Uber driverless car accident

In March 2018 an accident occured which was reportedly the first death caused by a driverless vehicle. The Uber self-driving car hit and killed Elaine Herzberg, 49, in Arizona. The human monitor in the car also failed to spot the pedestrian until seconds before the collision. Uber stopped all self driving experiments in the aftermath of the crash.

Velodyne, the company that produces the sensors for the cars, reported that the sensors were working correctly - suggesting a software issue may have been the cause. It was later reported that the car's sensors detected Herzberg, but chose not to swerve as it was uncertain about the nature of the obstacle.

Updated: 2018-05-21
Software and hardware review activity

Hardware and Software review activity

This short review or revision activity is designed to help students distinguish between the different types of computer hardware (input, output, processing, and storage) and software (operating systems and application software). These core topics are often tested in exams, so a clear understanding is essential. You can download the activity and the solution.

Updated: 2018-05-21


Phishing examples

Advice for avoiding phishing scams

Updated: 2018-03-28
Wild fire GIS

Wild Fire Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

These great resources from the United States Forest Service (USFS) deal with how IT is used in wild fire prevention, prediction, and management.

The USFS main page contains links to the following resources:

The Role of GIS in the Aftermath of a Wildfire explains how these systems can be used to quickly assess the scale of damage.

Updated: 2018-03-28
Game addiction

Psychological considerations: Internet and game addiction

Computer gaming addiction raises many potential negative health, psychological, and economic impacts. The problem has become so bad in some countries that extreme measures have been taken to try to combat the issue:

Updated: 2018-03-28
Sports technology

Sports technology: Cricket, Tennis, and Football

Hawk Eye is a system used to assist the referee in several sports, including tennis, cricket and football. Haw Eye Sensors expands upon the original Hawk Eye system using a combination of video camera and sensors embedded into the pitch. Technology in Tennis, a blog by Jason Tsang, contains useful diagrams of the tennis Hawk-Eye system. The video Inside Hawkeye explains a bit more about how the system is used.

Virtual Eye is a similar system used in cricket to assist the third umpire and provide data analysis. Virtual Eye maker owns up to fault is an article about problems with Virtual Eye system.

In football, GoalMinder is system to detect whether a goal has been scored; FIFA want goal line technology to be deployed in future matches, and in the UK the Premier League approved the use of Hawk-eye goal-line technology for the 2013-2014 season. This video shows how the Hawkeye system is set up for a football match.

The video Badminton Hawkeye challenges is a good example of just how hard it can be for a human referee to make accurate judgements in modern sport.

Updated: 2018-03-28
Digital data preservation

Digital Preservation and Restoration: Historic sites and documents

Digital preservation refers to the use of digital technology to prevent the degradation of works of art. Digital restoration involves restoring these works to their original condition. Works might include statues, ancient sites, historical documents and manuscripts, paintings, and even films. This topic has many close links with the digital media topic. 3D printing is often associated with digital preservation, so it is also covered here.

Updated: 2018-03-28
Why privacy matters

Video: Why privacy matters (Glenn Greenwald)

A great talk by Glenn Greenwald that addresses online privacy, and particularly the common fallacy that 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'. The video is a great introduction to the ITGS privacy theme.

Updated: 2018-01-26
Should Robots look like humans

Video: Should Robots Look Like Humans?

This short video examines a new android called Sophia, and discusses the reasons for designing human-like robots (and the reasons not, too).

Updated: 2018-01-26
DARPA Urban challenge video

DARPA Urban Challenge 2007

The 2007 competition for driverless cars organised by DARPA was the followup to the 2005 Grand Challenge in the Nevada desert. Although the video is a bit old now, it is useful for seeing how the technology worked (and didn't!) in the early days. It is also a reminder of how quickly technology develops in fields like artificial intelligence.

Updated: 2018-01-26
Climate and weather models

Climate and weather models


Models 'key to climate forecasts' (BBC) underlines the importance of climate models to modern science, while Supercomputing the Climate (video) that is a good introduction to the weather models and climate models. Hurricane Forecast Computer Models is another useful resource for understanding why models have inaccuracies.

How climate models work

Two articles by National Earth Science Teachers Association and How do climate models work? all explain how computer climate models work, with clear text and diagrams.

Development of climate models

In Pictures: Climate Models (BBC) shows graphically how climate models have developed over the past five decades, from relatively basic models of a spherical Earth to modern advanced models with many more variables and processes. New Supercomputer Enhances Reliability of Weather Predictions (PhysOrg) describes how new technological developments are driving better models.

Problems with climate models

Despite these advances in model development, the ARS Technica article Climate Models get Smarter, but uncertainly won't go away explains why model's results will always differ from reality.

Example models

The Greenhouse Effect model and Carbon cycle model from Gizmos are great examples to use in lessons. NetLogo Models Library: Climate Change is another useful example.

Updated: 2018-01-15
Discovering Computers book cover

Discovering Computers 2018

by Gary Shelly and Misty E. Vermaat | | Worldwide (free shipping)

Discovering Computers provides technical detail to A Gift of Fire's social and ethical depth. The book provides a technical explanation of hardware and software at a level which is perfect for ITGS. Almost all of the strand 3 topics are covered, including input and output devices, operating systems, and networks.

Where appropriate chapters include links to social and ethical issues, which tie in with strand 1 of the ITGS triangle. For example, the digital security section examines ethics and privacy closely.

Although Discovering Computers 2018 is not designed specifically for the ITGS syllabus, I have found it useful to have several copies on my class bookshelf and in the school library. My students have found the book a useful reference when studying technical parts of the ITGS course.

Updated: 2017-12-04


These two videos from Computerphile highlight some of the problems software developers can encounter when trying to adapt their software for users in different parts of the world. The videos cover far more than simple language differences and there are a few surprises in here. This raises clear issues of globalization and cultural diversity, and could lead to an interesting discussion about how (non)-internationalized software affects equality of access.

Is France's unloved AZERTY keyboard heading for the scrapheap? is an article about an unusual problem - the way the standard French keyboard layout actually makes it harder to type grammatically correct French.

Updated: 2017-11-28
Rogue Code book cover

Rogue Code

by Mark Russinovich | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: Rogue Code is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

Rogue Code is the third book in Mark Russinovich's series about cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism (the first is Zero Day). Fictional computer security expert Jeff Aiken returns to deal with a potential security breach at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), which rapidly turns into a cat-and-mouse pursuit linked to large criminal gangs intend on performing an electronic "bank heist". One of the strengths of Russinovich's books is his realism and accuracy, which has been praised by many reviewers. At no time while reading the novel does anything that Aiken encounters seem unrealistic or even far-fetched. This is a great book for extended reading about the topic of Politics & Government and cyber-terrorism.

Updated: 2017-11-10
Who Controls the Internet?

Who Controls the Internet?

by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: Who Controls the Internet? is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World discusses the challenges that arise with the rapid spread of the Internet and the benefits and drawbacks for citizens, corporations, and governments. The book covers the technical details essential to understand the nature of information on the Internet, and then discusses specific examples of government or corporate attempts at control. The examples include the rise of file sharing in the late 1990s and the Chinese government's ongoing crackdown on online dissidents. Each case study is presented with clear examples, and throughout the book ITGS social and ethical issues are raised, including globalization, equality of access, and surveillance.

Updated: 2017-11-10
Rise of the Robots book

Rise of the Robots

by Martin Ford | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: Rise of the Robots is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

This book, full of up to date examples from the world of robotics, fits in very well with the Business and Employment, Education, and Healthcare topics in strand 2 of the ITGS triangle.

As a bonus, Rise of the Robots is available as a free audio book with a trial of Audible. Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the audio book - a very worthwhile deal.

Updated: 2017-11-10
Book - No Place to Hide

No Place to Hide

by Glenn Greenwald | | Kindle Edition | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: No Place to Hide is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

Glenn Greenwald was the first journalist to break the story of Edward Snowden, back in 2013. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State tells the story of secretive meetings arranged with almost paranoid levels of security, of hiding in a Hong Kong hotel room, and of the constant fear of the authorities closing in.

By now the Snowden revelations are well known, but as the 'original' journalist Greenwald is able to provide first person insight into many issues which connect directly with the ITGS syllabus. Privacy, security, surveillance, and the balance between them is a classic debate topic, and one for which No Place to Hide makes ideal background reading.

You can read a longer view on ITGS News

Updated: 2017-11-10
Ghost in the Wires book cover

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker

by Kevin D. Mitnick | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: Ghost in the Wires is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

Written by Kevin Mitnick (who also wrote The Art of Deception and The Art of Intrusion, below), Ghost in the Wires takes a different approach to his more 'instructional' tomes. An autobiography of sorts, Ghost in the Wires details Mitnick's escapades during the 1990s, a time when he freely compromised hundreds of computer systems and was pursued by authorities across the world. On his way he uses a variety of techniques, from social engineering to exploiting software vulnerabilities.

Ghost in the Wires is excellent extended reading for those interested in computer security or true crime stories.

Updated: 2017-11-10
Zero Day book cover

Zero Day

by Mark Russinovich | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: Zero Day is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

Zero Day deals with what some experts believe is a major threat to modern societies - a serious cyber-attack on governments and national infrastructure. Although a work of fiction, Zero Day's portrayal of computer failures - from the controls of an international airliner to a hospital's database - make it easy to see how reliant we are on computers and how vulnerable systems make tempting targets for terrorist groups.

At the same time, Zero Day is a very well written thriller that should engage a teenage audience right to the end. The book avoids the unrealistic cliches found in a lot of "cyber fiction" and as such is very useful extended reading for ITGS students interested in IT security or the Politics and Government strand.

Updated: 2017-11-10
The Art of Deception book cover

The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security

by Kevin D. Mitnick and William L. Simon. | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: The Art of Deception is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

The Art of Deception, by hacker-turned-security consultant Kevin Mitnick, is a collection of short stories and detailed examples explaining how humans are often the weakest link in the IT security chain. The book's 16 chapters cover social engineering techniques from phishing emails and websites, to malware, fake phone calls, and impersonation. 

Most of the stories in The Art of Deception are highly relevant to ITGS students, relating strongly to the social and ethical issues of security, authentication, and policies. Mitnick's style is clear and accessible, with key language and points highlighted, and the book's structure makes it easy to quickly dip in and read one or two stories. ITGS students or teachers with even a passing interest in computer security should find it a worthy read. Click here for a short review.

Updated: 2017-11-10
America the Vulnerable book cover

America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare

by Joel Brenner | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: America the Vulnerable is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

American the Vulnerable examines the potential impact of cyber-warfare and cyber-terrorism on the United States. The book covers tactics that could be used to attack American computers, including hacking, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, and spyware.

Brenner also examines the difficulty of addressing these threats. Isolating sensitive computers from a network, for example, is good practice. However, it raises new threats we might never have considered - such as USB flash drives loaded with malware at the point of manufacture. Ironically, Brenner says we know that many of these threats are real because the US has tried them against its own enemies.

America the Vulnerable is a good read for anybody interested in computer security and cyber-warfare / cyber-terrorism. Although it initially appears slightly paranoid, by the end its veracity is quite convincing.

Updated: 2017-11-10
Wired for War book cover

Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century

by P. W. Singer | | Kindle Edition | Worldwide (free shipping)

Update: The Wired for War is now available as a free audio book when you sign up for a free Audible trial (US or UK customers only). Even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the books.

In Wired for War, Singer examines how robots are used on today's battlefields, and asks how they might be used in the future. In addition to providing examples of cutting edge robotics, Singer describes the technical challenges involved in creating such machines, and discusses in detail the ethical issues raised by using technology to kill.

This book is quite easy to 'dip in' at chapters that interest the reader, and quite a few of my students have found this interesting reading.

The hard cover version I have seems to be unavailable now, but there is a paperback version and a Kindle Edition, though the latter is more expensive. The author also has a website.

Updated: 2017-11-10
Hardware specifications

Hardware specifications worksheet

This worksheet is a simple table with different types of computers as row headings (supercomputer, laptop, smart phone, etc), and different system resources as column headings (primary storage, secondary storage, screen resolution, and so on). It is designed to help students understand the different specifications of a wide variety of computer systems.

I downloaded the sheet from TeachComputing, a computer science resource site. Although ITGS does not require the same level of technical detail as the IB Computer Science course, this is a relatively simply exercise at the appropriate level. A good understanding of the limits of different hardware (e.g. the limited processing power or screen resolution of a mobile phone) is an important skill that is often tested in ITGS exam papers.

Updated: 2017-10-24
Information technology timeline

Introduction to ITGS: Information Technology Timeline

As an introduction lesson, the objective of these tasks is to familiarise students with the components of ITGS, to get them thinking about how rapidly technology has changed in recent memory, and how these changes might affect us (social and ethical issues and impacts). This can also help students determine if ITGS really is for them!

Students are given a series of cards with the names of major IT events: they must place these in the correct order on the supplied timeline. For many students it is quite an eye-opener to see how recently many technologies developed, and to see the statistics about how many people have Internet access worldwide (this can lead to interesting discussions about ITGS social and ethical issues such as the digital divide and its causes, how the development of technology can threaten privacy, or the importance of secure and reliable IT devices). Students can then be split into pairs and complete an investigation and analysis task related to some of the events in the timeline, and divided by ITGS scenario (Business, Health, Education, etc).

Updated: 2017-10-23
Introduction to ITGS

Introduction to ITGS: Video resources

ITGS teachers often need to give an overview of the course to students, perhaps to help them make suitable IB subject choices. Helping students understand what ITGS is about can be quite difficult as there is no equivalent subject at IGCSE or MYP level. In the past I have found these 6 videos from IBM useful resources to give an indication of the varied areas, issues, and impacts that ITGS covers. Topics covered include the economic impacts of data mining in business, the health impacts of artificial intelligence systems in hospitals, the application of computer models to protect citizens from severe weather, and the impact of data analytics in reducing crime.

The ITGS textbook YouTube channel contains ITGS themed videos that may also help.

Updated: 2017-10-23
Computer storage devices

Computer Storage

BBC Bitesize has some useful computer storage revision material which covers the most common storage devices.

How do hard drives work? and How computer memory works are two animated videos that do exactly what they say. They are useful for helping students understand the difference between primary storage and secondary storage.

The following videos explain how data is stored on magnetic, optical, and solid state storage devices (e.g. hard disks, CD-ROMs, and SD cards).

Updated: 2017-10-23
Artificial intelligence examples

Exercise 16.13: AI artist examples

These links may be helpful as examples of the types of 'Artificial Artists' that are currently available.

  • AARON - Description of AARON, an AI artist, and some sample pictures.
  • Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet - An artificial poet.
  • FractMus - a program to generate musically mathematically (Windows).
  • TuneSmithy - Another Fractal music program (Windows).
  • Emily Howell A computer program developed by David Cope, which 'learns' how to compose music by being 'encouraged' and 'discouraged' by the user.

The Best Examples Of "Unusual" Art is a blog post that contains some great examples of human created art for this discussion. Can Robots be Creative? is a good video for a lesson starter.

Updated: 2017-10-23
Image manipulation

Dove Evolution and the Digital Manipulation of Models

Digital manipulation of models' photographs is a commonly discussed example. In 2006 Unilever launched its Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, designed to highlight natural beauty. The advertisement (video) shows the transformation of a model using both make-up and digital computer manipulation. It makes an interesting lesson starter when teaching digital manipulation of models. Can you believe your eyes in the digital world? is a BBC article and video that deals specifically with the digital manipulation of models' images and the possible impacts. A mascara advert featuring Natalie Portman was banned after it was realised images had been manipulated in Photoshop.

On the same topic, in 2009 French MPs proposed a law that would require 'health warnings' on any advertising images that had been digitally manipulated. This proposal became law in late 2017, requiring images that had been digitally manipulated to carry a label to that effect.

Finally, this fun link shows celebrities 'Photoshopped' to look like ordinary people.

Digital image manipulation relates closely to the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.

Updated: 2017-10-23
Digital movie effects

Digital Effects in the Movies

Myriad sites explain how Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) is used to create special effects, alien environments, and even entirely new creatures in modern cinema. Digital Synopsis has a good overview of numerous films before and after special effects have been applied. It's a great way to see the basic setup of green screen, texture mapping, and other relevant technologies.

Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) have been pioneers of visual effects for decades. In addition to this digital effects breakdown of Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens, their YouTube channel has videos for many of their films, including Kong: Skull Island, Deepwater Horizon, and Warcraft. The ILM website is another must-visit.

Pixar are also leaders in this field, and their web site houses excellent resources that shouldn't be missed. How Stuff Works covers ILM's The Perfect Storm, while Popular Mechanics covers Transformers.

Lord of the Rings: Digital Horses and Black Swan Effects Reel are two behind-the-scenes style videos. And, of course, no discussion of film special effects would be complete without an article about the special effects in Avatar (BBC).

Updated: 2017-10-23
Virtual actors resources

Virtual actors

Virtual actors are digital 'actors' that supplement or even replace human actors. The Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) explains the Light Stage technology that is used to create digital scans of an actor's face. The BBC Click video Hollywood 'craves digital versions of actors' is an amazing resource: can you spot the difference between the real Emily and the CGI Emily? The video Is this a video of a human? is also excellent.

More recently there have been several examples of digital recreations of actors performing in films. Star Wars: Rogue One featured digital recreations of both Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin).

Updated: 2017-10-23

Digital Citizenship: Cyber-bullying

Cyber bullying cases

Cyber bullying can have severe impacts for its victims and serious consequences for its perpetrators. Below are several cases. These cases often relate and cross over with Etiquette and behaviour online.

Cyber bullying solutions

From a parent perspective, it is possible to purchase a mobile phone SIM card which can be controlled from a parent's computer - blocking use of the phone or certain features at specified hours, and preventing contact to and from specified individuals.

Governments are another stakeholder in the issue and some have tried to take action - New Zealand has passed new cyber-bullying laws, for instance.

Social media companies have a role to play in preventing cyber bullying - Policing social media contains resources describing how inappropriate online content is dealt with.

Cyber bullying resources

Updated: 2017-10-23
GPS systems

Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

Two diagrams showing how GPS networks function, from page 243 of the book. Click for larger versions of diagram 1 and diagram 2.

How GPS Works is a great video that clearly explains concepts like trilaterion, and the importance of timing. It also reveals some modern uses of GPS that might not be obvious (such as in the financial markets).

Updated: 2017-10-23
Remote patient monitoring

Remote patient monitoring

Project Gerhome

Project Gerhome is the smart home / patient monitoring project I cover in the textbook. Its aims are to use a variety of technologies, including video cameras, to monitor elderly people in their homes. The site is primarily in French but there is an English-language page about the project here.

This page explains how multiple sensors are used to detect people in an apartment and even recognise different modes. For example, the experiments tried to detect people preparing a meal, eating, and fainting. The site includes some great images of how this might be achieved.

Remote monitoring articles

Could telehealth revolutionise NHS patient care? (BBC) and How tech can help the elderly stay independent (BBC Click video) discuss the potential benefits of these technologies. This BBC video explains how Alzheimer's patients can be tracked with satellite technology.

However, the New England Journal of Medicine performed research which suggested telemonitoring of heart patients produced no difference in outcome compared to in-patients. The article is a bit dense but includes some useful statistics.

Remote patient monitoring is a topic which is closely related to the smart homes topic in the Home and Leisure chapter.

Updated: 2017-10-23
Password strength

Exercise 5.4 - Password Strength

Computer security company Kaspersky has an online tool that performs calculations like the ones in this exercise. How Secure is my password? is a similar tool.

For security reasons it might be better to avoid typing your actual passwords into these sites, just in case (in fact the Kaspersky website warns specifically against this).

Updated: 2017-08-10
Crime prediction

Police use of IT: Risk profiling and crime prediction

Since 2001 governments and airports have invested huge sums of money in systems to detect potential terrorist threats. Software which analyses passengers' data to establish their 'risk score' is explained in Risk profiling software tackles the terrorist threat (BBC), while Airport Screening Concerns Civil Liberties Groups (NY Times) discusses the inherent concerns about profiling and privacy. Finally, Deception Is Futile When Big Brother's Lie Detector Turns Its Eyes on You (Wired) details software that can - relatively accurately - detect liars at border control points.

A similar technological development is 'predictive policing': the use of software and large amounts of data to make predictions about where crimes might occur - and even who might commit them - before they happen. The following articles and videos cover this topic:
Updated: 2017-07-12
Facebook logo

Policies: Policing social media

Policing a global web service such as Facebook or Twitter is clearly a difficult task, and there are many social impacts and ethical issues to consider. Most obviously, different countries, regions, and users have wildly different standards regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable. Content also spreads extremely quickly online, while new situations constantly arise, requiring companies to make quick policy decisions. Below are examples of situations where material has been removed (and sometimes reinstated) by social media sites. These issues are also a great opportunity to link ITGS and TOK, with many knowledge issues surrounding censorship and filtering.

In May 2017 a Facebook document was leaked which revealed their internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence. Finally, ITGS students might be surprised to learn who makes the decisions about removing content - The dark side of Facebook explains this.

Updated: 2017-07-12
Database security issues

Database security issues

Unfortunately significant database breaches tend to make the headlines every few months, meaning there is no shortage of examples for discussion in ITGS lessons. Also on the rise are 'ransomware' attacks, where hackers encrypt users' data and demand payment to decrypt it. Some companies have paid up to $40,000 to get their data back. Examples of database breaches include:

May 2017: Debenhams Flowers data breach hits 26,000

May 2017: Hacked plastic surgery photos published online

May 2017: India's Zomato says data from 17 million users stolen

November 2016: Mobile phone company Three suffered a security breach when criminals used an authorised Three login to access the company's database and steal personal details. The details were used to intercept expensive mobile phones being sent to customers as upgrades.

September 2016: Yahoo confirmed a 'state sponsored' hacker stole personal data from 500 million accounts back in 2014.

September 2016: Talk Talk were fined £400,000 over the theft of more than 150,000 customer details

August 2016: Personal details of up to 2.4 million people may have been stolen from Carphone Warehouse

August 2016: Accounting and payroll software company Sage said its systems were compromised and data for 280 UK businesses may have been stolen.

August 2016: Yahoo investigated a data breach in its MySpace and LinkedIn divisions, after it was claimed 200 million Yahoo IDs were stolen.

June 2016: The personal details of 112,000 French police officers became publicly available after a disgruntled worker for a support company uploaded them to Google Drive.

June 2016: Chinese hackers were suspected of stealing the details of almost 4 million people from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a branch of the US government

April 2015: the US Office of Personnel Management revealed a hack had exposed 1.1 biometric records to unauthorised access. In September 2015 this number was increased to 5.6 million fingerprints.

The textbook details several cases of lost data by the British government, including the Ministry of Defence's loss of personal data of 600,000 people. Many organisations have lost data, including 132 UK councils, the National Health Service (memory stick left on a train), and even  NASA (stolen laptop). Meanwhile, Computer World reports that over half of UK firms have lost data in security breaches.

Not to be outdone, the HMRC lost sensitive personal data of 25 million people after sending it out, unencrypted, on two CDs - which were subsequently lost.

Under the Data Protection Act, companies can be fined for losing sensitive data, and in a few cases this has happened: Zurich Insurance was fined £2.3m in 2010, Shopacheck was fined for losing data on over half a million customers in 2012, and the NHS was fined £200,000 for losing the data of 3,000 patients in 2013.

Updated: 2017-07-04
Digital film restoration

Digital Preservation and Restoration: Film

In 2009 NASA restored the Apollo 11 footage of Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin's historic moon landing. The only remaining tapes of the events were copies that were relatively blurry and low quality. NASA lost moon footage, Hollywood restores it (USA Today) explains how this footage was recovered and restored.

Similarly, the seminal 1902 science fiction film A Trip to the Moon was long considered lost, until restorers were able to painstakingly digitally reconstruct the film from several partial copies.

How to Restore a Classic Film Like Jaws for Blu-ray (Article and video) and Emulsional Rescue: The Godfather Restoration Documentary also talk about these processes.

Updated: 2017-07-04
Data security

Data security and privacy - legal impacts

The Data Protection Act (DPA) proscribes legal penalties for companies who fail to adequately protect personal data on their systems. Equally, it is an offence for users to access data for uses other than the original intended use. It is harder to find examples of these penalties being given, but there are examples:

Updated: 2017-07-04
BB-8 robot toy

Interactive toy: BB-8

BB-8 is quite a fun little toy (I know because I have one :) ). As well as performing its entertaining balancing act, BB-8 can also be controlled using a smart phone, or follow pre-programmed instructions. It also features (basic) voice control - a feature which is explicitly mentioned in the ITGS case study.

Updated: 2017-07-03

Interactive toy: Cozmo

Cozmo is a little robotic vehicle that has "a mind of its own". It comes with three blocks that the robot interacts with to perform various tricks. Cozmo has a lot of features that are relevant to A Doll Called Alicia. For example, Cozmo's eyes can track you around the room, which seems like a minor thing but helps improve user interaction. The eyes and a speaker are also used to provide feedback about the robot's "emotional state" at a given time. Looking at a toy like Cozmo it is quite easy to see how difficult it may be to implement all the features MAGS want in their Alicia doll. Cozmo also has an in-app purchasing system for new abilities - something we can imagine MAGS may also want to investigate.

Updated: 2017-07-03
Tapia interactive toy

Interactive toy: Tapia

Tapia is a robot companion / personal assistant from MJI Robotics in Tokyo. Currently Tapia is only available in Japanese, but an English version is scheduled for summer 2017. The trailer video also shows the English version. This itself relates to one of the issues in the case study booklet, which is developing AI toys for other markets (line 142). It is easy to imagine that many of Tapia's features - from personalised greetings and weather reports to sleep tracking and basic health advice - would be potentially useful in the Alicia doll.

Updated: 2017-07-03
Buddy interactive robot toy

Interactive toy: Buddy

Buddy is a companion robot currently being developed by Blue Frog Robotics. Although not commercially available yet, Buddy is a good example of the types of features that might be found in companion robots of the future. A useful class exercise might be to track the progress of the Blue Frog company and any issues or problems they face, as these could be directly transferable to MAGS. The trailer video is well worth watching.

Updated: 2017-07-03
i-Que robot

Interactive toy: i-Que

i-Que is billed as "The quick witted, smart talking, know it all robot". It acts as a regular toy until paired with a smart phone, which enables Internet connectivity and additional features. In common with many of these toys, it includes speech recognition technology.

The i-Que website has some information about the robot, including a FAQ. However the privacy policy seems to refer more to the website than the toy itself.

Updated: 2017-07-03
My Friend Cayla

Interactive toy: My Friend Cayla

My Friend Cayla is a range of interactive dolls (including Cayla, Party Time Cayla, and Princess Cayla if you must know). One feature is the apparent ability to recognise and talk about "her" accessories - presumably using some kind of RFID technology. As with several of the dolls here, downloading a smart phone app increases the range of functionality Cayla exhibits.

The US Cayla and the UK Cayla websites are sufficiently different to make them both worth visiting.

Updated: 2017-07-03
Privacy policies

Privacy issues: Example privacy policies

Privacy is clearly a significant social and ethical issue in this case study. Below are example privacy policies from currently available interactive toys. They should help students understand the types of factors that need considering (perhaps the most significant of which is that the toys' users are likely to be young children).

As a side note, several of these policies (e.g. Cayla) talk about sending data to third parties such as Google and Wikipedia - who obviously have their own separate policies about how they use your personal data. Clearly data sharing is an important issue in this case study.

Updated: 2017-07-03

Privacy Issue: Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

COPPA (not to be confused with COPA, which was repealed)is a US law governing online services that collect data from children under 13. This makes is very relevant to the MAGS case study, as it seems reasonable that many users of the Alicia doll may be children in this age range.

Although spectacularly bland, the FTC's COPPA page does explain the basics of what services can and cannot do with children's data. It is divided into subheadings such as Geolocation, Verifiable Parental Consent, and Photos. SEQ Legal has a good guide for technology companies, which explains how they can implement COPPA requirements such as obtaining parental consent.

5 Things Parents Should Know About COPPA is an easy to read beginner's guide, while Forbes has an article along the same lines.

Updated: 2017-07-03
Data protection act

The Data Protection Act (DPA) (UK)

Though UK-specific, The Data Protection Act (DPA) is a good example of data protection legislation, controlling how data can be collected, stored, and used. BBC Bitesize has good coverage of the act, as does Teach-ICT. The UK government also has a surprisingly easy to understand explanation on
Updated: 2017-06-29
Interactive toys

Interactive toy: Hello Barbie

In the 2018 ITGS case study MAGS are aiming to develop a doll with AI. It therefore seems reasonable to start the case study work with an investigation of what AI toys are available at the moment. This is a nice fun activity for students to complete. It would also be great if some ITGS students owned similar toys and were able to demonstrate their capabilities in class.

Hello Barbie is perhaps the closest of these examples to the Alicia doll MAG want to produce. The doll is capable of having "two way conversations" with the user and uses WiFi and speech recognition to generate conversation. There is also a "Hello Dreamhouse" available which has voice activated commands. You can view a video of the doll and read the official Mattel FAQ. There is also a link to the ToyTalk privacy policy, which is very relevant to MAGS. Finally, it is interesting to read the customer reviews on Amazon, which point out quite a few issues with the doll.

Updated: 2017-06-29
Social assistance robots

Examples: Social assistance robots

With ageing populations many countries are looking for new ways to care for the elderly. Carer robots or social assistance robots (SARs) are a particularly challenging type of robot to develop. Not only must they be able to cope with a wider range of tasks and situations than industrial robots, but they must present a friendly and interactive interface to the user. Many of these challenges are very similar to the toys being developed in the 2018 ITGS case study. Below are some examples and resources for the latest in care robots:

Updated: 2017-06-29
Robotic hardware

Class exercise: robotic hardware

After looking at the examples above, students might want to start thinking about how these techniques could be implemented. A good class exercise might be to select 5-10 types of sensor and then explain how these might be used in the Alicia doll. For example, the GPS sensor could be used to determine the doll's location. This could be used with an online weather service to look up the current weather and provide a relevant conversation starter (e.g. "It's cold outside day"). There are many examples - the key is to leverage ITGS students' existing knowledge and technical language.

Robot Platform has a very good page detailing robotic sensors if students need reminding.

Updated: 2017-06-29
AI examples

AI techniques examples

Quite a few of the technologies mentioned in the case study booklet are already part of the ITGS syllabus for HL students. However, we should expect the case study to go into more depth. A good starting point would be to review the artificial intelligence techniques already covered.

  • The expert system examples on this website cover perhaps the most basic of AI techniques
  • The AI examples are a set of interactive tools that demonstrate language processing and other AI techniques.
  • The 2008 Royal Institute Christmas Lecture was Digital Intelligence, and is freely available. It is actually extremely interactive and fun to watch. The end, which deals with machine vision, is particularly relevant to the MAGS case study.
  • The artificial neural network activity demonstrates how seemingly complex behaviour can be generated from simple inputs. This activity could link to a discussion of the inputs Alicia could use, and how they could be processed.
  • The predictive text lesson plan demonstrates how probability can be used to make predictions. This could be something Alicia may use when determining the most appropriate response to a prompt from a child.

Updated: 2017-06-29
Global data protection laws

Privacy issues: Global data protection laws

Data protection laws of the world is a great little site which highlights the different degrees of data protection laws in different countries. Countries are colour coded from red (heavy protection) to green (limited protection). Clicking on a country brings up a page detailing the relevant laws. There are also separate sections for each country covering security requirements, breach notification requirements, and roles such as data protection officer.

Privacy Policies is another site with a list of countries and their data protection and privacy law requirements.

TechRadar has a more in-depth examination of global data protection laws and related issues, from North America to Asia.

Finally, the French CNIL (Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés) has a good page focusing on data transfers across the world. Although written only from the French perspective, this is an important page as intra-country data transfers are often forgotten when discussing information privacy.

Updated: 2017-06-29
Smart cars

IT Systems in cars: Smart cars

Even if future vehicles still feature human drivers, it is likely they will use technology to greatly enhance drivers' safety and comfort. A future without car crashes? (BBC), Volvo unveils a cyclist anti-collision system (BBC) and Building the crash-proof car (BBC) cover explain crash avoidance technology. Steer-by-wire technology improves stability and safety by processing all steering inputs via a computer.

Cars can also use networks: either to communicate with other cars to prevent accidents (ARS), or to provide passenger entertainment (BBC video). So called talking cars have also been tested to reduce accidents by sharing critical data on road conditions.

To improve driver safety, 'drowsiness detectors' can automatic wake a driver who is  nodding off. Mercedes-Benz has added QR codes to their cars to provide essential information to rescue services. Facial recognition technology might also be used to detect drunk driving

Cars turn to augmented reality (BBC) and Toyota demos augmented-reality-enhanced car windows (CNET) demonstrate how this technology can be used to enhance a driver's awareness and passenger comfort.

Of course one potential issue with increased technology is the potential for driver distraction (BBC).

Smart cars is closely linked to driverless vehicles. The software page contains examples of potential software reliability problems in vehicles.
Updated: 2017-05-03
Smart home

Smart Homes resources

The following resources are very useful for studying smart homes (also known as home automation technology):

Of course, as technology becomes ever ubiquitous in the home, privacy and security become increasing concerns. How to hack and crack the connected home, When 'Smart Homes' Get Hacked: I Haunted A Stranger's House Via The Internet, and LG Smart TVs logging USB file names and viewing info to LG servers detail some of these issues.

Smart homes are closely linked to remote patient monitoring projects in the Health chapter.

Updated: 2017-05-03
Examples of FOSS

Examples of FOSS in Use

ITGS students sometimes mistakenly believe FOSS is 'trial' or 'simple' software, or that it lacks features compared to commercial software. The examples below highlight where FOSS in used in the 'real world' and where the advantages and challenges are found, and should help ITGS students understand that very large organisations do make extensive use of free and open source software. 50 places running Linux is a good place to start, with some perhaps unexpected examples.

FOSS in schools

FOSS in government

FOSS in Healthcare

  • NHS to embrace open source explains the benefits the UK's National Health Service hopes to derive from switching to open solutions.

Updated: 2017-05-03
FOSS misconceptions

Misconceptions about FOSS

There are a few common misconceptions about FOSS. Students sometimes believe it is always free (zero cost), or that it is trial software rather than full versions. There can also be misunderstanding surrounding source code and how its availability might affect system security. A common FOSS misconception and Another FOSS misconception try to address these issues.

Updated: 2017-05-03
Snowden DVD

Snowden |

Oliver Stone's film covers Edward Snowden's life from working in the US Army and applying to the CIA, to joining the NSA. The story culminates, of course, in his leaking of classified document to the press.

Snowden is faster and more action based than documentaries like Citizen Four. That said, unlike many films based on real events, it doesn't tend to dramatize or composite storylines or characters. For ITGS students this is a good thing, as it provides plenty of factual material to work with. The technical details about how mass surveillance is performed and a discussion of the larger impacts are not quite to the level required by ITGS students, but they should provide a good basis for classroom discussion and debate.

Snowden didn't really win a large amount of praise when it was released (many felt the film played it too safe). However, I found it quite entertaining and it certainly generated quite a discussion in my class after we had finished watching it.

Updated: 2017-04-14
Personal health monitoring

Activity tracking devices

A wide range of devices are capable of monitoring users' vital data. This is a sector where technology is changing rapidly. A simple Amazon search for activity trackers reveals a huge range of available devices, from high end devices like the Garmin Vivosmart, through general purpose trackers like the FitBit Charge 2, to more budget options such as the Misfit Ray.

Product home pages are a good resource for learning about the technological features that are available today. Apple Watch, FitBit, and Misfit pages all contain a wealth of information.

The US military are even developing a 'smart tattoo' to monitor troops' vital signs constantly and unobtrusively.

Updated: 2017-02-08
Remote monitoring

Remote patient monitoring

Health monitoring isn't only done for "leisure" purposes by joggers, cyclists, and other interested users. Increasing doctors are using technology to monitor their patients remotely, freeing hospital beds and hopefully helping detect signs of problems early. The following articles and examples may be helpful:

Remote Patient Monitoring Lets Doctors Spot Trouble Early (WSJ) explains how more advanced tracking technologies are being used to monitor patients with chronic conditions such as extremely high blood pressure or cardiac problems.

The virtual doctor visit (Washington Post) is another good example of how conditions like diabetes can be managed in this way. PBS Newshour also reports on this issue.

The Telegraph reports that the British NHS plans for patients to be remotely monitored in a 'digital revolution' of the service.

Updated: 2017-02-08
XML, GPX, and TCX file formats

XML, GPX, and TCX formats

W3 Schools has probably the best clearest explanation of XML, with plenty of examples to help students understand.

GPX is an XML based file format which is used to store GPS data. Open Street Map has good examples. TCX (Training Center XML) is an extension to the GPX format which

Updated: 2017-02-08
GPX Example file

Example XML, GPX, and TCX files

Wikiloc is a great resource for files in the GPX format, and contains details of trails from all over the world. Students can download these files, examine them in a text editor, and use them with tools like Google Earth Pro in order to better understand how they work.

Garmin's developer page also has example files in GPX and TCX formats, which can be viewed in a web browser.

Updated: 2017-02-08
ANT+ protocol logo

ANT+ protocol

This Is Ant has a good overview of the ANT+ protocol and its benefits. The developer page goes into more detail about how the protocol works. Bike Rumour also clearly explains the benefits of ANT+ - specifically in relation to cycling, but relevant to all uses.

Updated: 2017-02-08
GPX analysis graph

Analysing GPX and TCX files

Line 50 of the case study booklet talks about programs to analyse XML, GPX, and TCX data files. There are a number of online services that will do this. Using these services with some example data can help understand the analysis options available:

A useful exercise might also be to examine the privacy policies of these sites to see how they store and use user data (case study line 68).

Updated: 2017-02-08
Activity tracker

Impacts of activity trackers

Perhaps inevitably there is some debate about the advantages of activity trackers. Indeed, the NY Times has reported that Fitness Trackers Might Help Us Live Longer, May Make Us a Bit Fit, and May Undermine Weight Loss Efforts.

This blog from the Harvard Medical School discusses an activity tracker study which was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine (AJPM).

CIO discusses the benefits and drawbacks of using activity monitors to improve employee fitness, which is slightly side tracking from the case study but is still an interesting and useful read.

Fitness trackers unlikely to make you healthier, say scientists (Telegraph) argues exactly what the title suggests. TeleHealth doesn't improve quality of life (The Atlantic) takes a similar view.

Updated: 2017-02-08
Activity tracker privacy

Data privacy

The case study booklet introduces the issue of privacy on line 111. As can be seen from many examples on this site, privacy can be an issue even when data is seemingly anonymous. has a great analysis of the privacy policies for several major fitness brands and products, including FitBit, Apple Watch, Garmin, and the Xiaomi Mi Band. This article is much easier to read and understand than the dense policies on most company's sites. Are Fitbit, Nike, and Garmin Planning to Sell Your Personal Fitness Data? is another analysis of these policies.

Every Step you Fake is an indepth report on the privacy, security, and integrity issues related to several modern activity trackers. Digital Trends has a summary of the report.

Updated: 2017-02-08
Woman running

Activity data and insurance companies

One privacy concern with activity trackers is the use of data by insurance companies. The case study booklet says "Adel Astuti, the health consultant, wanted to further develop KHTs relationships with hospitals, health providers and insurance companies" (line 70).

How Wearing a Fitness Tracker Can Lower Your Insurance examines the benefits now offered by some insurance companies in the US. In some cases these could be worth over $1000 in saved premiums. Computer World exmaines in detail the points benefits offered by one company for wearing its Internet-connected FitBit. also offer discounts on their insurance.

Updated: 2017-02-08
Traffic control

Traffic control, management and monitoring systems

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is a catch-all phrase that covers various technologies for monitoring, controlling, and managing traffic. Traffic Management, Monitoring and Enforcement (Image gallery) offers some basic information on this technology. The article To fight gridlock, a city synchronizes every red light (NY Times) examines a new $400 million Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control system that is being implemented in Los Angeles. Smart road systems can also be used to identify and fine drivers who break traffic laws. According to the BBC, smart technology catches over 1000 speeding drivers on Britain's roads each week

Matthew Somerville has created an excellent real-time map of London Underground trains based on Google Maps and Transport for London data. This is a good example of what can be achieved using open government data. There is also a National Rail map. Uber recently agreed to share data about its cars movement in an attempt to help reduce congestion in cities.

Updated: 2017-01-15
Socialnomics book cover

Socialnomics (Second Edition)

by Erik Qualman | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Socialnomics provides a high level overview of how social media has affected our lives in several areas - particularly business, leisure, and politics.

Some of the points raised in the book may be familiar to ITGS teachers (such as the value of personal recommendations to our online shopping choices, or the importance of a business engaging with its customers on social media in two way conversation), but the book is very clearly written and my students found it very accessible (and the topics and ideas were new to many of them). This is one of the few books where I have used short extracts as whole class stimulus material in preparation for a lesson or discussion.

It's nice to see the book takes a slightly different angle on some familiar topics. For example when covering Obama's use of social media, it also examines the knock-on effect on TV media, who had to change the way they broadcast to compete with social media. Most of the reporting I have seen previously has focused on the political angle of these changes, so it is nice to see a change in perspective.

Overall Socialnomics is a very accessible book that clearly links with the ITGS syllabus and is easy and entertaining to pick up and read. A really worthy addition to the classroom shelf.

Updated: 2017-01-15
Supermarket technology

Supermarket technology

How 'point of sale' became much more than a fancy calculator (BBC) describes what goes on 'behind the scenes' in typical retailers such as supermarkets.

In the future payment systems may also change: Supermarket of the Future discusses the use of mobile phones as payment devices, while IBM's Supermarket of the Future video demonstrates how Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology might be used. Wal-Mart, however, cancelled their trial of an RFID 'smart shelf' system before it was even used.

Startup Lets Retail Stores Track Shoppers As Websites Do (MIT) explains how customer tracking is expanding from the online world to 'bricks and mortar' stores. Relatively basic technology such as cameras (albeit hidden in mannequins (NY Times)) or advanced systems that use many different consumer tracking techniques may be used. Various technologies, including customer tracking and electronic tagging have been tried in German supermarkets. In France, a system has been developed to pinpoint the location of shoppers in a supermarket by using a mobile phone app that senses the store's LED lights (potentially without the user's knowledge).

Omo GPS stunt opens doors for marketers is an article detailing an infamous stunt by detergent manufacturer Omo, who included GPS trackers in some products.

Updated: 2017-01-14
Projecet failure examples

Other examples of project failure

The Canadian Ministry of Children and Family Development may have to abandon a $180 million computer system after a report found flaws in its functionality and usability.

The BBC abandoned its Digital Media Initiative project in 2013 after spending almost £100 million. The project never became operational before it was scrapped.

FirstNet, a $47 billion network designed for police, firefighters, and other emergency responders, is already obsolete before it is completed.

Updated: 2016-11-20
IP addresses

Communicating on a network: IP addresses

Diagram from the textbook showing a LAN and WAN, and how public and private IP addressing work.

The two videos The Internet Explained and IP addresses and DNS also provide good overviews of Internet routing and addressing, with clear explanations and analogies.

Updated: 2016-11-20
Internet backbone

Internet backbone structure and data routing

Greg's Cable Map is a fantastic site with an up to date, interactive map of Internet backbone cables. Current and planned backbone cables can be displayed, and additional information such as landing sites is shown.

TeleGeography's submarine cable maps are simply amazing. Not only do they have a world map (left), but their map gallery contains interactive Internet backbone maps of Latin America, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific region. Each features Internet connectivity statistics about the region's countries. The maps are available in high resolution versions which would look great on a classroom wall.

Finally, Many Possibilities has a regularly updated map of the submarine cables surrounding Africa.

These resources are great for helping students understand the nature of the Internet and how data is routed, which has implications for privacy, security, and reliability. They can be used to supplement the information on page 80 of the book, and with articles such as:

The video The Internet Explained is also useful.

Updated: 2016-11-20
Computer models

Computer models for health care

Various computer models are used to help design new drugs and administer existing drugs and treatments more effectively: Other health models are used to improve our understanding of the human body: Finally, computer models may be used to predict the spread of a certain virus or bacteria, with a view to preventing it:
Updated: 2016-11-20


RoboRace is a project to develop a self-driving racing car. The original aim was to have ten teams of cars competing during the 2016/2017 Formula E championship for electric cars. However, that goal now seems rather optimistic. Nevertheless, the RoboRace YouTube channel has some useful videos documenting the development process and some of the difficulties encountered.

Updated: 2016-10-17
Internet Languages

Languages and the Internet

The cultural diversity that the Internet enables can have both positive and negative social and cultural impacts. The dominance of the English language can lead to equality of access issues for users who only speak other languages. Similarly, some organisations such as UNESCO fear that as English and Western culture in general dominate the Internet, older, less common languages and cultures may be pushed to the sidelines and eventually become extinct. Linguistic diversity and multilingualism on Internet discusses this possibility with clear examples.

A report by the UN, How Much of the World Has Regular Internet Access?, found that only 5% of the world's languages were represented online.

On the other hand, the Internet itself can also being used to protect and preserve languages. The Endangered Languages project is one example- its goal is to record samples of these languages for future generations.

Updated: 2016-08-28

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) lesson plans

Google Earth Pro, once a $399 licence, has been made available for free. The Pro version includes several new abilities, including the capability to import and export GIS data. This is very useful for ITGS lessons.

Once installed, GIS data can be found on many sites:

GIS Lesson plans

These two practical lesson plans use Google Earth to help students understand Geographical Information Systems. Students will:

  • Investigate the types of GIS available
  • Learn how to add data layers to a GIS
  • Learn how a GIS can be used to support decision making
Lesson one introduces GIS using online examples: Students then use Google Earth data layers to make a decision about the best place to build a new hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area. (This idea is based on Noel Jenkin's idea on his excellent JuicyGeography web site).

Lesson two involves downloading crime data from the web site, processing the CSV file, converting the data, and importing it into Google Earth to make a decision about the best place to stay during the 2012 London Olympics.
Updated: 2016-07-07
Heat transfer computer model

Heat transfer model

Energy 2D is an interactive heat transfer model. Students can create structures made from different materials and test their thermal characteristics. There are versions for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, so it should be accessible to all students.

You can read more about how I use it in ITGS.

Updated: 2016-07-07
All your devices can be hacked

All Your Devices Can Be Hacked

All Your Devices can be Hacked discusses the increased security threats as much and more devices feature Internet connectivity - including implanted medical devices, car networks, police radios, and voting machines. The very interesting - and worrying - aspect of this video is that it is not mere scaremongering - all of the attacks described, including disabling a pacemaker and taking over control of a car, have all been successfully executed as proofs of concepts. This makes great discussion material for ITGS students in several different strands of the ITGS triangle.

Updated: 2016-07-07
Your phone company is watching

Your phone company is watching

Malte Spitz discusses the collection and retention of mobile phone data. The talk links to the databases and the Politics and Government area of the ITGS syllabus and features some great visualisations that show how large amounts of data can be combined to build up patterns about people's lives. Where do people live? Where do they sleep? Are they having an affair? Are they 'likely' to commit a crime? All of these and more can be predicted from captured call data. So many ITGS social and ethical issues are raised.

You can watch the video here.

Updated: 2016-07-07
Internet trends

State of the Internet: Internet visualisations

State of the Internet is an excellent page from Akamai features interactive charts to help students visualise Internet trends. Students can view a global map of Internet speeds (which holds a few surprises) and customize the graphs to show data and changes from which countries and time periods they want. The page also contains information about threats and security trends.

This is a great way of examining potential digital divides. A good ITGS lesson idea might be to have students discuss which areas of the world might have the fastest and slowest (or non-existent) Internet access, justify their assertions, and then use this tool to check their accuracy.

Updated: 2016-07-07
Eye in the Sky DVD

Eye In The Sky | | Instant Video

Eye in the Sky is a military-legal drama, starring Helen Mirren as a Colonel at the centre of a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) attack on terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya. Although much of the film focuses on the ethical questions surrounding premeditated strikes and collateral damage, there is a strong undercurrent of ideas relating to drone technology and the opportunities is creates. The film also features cutting edge technology such as miniature drones (including a hummingbird and a tiny beetle), which do not exist at the moment but have certainly been mooted. These inclusions makes Eye in the Sky a useful discussion starter for ITGS lessons.
Updated: 2016-07-07
ITGS project screencast

Project Screencast

The aim of the ITGS project screencast is to enable students to highlight the complex skills they have used during the project, to show how they have met their clients requirements, and to demonstrate any features of their products which may not be obvious from criteria E (for example, interactive features such as rollovers or drop-down menus on web pages).

The screencast is also used by the examiner in the event that the student's work cannot be opened (for example, if the student creates a database but the examiner does not have Microsoft Access on their computer).

Recommended screencasting software:

I have posted more advice for creating the screencast (including a link to an example) on the ITGS News blog.

You can find screencast examples for website, database, programming, and video projects in this blog post.

Updated: 2016-02-27
Power consumption

Electrical consumption of IT devices

Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and other cloud providers use vast data centres to maintain the wealth of user data their systems store. As more and more computing services are moved to the cloud, concern is increasing over the hidden environmental costs of these energy-hungry centres. The news articles below discuss the energy requirements of data centres and the steps technology companies are taking.
Updated: 2016-02-27
Olympics technology

Sports technology: IT and the Olympics

The 2012 Olympics were a great opportunity to bring contemporary events into the ITGS classroom. Olympians use information technology more than ever before, for training, performance analysis, and for enforcing rules during the events themselves.

Technology and the 2016 Rio Olympics discusses how the preparations for the 2016 Games are progressing.

Olympic broadcast technology explains how technology is changing the broadcasting of the Olympics.

Updated: 2016-02-27
Bicycle rental schemes

Bicycle Rental Schemes

Public bicycle rental schemes - where registered members of the public are free to borrow a series of bikes spread a city or town - are available in a number of cities worldwide. These schemes make good case studies for ITGS because they integrate all three strands of the ITGS triangle, including 2.1 Business and Employment (Transport), 3.1 Hardware, and 3.3 Networks. Registration and payment also raises concerns about 1.2 Security and 1.3 Privacy and Anonymity. An ITGS past paper (May 2009) even featured a question which focused on these schemes. Examples of bike rental schemes for study include:

Bike Sharing Map also has a list of similar schemes all over the world.
Updated: 2016-02-27
Online newspapers and paywalls

Online newspapers and Paywalls

In February 2016 The Independent newspaper announced that it will be the "First UK national newspaper to embrace a global, digital-only future". Of course, in reality sales of their printed edition have fallen drastically - from a high of over 400,000 daily copies to less than a quarter of that in recent years - and the move to digital was seen by many as inevitable. Several publications have faced similar sales pressures in the last few years and have moved to online-only versions. Examples include:

  • The Independent will become online only in March 2016.
  • Newsweek magazine went digital only in December 2012.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica stopped producing its famous printed volumes in March 2012.
  • The Financial Times, previously using a soft (metered) paywall system, moved to a hard paywall in 2015.
  • The New Yorker, which implemented a paywall system for subscribers in 2014 (though it continues to produce printed magazines).
  • The New York Times has had several attempts at creating an online paywall (though it continues to produce printed newspapers).
  • German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel started a new paywall initiative at the end of December 2015.
  • Although over 100,000 people paid for online access to The Times and The Sunday Times, overall web traffic fell by 87% after its introduction of a paywall (BBC article).
  • British newspaper The Sun launched a paywall in 2012 but then reversed the decision in October 2015, allowing free access. Within months it was reported that there had been a huge increase in readership.
  • In February 2016 Newsweek - which previously moved to an online only model after falling profits - removed its online paywall to allow free access to 'most' of its articles.
  • Although perhaps not the most recognised name in publishing, the Winnipeg Free Press has developed an interesting take on online subscriptions using micropayments. Users are charged 27 cents (13 pence) for each article they view. Crucially, users have an opportunity to decline payment for content by clicking a button at the bottom of the page and explaining why they did not find the content payment-worthy. The newspaper also offers more traditional subscription models.

Online 'paywalls'

Up against the paywall is a detailed article from The Economist that discusses the difficulties news organisations face when trying to make money, both in print editions and digital editions. Packed with examples, the article discusses different strategies, including both 'metered paywalls' and 'hard paywalls'.

Peddling news through tired business models will get you nowhere (The Guardian) discusses why newspapers' traditional monetization strategies - including subscription fees and advertising - do not work in the online world.

Soft paywalls retain more users than hard paywalls - by a big margin is a useful resource with statistics concerning the use of soft paywalls (which allow limited access) versus hard paywalls (those which allow no free content).

Updated: 2016-02-16
Olympic broadcast technology

Broadcasting Technology and the Olympic Games

Live! Broadcasting the Olympic Games gives an overview of the technological developments in broadcasting that have taken place during the last 116 years. Not all of the developments relate to information technology, but there are many great examples for ITGS - from live replays to 4K broadcasting and Internet streaming.

How the Olympic Torch Relay is Broadcast Live (BBC) details some surprising technologies that are sometimes used in live, mobile broadcasting.

Sports Technology: IT and the Olympics contains resources explaining how technology is changing the Olympic Games themselves.

Unfortunately, the Rio 2016 Olympics will not be broadcast in 4K, with focus instead being directed as streaming content to mobile platforms, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Updated: 2016-02-15


This interactive page presents students with a large database containing more than half a dozen tables and although 1000 records. Students can create queries using SQL and see the results immediately. It is even possible to insert and delete records! W3Schools also has a range of help pages for the various SQL commands.

Although knowledge of SQL is not strictly essential for ITGS, this is a good resource to help familiarize students with database structures and query techniques in a way that isn't possible with graphical tools such as Microsoft Access.

Updated: 2016-02-07

Case Study: Air Force Expeditionary Combat Support System

The US Air Force's Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) was an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project designed to reduce waste and improve efficiency in the Air Force. Instead it was scrapped in November 2012 after 7 years and $1 billion had been spent on the project. It was estimated that even if the project was completed, it would involve another $1.1 billion and 8 more years, and would only offer 25% of the requested functionality. Useful resources include:

Updated: 2016-02-05
Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things - connected devices which continuously collect data and share it over networks - could play a key role in the smart home case study 2016. Below are some resources that introduce and explain the centre ideas of this concept.

  • The Internet of Things by IBM introduces the IoT, the idea of instrumented devices, and how all this data collection can benefit us. It discusses many benefits of how connected devices could help us from the moment we wake up in the morning.
  • What Does The Internet of Things Mean? is another introduction to the IoT, this time from Intel. This video covers a wider range of benefits, including advantages in healthcare, travel and traffic, and manufacturing. The diagrams in this video do a really good job of highlighting the potential scale of the Internet of Things.
  • How It Works: Internet of Things. Although this video focuses on the IoT when applied to cars, the explanation of data collection, prioritisation, sharing, and analysis make it a really valuable resource which could easily be applied to the smart homes in the case study.
  • Green Peak's website divides the transition to smart homes into three steps, and suggests that the Internet of Things will be the final step in the process. The site contains a good amount of information about how smart home and Internet of Things technology works.
  • 6 Predictions for IoT and Smart homes. Although this site is quite speculative, I have included it here because the predictions it makes could be the basis for a good classroom discussion about the future of smart homes, the benefits, and any potential problems.

Updated: 2016-02-05

IFTTT - If This Then That

IFTTT (pronounced like 'gift' without the 'g') is a system providing automation of devices and services through simple sets of rules called recipes. Facebook, Google, DropBox, and many other services support IFTTT integration. Many smart home devices now support IFTTT, and the service is also suggested as a possible solution to home automation problems in the ITGS Smart Homes case study (line 39).

  • Home automation has a dedicated section on the IFTTT home page, and covers examples such as controlling lights, saving water, and even making coffee!
  • The Ultimate IFTTT Guide is a good introduction to IFTTT concepts like recipies, triggers, and actions, explained in a very clear format with screenshots and examples.
  • How to Automate Anything with IFTTT is a tutorial style article covering the setup of the IFTTT service. This could be a good activities for students to complete to help them understand the options and possibilities offered.
  • 35 IFTTT-friendly smart devices provides plenty of examples of the types of devices that now support IFTTT
  • Home security & smart home devices that work with IFTTT covers a wide range of devices from the media players to car monitors - all of which can be monitored or automated using IFTTT.
  • Home Seer is one of several companies offering smart home appliances that integrate with IFTTT services. Their website has a good range of example recipes.

Updated: 2016-01-27
Smart homes examples

Examples of Smart Homes

How Stuff Works often provides a good introduction to an ITGS topic, and smart homes are no exception. Their page covers the most common types of home automation technology, as well as giving an overview of the benefits and potential issues.

Home Automation is a short video which demonstrates a real-life home that has been converted into a smart home by a technology enthusiast. The video also goes into some detail about how this control and automation happens.

Inside the house of the future is a video which covers smart technology in many different rooms, including the kitchen, bedroom, living room, and bathroom.

Smart homes a reality in S Korea describes possible advancements in smart home technology. Despite being a slightly older article it is useful for examining how technology has changed in recent years and whether or not predictions have been realised (and why).

A new kind of fire fighting describes smart buildings which can monitor themselves, providing alerts in the event of a fire and offering emergency responders an insight into exactly what is happening inside the building.

Tony Fadell: the man who wants to take control of your home is a good introduction to the concepts of smart homes. It covers basic home automation technology including alarm systems and a smoke alarm which will text your smart phone if your house is burning down(!).

Updated: 2015-12-04
Smart homes problems

Smart Home issues

Smart homes do raise a variety of ITGS social and ethical issues, some of which are covered in the articles below

Updated: 2015-12-04
Smart Homes

Smart Home and Home Automation companies

The following companies are involved in the competitive smart homes market and offer an interesting insight into the latest technical developments.

SmartThings is a company offering home automation technology to monitor, control, and secure your home.

Nest is famous for its smart smoke alarms and thermostats. As a cutting edge company its website is well worth a visit to find out about the latest in smart home technology.

Malibu Wired has a wide range of home automation products

At the centre of Loxone's smart home systems is their Miniserver, to which all other devices are connected. Their website has over a dozen case studies of smart homes projects ranging from basic installation to advanced automation. Thoroughly recommended.

One of the reasons I have included Control 4 here is their unique website layout: scrolling down moves the reader through the day, with an explanation of how Control 4's smart home technology can assist you at that point in time. It's a creative approach which highlights the company's entertainment, security, and comfort products.

Updated: 2015-11-14
F1 telemetry technology

Sports technology: Motorsport

Formula 1 Technology

F1 Telemetry is a very detailed article about the use of sensors, data logging, and data analysis in Formula 1 racing cars. Technology on Ferrari F1 Cars also has a lot of useful information. Formula 1's IT crowd: Software engineers power Marussia describes the IT systems (hardware and software) that power a typical Formula One team. High-performance computing drives high-performance F1 cars to success describes the hardware required to run a modern F1 team and ties in nicely with the ITGS System Fundamentals section of Strand 3. Can technology take Williams to the front of the F1 grid? examines the use of technology in F1, particularly in terms of reducing costs compared to traditionall development methods.

Formula E Technology

Formula E is a new motorsport involving electric racing cars on city circuits. Although electric cars themselves do not fall under the remit of ITGS, several examples of new information technology are used in the series.

360 degree video technology is being used in the races - move the mouse around while the example video is playing to get a view from the top of the cars.

Formula E also features the unique FanBoost concept, which gives spectators a chance to vote for their favourite drivers and award extra power to their cars during the race. It's an interesting use of social media and surely the first time fans have been able to potentially influence the outcomes of sport in this way.

Updated: 2015-11-14
ITGS Key words game

Banned Words: ITGS Key word game

This is a PowerPoint version of the Banned Words game featured elsewhere on this page. This saves a lot of printing, cutting, and laminating of paper cards.

The gameplay is simple: students must try to explain the ITGS key word to their team without saying any of the forbidden words at the bottom of the page. Teams take turns and have a minute to explain as many ITGS terms as possible. The activity is designed to help improve students’ skills and description, definition, and explanation.

The slides can be viewed online at SlideShare, or you can download them from there as a PowerPoint file. If you download the presentation you can make use of the button which takes you to a random term each time and stops when all terms have been used (this is achieved using VBA code, so Office may give you a security warning).

Updated: 2015-10-28
ITGS Key words game

Banned Words: ITGS Key word game

This is a PowerPoint version of the Banned Words game featured elsewhere on this page. This saves a lot of printing, cutting, and laminating of paper cards.

The gameplay is simple: students must try to explain the ITGS key word to their team without saying any of the forbidden words at the bottom of the page. Teams take turns and have a minute to explain as many ITGS terms as possible. The activity is designed to help improve students’ skills and description, definition, and explanation.

The slides can be viewed online at SlideShare, or you can download them from there as a PowerPoint file. If you download the presentation you can make use of the button which takes you to a random term each time and stops when all terms have been used (this is achieved using VBA code, so Office may give you a security warning).

Updated: 2015-10-28
NASA Mars Rovers manual

NASA Mars Rovers Manual: 1997-2013 (Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity)

by David Baker |

This great 'Workshop manual' contains a lot of technical information about the Mars rovers (Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity) which is related to the ITGS HL Robotics topic. There is a wealth of information relating to the rovers' hardware, input and output devices, and communication equipment. Written with technical detail, these sections give students a chance to see real life robotic technology in action (did you know Curiosity has 2GB of flash memory?). A great addition to the ITGS classroom library.

Updated: 2015-07-29
Colour depth and bit depth

Colour depth / Bit Depth

Section 5.5.2 of this long article covers the effect of bit depth on image quality and file size. What really makes this page a great resource is the interactive elements on the page, which let students experiment with matching different colours at different colour depths, and help them to see the effect on the image. A highly recommended resource.

Updated: 2015-06-05
ITGS Project criterion F

ITGS Project Criterion F - Product Evaluation

The final two presentations in these series guide students through Criterion F of the internal assessment project. The first presentation covers the final client interview, while the second addresses the student's evaluation in relation to their specific performance criteria. Suggestions for future development and improvement are also covered.

Updated: 2015-06-02
ITGS example project

Exemplar ITGS Project 6 - Alas Database

By Sam Linares This project is a very high quality database project created for a local auditing and accounting company. The project is designed to help the client organise and schedule her appointments.

This project was awarded an IB grade 7 in May 2013

Notes: For privacy and bandwidth reasons the video interviews the student performed with his client for Criteria A and Criteria F have been removed. For ease of access the password has been removed from the database. The client details in this version are fictional, for privacy reasons.

This project is Copyright © 2012-2013 Samuel Linares. It is available here for informational purposes but the author retains copyright and all associated rights.

Updated: 2015-06-02
Example ITGS project

Exemplar ITGS Project 7 - Centro Biblico Cristiano Website

By Jose Aquino. This ITGS project is a very professional looking website which the student developed for a local church group. The website demonstrates excellent use of CSS to create a pleasing and consistent look and feel, and a great navigation system. A wide range of pages and features (including embedded audio) ensure the project meets the client's needs.

This project was awarded an IB grade 7 in May 2013

This project is Copyright © 2012-2013 Jose Aquino. It is available here for informational purposes but the author retains copyright and all associated rights.

Updated: 2015-06-02
Citizen Four DVD

Citizen Four | | Instant Video

Citizen Four is an academy-award winning documentary about former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who in 2013 leaked classified information which led to revelations of global surveillance by the NSA, GCHQ, and other intelligence agencies. The documentary primarily features interviews conducted with Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room by journalists Laura Poitras , Glenn Greenwald, and Ewen MacAskill. These are interpersed with archive footage of press revelations and government responses.

The documentary focuses primarily on the moral and philosophical implications of a surveillance state which, although quite abstract, can make for great classroom viewing material for ITGS students. The documentary works well when tied in with the myriad news articles that have been written on the subject and a discussion of how technical capabilities can often develop quicker than legalisation and understanding of their social implications.

Updated: 2015-05-26
Phone tracking

Phone tracking by retailers

The article Creepy but legal phone-tracking company gets wrist slap for empty privacy promise describes how retailers can track customers through their stores by collecting their phone MAC addresses using WiFi routers. A good article for the 2015 case study, as such data can be collected and analysed as part of a Big Data system. The article also nicely incorporates technical terminology from the ITGS syllabus.

Updated: 2015-04-29
Bananas in supermarket

Just in Time (JIT) delivery

Line 74 of the case study booklet says that each distribution centre used by ASI will use Just-in-Time (JIT) delivery methods. The articles below give an overview of how Just-in-Time delivery is different to Just-in-Case delivery, and how it can benefit businesses.

Students should be able to make links between JIT and Big Data collected by ASI.

Updated: 2015-04-29

Big Data and Privacy

Specific examples of the risks of Big Data seem to be fairly thin on the ground. One of the best-known cases is described in the article How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did. This is a very interesting, quite worrying example of the type of insights retailers can glean from customer data.

Eight Problems With Big Data, written by the ACLU, gives a clear and concise summary of what it sees as the key problems - many of these relate directly to data protection legislation described further down this page.

In the ITGS case study, ASI want to collect anonymized data about their customers. However a recent report by suggests that the proliferation of data collection systems may mean that it is soon "virtually impossible" to anonymize data, as identifiable inferences can be drawn from huge data sets.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) regularly publishes new articles about the privacy risks of Big Data.

Updated: 2015-04-17

Big Data and Discrimination

Another privacy related concern is that of price discrimination (also called 'differential pricing'). This is the process of using Big Data to determine the highest price a customer is likely to pay for a product. For example, a customer sharing articles related to the product on social media may be an indication that they are more interested in the item, and the retailer could raise the price accordingly. This could be particularly effective on websites where customers cannot see the price others are paying. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth has some more examples of this type of discrimination. Will Big Data Bring More Price Discrimination? is another short article on the topic.

Although the 2015 case study tends to discuss "bricks and mortar" supermarkets, it is reasonable to believe that online components could be included, and that some supermarkets in ASI may have or want to develop online shopping sites.

Updated: 2015-04-17
Data Protection Act

Data Protection Act & Other legislation

The Data Protection Act (DPA) is a good example of data protection legislation. Although a UK-based law (the ASI case study is set in Mexico), studying the key elements of the DPA is useful to help students understand how personal data should be collected, stored, and used. As mentioned in the case study, privacy is a key concern for ASI, and as such they may want to write a privacy policy to cover how they will use Big Data.

The DPA is explained on many sites, including BBC Bitesize, Teach-ICT, and the UK government's own site,

Updated: 2015-04-17

Image, audio, and text compression

The Computer Science Field Guide from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, has a very comprehensive section covering image, video, audio, and text compression. It is written for high school students and includes plenty of clear examples, images, and even interactive applets to help students understand all aspects of compression. It goes into more detail than is strictly necessary for the ITGS syllabus, but nevertheless is still an excellent resource.

Updated: 2015-04-16
Tesco Clubcard video

How we revolutionised customer loyalty

This is a revealing video interview with Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby, the couple responsible for the huge successful of Tesco's Clubcard loyalty card scheme. The interview addresses the history of the project as well as the opportunities and challenges offered by Big Data. This link was very kindly shared by a fellow ITGS teacher.

Updated: 2015-04-15
Big Data Infographics

Big Data Infographics for the ITGS case study

5 Big Data infographics for the ITGS Case Study contains links to useful infographics that cover some of the basic concepts relating to Big Data. From data sources and data volume to data personalisation, these infographics should be a brief refresher activity for students who have properly studied the 2015 case study.

Updated: 2015-04-07
SpyChips book

Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Purchase and Watch Your Every Move

by Katherine Albrecht | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips are much more than a simple contactless version of a bar code. Small (and therefore able to be embedded discretely in products), wireless, and capable of storing data, they are becoming more and more popular with businesses, and more and more of a concern for privacy advocates. In SpyChips Albrecht discusses in detail the privacy issues RFID chips rise, particularly when combined with other technologies such as data mining and "Big Data". The book is full of examples of both current uses of RFID and potential future uses of the technology. Well worth a read as a great example of how technology can outpace legislation and discussion of its social impacts.

Updated: 2015-04-06
Big Data videos

Videos: Introduction to Big Data

This blog post contains links to seven videos that explain the key concepts of Big Data, including how data warehouses differ from traditional relational databases, and the unique challenges posed by the vast quantity, variety, and speed of Big Data collection.

Updated: 2015-03-23
Big Data examples

Videos: Examples of Big Data in use

7 Examples of Big Data - ITGS Case Study 2015 contains videos which provide specific examples of how the power of Big Data can be harnessed by retailers to increase brand loyalty, attract customers, and improve efficiency. The videos cover a wide range of examples and data types from customer purchasing histories to GPS location data, with lots of ideas that could be applied to the Asociacion de Supermercados Independientes in the case study.

Updated: 2015-03-23

Paper 2 News articles (online)

The links below are to online news articles that are useful for the ITGS paper 2 exam. Unlike the articles above, the links here have not been altered or specially written and in some cases they will need editing or shortening to make them more appropriate for the paper 2 exam. However, each article does raise clear social and ethical issues and they are good practice for the exam.
Updated: 2015-03-18
Ethics and Technology

Ethics and Technology: Controversies, Questions, and Strategies for Ethical Computing

by Herman Tavani | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Ethics & Technology contains many great examples of controversial issues that arise from the development of new technologies. My students find it slightly more accessible than A Gift of Fire and it also has some excellent example arguments that are useful for students who are learning debating skills.

Another good aspect is that, being published in 2013, the book contains the most up to date examples of any of the reference works here, including WikiLeaks and Net Neutrality.

Updated: 2015-03-06
Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know

Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know

by Peter Friedman and Allan Singer | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Cybersecurity and Cyberwarfare provides a clear explanation of the types of Internet and computer-based threats that can face countries. Friedman and Singer do a good job of explaining not only the potential damage that could be done by cyberintrusions, but also how technology can - as is - being used as a weapon of war by powers such as the US (Stuxnet is covered in detail). There is also a good discussion of why it is so hard to defend computers and infrastructure against cyber attacks.

The book focuses primarily on miltiary (Politics and Government) but many of the issues and problems are equally applicable to the realm of Business and Employment, and the examples are an excellent basis for discussions about the future of cyberwarfare and the ethics of using technology in this way.

Updated: 2015-03-06
Big data lesson idea
Source: Flickr

Lesson idea: Big Data background

The aim of this lesson is to understand a little bit more about Big Data in general, with students research the relevant technologies and processes in a variety of industries. This should help them more fully understand the potential of Big Data before applying their knowledge specifically to supermarkets.

You can download the lesson here.

Updated: 2015-03-01

Supermarkets and Big Data

How Companies Learn Your Secrets is a very long but very revealing article about retailers' tracking of customers. With lots of specific examples and clear technical detail, this article is an essential ready for teachers and students studing the 2015 case study.

Shoppers Who Can't Have Secrets discusses the world of behavioural tracking - a key technique used in the collection of Big Data by supermarkets and other retailers. The article also examines regulation of data collection practices and data protection law.

How supermarkets get your data - and what they do with it is excellent background reading which does exactly what the headline says - and gives some good, specific examples of big data use. It also discusses the thorny area of data sharing and data aggregation.

How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did is a very interesting, quite worrying example of the type of information retailers can glean from customer data.

Using big data for smarter online supermarket shopping discusses a different side of Big Data that is sometimes forgotten - the use of analytics to optimize business efficiency. The examples in this article include trying to group delivery times for online orders so they can be performed with fewer vehicles. This article is definitely worth a read, if only to remember that Big Data in supermarkets is not just about targeted advertising.

Big Data: Retailers, Supermarkets, Medical Markets All Dive In To Extract Information From And About Consumers talks about some quite unknown techniques used by supermarkets and retailers to gather customer data. Such techniques include facial recognition cameras and even the use of WiFi signals to detect the location of customers within the store so that movement patterns can be gathered. There are great examples in here that clearly relate to several ITGS social and ethical issues.

Startup Lets Retail Stores Track Shoppers As Websites Do. Websites have longed tracked visitors using cookies and similar techniques. This article discusses ways to track in-store customers even if they do not sign up for loyalty card or reward card schemes.

How Do Supermarkets Use Your Data? discusses both the collection of data via loyalty cards and ways to identify and track customers who do not own such cards - a very important point for the case study which links to other ITGS issues such as privacy and informed consent.

Data, data everywhere discusses Big Data in a variety of contexts, including retailers. It also covers some of the issues related to data collection and highlights the sheer scale of Big Data: Walmart reportedly adds 1 million records each hour to its database, which tops 2.5 petabytes in size.

Updated: 2015-03-01
Case study - Tesco and Big Data

Case Study - Boots Advantage Card

This detailed article offers a detailed discussion of Boots' Advantage Card - a loyalty card offered by this well-known pharmacy chain. It discusses many points central to the ITGS case study, including the cost/benefit ratio of the system and the fine-tuning of targeted advertising.

Updated: 2015-03-01
Case study - Boots and Big Data

Case Study - Tesco

Supermarket giant Tesco are widely regarded as one of the pioneers of loyalty cards and customer data analytics. In the first year after their introduced their famous Clubcard, they saw sales increase by 50%. The articles and resources below help explain some of that success.

Supermarket giant Tesco pioneers big data is an excellent article that clearly explains step by step how British supermarket chain Tesco uses big data. It explains key processes including data segmentation, the use of historical data, and predictive analytics, and is an essential read for this case study.

A British Supermarket Chain Is Installing 'Creepy' Face-Scanning Cameras To Track Consumers. The supermarket in question is Tesco, who are installing cameras not for security reasons, but to recognise returning customers and present them with targeted adverts. In this case facial biometric data is being used in the same way as a traditional loyalty card number - meaning even customers without a Tesco Clubcard can be tracked.

Updated: 2015-03-01
Electronic waste solutions

Electronic waste: Environmental Policies and Solutions

Many computer manufacturers, including Microsoft, Sony, Dell, Apple, and Samsung now have environmental policies that address the chemicals they use in their hardware manufacturing processes. Several manufacturers also offer equipment recycling schemes or takeback schemes. Gazelle is another recycling programme operated by Costco.

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition is an organisation that assesses the environmental impact of different IT companies and is a useful resource that has links to many policies and takeback schemes.

Updated: 2015-02-27
Scoring Points: How Tesco Continues to Win Customer Loyalty

Scoring Points: How Tesco Continues to Win Customer Loyalty

by Clive Humby, Terry Hunt, Tim Phillips | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

Tesco's Club Card is perhaps one of the best known loyalty schemes in the UK. This book explains how the project was devised and successfully implemented. Written by two key players in the project - Clive Humby and Terry Hunt - the book does tend to focus more on a business and marketing angle. However, reading between the lines it is clear how vast quantities of data can be utilised for effective decision making.

I have included the book here because there are many examples that could be useful for the 2015 ITGS case study - Asociacion de Supermercados Independientes: An Investigation into Big Data.

Updated: 2015-02-23

Online Privacy: Regional Differences

With government surveillance and corporate data breaches, online privacy is rarely out of the headlines. This article from the ACM examines different approaches to data privacy protection around the world.

Legislation in the US, Europe, and Japan are explained in detail, making this a great opportunity to study real-life examples and discuss the benefits and disadvantages of different privacy policies and their impact on customers, users, and citizens. It is also a useful tool to highlight the conflicts that occur when users or companies operate in several different countries with different corporate environments and cultures.

Read the article: Online Privacy: Regional Differences

Updated: 2015-02-11

Lesson idea: Supermarket Technology

This task is designed to help students understand the hardware, software, and network technology that is commonly used in supermarkets and might therefore be used by the independent supermarkets in the case study. By clearly understanding the existing technology students should be able to better understand the problems and the goals of Asociacion de Supermercados Independientes (ASI).

You can download the lesson here.

Updated: 2015-02-11

Point of Sale (POS) Systems

The early part of the case study document explains how currently the supermarkets use 'Various types of EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) and stock control systems' (line 20). These resources will help students understand how standard EPOS systems work so they can better understand the problems faced by the supermarkets in Asociacion de Supermercados Independientes.
Updated: 2015-02-11
Loyalty cards

Lesson idea: Loyalty cards

This is another background technology task designed to help students understand the basic concepts of loyalty card systems. This will then be built on in following lessons by examining how big data analytics can be used.

You can download the lesson here.

Updated: 2015-02-11

Loyalty Card Schemes

The following supermarkets all offer loyalty card / reward card schemes for their customers. Reading about the schemes, their benefits, and how the supermarkets use the collected data provides an interesting insight into the 2015 case study.

British Supermarkets

US Supermarkets

Updated: 2015-02-11

Lesson idea: Introduction to the ITGS Case Study

The aim of this task is to familiarise students with the 2015 case study. It helps check students' understanding of key vocabulary and concepts, identify unknown words, and to link the case study to some of their prior learning. The questions will require students to re-read key parts of the case study booklet, which is really important to build a more thorough understanding of the case study's nuances.

You can download the lesson here.

Updated: 2015-02-09
Networks in schools

Networks in Schools

This article from EdTech magazines ties in directly with syllabus sections 2.2 (Hardware and network technologies in the classroom) and 3.2 (Networks). Focusing on 'behind the scenes' technology required by a large school in Illinois with thousands of students, it examines network infrastructure, servers, Gigabit routers, virtualization, cloud computing, staff training, and many more concepts. Perfect for studying networks in education.

Read the article

Updated: 2015-02-08
Google Earth Pro

Google Earth Pro (free)

In early 2015 Google released Google Earth Pro for free, giving everybody the ability to import standard GIS data formats into the software. This is great news for ITGS students and teachers because many organisations and governments host such data online, for free.

This blog post explains how to free GIS data and the key for the software, and links to some ideas about using it in ITGS lessons. GISGeography is another excellent site with links to a wide range of data sets.

Updated: 2015-02-01
Remote sensing

Satellite Communication - Remote Sensing

Remote sensing uses satellites to image the earth using technologies other than traditional photography (such as RADAR, LIDAR, or acoustic imaging). Remote sensing has many applications, including monitoring Earth's environment. For example, the Aquarius satellite monitors the salinity of the world's oceans. In these cases the data received is highly useful for developing and improving computer climate models.

Satellites can also find hidden archaeological sites by remote sensing (Wired) - for example, when ruins are buried in the jungle and invisible to the naked eye, building outlines may still be visible to other sensing methods.

The excellent GISGeography site also has links to dozens of real life examples of remote sensing applications.

Updated: 2015-02-01
Criterion E - Development

ITGS Project Criterion E - Product Development

This presentation guides students through Criterion E - Product Development of the ITGS project. It tries to help them ensure they correctly implement and clearly document their advanced skills (called appropriate skills as of May 2015) to earn the highest grades.

The Criterion E presentation can be downloaded or viewed on SlideShare.

Updated: 2015-01-16
The Humanoids book

The Humanoids

by Jack Williamson | | Kindle | Worldwide (free shipping)

In the future, humanoid robots become ever more common and - in their role as humankind's guardians and protectors - take over most of the jobs performed by people. Although not as directly related to the ITGS social and ethical issues as many of the books here, The Humanoids is a thought-provoking story about human-machine interaction, what it means to be human, and runaway technology. It is also interesting to compare Williamson's view of the future (The Humanoids was written in 1947) with our rapidly developing advances in robotics technology.

Updated: 2015-01-06
Extranets and Intranets

Intranets and Extranets

This BBC Webwise page provides a good overview of intranets and extranets using clear and easily accessible language. It is useful in conjunction with the information and exercises in chapter 9 - Business and Employment - of my textbook.

Updated: 2014-12-25
Distributed Computing

Distributed Computing

Distributed Computing, sometimes called Grid Computing, uses the combined processing power of many individual, geographically separate computers to solve large computing problems. Here are three examples of community distributed computing projects.

Folding@Home is a great example of using distributed computing techniques. In order to design better treatments for many common cancers and diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, Stanford scientists are studying how proteins 'fold' and 'misfold'. Unfortunately these biological simulations take a lot of computing power - more than is available to the scientists. To solve this problem they started the Folding@Home project - by downloading a small program you can have your computer perform calculations on one of these folding projects using 'spare' processor time. So far over 150,000 computers are involved in the project, bringing much more computational power than would be available in one location. Rosetta@Home is a similar project that aims to determine the 3D shapes of proteins.

Another example of a distributed computing project is SETI@Home. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence collects huge amounts of data from radio telescopes scanning the skies, and uses distributed computing power to look for patterns in that data which may indicate signals generated by an intelligent species.

Finally, bills itself as the 'world's largest climate modelling experiment'. Users running the software help compute climate predictions for the next century, including temperature and rainfall data.

Updated: 2014-12-14
Criterion A - Investigation

ITGS Project Criterion A - Initial Investigation

This presentation introduces the second part of criterion A to students. In the Initial Investigation students must detail the client, their current situation and its inadequacies, and make clear reference to the interview transcript from the Initial Consultation. It is essential that students do this well because a well-defined client and problem is the basis for all future product development.

The Criterion A presentation can be downloaded or viewed on SlideShare.

Updated: 2014-12-06
Web documentary


Web, by director Michael Kleiman, is a fantastic documentary film for ITGS classes. It takes a refreshing look at Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, with a clear, thoughtful, and detailed examination of the Internet's impact on society. The film focuses on Lidia, a young girl in the remote village of Palestina in the Peruvian Amazon, and the effect of the OLPC on her, her family, and her village.

I found that by focusing on one small village the film provides a much more intimate and detailed account of the effect on technology and will give ITGS students concrete examples that are great for discussion. As well as raising the obvious issues of Equality of Access, the film raises many issues related to Globalization and Cultural Diversity - in one scene Liana's class start their own Wikipedia page about their village, and in another Liana introduces her father to Google for the first time. The effect of introducing the Internet to this remote village - both positive and negative - is something that could be discussed in class for a long time afterwards.

Web is currently only available online. It can be purchased or rented, and there is also a free trailer available: Web (2014).

Updated: 2014-12-06
Facebook privacy policy changes

Facebook Data Use Policies

Facebook are once again going to update their data policy, terms, and cookie policy in January 2015. Their Updating Our Terms and Policies page explains the changes that will be made and how users can control the advertisements they see. The main Facebook Data Use Policy page explains in more detail what data is collected by the social network and how it is used.

In the past Facebook has caused storms of online protest regarding its policy changes, including its short-lived real names policy and a huge psychological experiment it conducted on 700,000 users in 2012.

Updated: 2014-12-04
Criterion A - Consultation

ITGS Project Criterion A - Initial Consultation

This is the presentation I use to introduce the first part of criterion A to students. In the Initial Consultation students must perform and record a transcript of an interview with their client, discussing their current situation and the problems they face. Effective interview questions are essential to provide enough material for students to complete the other part of criterion A, the Initial Investigation. Although it is not required, it can also be very useful to have an audio or video recording of the interview for transcription purposes, future reference, and evidence of client authenticity.

The Criterion A presentation can be downloaded or viewed on SlideShare.

Updated: 2014-11-27
ITGS project introduction

Introduction to ITGS Internal Assessment Project

This is the presentation I use to introduce the ITGS IA project to students. It gives students an overview of the project requirements, gives them some examples of good and bad project ideas, and sets them up ready to find a client with an appropriate problem that can be solved with IT. Of course, these slides are just an introduction and it is also essential to provide students with a copy of the IB marking rubric and other formal requirements from the ITGS guide.

The presentation can be downloaded or viewed on SlideShare.

Updated: 2014-11-19
NSA government surveillance

United States of Secrets

Two-part documentary from PBS about the US government's warrantless surveillance of the Internet, as revealed by Edward Snowden's leaked files.

Through in-depth interviews with key insiders, the film does a extremely good job of presenting the complex ethical and legal arguments both in favour and against widespread government surveillance of the Internet.

You can watch both parts on the PBS website.
Updated: 2014-11-18

NSA Internet surveillance

In June 2013, revelations published in the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers cast a spotlight on PRISM, a warrant-less Internet mass surveillance program operated by the United States' NSA security agency. As weeks and months passed, more and more aspects of the surveillance program were revealed, including the cooperation of the British GCHQ intelligence agency, the widespread collection and processing of images, and the use of surveillance against foreign allies of the United States. The articles below chart the progress of the story and the legal and ethical issues it raises:

Updated: 2014-11-18
Bias in Wikipedia

TOK, Wikipedia, and ITGS

Wikipedia is often criticised for being "unreliable", but few criticisms go beyond "anybody can edit it". The resources below examine the demographics of Wikipedia's contributors and editors, and provide some insightful statistics that can be a great source of discussion in both TOK and ITGS lessons.

Wikipedia's editors are basically all dudes examines gender bias in Wikipedia while Wikipedia's own page on systematic bias is full of useful information.

This can lead to some great TOK knowledge questions, including:

  • How can we identify systematic bias?
  • Can we ever truly overcome systematic bias in sources?
  • If 'average' is used in the mathematical sense, how representative would an 'average' contributor be? Is an 'average' of knowledge desirable?
  • Is there some information which cannot be simply classified as 'correct' or 'incorrect'?
  • Is there a place for such information in an encyclopedia that aims to be "to be the sum of human knowledge" (which leads us back to a classic open-ended TOK question: "What is knowledge?")

Updated: 2014-11-17
You can view previous updates to the website here.