Social Networking as key to exploring Information Systems and Databases

Posted: June 1, 2011 in Education, Higher School Certificate, IPT, Pedagogy

As a teacher of the HSC Information Processes and Technology (IPT) course I find myself annually contemplating the content that needs to be taught and trying to find new and interesting ways to fulfil the syllabus requirements.  The hardest part I find here is getting the balance right between what the students will be stimulated by and what will provide the students with the greatest depth of understanding, knowledge and practical skill.  For those out there that teach the IPT HSC course you will know that ‘Information Systems and Databases’ is one of the core content areas from the BOS syllabus.  As a core topic, it is easy to understand what needs to be taught and where we hope we can get the students’ understanding and knowledge/skill to.  This can be both a relief and a constraint on how we teach our content.  This year I decided I wanted to try something new in how I am approaching this topic.

Social Network Icons

Late last year, fortunately for me, I discovered that a colleague had worked within the field of Project and Database management prior to becoming an educator.  This discovery proved to be a catalyst to some dreams and thoughts I was working through as I had someone who I could bounce ideas off who has significant knowledge (much greater than me) of the creation, management and use of databases in the real world.  I expressed that I wished to take a different approach to the exploring and teaching of databases than I typically had and that I wished to use Social Media and Networking as the basis of the content. 

Part of my rationale for this lie in the fact I know that my students are extremely fluent in the uses of social mediums and that they would be able to identify some of the data that they create or that is stored about them.  But where would I start???

To start I began by exploring the general notion of what data is and how we collect it personally.  I have done this by getting the students to liken their brains to an information system that actively and continually collects data.  This I also added to the syllabus as a non-computer based information system.  We have completed activities such as creating mind maps of what data items we collect, understanding the difference between a data item and compound data, explored the differences between data, information and knowledge, created spreadsheets of data sets (unsorted and sorted) and have since started making databases.

At the end of this unit I am hoping that my students will have gained a deep insight to the concepts associated with the accessibility and collection of data, particularly in the area of databases.  I also hope that they recognise the extent to which databases have become engrained in the function of our lives.

I am also interested in how other educators teach the topic of databases.  Feel free to add your comments, links to examples or otherwise.


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