Information Technology in a Global Society

ITGS textbook cover Information Technology in a Global Society for the IB Diploma is the first textbook designed specifically for the IB ITGS course. Unlike the general computer science textbooks currently used by many ITGS teachers, this book is written specifically with the IB ITGS course requirements in mind, and covers all components of the new ITGS syllabus (first exams May 2012), including the Higher Level (HL) topics. It is fully illustrated with over 300 photographs, diagrams, and charts.

The book is available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and a variety of book shops.

This site supports the book with additional lesson plans, exercises, links to useful software, and other ITGS teaching resources. You can also view a detailed table of contents and download a free sample chapter.


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Socialnomics book cover

Socialnomics (Second Edition)

by Erik Qualman

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | 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
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.

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: 2017-01-15
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
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:

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: 2017-01-15
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
Book - No Place to Hide

No Place to Hide

by Glenn Greenwald
Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Kindle Edition | Worldwide (free shipping)

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: 2016-11-20
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
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