Being Fluent with Information Technology
Appendix A

Illustrative Projects

The example projects in this appendix are described with different levels of detail and different emphases, as one would expect from projects conceptualized by individuals from different disciplines. These diverse projects are intended to demonstrate that projects dealing with different domain areas can all support efforts to develop fluency with information technology (FITness).


Module Placement: A course in business administration, computer science, applied mathematics

Task: Develop a business plan for a computer software and hardware store in a mall. To carry out this project, students should do the following:

All of this should be discussed in the business plan.

Delivery: A CD-ROM or Web site providing a project scenario electronically

Background: A shopping mall would like to fill a commercial opening with a computer store. Teams of four should apply for the space by creating a business plan that could be used to apply for a bank loan. The bank, which has financed most of the mall, will select the applicants who present the best business plan. The store's emphasis will be on selling to first-time buyers looking for a computer for their home or for a very small business.

Project Add-ons: Students could also consider possible changes to their product line as new technologies become available.

Pedagogy: Students will work in teams of four. The project will extend over a period of approximately eight to ten weeks, with the final week devoted to student reflection on lessons learned and possible applications to other business ventures. Students will use technology in the design process: e.g., word-processing and presentation software, e-mail, the World Wide Web, spreadsheets, and even computer-aided design and manufacturing tools to design the store. Milestones should be established for each task of the project.


Module Placement: A course in computer science, health administration, or biology (immunology, epidemiology)

Task: Design an information system to track HIV infections for a community hospital and its outreach clinics. The project should identify necessary:

Delivery: A CD-ROM or Web site providing a project scenario electronically

Background: The community hospital is running education, prevention, and treatment programs for HIV (and maybe other sexually transmitted diseases). The community health director wants to evaluate the three programs continuously so that he/she can make them more cost-effective while reducing the incidence of HIV in the community. Decisions include allocation of financial and staff resources among and within the three programs. A variety of individuals express concern about various aspects of the different programs, including issues of equity, confidentiality, and "family values" (education and sexual activity). Students should be given data on community size, current case loads, and so on. Students' written report should include a budget, staffing requirements, and implementation schedule, including specifications for staff training. Students should also make a presentation to the hospital board; ideally the latter would include representatives from a local hospital, a school of public health, and a private computer science firm.

Project Add-ons: Students should research and recommend security and privacy measures for the program.

Pedagogy: Students will use technology in the design process: e.g., word-processing and presentation software, e-mail, the World Wide Web, spreadsheets, system design (flow chart) software, and databases. Milestones should be established for each task of the project.


Module Placement: A course in business, management, non-profit administration

Task: Complete a simple yet useful database that has been started by teaching assistants. The work will focus on the user interface aspect of the system. Design the final product to be a visually attractive database that a bank could use to keep track of clients and their accounts.

The user of the system should be able to:

Delivery: A client manager database

Background: Databases are a useful way of storing related information. They simplify organization and retrieval of the data and become more powerful and useful as data sets grow larger. With the rapid growth of information and the proliferation of the Internet, databases will become an even more important part of day-to-day life. One of the main parts of this assignment will be to create an attractive, consistent, and intuitive user interface. An example of a successful user interface should be provided to students. Besides designing the user interface, students will also be doing other database tasks, such as designing layouts, creating fields, writing simple scripts, and working with queries and sorts.

Teaching assistants should begin the project and provide a database shell, which includes the following information:

The shell should be designed to allow students to focus on the meaningful and important aspects of the assignment.

Each record will store the:

Data entry will be facilitated by pop-up menus.

Students are responsible for:

Project Add-ons: There is significant opportunity for extra credit in this assignment. For example, try implementing one or more of the following features:

Pedagogy: This project seeks to familiarize students with databases through design and implementation that emphasize designing a quality user interface and learning to program in a simple scripting language.


Module Placement: A course in computer science, library science, liberal arts

Task: Create a home budget that a typical family could use to track their income and expenditures over the course of a year. To accomplish this task, create a system of linked spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel that will help organize and process this information.

Delivery: A spreadsheet-based home budget software program

Background: The system should consist of a single workbook and must have the following properties and features:

Students are free to determine a design for the spreadsheets. There is no "one right way" to do it. The workbook should be logically organized and well formatted to give it a consistent and attractive appearance. Students should become familiar with spreadsheet concepts--through lectures, manuals, or online tutorials and help. (Teaching assistants could develop an Excel tutorial.)

Students should consider sketching the system design on paper before beginning to develop it electronically. Such a design should include how to divide the information into separate spreadsheets, how to link data from separate sheets, and what graphs to provide to help the user analyze the underlying data. Students should also concentrate on the work of calculating and linking the data before tackling the formatting and visual appeal of the spreadsheet. This approach encourages focusing on getting the basic structure of the system correct.

Project Add-ons: Extra credit should be offered for integrating advanced Excel features, such as pivot tables or Visual Basic for Applications, into the home budget.

Pedagogy: This project prepares students to apply spreadsheet concepts to a practical situation, to design an attractive and easy-to-use system of spreadsheets, to organize and present related information, both graphically and textually, and to gain familiarity with a spreadsheet application (Microsoft Excel).


Module Placement: A course in information technology, library science, liberal arts

Task: Use network facilities on the World Wide Web to present and find information. Use a word processor to document the results.

Delivery: Home page and essay

Background: Home Page——The home page must consist of one page. Part of the assignment is learning to design attractive Web pages using HTML, so students should pay attention to the aesthetics of their page. The assignment also includes learning how to use a document scanner, how to convert graphics to different file formats, and how to use a text editor to produce HTML. Students can feel free to organize the information creatively; however, the page must contain the elements below:

Treasure Hunt——Students should answer the questions below using the Internet and a variety of search engines. They will also use "newsgroups" to find particular newsgroups and individual postings. Answers to the treasure hunt should be handed in as part of the networks essay. Students should provide both the answers and the sites on which the information was found.

Networks Essay——Students should provide concise yet complete answers to a number of questions that focus on inter-computer communication, the Internet, and the hardware and protocols involved in networks today. The essay should be written in Microsoft Word and should use styles to separate the answers to the background questions into logical sections.

Pedagogy: This project requires students to write and design structured documents using HTML, to learn how to effectively use search engines to find information on the Internet, to become familiar with several Internet-related applications, including browsers, newsgroup readers, and graphics applications, and to learn about the Internet, protocols, and general networking concepts.


Module Placement: A course in graphic arts, business, or non-profit administration

Task: Plan a multimedia presentation by writing a text description of the topics and points to communicate, using pictures, sound, interactive content, animation, QuickTime movies, and related materials. (It is essential that the presentation feature interactive or active content.) Select specific points from the text description where media would improve the communication potential of the presentation. Discuss with peers and select criteria to decide which medium and how many related representations are appropriate for each talking point. Design the links between the media types in order to implement the communication plan. Make links between different forms of media, and make sure that the interactive content is accessible to the intended audience. Seek criticism and guidance from experts. Try the presentation out with a pilot audience, and analyze the strengths and limitations of the presentation. Refine the presentation based on feedback from users and from experts.

Delivery: A multimedia hyperlinked presentation

Background: The creation of effective presentations involves many steps outlined above in the task. For this group project, it will be necessary to:

Pedagogy: Students will become familiar with considering and using multimedia to enhance a verbal presentation to an audience, to balance the multimedia and other mechanisms for presentations, to analyze what the audience learned from the presentation, and to consider modifications to meet the audience's needs more effectively.


Module Placement: A project for a biology or public health class

Task: Students are asked to imagine that they or a family member have been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Students should plan a course of action to find out information to answer a set of questions, and in teams of two or three, research the disease and write a paper addressing each issue. Use the search engines on the Web to gather information. Critically examine the sources of this information, and consider challenges to its validity. Coordinate the search with teammates via e-mail to avoid collecting redundant information, and review or critique each other's conjectures. Post papers on the class Web site, and solicit expert and peer commentary.

Delivery: Organized desription/listing of electronic resources on a variety of diseases in laymen's language

Background: The project essays should consider the following points:

Pedagogy: Students will work in teams. The project will be carried out over an extended period, perhaps eight to ten weeks, with the final week devoted to student reflection on lessons learned. This project enhances researching skills and synthesis of complex information, as well as effective electronic presentation of complex data.


Module Placement: A project for a high school computer science, English, physical science, or social science class, or an after-school activity

Task: This project requires students to design a home page for their school. The purpose of the home page is to provide information for parents researching information on the school, as well as children interested in finding out more about the school.

Delivery: A home page for a precollege school

Background: Initially, all students should work together to conceptualize the design of the site, including the main page, as well as what categories, topics, and links it should have (such as "Academics" and "Athletics"). In designing the site, students should search for Web-based tips, suggestions, and resources and also review other pages with appealing designs.

Students should then separate into groups of two to four to design a particular page on each link/topic. (Each page could include several other links.) Consulting home page exemplars should be encouraged.

The student groups should write the pages in HTML. Periodically, the entire class should meet to discuss the overall site design, share tips and examples, and discuss questions such as how to achieve consistency and the need for coherence among the different pages. These general discussions would also be a good forum in which to consider new or different technologies (e.g., different browser versions, multimedia options, user needs). Students could also test each other's pages and make suggestions. When test versions of all pages exist, students could demonstrate the site publicly and ask other students and community members to test the pages and offer comments.

Pedagogy: The Web pages would be made available to the general Web community, and groups such as parents and students would be told about the appropriate address. Comments should be solicited so that new ideas could be incorporated into the existing page.


1 Project jointly conceived and developed with the following individuals: Michael Clancy, Eyi Chen, Tamar Posner, Lani Horn, Andrew Begel, Ricky Tang, and Phillip Bell.

2 Project jointly conceived and developed with the following individuals: Michael Clancy, Eyi Chen, Tamar Posner, Lani Horn, Andrew Begel, Ricky Tang, and Phillip Bell.

3 Project jointly conceived and developed with the following individuals: Michael Clancy, Eyi Chen, Tamar Posner, Lani Horn, Andrew Begel, Ricky Tang, and Phillip Bell.