Digital Technologies: putting it together

Extended writing piece: Structured report

Writing in Digital Technologies is often multi-modal and includes images and text. A structured report can be used to present findings and to enable readers to follow the process. This might include five sections:

  • introduction and aim
  • proposed solution
  • method and procedure (if testing will be done or has been done)
  • observations and results (if testing was completed)
  • discussion
  • conclusion.

Teachers need to formally teach these aspects of writing structures, that include writing style, language and structure. Teachers can also work with English or Science teachers to consolidate the learning that students undertake across the entire curriculum.

An example

Problem

Too much paperwork is being sent home to families, and the school app is not being used.

Context

The school has an app that sends information to families and the students, but the Principal has noticed that not many people are checking it. The problem seems to be that the app is difficult to navigate and the alerts the app sends are hard to notice.

To make sure that important information about the school is received at home, school leaders have again begun sending paper copies home as well as using the app. This is costing a lot of money and is damaging the environment. Your task is to evaluate the current app and design a better digital solution. This might be an app, a website or some other digital solution. Write up your findings following the format below.

Introduction

In this section, students outline the problem that their digital solution will address. Because it is describing a current situation, it is written in the present tense. This section might include:

  • a summary of the problem
  • the current situation
  • what has already been attempted to solve the problem
  • a brief explanation of the proposed solution.

Keeping these three points in mind, students may write a paragraph to summarise the situation. For example, in the first few sentences, they explain the problem. In the final sentences, students outline what has already been done and then briefly propose a new solution.

Parents of students in our school are not receiving notifications and other important information. The school notification app is not being used because it is difficult to navigate. The school has sent paper-based notifications home, but this is expensive. We propose to develop a new website to display information and to send text messages and emails with links to the website to notify parents of new notifications.

To complete this section of the report, students may have to conduct research. If students are required to complete research on their own, they can be supported by using a graphic organiser to record the information they collect. See Project summary and background in the Putting it together section of the Design and Technologies section of the toolkit.

Curriculum links for this section: VCDTCD040, VCDTCD050.

Proposed solution

In this section, you describe and represent your proposed solution. This may include annotated diagrams. You should also explain how you believe your digital solution will solve the problem. As the proposed solution is yet to be implemented, this section is written in the future tense.

This section is where you should clearly describe your anticipated outcomes:

  • what your digital solution looks like
  • how you anticipate the solution to solve the problem
  • who the digital solution is for.

Strategies in the Digital Technologies section that may support students to write this section of the report include 'using graphic organisers to understand computer networks' and 'Justifying opinions with visual representations'. Teachers may also use Producing annotated concept sketches and drawings in the Design and Technologies section of the toolkit.

Curriculum links for this section: VCDTCD041, VCDTCD051.

Method and procedure

In this section, you will describe what you intend to do to create and test your solution. Explain in detail the steps you would need to take to design, develop and implement your digital solution. The steps should be numbered or represented in a flow diagram to show the order of events. The reader should be able to follow your design and development process, from initial stages to your final digital solution.

Steps and stages you might include are:

  • Consulting with users of the existing app
    • Asking students and parents about their experiences of the app
    • Creating and sending out a survey
  • Analysing the feedback from users of the app
  • Creating a list of preferences and requests
  • Developing a hypothetical digital solution
  • Creating a list of needed resources to create the digital solution
  • Review costs, benefits and resources available
  • Finalise design based on costs, benefits and resources
  • Plan for the development of the final digital solution
  • Build/create the final digital solution

To support students to create flow charts, teachers can adapt the strategy Using flow charts to design algorithms. Alternatively, view the strategies under the Reading and writing scientific recounts and explanations in the Science section of the Toolkit.

Observations and results

This section is only completed if the digital solution is implemented, or a survey is conducted to determine user interest and collect user feedback on the proposed selection. It comprises limited text that explains any graphs or data sets that are represented.

To support students to create and display statistical information, teachers can use the Creating and presenting statistical displays in the Mathematics section of the toolkit.

Curriculum links for this section: VCDTCD044, VCDTCD054.

Analysis and discussion

In this section, students analyse and discuss how successful their digital solution was. Because they are discussing what happened, they write in the past tense. Students should reflect on the positive and negative experiences of this problem-solving project. They may be required to

  • identify at least three successes during the process
    • explain why they were successes
    • explore what made these aspects of the process successful
  • identify at least three challenges during the process
    • explain why they were challenges
    • explore what led to these challenges
    • describe what could be done next time to minimise these challenges.

A separate paragraph for each success or challenge could be written. The structure of these could be to write a topic sentence followed by elaborations. The topic sentence could be the identified success or challenge, and the elaborations explain, describe and provide evidence about the identified success or challenge.

The following two example paragraphs, demonstrate the structure of a paragraph, consisting of a topic sentence followed by elaborations. In each example, the topic sentence is in bold, followed by the elaborations.

Examples

The website was more regularly accessed than the school’s app. Approximately 82% of parents accessed the website. The website was more clearly navigated than the app. The links sent to parents via text messages and emails let them access the website easily and quickly.

A challenge was ensuring the school had up to date email addresses for parents. A letter was sent home to collect parent emails. An email sign-up section was also included on the website for new parents to sign up

Another way to support students to write this section is to have them analyse the process they went through. To do this, they will need to reflect on the initial problem and whether the digital solution has effectively addressed the problem. For example:

  • Is it reasonable to believe that the digital solution will reduce the need to send home paper copies of notices in the school?
  • Will the digital solution increase the engagement of families with school information and events?

If students believe the answer to these questions is yes, they must explain and justify their responses. This means using feedback from users or classmates on the digital solution or other types of information.

If students are unable to implement the solution, they may present proposed solutions to a focus group and ask them to complete a survey to determine if they think the solution is viable.

Curriculum links for this section: VCDTCD044, VCDTCD054.

Conclusion

The conclusion provides a summary of the findings from the project and is written in the past tense. It is written in the past tense and should reiterate the problem and briefly explain if their proposed solution resolved the problem.

The writing of the conclusion can be supported by using the following structure.

Restate the purpose of the experimentParents were not receiving notifications because the school's app was too difficult to manage.
Outline proposed solutionA new website to host information and a new notification system comprising text messages and emails were tested.
Explain if the solution was successful. If it was not, suggest another solution to test.The new notification system worked; 82% of parents received new information.

 

References

Hart, C., Mulhall, P., Berry, A., Loughran, J., & Gunstone, R. (2000). What is the purpose of this experiment? Or can students learn something from doing experiments? Journal of Research in Digital Technologies Teaching: The Official Journal of the National Association for Research in Digital Technologies Teaching, 37(7), 655-675.

Millar, R. (2009). Analysing practical activities to assess and improve effectiveness: The Practical Activity Analysis Inventory (PAAI). York: Centre for Innovation and Research in Digital Technologies Education, University of York. Available from http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/educ/research/ResearchPaperSeries/index.htm