This sequence uses the context of meal planning to demonstrate a process to solve a problem; in this case, what meal to cook for teenagers with various needs. In decomposing the problem, students collaborate to better understand their audience’s needs, the food options available and to define how the functional requirements of the solution can be met. Key to meeting the functional requirements is collecting data related to suggested meals and organising this as structured data so it can be collected, sorted and visualised in different ways. Students also need to consider one or more of the following constraints when designing their solution: sustainability (economic, environmental, social), technical considerations and usability. Teachers may substitute their own context and follow a similar process described in this sequence.
Flow of Activities
Defining and decomposing problems are part of the analysis process. Once you have stated the problem, usually in terms of a brief description of the problem’s elements and the stakeholders involved, you can begin to break the problem down into smaller elements. This helps reduce the complexity of problems because you can see their sub-tasks or sub-elements. It allows you to get a better understanding or insight into the problem and therefore its solution. It is like asking a set of smaller questions so that the larger question (or problem) can be answered. You are really identifying a set of needs, which in turn might help decide what data is needed to solve the problem.
Breaking a problem down into smaller parts allows you to study each part in more detail and reduces the problem’s complexity. Decomposition also allows you to identify connections between elements; some will be strong and others not, as well as showing the importance of any constraints on the solution. Tools such as decision trees and fishbone diagrams can be used to decompose a problem.
Generate a class list of ‘types and options’ that can be used to gather data for the design. Model using two to three meal suggestions to define a structured data table. For example:
|Menu item||Ingredients||Health rating||Cuisine type||Dietary requirements||Cost||Skill level||Cook time|
|Thai chicken skewers and rice||Chicken, rice, Thai spices, bamboo skewers||5 stars||Thai||Gluten free
|Beef teriyaki and rice||Beef, rice, teriyaki sauce||5 stars||Japanese||Med||Easy||15–20 min|
|Thai vegetables||Vegetables, Thai spices||5 stars||Thai||Gluten free
Another possible context is to provide questions around access to digitised music. A relevant data set is provided.
You could ask students to evaluate existing apps to examine app interfaces and rate the usefulness of design and access to information. Students could document three key design-related learnings that could influence their design of a digital solution.
This task could also be undertaken in conjunction with a food technology/home economics class where students research a suitable menu item. Alternatively, as a task completed at home, students could select and prepare a meal to taste-test a chosen menu item. The task could also have a health focus and students could create a healthy breakfast calculator using spreadsheeting software. As an example, refer to the Healthy breakfast calculator spreadsheet.
An important aspect of data entry in a spreadsheet is the process of validating data. One way to validate the data is to create and use a drop down menu to limit free text entry.
Examples might include:
Spreadsheets enable us to record, sort and analyse data and also to visualise that data in different ways to make sense of patterns or trends.
A database is similar in many ways to a spreadsheet in that it stores data in structured ways, and the data can be queried and reported. Usually databases store more data than spreadsheets and the data is often connected to other data (relational). Large databases enable us to locate information on the internet, as search strings act as queries on the data.
Paper prototyping is ideal for conceptualising a design; for example, an interface for an app. It is a quick way to document potential designs and to consider the user experience. It is also a useful way to consider a list of requirements and how they are to be met, and to address the identified constraints.
The primary focus of design evaluation is to assess whether the design meets the needs of the target audience. Does the interface enable the user to easily locate and select information that is of interest?
Student performance evaluation
Typically, teachers are required to report on students’ performance. Digital technologies work is often project-based and a variety of pieces of evidence are needed to assess students’ performance.
How well does the final design meet the needs of the intended audience?Students ask someone to use the paper prototype and to provide feedback on the design. What questions arise from the user as they progress? Do they get confused? At what point?
Student performance evaluation
What evidence can students provide that demonstrates their contribution to the project? When reflecting on the project what have they learned?