What you will study
Ten years ago there was no Facebook or Twitter. Fifteen years ago broadband access to the internet in your home was an unimaginable luxury. Just twenty years ago you still had to buy your books, music and feature films from a high street shop. The digital revolution might still be young, but it has arguably brought about the biggest change in our lifestyles in the last two hundred years.
Where did it all begin? How does it work? Where is it going? These are just some of the questions answered in My digital life.
My digital life is your introduction to the next twenty years of computers and the internet, whether you are:
an experienced computer user or a novice
enthusiastic about modern technology or somewhat scared about its implications
new to studying with The Open University or an experienced student
intending to pursue a career in a technological field or just interested in the subject.
You’ll be taken on a journey from the most familiar, personal technologies through to the computer systems that span the entire world. It will give you a view of the future in which computers stop being discrete boxes on desks and become part of almost every manufactured object. The ubiquitous computer of tomorrow promises, or perhaps threatens, to change the world beyond recognition. My digital life explains why this change is coming and the opportunities and challenges it brings.
Through six themed teaching blocks you’ll cover the key aspects of modern computer technology. Each block includes a blend of printed and online text, pictures, animations and practical activities. Specially recorded audio and video materials accompany the teaching material. These include interviews with leading researchers, experts, companies and users from a wide range of countries, including the USA, Nepal, Iceland and Switzerland.
My digital life isn’t just about reading. It’s about doing things and learning as you do them. Just some of the things you will do are:
use a wide range of online services to create and share documents, spreadsheets and web pages
create and combine images with a soundtrack to produce short audiovisual presentations
learn how the technologies underpinning these activities work as you use them
experience the benefits and limitations of a digital lifestyle and what the future might hold
see how the internet makes your physical location less relevant in performing many tasks
understand the significance of an increasing number of devices that know and respond to your location.
During the course of learning about these things you will address topics as diverse as:
the ownership of data
how the World Wide Web works
the privacy and security of personal data
online identity in virtual worlds
how online businesses survive (or not)
and many more aspects of living in the digital world of today.
My digital life is not just something you will study; it is a community you will join. You won’t be learning in isolation – you’ll be sharing your work with your fellow students, friends and family – and with the rest of the world.
My digital life wants you to feel passionately about the subjects it covers so that you will be in a position to give informed evaluations – as an employer or an employee and as a citizen. You’ll be encouraged to form – and possibly change – your own opinions, to discuss and to argue your point of view.
My digital life gives you an opportunity to develop your own rich, interactive applications running on your computer and to share them with fellow students. You’ll build your programming skills through problem-solving, through exploration of novel concepts and through play. To help you in this, you will use two specially created technologies that turn My digital life into a hands-on exploration of computer and online technologies – the specially designed language Sense and the SenseBoard.
Sense – a completely new approach to computing deserves to be taught in a completely new manner. Almost from the very beginning, you’ll be running, designing and writing computer programs. You will be using the specially designed language – Sense – so called because it can be used to sense the world.
Unlike other computer languages you may have seen or used, Sense doesn’t rely on cryptic text commands; instead you assemble Sense programs using graphical blocks. Creating a Sense program can be as simple as clicking two blocks together and pressing the Run button!
You’ll begin your work in Sense by following the first of many guided activities accompanied by text and video instructions. Soon you’ll be modifying existing programs and writing completely new ones of your own.
Sense lets you do much more than program your own computer; it lets you send information to the internet and receive it from other machines. You will use Sense to write simple online games, download news from sites such as the BBC, and even let your fellow students know what you are up to.
Sense is intended to give you the skills to design programs in any language. Once you’ve had experience with Sense you will understand how programs are designed and written. If you choose to study programming at a higher level you will see the same structures and patterns appearing in completely different languages. If you’re an experienced programmer you’ll appreciate the value of working with software objects and message passing between objects; concepts that are fundamental to modern computer programming.
The SenseBoard – the vision of the ubiquitous computer hasn’t been realised yet, so there’s plenty of opportunity for you or one of your fellow students to invent it. The SenseBoard has been designed to work with Sense and give you a few of the features of a research laboratory in something that sits in the palm of your hand.
Connect the SenseBoard to your computer, install the provided software and you’re ready to go. Use the SenseBoard on its own, or with the supplied sensors and motor to build a weather station, a home security device or a device from your imagination. Everything just clicks together – no solder, no danger and no experience needed.
You can program every feature of your SenseBoard using Sense. They have been designed to work together to allow you to concentrate on what you want to do rather than worrying about how to do it.
You never know – you might just invent the future.
If you are considering Accreditation of Certificated Practitioners 1 (MT127), to gain credit for specified, non-OU, practice-based qualifications that you already have, normally you should have successfully completed this academic OU module.