2.2 Input-output diagrams

An input-output diagram shows the inputs to a system or to an operation and the outputs from it.


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All other materials included in this unit are derived from content originated at the Open University.

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5.3 Summary

This section made an interesting contrast between simple data that generates large and complex structures that require large and complex programs to handle them, and complex data which a complex but easy to use program helps a non-expert handle in some interesting, creative, flexible ways.

The case study on DNA illustrated how simple data (consisting of only four elements) can be combined into very large and complex structures (genes and chromosomes). You learned how such large and comp
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4.2.3 Using a search engine more effectively

The search shown in Figure 9(b) is an example of how to use a search engine in a simple way. However, one of the problems with finding information on the web is that there is so much! And not all of it is relevant to what you want. My search for ‘rugby’ and ‘wales’ using the Google search engine yielded about 420,000 results or ‘hits’ (see the information contained in the blue strip on Figure 9(b)). The first few sites listed will probably tell me what I want to know. But what abo
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3.5 Summary

This section examined how human beings obtain data in the first place, by turning sensory data into something that can be communicated and reasoned about.

We ‘code’ this data using signs and symbols that are agreed within a community.

The section explored, again, the distinction between data and information, and noted that one person's data could be another's information.

It went on to describe how humans invented computers because we have a compelli
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3.4.1 A computer system is the combination of:

  • the computer (with its processor and storage);

  • other equipment such as a scanner or printer,

  • the software programs that make it all work (software programs that are designed to help with some human task are often referred to as applications).


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3.4 What has any of this to do with computers?

Human beings invented computers because we have a compelling interest in data. We seek to turn our perceptions of sensations into symbols, and then to store, analyse, process, and turn these symbols into something else: information. Modern computers, with their enormous storage capacity and incredible processing power, are an ideal tool for doing this. They allow us to acquire data, code it in terms of signs, store, retrieve, or combine it with other data. Sophisticated o
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3.3 Data and information

This unit is also about information, which in Subsection 2.1 was distinguished from data. Whereas data is a discrete item like a price or the name of a product such as milk, information links two or more items of data to give knowledge: e.g. the price of milk is 50p.

To give a simple example, if I said to you that I was standing at approximately 1 degree 40 minutes and 20 seconds longitude west (written 1°40′20″W), 55 degrees, 4 minutes and 57 seconds latitude
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3.2 Human beings, data, signs and symbols

We live in a sea of sensation: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and balance (really a sense of our bodies in three-dimensional space). These sensations, and our ability mentally to process, and then react to and communicate them, are vital to our survival. What we perceive with our senses we call the most primitive form of data: perceptual data.

However, as Example 1 showed, human beings don't just react instinctively; they respond reflectively, using thoug
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4.4.5 Measurable

It is also useful to word your goal in a way that allows you to monitor progress towards your goal. Sometimes this is straightforward – you can ‘measure’ achievement directly. For example, you may be aiming to get a job and you can easily tell whether or not you have achieved this.

Sometimes, though, with the ‘real world’ skills we have talked about in earlier sections, it is not so straightforward. How can you ‘measure’, for example, developments in your communication ski
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4.4.4 Specific

You need to be quite clear what you are setting out to do. If you are not clear, your goal may be open to different interpretations and you may become unsure of what you intended. For example, suppose you chose a goal like ‘to get better at giving people feedback’. This could be interpreted in at least two ways:

  1. To improve your self-confidence about giving feedback, so that you no longer get nervous about having to do i
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7.4.1 The introduction of a report

The introduction of a report has a very specific role, and the range of approaches you may take is fairly limited. The function of such an introduction is to:

  • outline the aim of the investigation or experiment: list the objectives

  • provide background information in order to clarify why the investigation or experiment was undertaken.


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Introduction

One of the most fascinating and productive ways of using your computer for study is connecting to the internet to access the extensive amount of information available on the web. Such a diverse range of material brings its own challenges.

It's therefore useful to know how to search effectively. Have a look at our Web Guide (accessed 8 November 2006).

The BBC's Webwise online course (accessed 8 November 2006) will also help you become a confident web user.

This
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4.10 Nobody is saying anything

A conference can be quite a fragile thing. If no one says anything for a while, it becomes harder and harder to break the silence, and no one feels like being the first to contribute. There can be a downward spiral until the conference becomes completely dormant.

Someone needs to be brave and break the spiral as soon as they realise what is happening. Here are some suggestions for things you can do at this point:

  • Ask a question that prompts a re
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4.9 When there's too much to do

This can be a real problem in large conferences. If, for whatever reason, you join a conference later than the other participants, or are unable to be involved for a while, the prospect of joining in can be a bit daunting. There will be lots of messages you haven't read and you may feel that everyone else knows each other.

The main thing to remember is that everyone will be pleased to ‘see’ you when you do join in, and will be helpful and supportive. Here are some strategies you can
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4.8 Not everyone is participating

It can be annoying if there are some people in your tutor group who don't participate in discussions. You may feel that this is unfair, or that you are doing more than your fair share of the work.

There's often a minority of people who don't join in at all, for a variety of reasons – pressure of personal circumstances, illness, shyness, or deliberate decision. And different people may be at different stages in the course. A benefit of studying online is that you can fit your studying
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Make your conference work

You can make a big difference to the effectiveness of any conference, and to your tutor group conference in particular.

We are going to discuss in turn the four main ways that you can help a conference work well:

  • get involved;

  • help people to get to know you;

  • construct clear messages;

  • take some responsibility.

To get the most out of conferencing on your course, get involved
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The benefits of conferencing

There are a number of reasons why you should put time and effort into conferencing:

  • You get support when you need it (in exchange for giving support to others).

  • You have a richer vein of experience to draw on, because you can pool examples, references and ideas.

  • A group can often produce better work than an individual. One person might put forward a thought or idea, often not completely formed or finished. Someone els
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4.2 Why online conferencing is useful

Online conferencing can make a big difference by making you feel part of the learning community, connecting to other students and keeping you motivated. It's a help to know that other people are struggling with the same issues as you, and that you can share problems and ideas at any time of day or night.

It's also a good way for students to work together, rather than individually. Group working is becoming an important element of many courses, partly because it is increasingly the way t
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Introduction

As a student, you may have access to online conferencing. What can you do to help conferencing work well?

This section discusses the reasons why online conferencing is useful, its benefits, how to make online conferencing work for you, and some of the typical problems and solutions relating to it.

“Conferencing gives me the chance to think about what I'm going to say – so I find it much easier to make a w
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