The systems lifecycle describes the stages of development which are followed when creating a project:
In primary computing lessons, it is often informally followed during most lessons - designing a poster for an audience, creating a video to share ideas/information etc. - although I think that it can also be useful to ask children to sometimes write it down more formally too, to help them document their ideas and to show how they progressed through a journey to reach a final, finished outcome. This helps them realise its value and appreciate how the theory behind the process can be helpful to them in practice.
The 'design' stage is perhaps the easiest to incorporte into lessons but children should be taught all the stages so that they can fully understand why they are needed and how they are linked together:
- Analysis - What is the aim/purpose of the project? Who will it be for? Why is it needed?
- Design - What software/hardware will you use? How will the work be laid out on paper/screen? Can you annotate any sketches of how you think the finished project will look like to show its different features? How will your project meet any user requirements (e.g. be a challenging yet fun game to play, have a consistent design throughout which matches the theme etc. )?
- Implementation - What do the different pages/screens of your project look like? Can you show any screenshots illustrating your project and describe what they are?
- Testing - How did you modify and improve your work as you made it? Did you need to debug any programming errors?
- Evaluation - What is your favourite part of the finished project? Does it work/look as you'd hoped? How could it be improved at all (e.g. with more time available)? Perfective maintenance is the term used to describe making a piece of work even better without changing its main function or design.
Perhaps the easiest method to teach the full systems lifecycle is during programming and game design lessons because they offer the most opportunities for gathering evidence for each of the five stages. There are two approaches to doing this:
- Ask the children to complete a 'computing project' form in which they are given boxes to write/draw in to log each stage of their work:
- Ask the children to create a simple slideshow in which they organise their work for each stage on a different slide:
It's worth pointing out that at a primary level I would keep the amount of detail required for each stage quite small so the children get a good introductory idea as to how to document a project whilst still having lots of time to actually implement their ideas and create their work (i.e. the practical element).
By carefully following the systems lifecycle when working on a project, hopefully the children will: discover the benefits of recording their thoughts/ideas down, create a good-quality outcome having thought about it in more detail than normal and get some insight into how designers and developers outside of school produce their work to meet the needs/specifications of a real customer.