We’re Online!

As I’m writing this I’m not quite sure what to title this post but I guess it is a sort of celebration. We are in the third year of our Ministry of Education ICT contract and as the lead teacher for our school it has been **!! hard work motivating teachers to consider using online tools, like wikis and blogs, with their classes. Having said that, this term I have introduced all staff to our new Learning Management System, Ultranet, and have been totally surprised at their acceptance of having a class presence on the web and their readiness to set up a class page for public access.

This is just a start! A few teachers, myself included, have just linked what they were dong with wikis and blogs but now the whole staff is finally online! The next goal is to get teachers deciding what tool they will use to develop e-portfolios within their class. Options include using the feature within Ultranet (which teachers have not yet been exposed to), blogs or wikis. This is a focus for term 3!

If you are reading this from somewhere other than NZ please vist our school site ultranet.teawamutuint.school.nz so that our staff can see that having online presence does get interest from people around the world.

If you can’t access it please do try again in a few days – It is presently hosted on our server and tonight I can’t access it from home via my PC but it’s OK on the Mac!

Dilemma!

Now that I have caught up on posts I had saved regarding new web tools I can continue to gear my thoughts towards which direction I will head with my class this year in regards to social networking and which direction I need to get teachers to focus on.

Background Information – At present there are a handful of teachers using wikis, mainly for communicating class news and some homework tasks. Mine is the only class which has ventured nto the world of blogging.

The school’s expectations for 2008 are that every teacher will have a class blog / wiki / online presence for communicating with students, parents and others.

This year the school has purchased Ultranet which is a LMS, something which seems to being promoted by the MOE. Ultranet seems to have many possibilities as an intranet (walled garden) but I am wondering where it fits as a social networking tool.

Welcome to Ultranet .::. The next generation LMS tool!
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

I have had one short (one hour overview) introduction to the sorts of things that Ultranet can offer and …. I have to say that I approached the initial introduction with some misgivings and concerns about a ‘walled garden’. As I have already successfully implemented student blogs and a class wiki with my class in 2007 I was somewhat concerned that we were going to be ‘forced’ to fully implement a system which I see saw as a backward step.I can see how Ultranet will be useful as an intranet, saving on the reams of paper we seem to generate for internal messages, memos etc. I can also see possibilties for its use for e-portfolios, something I have wanted to gt started on for a couple of years but I do have concerns for its use as a social networking. Now this may not be what it was intended for but using blogs has become important part of my whole class programme and I certainly want to continue my students exposure to the views and comments from others around the globe.

Anyway, I sat through the introduction, asking many questions – many concerned with the open – ness of the programme. Eventually I was shown the USpace possibilities as a blogging platform and yes, it could be opened up to the ‘general public’ for viewing and commenting. We were shown screens of what students in other schools had done with their USpace pages and I began thinking that maybe I could continue my year 8 blogs and start my Year 7 students with Ultranet’s USpace. After observing my Year 8 students working on their blogs the following day my apprehensions about using Ultranet for blogging again resurfaced – would we be able to add Cluster Maps, widgets etc. These are the sort of things that do interest students – the bling for their blogs!

uSpace, Ultranet’s e-portfolio module –
This will give your students the ability to be creative within the Ultranet framework while giving you the confidence that it is secure and safe.The module will include live chat, photo galleries and a work area for each student.

Last Thursday three of us had a ‘play’ with Ultranet – suffice to say that two of us who had had experience with blogs and wikis found that they were definitely much easier to navigate than the Ultranet interface. I came away from that session with concerns at how the less IT literate on the staff would cope with Ultranet.

Dilemma – Do I stick with my blogs for all my students? Do I continue with my class wiki or transfer its content to Ultranet for my students and their parents viewing only? What about our staff – Will using Ultranet suffice as being involved and using the read write tools of Web 2.0 (blogs and wikis)? I am concerned that many staff will opt for using Ultranet and that their students won’t be given the opportunity to have their work, views, ideas shared with others around the world.

I would love to hear comments from others who have similar systems already in place in their schools. I’d also love to hear from teachers who are using Ultranet – please feel free to convince me of its possibilities!