Student e-council meeting part 2

Posted on October 31st, 2008 in VLE | 1 Comment »

I previously wrote about our student e-council meeting held last term. The aim of this was to get students opinions and ideas on how technology should be used in school and what features they would like. This year I want to evolve the role of this group to actually taking on a hands on role with our VLE.

These are some ideas of what I’d like the group of students to be doing in my utopia.

1.  Helping create the structure, layout and look and feel of the VLE.
2. Running and creating their own areas of the VLE.
3. Contributing content to their own areas and to subject areas of the VLE (specifically links, audio and video)
4. Self moderating their own areas.
5. Helping to train staff use the VLE and acting as technical support for staff and fellow students.
6. Helping to formulate a student led acceptable use policy.

Obviously this is a potentially large project and I plan to start small. The first thing I have already done was to convene the group – we had our first meeting before half term and those students that came were enthusiastic about the project. I’m still not sure which students I want to make up the group and it’s hard to get a mixture of quality and quantity. So far I’ve picked up students who I think are both responsible and have a talent for ICT but I’m sure there are other students who I’ve missed out who would be valuable assets. I’m also not sure what age students I want – originally I had a spread from all the year groups but with a diverse group the younger students can be intimidated to talk infront of the older students. In future meetings I will probably separate KS3 students fromKS4 and 5 students (to non UK readers KS3 is age 11-14 KS4 14-16 KS5 16-18). We will also meet in the morning during form periods and assemblies as students are never quite as good at coming during lunchtimes!

I’m fairly optimistic that once I find the right students and have accounts for them all to use and play with the facilities on offer, as well as a little bit of equipment for them to use (think video cameras and bluetooth for connectivity with mobiles) this will go fast. Right now though I’m stuck on the basics and we’re going to start with working on our student led AUP and see where it takes us.

Wish us luck and I’d love to hear any comments or news of people doing similar projects.

So a year wiser and another year on I’m about to start Rickypedia again from scratch. Our pilot VLE was set up at the cost of about £40 a year using hosting from Siteground. It did a good job but I lived in constant fear that we would overload the servers and have the whole thing frozen. I think we did overload things a couple of times but our account never got locked up. Technical support also was down to me and all the helpful people at moodle.org.

So now we’re moving on and up in the world and are moving to a specialist moodle hoster. If you want to know why we’re not hosting internally see the previous post on hosting internally or externally.

To decide who to host with I e-mailed all the moodle partners as well as one other moodle hoster with a list of questions. I must thank Sean at pteppic who gave such detailed personal and friendly answers to my questions as well as very reasonable quotes. In the end we chose to go for hosting with Dale at Ecognition mainly from a personal recommendation though the price was good too!

I wanted to make a clean start but this means a while into term and we’re still not up and running. This is the list of things on the to-do list to get our VLE ready and running.

1. Backup all courses and content from the old VLE that we want to keep.

2. Point all the IP addresses to the right place (at the moment our domain www.rickypedia.org points to our old site so we need to repoint it to go to the new one – it only takes a minute to do!)

3. Restore and courses that we want from the old VLE.

4. Customise the basic layout and look and feel of the VLE

5. Convene group of pupils (student e-council!) to help decide on the layout and setup of the page. I hope this group will be able to take on the role of moderators as well as deciding on student rules for using the VLE sensibly.

6. Convene group of teachers who are interested in taking the lead on the VLE.

7. Set up google mail and google apps ready for students

8. Create staff and student accounts on Moodle and Google.

Once we’re actually ready to get going there’s plenty of plans for getting teachers and students trained up and using the VLE – I’ll write about that next time…

For the last two years I’ve been studying for an MA in ICT in Education at Leeds University. The last piece of the puzzle my MA Critical Study (a 15,000 word research project) went in the post last week and the process has come to an end. Looking back the whole MA was proof of the power of online collaboration, from start to finish.

To start the story at the beginning; in 2006 I was looking for an e-learning related MA. I was a regular reader and poster of the forums at the Times Educational Supplement. Another contributor recommended the MA at Leeds that she was taking and one thing led to another. I’ve since recommended another person the same way!

My entire MA was via online distance learning using the First Class learning environment. There were both online and face to face students. Lecture notes and podcasts were posted online. We had a forum to discuss set reading or tasks and we met once a week online for a live discussion on a topic set by our tutor; often and article or an assignment. At the end of each module we wrote a 6000 word assignment to prove that we had learnt something. (Though that sounds a little cynical the assignments really helped me revise much of what I had learned).

One of the problems of being an online learner can be a lack of community. This was certainly hard. Often our discussion forums were quiet and pleas for help in the class discussion forums drew few responses. This is where my other communities came into use especially when it came to my critical study. Being a science (computer science) graduate I had no prior experience of carrying out a research project for my bachelors degree. Back then I wrote a piece of software and wrote about the process and how it worked. For my MA study I wanted to research how my students used VLEs. The whole process was new to me. My first port of call online was a message sent to the Mirandanet discussion list asking for details of any academic research on VLEs in schools. The response was small but gave me some excellent leads. A similar question to my twitter network brought back some other leads and as I delved further and found other links I shared them back to my twitter followers some of whom found the links equally useful.

My next problem was creating a research questionnaire. I put my draft out to twitter as well as to some friends (via e-mail). Two individuals on twitter gave me some superb feedback (David Nobel and Theo Kuchell) on how to improve my quesitonnaire. Help with analysing the data came via e-mail from two other people that I had never met before, one the research methods tutor at Leeds University and the other a friend of a friend in Manchester. When it was all done it was time for the dreaded proof reading. Again twitter proved very fruitful with great comments and extra commas from Lisa Stephens, Mary Cooch, Ian Usher and Dale Jones.

My acknowledgements page was large and proof of the power of online communities. Of the 12 people I mentioned by name I had only met 4 in person.

Now the MA is done I’ll have more time to spend on rebuilding our school VLE from scratch and I’ll keep you updated right here!