Thanks to choosing Moodle as our VLE our school has a VLE budget to spend on training, hardware and resources. Okay we didn’t get quotes from every supplier out there but the first one we had in quoted around £30,000 for their “package”. Our current budget is more modest (I won’t put the figure online but feel free to twitter or e-mail if you’re curious).

So now with a little money in the kitty to spend I’d like to ask three questions.

1. What hardware or devices should we buy to make best use of our VLE?

2. What software should we buy to make best use of our VLE?

3. What content should we buy to make best use of our VLE?

Open source suggestions are of course welcome but here’s what I’m looking for and here’s where I’m thinking right now.

Software or hardware needs to be easy for teacher or pupils to use. It need to be easy to install (for hardware preferably it won’t need installing). Content needs to be good! For software I’m looking for software that will help teachers and I hope pupils create engaging content for the VLE.

This is what my three answers look like so far.

1. Hardware:
A handful of bluetooth adaptors for students to get photos, audio and video from mobile phones.
A digital voice recorder that records straight to MP3.
A simple to use camcorder that produces footage in a format that can be uploaded straight to VLE
A laptop with useful software, editing software and webcam that can be loaned out to staff for developing resources.

2. Software
Screencapture/screencasting software.
Simple Audio, Video and Image editing software.

3. Content
The only subject specific content I’ve found is by birchfield or boardworks which look expensive. Any other suggestions for any subject would be welcome.
Our librarian is keen to get an Encyclopaedia Britannica subscription for 6th form (age 16-18) research.

I hope to get lots of ideas and recommendations from people. Please do provide hyperlinks or reasons. If you have a product that you make or market I’ll happily share it if it’s good! I will write up all suggestions as a new post to share. Just to clarify I’m not looking to provide a concise list of everything but a shortlist (very short) of items that are quality, easy to use and I hope value for money (or free!). Many thanks in advance.

Starting things up again, like a new VLE, takes time. More time than even a pessimist like me expected! So here’s a little summary of what we’ve done over the last few weeks and what we plan to do. I’m not sure this will be exciting reading but it may be of use to other people doing something similar and of course I’d love to hear any ideas of things we’re doing wrong or could be doing better. When I say we – I’m talking about Julie one of our network technicians (who got the short straw of helping with the VLE 🙂 and myself.

Before half term we backed up all the useful courses from our old Rickypedia moodle some with user IDs some without. I’m a bit of a hoarder so probably took too much but I wanted some examples to show staff when they are creating new courses and resources.

Over half term I got the domains www.rickypedia.org and www.rickyschool.com pointing to the right places.  (Our new empty Moodle and our new google apps for education sites).

This past week has been about getting accounts and usernames sorted. We weren’t able to sort out any automatic authentication so have been creating spreadsheets with details for user accounts. We’re about 3 sign ons away from single sign on at school (we have different usernames for staff e-mail, network and MIS online portal). Luckily for us we were able to pull a list staff usernames and passwords from one of the existing systems. Although the VLE and google usernames won’t be synched with the existing system staff won’t have to learn a new set of usernames and passwords. If you don’t know anything about Moodle roles and are running a Moodle you need to! They basically set the permissions for areas of the site or the site as a whole and define what each user can see or do. We’ve set all staff as sitewide non-editing teachers. This means by default all teachers can see inside all courses. There’s a blog post here from Our Lady’s Catholic High School in Preston. It explains why you shouldn’t edit system roles. I am ignoring this advice for now as I want teachers to be able to see and explore how other staff are using the VLE and I hope the benefits will overcome any problems with privacy.

Another small thing we have done is to restore the courses backed up from the old VLE – these have started life in an archive category but may find themselves in new places soon.

To do next week:

1. We have already started adding areas for each subject. Each member of staff will be manually assigned the role of course creator in their subject area. This means they will be able to create and edit courses in their own subject area.

2. Creating student accounts. We will be giving students the same username as they have for the school network but will have to give them new passwords initially. Working out passwords that will be usable by students but not easily guessable by other students is something we hope we have sorted out.

3. Starting to play with the look and feel of the site. I’ve previously written about how customised profile fields can make a VLE more personal and social. Our theme and graphics also need updating.

4. Creating a 6th form group of experts. 6th form VLE club is starting this week. I’m hoping these students will in time take on a number of roles. Helping work out a VLE AUP (acceptable use policy) that is relevant and simple to understand. Helping to create content to help younger students stay safe online and to help students search and use information effectively. Helping to create graphics and themes for the site. Helping to run and moderate student areas of the site. And I hope soon, helping to train teachers to use the VLE. That’s a lot and we’ll see on Monday who turns up and what we get done.

Wish us luck and please share your comments or advice.

One of the major tasks I will have this year implementing our new VLE is to train staff.

To get staff on board I will need as many staff  on my side as possible and one idea I had was to run a separate group of teachers not just learning to use the VLE but learning, playing and sharing other web tools. So I advertised for enthusiasts – didn’t push anyone to come (except offering cake) and we got a very nice turnout. (About 8 staff of 7 specialisms)

We started off playing with voki, next I got staff to have a play setting up blogs on posterous and we finished off with a flurry looking at voicethread, delicious and classtools. Okay this was a lot to fit in a 45 minute session – ideally we would look at a tool, examples of how it has been used in a subject and then work out how to do it. But I think I and the staff enjoyed a fast place and having fun after school rather than planning. I finished off by setting a little homework – to find a blogger of their subject and to report back on what they found. To help them get started I pointed staff towards Doug Belshaw’s list of edubloggers as well as the edubloggers directory

Overall it was a fun evening and we shall certainly have more. I hope by the time we have our next big ICT Inset we will have lots of examples that our staff can demonstrate of their ICT use in the classroom.

I will write a separate post on our plans for VLE training which I’m still working on – I would love to hear feedback and ideas on how to train 100 staff of different subjects with different specialisms and IT skills. I also wonder how my budget of £30 per staff member (which is probably quite generous for a school) compares to the amount that would be spent in industry?