Below is our latest staff e-learning newsletter that was supposed to get sent out in the last week of term but got caught in the chaos of the snow! It’s been slightly edited for privacy reasons.

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Here’s what in this newsletter

1. Reminder of how to get on the VLE
2. It’s Google Time
3. VLE Teacher of the month
4. VLE teacher targets
5. Online tool of the month
6. Reminder about Nintendo DS Consoles
7. 10 Great online tools with tips on how to use them in class

1. Reminder of how to get on the VLE –
Just log in at www.rickypedia.org using your eportal username and password. A helpsheet is available for students but all KS3 students should know how to log on from their ICT lessons.

2. It’s Google Time
Regular Rickypedia users may have noticed the new google icons on the top right of the page when you log in. Click on them and have a try, all students and teachers have accounts for Google Apps and once you have logged into Rickypedia you don’t need to log in again just click on the shortcuts.
Here’s a few things you can do with Google Apps
Make on online survey with a few clicks – results go into a spreadsheet
Have upto 20 students working a single presentation simultaneously
Share a document with a student and put your feedback directly on it.
I’ve you want some tutorial videos just ask me, there are plenty around!

3. VLE Teacher of The Month
November saw great new courses from Geography, RE, History, Science and ICT but the winner this month is Mr. White and his PE Course.
Although Mr. White hasn’t used millions of fancy features his course is a great example of how to lay out a simple and attractive course that students can use to find resources and homework in lessons and at home.
I’ve attached a file with 2 pages of his course (I had to cut it at bit as it went to 7 pages!) Mr White A2 Exercise Physiology
This kind of course will be especially useful to students come revision time as it has all the work neatly organised for them!

4. VLE Teacher Targets
Not many people have been to see me to pick up their gold stars for meeting a target!
Beginner: Create a new course and add something to it.
Intermediate: Add a picture to your course
Advanced: Set up a glossary for students to add in their keywords.
If you finish a challenge come and see me and I’ll give you a ‘well done’ sticker, 3 stickers and you can have a certificate!

5. Online tool of the Month
If you like mindmapping, brainstorming or for the overly political correct thought showering try out these 2 website.
http://bubbl.us a great simple tool – click start brainstorming and you’re away – you don’t need to register but if you do it lets you save your diagrams online – if not then you can save your diagrams as pictures on your PC
www.mindmeister.com – a more complex and sophisticated tool. You need to register – this lets you attach files or links to websites in your brainstorms, it also lets you invite other people (or students to collaborate with you)

6. Nintendo DS Consoles
Another reminder about them! They are great for lessons but also really great for filling long form periods. They are a great reward for students that get planners signed – you’ll never get an unsigned planner again!

7.Nic Peachy is a language teacher into his online stuff. He shares many great resources including this one with 10 web tools and 10 ways you can use them in your classroom
http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/2009/11/10-teacher-development-task-for-web-20.html

Wishing You a great Christmas Holiday

This is my presentation for Teachmeet Edtechroundup Edition #TMETRU09

For more information on Teachmeet visit www.teachmeet.org.uk for more info on Edtechroundup visit http://edtechroundup.wikispaces.com/

You can see info (and some recordings) of my previous Teachmeet contributions here

Both are fantastic CPD communities and opportunities and it’s great to see the two concepts joined together for an evening.

A few ways teachers and students use our VLE (Edtechroundup Teachmeet)

Please see my video presentation below. I used Screenr to record the screencast which limited me to 5 minutes hence the rush at the end. In the video I show different ways our VLE is used.

1. Student blogs – most are just for fun but we’re hoping to have students writing regular book reviews and sports reports in future.

2. As a document/resource repository for lesson or home resources. Many people decry this use as a waste of a VLE. Okay it doesn’t use all of the features and isn’t very interactive or collaborative but is a great place to start and has obvious benefit for teachers of allowing students to access work from home. Especially useful for revision time.

3. For discussion forums – Great for reflection, discussions or just setting open questions. When students post their response the whole class can see it, learn from it and comment on it. When they do it in their exercise books it’s just between them and the teacher.

4. For extracurricular clubs

5. Making students a teacher in their own course – they can then share their notes with classmates and build a collaborative resource to help with revision.

Look forward to hearing your comments and feedback as well as ideas of things you do with your classes.

Staff E-learning Newsletter

Posted on November 9th, 2009 in moodle, rickypedia, VLE | 2 Comments »

Last week I sent out this staff e-learning newsletter to try and keep staff informed and enthused about e-learning and our VLE. The response so far has been excellent, we’ve had three new teachers start using the VLE in a week. See the newsletter below, I’ve slightly amended it to remove some personal details but most of it is still there.

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Dear Staff,
 
In an attempt to avoid unecessary meetings or announcements in shout I’ve been working on this mini newsletter to keep you updated on e-learning and the VLE. I’m hoping I can keep up a monthly newsletter throughout the year. Take a look, have a read, let me know what you think.
 
Here’s what in this newsletter
1. Reminder of how to get on the VLE
2. Resources and tutorials to help you, where to get help
3. VLE Teacher of the month
4. VLE teacher targets
5. Simple Videoconferencing in the classroom
6. Inspirational Videos for the classroom.
7. Reminder about Nintendo DS Consoles
 
1. Reminder of how to get on the VLE
It may have been a while so here’s how you log on…
Visit www.rickypedia.org and login – to log in use your eportal username and password. Once you are logged on if you click your name in the top right corner you can change your password and your profile details.
 
For students their username is…(removed for privacy)  I have attached a helpsheet that you can print out for students. (not attached to blog post)
 
2. Resources and tutorials to help you, where to get help.
If you get stuck with Rickypedia please come and ask myself or Julie. If you want to book a mini training session with me I can come and visit you during registration for a 10 or 20 minute slot, if you need we can probably get cover for your registration. For password resets or anything urgent you’ll probably find Julie easier to find, she’s in the quiet room every day except Friday, I’m around usually in the staffroom or LI6 on Monday and Wednesday mornings. If you need either of us Julie is at (removed e-mail from blog post) and I’m at (removed e-mail from blog post)
A few resources to help out:
On Rickypedia are a few resources – once you’re logged in, on the list of subjects click on “staff” and then choose “Tutorial videos” for basic videos on how to create and build up courses.
Also in the “staff” – section is a course called e-learning training which has a sheet for pupils explaining how they log on.
A group of very good online and short (2 minute) training videos are at http://www.vimeo.com/channels/44004 I think these work at school but can’t promise so you may need to look at home!
 
3. VLE Teacher of the month
The aim of this bit is to show you how different teachers have used the VLE. This time we’re going to visit Sophia in the History department.
 
I have attached some screenshots of Sophia’s courses with this e-mail
 Example uses in History department (pdf)
The history department are using the VLE as an interactive resource to enhance teaching and learning. In a year 9 module there is a unit on life in the 19th Century. The first resource in the course is a link to an interactive resource on the Manchester Art Gallery website looking at a painting of the times. The next resource is a discussion forum where students have to discuss various questions on the painting. It is amazing seeing students building up their knowledge and responding to each others’ posts.
Next there is a link to a page on the national archive website on the same topic followed by a downloadable word document containing a worksheet for students to complete. A powerpoint from the lesson comes next followed by another 2 discussion forums for students to carry on answering questons online. To give you an example of how students have used it – one discussion done over 3 teaching groups has been viewed over 800 times – how often does that happen with a student’s work in an exercise book?
 
4. VLE Teacher Targets
Some people like a challenge or a target to meet – here are some for you to try and get done this month.
Beginner: Create a new course and add something to it.
Intermediate: Create an online poll (it’s called ‘choices’ in Rickypedia)
Advanced: Set an online homework (assignment) and mark it online.
If you finish a challenge come and see me and I’ll give you a ‘well done’ sticker, 3 stickers and you can have a certificate!
 
5. Simple Videoconferencing in the classroom
Anyone wishing to try out simple videoconferencing should take a look at Flashmeeting a free tool provided by our local broadbam consortium. It now works in school!
http://flashmeeting.e2bn.net
Flashmeeting allows up to 25 people to chat using text, audio or video – you could also use it to connect just one person upto your class online even if they only have a basic webcam or microphone. Even without a webcam in your classroom you can talk to them via audio or text chat.
 
6. Inspirational Videos for the classroom.
This great presentation has links to 100 youtube videos that you could use in the classroom. Some are truly amazing.
http://www.ideastoinspire.co.uk/youtube.htm
Obviously YouTube is blocked at school to keep us safe – see this blog post about how to download these videos to bring into school. http://elearnr.org/2008/09/13/how-to-find-and-download-youtube-videos-for-use-in-the-classroom/
 
7. Reminder about Nintendo DS Consoles.
Reminder – we have 16 Nintendo DS consoles and a variety of games including maths, english, braintraining, puzzle, french and just for fun games. You can book them out for lessons or registration for your classes or forms – the sign up sheet is on the bottom of Mr. Griffith’s noticeboard in the staffroom (he hasn’t complained to me yet!) and the consoles live in a neat easy to carry box in Mr. James’ room.
For some cool ideas on how to use Nintendo DS in the classroom please check out this evolving presentation – 23 Interesting Ways and Tips to use a nintendo Ds in the classroom
http://www.ideastoinspire.co.uk/nintendodsdsi.htm
 
Enjoy and come and ask if you need a hand with anything!
Daniel

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Each year for the last 4 years I’ve taught surveys and databases to my year 7 class.We used to start off by creating a spreadsheet with columns for name, age, favourite food and send all the students wandering around the classrooms to collect details from their friends.Next we went on to make a survey on paper, create a hypothesis, hand the surveys to friends to fill in, collect and type up results into a spreadsheet and then create graphs and a presentation about what they found out…It was a pretty good series of lessons that students enjoyed; but this year we kicked things up a notch with a bit of techology. Here’s how:

  1. We ditched the paper surveys for online surveys using Google Docs. Students created their surveys using the forms part of Google Docs. (We use the free Google Apps Education Edition via our own domain).
  2. Students posted the links to their surveys on a forum on our VLE. This was one of the trickier parts as most students hadn’t done this before. They could then complete their friends’ surveys. It also gave us an opportunity to discuss what makes a good or bad question or survey.
  3. Students analysed results – some downloaded their Google Spreadsheet to Excel while others did them on online. They all had to create a graph from their data.
  4. Students created a presentation to show their findings – most did this using Powerpoint though some used Google Presentations. All presentations had embedded graphs.
  5. Students uploaded their presentation to a Moodle Database and then had to view and comment on their friends’ presentations.

Students seemed to enjoy the work and interacting with their friends. Some parts had a steep learning curve but for most students it was the first time they had done anything like this before.  From a teacher’s point of view it was hard work and for a less able class I would certainly break the tasks up into smaller tasks but if you like the sound of it give it a go and let me know how it goes.

Sorry there is no part 3: The ugly but do take a look at part one of this story here

Welcome to part 2. In part one I described the frustrations of trying to build up a course on our VLE on e-safety. Here’s how my course ended up looking course

Before we got to the course we did two other activities. I got students to design their own logo using MS Publisher. They learnt to group items and save as a JPG. Students were then taught how to log in to our VLE Rickypedia, to change their password, to update their profile and to add an avatar. The logo they made at the start of the lesson became their avatar. I’ve written two previous posts on avatars and profile fields. These activities took about 30 minutes of the lesson to complete. Next students moved onto the films.

The first film was linked from here . The second film embedded from teachertube. Students watched the films (all our PCs have headphones plugged in now) and did so very attentively. I next put a discussion forum in for students to write about the films. This was the prompting I gave them

forum instructionsStudents then posted their replies. I’ve picked a few random posts below. Some posts led to some great online discussions.  Most students didn’t get beyond making and reading these posts. Over the next two lessons I plan on covering other e-safety related issues. I’ll keep you posted as to how they go. (Nb to see the images below in better quality click or right click and open in a new window)

discussion1 discussion2discussion3discussion4discussion5discussion6

What’s the best way to introduce students to using a VLE? Students may be digital natives but my experience is that they don’t automatically know how to use digital tools effectively. They also don’t always know how to use digital tools sensibly. Children learn from an early age how to behave in a classroom and learn that different behaviours are acceptable in a classroom than are acceptable at home or in the playground with friends. In online spaces fewer students see these boundaries. For many students the internet is their playground and social space where they can say what they want to their friends using their own language and without having to worry about interference from parents and teachers. This in fact is one of the many reasons we are trying to combine the internet and teaching, many VLEs promise to make education available at home to students to use in their own time. I have seen many examples of students exhibiting what I would deem unnacceptable behaviour using VLEs and online tools. Examples are bad language, silly comments, use of offensive images, unconstructive criticisms of fellow students and just general sillyness. The vast majority of this is not done with malice but with good intentions or just for fun. When students use, for example, an online forum or chat, they are used to posting fun jokey messages to friends. Most wouldn’t dare do the same thing in an execise book, they would use formal language and no silly comments, the jokey messages to friends would probably be passed around bits of paper or in their personal planners.

So what is the answer? I believe students need good training as to how to use online tools sensibly so they can learn a difference between the classroom space and the playground space. If this is started young it should become second nature as students progress through school. A clear set of rules and consequences are also needed. These needn’t be overbearing or restricting. I asked some of my 6th formers to help come up with some simple rules for use of our VLE – this is what we’ve got to so far…

1. No swearing
2. No innapropriate images/video
3. No offensive behaviour
4. Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say to anyone’s face
5. All images/videos posted must have permission from people involved
6. If any of the above rules are broken the user may be blocked or face further punishment.

Certainly not perfect but simple. We’ll see how they go.

There is a worry that by separating the classroom online space from the playgroung online space and by training pupils in a more formal style of communication we will put them off using online tools for learning. But looking at it from another angle if we train pupils to use online tools sensibly and effectively it may change the way they use them socially for the better.

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.

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…

Another year older another year wiser, so the old adage goes. The problem with that adage is that technology moves so fast you might be wiser in one aspect but have completely missed out on something brand new that’s just come out. I try not to let that worry me though as if the new things are any good I’ll probably hear about it through a blog or twitter somewhere, if not then it’s yet another new innovation that’s passed the whole world by!

I’ve not had as much time to update this blog as much as I would have liked. I have much respect for some of the prolific edubloggers out there, especially those who are full time teachers such as Nic Peachey, Tom Barrett, Jose Picardo and Doug Belshaw. I just don’t seem to find the time and I’m not sure I ever will!

My excuse is that I am in, and I hope coming to the end, of my second year MA in ICT in Education. Yes I know some of the people I just mentioned are doing similar things or even doctorates but lets just pretend I didn’t know that! While my University assignments may take time that I could have spent blogging they have given me the opportunity to do some heavy reflection. In an assignment from February 2008 I had to write about the implementation of a technology initiative. I chose to write about the implementation of Rickypedia. It’s a little scary posting my rather rushed and unpolished assignment in a public forum for the first time but I hope it may be of use to people. It’s about 6000 words but I think is quite readable! It’s quite interesting looking back personally and seeing how my perceptions have changed even since February. I’ll keep you posted on the developments since then when I get the chance. Click on the link below to have a read

Implementing a Pilot VLE at Rickmansworth School (PDF 152kb)

So we’re onto the next stage of our VLE decision making. The last year with Rickypedia has, as I’ve said before, been a pilot project to experiment and learn. Now we are planning a larger and I hope more stable system. The first step was deciding which system to go with. We decided on Moodle for a number of reasons but mostly cost and the fact that none of the other systems we saw impressed us. (Maybe I’ll expand on this in another post though I’m a little bit worried about saying too much after Doug Belshaw’s recent experiences!) The next step which this post is about is whether to host the VLE in the school or out of the school.

I’m quite looking forward to writing a bit of a technical post but I’ll try not to make it too techie. Although the powers that be say that teachers should be teaching and not doing non-teaching tasks, an attitude that I do largely agree with, I do enjoy doing a bit of techie stuff. I’m ever grateful of our network manager and have no desire to do all of the hard work that he does, nor the knowledge to do it. But when it comes to websites and working on the VLE I’ve enjoyed installing it, playing with it and customising it. It has given me a lot of ownership, understanding and pride in the project. But it does take a lot of time and next year I’m looking forward to sharing the load with one of our network assistants/technicians.

Every VLE like any website needs hosting somewhere. In non-techie terms this means that the VLE (which is made up of webpages, resources and a database that links it all together) needs to sit on a computer somewhere so it can be accessed by everyone. This can either be done on a computer in the school, internally hosted, or on a computer outside the school, external hosting. Many VLEs have this option though some will require internal hosting. Our pilot VLE was hosted via siteground who provide cheap hosting on a shared server for about £40 a year. It’s a good place to start and experiment but it’s not a stable solution. The server it sits on at siteground is shared with maybe 50 or more other websites and if you have too many people accessing it at once things can start going wrong. I have read about some people getting locked out of their site and having to pay hundreds of pounds to upgrade before they can get back in. Fortunately we’ve not had these problems yet.

Our meeting to decide what to go with was held during the day a couple of weeks ago. At the meeting we had in attendance the headmaster, deputy head in charge of ICT, ICTAC coordinator, network manager, two network technicians, librarian, bursar and myself. I prepared a document for the discussion looking at the advantages and disadvantages of hosting internally and externally. The table showing this is below. The table wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive list but was everything I could think of in the hour before the meeting!

Internal

External

Advantage

Disadvantage

Advantage

Disadvantage

Single-Sign on

Security

Easy to set up

Users need to remember an extra set of passwords

Faster connection in school

Rely on school server and internet connection out of school

Likely to have less downtime than on school server.

School use depends on school internet connection

Future scalability

Tied in with 1 solution

Better security as no access to school server

Pupil data stored on a server outside the school

May be harder to administer upgrades/enhancements

Upgrades extra modules can be done for us.

May be additional costs for installing extra features in the future.

Develop in house skills so not reliant on one person

need the skills for maintenance

Maintenance and backups taken care of

Problems solved at the mercy of the hosting company.

Cheaper long term

Probably more expensive short term

Cheaper to set up

Yearly cost

space

Takes no physical space on school premises

The other point that I added was the option of hosting externally to start with and then moving it internally later on. According to advice I was given by some helpful moodle experts this is not difficult as long as you are using the same database (eg if you have mysql databases on both servers then it doesn’t matter if you use Windows/Linux etc). But if this is wrong please do correct me.

Thanks to those who helped me come up with the list, especially all those on Twitter who responded to my questions and Andrew Field who put a post up on effectiveict.co.uk that I still haven’t got round to responding to.

The discussion and meeting was very good. I went in with the preference of hosting internally as I believed this would be easier for staff and students to use. I knew though that there was a good chance we would decide on external hosting. At the meeting we discussed all the possibilities but at the end of the day it came down to two points from our network manager. He already has his whole Summer filled up with the installation of new servers and completely upgrading two computer rooms (as well as many other tasks I’m sure). He also pointed out that our room/cupboard that holds the servers is already at its limit with the amount of equipment that is there and there isn’t really room for a new server or adequate cooling and ventilation facilities. After those points we had no option but to go with external hosting and we will be reviewing this again next year. After all the reasons above the final decision came down to practicalities. I’m not disappointed as it was the correct decision to make and we can now move on to the next steps of choosing who to host for us and how we want to set everything up. We are pretty much starting again from scratch and have a blank slate for our new moodle. There is still a lot of work to do!