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

I was going to put this in a previous post but it seemed more sensible to put it as a topic in its own right. I’m calling this part one as I hope to add more posts on this topic later.

These are a few things I’ve noticed seem to work when introducing teachers to a VLE on an individual basis. To give some background my pilot VLE Rickypedia has a handful of teachers added who have expressed an interest. I have only run a half an hour group training session for some of these teachers. Obviously this is not ideal and something I hope to have rectified next year. Everything I have read about successful use of VLEs points to the importance of good staff training. Nevertheless many of us who work in schools, or I guess most of the real world, don’t have ideal circumstances much of the time. I hope these pointers of things I have found have worked well will be useful. Please do add to the list in the comments.

5 Tips for introducing new teachers to a VLE

1. Stress the importance of experimenting and not being scared to make mistakes. It’s amazing how easy it is for a teacher to get things wrong, for example confusing a live chat with a forum and setting up the wrong one. Easy to correct, no harm done and something learned.

2. Encourage teachers to look at each others’ courses. All teachers on Rickypedia have their global (or site) role set as non-editing teacher. This means they can peep in on other teachers’ courses without being able to edit them. I have got great ideas from other teachers and I know other teachers have got ideas from me.

3. Have a staff sandbox. In programming speak a sandbox is a place where you can run code without it being able to damage your system. In a VLE a sandbox can be a course hidden from students where teachers can experiment with features and build up confidence.

4. keep an eye on teachers’ courses so you can give them feedback. Some may comment that this is being nosey or interfering, but if you follow point three above you are just practicing what you are preaching.

5. Offer help regularly. A quick, “Is there anything you need a hand with?” in the staffroom can go a long way. Doing the odd favour here and there never hurts either!