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.

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

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.

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)

Student e-council

Posted on June 5th, 2008 in rickypedia, VLE | 5 Comments »

After a year of our pilot VLE and a few years teaching ICT I was eager to hear the opinions of the students. I hear lots of little student comments and gripes during my lessons in the ICT suite. Most of them are “why has so and so got a better computer than me” pointing at the new flatscreen monitor on one PC. I then explain that they both have the same computer it’s just the old monitor died and we had to get a flatscreen to replace it. But there are plenty of very valid comments that students make and of course plenty of positive comments.

Setting up a student e-council was something that I had meant to do for a while. I think most schools now have student councils who discuss and feedback on a variety of issues in a school. Our school PE department set up their own sports council to find out what sports provision and clubs students wanted. For my e-council I picked two or so students from every year group to come to the first meeting. I picked the ones I knew were the most talented OR enthusiastic at ICT or the ones who were frequent users of Rickypedia (our VLE). From a scientific or research point of view this obviously isn’t a very good sample, but bringing this group of students together had other benefits. It allowed some of these brilliant minds to meet and ‘network’, it allowed me to get together a group of students who may be in the future be involved in training, design, resource creation and support of the VLE. It also meant I had a group of students who knew what they were talking about when giving feedback and the participants were certainly not out of touch with the average student.

Below are the minutes from our meeting (edited slightly for privacy). As you can see they came up with some brilliant suggestions and comments as well as a few that are just not going to happen (ie VLE with links to games not blocked by filters). I look forward to our next meeting soon.


1st of May, Meeting of “student e-council” to get student feedback on e-learning in School.

Invited Participants:

Year 7 x3 Yr 8 x3 Yr 9 x3 Yr 11 x1 Yr 13 x2 (1 year 7, 2 year 10s and 2 year 12s missing)

nb participants are all students who have used Rickypedia this year – I selected students who are either very active on Rickypedia or who I thought would contribute well to the discussion – the representation is probably skewed towards the more ICT literate students.

Feedback on Rickypedia:

+ve

Overall Very positive, “I like it”, like the messaging, much faster to use since the upgrade.

-ve

Some problems with blogs (Password problems having to retype it, highlighting doesn’t work). Would like a spellchecker, problems adding pictures to work.

What Extra Features Would you Like?

Place to store files

Having a personal webpage

Being able to personalise the site – add colours and widgets

More help pages

A place to put calendar reminders or notes for yourself

Live student chat

List of games that they could access through the school filters!

Would you be interested in (suggestions from teacher)…

Student E-mail accounts: Overall enthusiastic response, student who joined in year 9 said it would have helped her to make more friends if they all had school e-mails. Would be good for communicating with teachers.

Having one password for everything: Everyone agreed this is a good idea.

Social Features: Response was varied – younger students wanted a place to chat with friends, older students prefer to use myspace or facebook.

Being able to see attendance and grades: Not so excited about this but not negative.

Online application (ie Google apps – spreadsheet and word processor): Definitely liked this idea even if they don’t use it all.

Online library catalogue: Yes

Online Encyclopaedia (like Britannica): Year 13s said it would be extremely useful for projects especially if it’s accessible from home. Overall very positive.

Any particular resources you would like on a VLE?

– Would like to have all resources from lessons on Rickypedia, any powerpoints or resources that teachers use in lessons should be up. Useful if students are absent. Also if teachers make notes on interactive whiteboard they should save them and put them online (example of teacher who already puts his whiteboard notes in shared network folder for yr 11)

– Google search box so they can search for things without opening a new window

Ideas for Design of Rickypedia:

Less cluttered frontpage – there is too much on it. One suggested a hippy themed frontpage. Students enthusiastic about getting involved in the future design. Variation in preferences of older and younger students again.

General ICT Issues in the school: All brought up by students – not part of the original agenda.

MyClasslink (accessing files from home): Some students had problems but most said it worked fine – would like it integrated with rickypedia.

6th form laptops: Need Delphi on them (non-6th formers jealous that they don’t have access to laptops.

School Website: Needs updating – students eager to get involved in doing this.

More storage space: Students would like more storage space (especially KS3)

File types: Problems with students having latest version on Office at home and not being able to open it at school. Suggestion that all computers have the converter installed (or the latest version of office)

Would like Google Toolbar installed on PCs to make searches easier (they don’t like existing yahoo toolbar)

Our Rickypedia VLE is still very much a pilot website with only a selection of students and teachers on the system. I’ve added new students and classes as I’ve been ready to experiment with them or as I have had requests from other teachers.

One of our student teachers (or beginning teachers as they are now known) approached me about a month ago to ask if Rickypedia would be able to help her year 7 English class with their non-fiction projects. She was looking for somewhere where students could upload their writing, she could mark up changes and the students could then refine their work and resubmit it for further review. I realised that Moodle wasn’t necessarily the ideal solution (something like Google docs or a wiki may have been better) but it did provide a solution so I explained the system and what it could or couldn’t do. Next step get the class up and running.

The year 7 group in question is also a class I teach for ICT and this seemed an ideal opportunity to get them using Rickypedia for two subjects simultaneously. It also meant that I could use an ICT lesson to get the students started on moodle to make it easier for their English lesson. All students were enrolled in an ICT course and an English course and were given access to the “Student Room” a general discussion course open to all students on Rickypedia. I gave the English teacher a brief lesson on course editing and we were off and ready to go.

It’s always fun starting off a new class on something brand new but I was overwhelmed by the reaction of the class. They loved filling in information on their profiles (see earlier post). They loved their homework to create and upload an avatar. Some of them started exploring other features such as blogging and personal messaging and word spread (especially word about personal messaging). The enthusiasm from students blew me away and when I or the English teacher added something to the site they often discovered it before we told them about it. Students log on at all hours, before school and after school. I’ll try and keep you posted about their progress but so far it has been overwhelmingly positive, a few logging on issues but nothing major. One immediate issue that has come up from the English department is the lack of a spell check on moodle, this is something that I will look into.

Here are a few things that I’ve noticed about year 7s on Rickypedia compared to year 9 and upwards that I had so far added to Rickypedia

1. They don’t mind reading and writing on screen, in fact many of them seem to prefer it to paper – maybe this generation are natural technology users?
2. They love personal messaging each other and often do so about school work – I guess older students have other communication systems that they prefer to use.
3. They are not scared of messaging teachers. I seldom receive a message from older students but get a couple a week from year 7s asking about homework or technical problems – fewer inhibitions or less independent workers?

As I write at 12:30 on a sunny Saturday afternoon my Rickypedia site log shows 122 actions on the site this morning – all by pupils from this class.