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Just uttering the word ‘Ultranet’ around teachers is enough to stir emotion. Its fair to say I’ve heard more than mixed reviews of the conroversial Victorian government anitiative. For those that are not aware,  the Ultranet is state wide secure site for students, teachers and parents to collaborate within.

As a graduate techer I am yet to be ‘burned’ by the Ultranet and am open to giving it a go, however as I write this I feel I am beginning to feel the heat of an impending burn, mostly at this stage due to the frustration of a steep learning curve.

My initial thoughts and discussions with a fellow teacher has lead me to believe this amazing, inovative and ground breaking tool that will lead our students into a new stratesphere of learning may be well and truely over sold.

I must say that I do like some of the features, like the learning tasks section. I like being able to set a task, take notes on the students work, mark it, and link the task to a specific VELS standard. However there are a few reasons Facebook took over and crushed Myspace, one was it was simple to use! No longer did I have to mess around with HTML to personalise my page, connecting with others was a click of a button, everything I wanted to see was in one place, and everything was called and did exactly what it was supposed to do. My first impressions of the Ultranet have me comparing it to an even more complicated Myspace, which has lead me to explore ulternatives namely the much better marketed ‘Edmodo’ which styles its self as a Facebook for education.

From what I can tell so far I haven’t seen anything new on the Ultranet or anything that someone or something on the internet isn’t already doing better, e.g. Edublogs, Wiki’s, Edmodo, Pinterest, Twitter…etc.

I will continue to explore the Ultranet and educate myself on its uses. From what I’ve heard it is still a work in progress and is continually being improved with an eye to a possible relaunch in October (please correct me if im wrong or you have more info).

*Currently the Australian Education Union have impossed sanctions on the use of the Ultranet as part of industrial action over the current EBA*

What are your experiences of the Ultranet?

How do you use it in the classroom?

@Mick_Sweeney

Following up from my post on Edmodo and the thought of using it for writing.

I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of introducing word processing in the stages of writing as early as the drafting or editing stage.

My thought is that if students are required to use a word processor in the publishing stage why not get the students using it as early in the process as possible.


The way I imagine it working:

1. Note taking, information gathering, investigation.

2. Planning: Visual planner.

3. Drafting: Students onto the computers and writing their draft.

  • Once draft is done, digitally submit it through something like an Edmodo group.
  • Teacher reviews the piece, making notes and conferencing with student.

4. Editing: Students go back to their draft and make the changes suggested by teacher and changes they come up with themselves.

  • Again once they feel they have completed the editing phase they digitally submit it in exactly the same way.
  • Teacher reviews in the same way as the drafting phase.

5. Publishing: Students move to polish their piece of writing to produce as high a quality piece of writing as possible.

  • Students digitally submit again in the same way as previous.

*At every stage the teacher saves a copy of the writing to document the development.


I can see some negatives and obstacles:

Access to computers

If computers are limited, it may be possible to arrange timetable to have it so different classes are doing writing at different times so more computers are freed up. This is may be the hardest thing to overcome, either you have enough computers or you don’t.

Loss of handwriting practise

Beyond primary school students are going to be required to be proficient in word processing. I think it comes down to what is more valuable to the student, practise on a program like ‘Word’ & ‘Google docs’ or practise handwriting?

Use of spellchecker

I can understand the criticisms of spellchecker taking the thought out of spelling, but I feel if it is used properly there is merit in using it. Having students see the words spelt correctly and having to select the correct word when the options appear. May also instruct the students not to use the spellchecker in the draft & editing stages.

Students proficiency with the computers & at what level can something like this be implement?

Only use and practise will improve their skills. High school and beyond will require students to have these skills. If necessary or desirable you could give students the option of using the computers or handwriting. I’m also wondering at what age or level can student start to really get their teeth stuck into using tech?

I see it as being pretty hassle free. It would eliminate a lot of loose pieces of paper, no more different colour pieces of paper for different stages, no more stapling, no more filing, no more students losing their work, everything can be stored and kept on a hard drive.

EDIT 30/7/2011: I see the most benefit for the lower ability group for writing. For example the students that don’t like writing find it hard to write or struggle to spell and form cohesive sentences and paragraphs.

If the students can see the ‘red’ error line underneath the misspelt words and the ‘green’ line underneath the words or sentences that don’t make sense, hopefully they will be more likely to pick up what they are doing wrong.

With the spell checker, hopefully they will be able to identify what the correct spelt word looks like and can select the right option from the spell checker options.

How do apply the stages of writing?

When do you or think you should introduce word processing into the process?

I would love to hear any thoughts.

Cheers

Mick

At the beginning of the term I had been given 7 grade 5 students that struggle with their reading, to work with.

At the same time as this happened I had been delving deeper into twitter and various web tools for education which lead me to come across ‘Edmodo‘.

Edmodo can be described as a sort of educators ‘Facebook’.

I began by mucking around with it for a few days, logged in both as a teacher and a student to see how some of the features work and to better understand it. I then set up a group for my students to join.

I anticipated the students joining to be quite difficult to start with as I was dealing with students that had some learning difficulties and hadn’t had a great deal of exposure or experience with the internet and the computers.

It went better than I had hoped and all joined the group fairly quickly without much fuss. Which in hindsight has a lot to do with how easy the site makes it to join.

The Lesson

I had prior to the lesson posted a ‘poll’, a ‘comment’, some instructions and 2 videos for the students to explore and repsond too.

The lesson progressed and by the time the hour was up I had all 7 students in the Edmodo group, each had voted on the poll  (‘Who is your favourite character in Romeo & Juliet’) & left a reason why, each student had also watched the videos and responded to at least 1 of the 2 questions I had posted on them.

I was very pleased with the reactions I got from the students and even more pleased when two of the home group teachers told me that some of the students had be talking about the edmodo group for the rest of the morning!

I have since made a list of guidelines for the students to follow when using Edmodo.

I have also been thinking of other more effective ways I could use Edmodo in the classroom:

  • I would like to use it with writing. I imagine having the students on the laptops using ‘Word’ in the editing or even as early as the draft phase of writing, getting them to digitally submit their piece of writing through an Edmodo group.
  • I also had an example given to me from Josh whom I follow on twitter (@JPAghion).  Josh told me he uses Edmodo to support his student’s blogging. He set up the group for his students to :
    • Discuss various topics they might like to blog about
    • Draft questions
    •  Promote their new posts for comments.

Overall I love Edmodo! The fact that it has similarities to Facebook which makes it feel familiar and easy to use. The students also pick up on this point quickly and are more enthusiastic to use it.

Some of the main features are:

–          Polls

–          Ability to embed videos, pictures and sound

–          Hyperlink

–          An assignment section

–          Ability to create multiple groups

–          Security is good

–          Teacher is able to see and edit everything

These I’m sure are just a few of the more obvious features and there are many more things I will discover I can do with it e.g. Connecting with other edmodo groups and exploring the ‘Parent’ function.

I recommend you give it a go!

Have you used Edmodo before or currently use it?

I would love to hear what you use it for & how you use it!

 

 

Cheers

Mick 🙂