Google Apps, WP Blogs, Moodle

View from my place in bangkok Still trying to remember where my summer went, I find myself back in Bangkok and preparing for the year ahead. This could be a big tech year for my school. Things are in place to start really using technology in some innovative ways. Not that we haven’t in the past, but the systematic changes we’ve made this year will definitly add some ability to use technology in much more authentic ways.  We continue to roll out our 1:1 program this year with all 6-8th graders getting a MacBook Pro to start the school year off. Next year will be 9-12 and what excites me is we have 5th and 4th grade teachers already asking ‘how about us?’.  We’ve continued with our stratagy of building our online communication and blended learning enviornment around three key tools. Google Apps, WordPress Blogs, and Moodle. Google Apps: We’ve just finshed rolling out Google Apps to all teachers on our main domain so all students and teachers are now officially on the Google Apps platform making the ability to use calendars, docs, and sites that much easier and much more powerful. What is also great is the resources around Google Apps for Education, Google has done a good job of getting videos, handouts, etc out there for others to use…and at the same time keep innovating with their apps. Speaking of which another Gmail Lab extension hit sometime last week I think. It’s called Preview Pane and basically gives you the 3-column view like Outlook. Another great feature to help those who are use to this view make the transition. If you’re a long time gmail user this might not be a big hit…but for teachers transitioning from a desktop client it could be a stepping stone.     WordPress Blogs: I’m excited each year now as we continue to grow how we’re using blogs at our school (download the free PDF to the right for more info). This will be our 4th year using blogs. What I love most is that the blogs and blogging has never been a focus of the tech team or the school yet this year every 3-12th grader will have their own blog. My school does have a definition of learning though: Learning is the primary focus of our school and we recognize learning as a life-long adventure. We value meaningful learning where...

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Blogs as Web-Based Portfolios PDF

The 2009-2010 school year ended for me early today and I’m just wrapping up a few loose ends before I head into vacation mode for the summer. I did want to release the Free PDF of the Web-Based Portfolio series I’ve been working on for the past couple of months. I’ve taken the four blog posts and put them into this PDF that you can download and use if you would like. If this topic is interesting to you, I encourage you to join me at my ISTE 2010 Workshop that I’ll be doing on this exact topic (just a few spots left). You can register for the all day workshop here. We’ll be going in-depth, looking at student work, and if you’ve never used a blog before we’ll get you set up and at least take one for a spin. Click on the picture to get your free...

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Blogs as Web-Based Portfolios Part 4

(Part 4 of 4 on a series of blog posts to be made into a free PDF. Your feedback, ideas and thoughts are critical! Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3) Making your WBP an Open Platform for Learning The two major benefits of having a Web-Based Portfolio are: 1) They are accessible from any Internet enabled device2) The ability to share knowledge and information with a wider audience It is point number 2 that I feel WBP holds the most impact on students and their learning. When students have an audience that extends beyond the walls of their classroom something happens. Their writing, their content, their creations become important. Time and time again I have had teachers from 4th grade through 12th grade come to me and talk about how their student’s writing changes (always for the better) when they have an audience beyond the walls of their classroom. I believe there is a mental shift in all of us when we know that this post/product, is going to be read, watched, or listened to by others. We do better work, we try harder, and we want it to be good. By giving student a space, allowing them to own it, and encouraging them to share their knowledge within it, we receive better work from our students. Students produce exactly what we require them to produce. If we require them to produce content that is potentially viewable by billions of people that is exactly the content we get. If you are not going to make your WBP open to the public then there really is no point to create WBP in the first place. The public part is what makes WBP so powerful. It’s what allows a 5th grade student to teach other 5th grade student about variables, or an 8th grade student to teach other middle school students around the world about Internet privacy. When we allow students to openly reflect we never know what connections will be made or where it might take those students. It feels good, no matter how old you are, to know that someone else is reading your writing. WBP give authentic power to students to create content not only for the purpose of school but also for the purpose of self worth, and self motivation. Conclusion In the end I believe that giving students a web-based container that they control, that...

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Blogs as Web-Based Portfolios Video

Chad Bates my IT Director sent me this great video today. What I love is many of the points I’ve been making in my series of blog posts on blogs as Web-Based Portfolios (1, 2 and 3) come through in this video. It always makes me feel good when I see that others are thinking along the same lines as I am. In Part 3 I talk about the different systems schools can use. This school has gone with option 3 and it seems to be working well for them. Some great suggestions here on how to make your Web-Based Portfolio system work! Short Portfolio Project Movie – narrated from Lawson Journalism on...

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Blogs as Web-Based Portfolios Part 3

Part 3 of a series of blog posts to be made into a free PDF. Your feedback, ideas and thoughts are critical! Part 1 & Part 2) Options for a WBP Blogging System There are three different ways you can build a WBP Blogging system for your school. Each option has both positive and negative factors to consider. In the end a conversation with the educational technology people in your building will help to decide what is the best system for you to adopt. Option 1: Self-hosted SystemThe best system by far is to set up a self-hosted blogging system on your own school network. This allows the school full control over the content, look and feel, and even the space allowed to users. Using a powerful open-source program like WordPress makes setup and installation straight forward. The self-hosted system allows a school to also brand the WBP system allowing the look and feel of the system to align with school communication standards. A school can also control if the system is open to the world or installed only internally, or a combination of both. Using blogs as WBP allows a school or district a great amount of flexibility in designing the system as well as controlling the system as it grows over time. The downside of hosting a system is that a school must commit both financial and hardware resources to the project. Although server space is cheap, it still costs money and as the portfolios grow over time more space will be needed. A school can also find inventive ways to outsource videos and images, which tend to take up the most space. Images for example could be outsources to a photo sharing site such as Flickr or Picasa. Videos can be outsources to places such as YouTube, SchoolTube, or TeacherTube. There is also the human resource factor that a school is reliable for. Having an IT technician that can oversee the servers and the upkeep of the system is probably the largest expense a school will have in setting up a self-hosted WBP system. Option 2:Cloud Server Based SystemIf you can’t afford everything up front for your WBP system. Then consider a Cloud Computing Based System. Cloud based systems like the hosting company Rackspace just released called Rack Space Cloud is a great alternative. With their 24/7 Support line, you get all the support you need...

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