Friday marked the end to the first quarter of the school year at ISB. As my first quarter here comes to a close I’ve started to reflect on the experience so far.

There is a reason why international schools make you sign a two year contract. It takes at least a year to get your feet on the ground, to figure out where you belong in the school, and acclimate to the your new host country.

Personally Thailand is feeling more like home daily. Our stuff has arrived from Shanghai and our apartment is feeling more like home every day. We’re slowly figuring out the language, the customs and just how to live. It takes time to adjust. It takes time to find the right milk brand, the fruit you want, the stores with the best prices, etc.

On the school front I’m feeling a little disjointed at the moment. I feel behind the scenes we’re doing some good stuff.

  • We’ve created a school YouTube account and already have 31 videos uploaded.
  • We’ve bought a Flickr account for ES, MS, and HS. The elementary has already uploaded over 1,000 pictures.
  • We’ve launched PantherNet

PantherNet will be our educational portal when it is complete. When complete the image below depicts what will be in place for teachers and students.

ISB e-learning portal by you.

Moodle is already up and running, Elgg and WordPress MU should be in place before 2nd Semester and the wiki by the end of the year at the lastest. By the end of this year the school should have an e-learning portal in place that if it chooses to go 1:1 will be able to support the use of laptops in and out of school.

Even though the school has the hardware, human resources, and the e-learning space in place. It is still trying to wrap it’s head around this new learning landscape we now find ourselves in. What does learning look like?

We’ve moved past trying to integrate technology, and looking at what learning looks like in 2008 and beyond.

I think ISB is ready for that transition. We have the systems in place, we have the resources in place now we just need to take that leap and change our teaching methods and our learning outcomes to match the skills and ideas that students will need for their future and not our past.

So in about mid October I installed our own installation of Elgg. I did it for two reasons:

1. It integrated with Moodle which we already use. That way if a student had an account in Moodle already, they could us the same username and login to get started using Elgg. The two would be linked giving more flexibility for blogging in Elgg but keep the Learning Management System of Moodle.

2. We were having more and more teachers wanting to blog and I was/am trying to find away to keep all those blogs in one place. We had 5th graders using Blogmeister, Middle Schoolers using their own WordPress installs, and another teacher using Edublogs. I wanted to try and find away to put all the blogs from the two campuses in one location and allow the students from both campuses the ability to interact with each other, comment to each other, and join communities with each other.

As much as I love the concept behind Elgg it’s been frustrating to work with. Not two days after the first class signed up with it we started getting an error message on our shared hosting site. It kept saying we were exceeding 20% of the CPU memory. I’ve trying to find an answer for this, send a number of e-mails, and posted it in the elgg.net community only to find out others have been having this problem as well. After 2 months of this happening and because it sits on the same site as our Moodle install and the error knocks Moodle down for awhile, I’ve decided to change.

Then there is the community thing. I love the idea, but in a school setting the administrator needs to have more control over those communities. You can’t delete them once they are created and anyone can create a community. In my opinion the admin interface needs a little more work, being able to quickly find users to reset passwords and such.

I know it’s still in beta and I take full responsibility for jumping out there with a program that isn’t fully developed yet…but oh the pain.

So, I’m in the process of setting up a WordPress MU site. I’ve been working with WordPress for over a year now and understand the coding a little bit. It also just has a bigger community, so answers are easily found within the MU support forum. Just a quick look through the support forums shows that edublogs own James Farmer has done a lot of work and continues to help WordPress MU become even better.

Now I’ve got to get my teachers away from using group blogs. They are having a hard time trying to figure out how to manage 70+ blogs. Instead they create 4 blogs and make every student a contributor to that blog. Which you can do, except that you have to add users one by one and only the admin can do it. So 1 1/2 hours later we have our first 72 users. Hopefully I can start getting teachers away from this group blogging format and into a individual blogging mode and really allow students to become creators and contributor to the world of knowledge.

[tags]WordPress MU, Edublogs, Moodle, Elgg[/tags]

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