Sunday, April 13, 2008

School-Wide Web2.0 Platform for the 2008-2009 School Year

It has been an amazing past couple of years in my role as a middle school technology coordinator. Our pockets of web2.0 use are starting to expand amongst our teachers, our parents are gaining in familiarity with the tools, we have administrative support, and we're preparing for an in-house mini-conference day on "21st Century Learning" with Alan November in October of 2008.

As we start to expand our use of these tools, it is becoming important that we have some coordination in the tools/platforms that we're using. With only a few teachers using blogs, wikis, etc with students, it hasn't been so important to choose platforms or make decisions on how student accounts should be created. But now we're at the point where we want the students to keep their digital profile with them from year to year. As a result, we're going to pick a handful of tools that we'll be using at the discretion of our grade 5-8 teachers (eg-some teachers will NOT be using these tools next year, and this is perfectly fine. But if they do decide to use them, then we have a fairly powerful and consistent toolkit to choose from).

Our toolkit for the 2008-2009 school year at this point is looking like the following:

Student Blogging Platform-In the middle school we'll be going with the eduBlogs Campus product. While it isn't cheap at $2000 USD for our middle school, it also requires zero in-house IT support to setup, configure, maintain, etc. I looked at several possible solutions this year, and it just seems like eduBlogs Campus makes the most sense. It has tremendous flexibility and controls-some blogs can be set to private and some to public very easily (we'll probably have our 5th grade blogs set to private for starters while our 7th and 8th grade blogs most likely will be publicly visible). This will give us the opportunity to give every middle school student their own personal blog space that they can use in all of their classes and that they can use from grade to grade. This tool will also be a great resource to use for our students to post their podcasts, videos, pictures and other like media.

Educational Voicethread-Our teachers really have done some great things with this tool over the past year. Unfortunately, the management of it has been a little tricky. All students in grades 7 and 8 have their own regular voicethread accounts, but they are limited to a maximum of three voicethread projects. Ed.Voicethread, which will cost around $600 annually, will allow our students to create as many voicethread projects as they'd like, and they'll be able to maintain their account from year to year which will serve as a kind of digital learning trail/portfolio.

Wikispaces-We've been using this tool for the past two years and we couldn't be happier. We don't pay for this service, but we do have our students create accounts and many of our teachers have their free educator service. We definitely need to standardize on the way we create accounts for students, because now the scheme isn't too consistent from grade to grade (which of course creates some confusion!)

Googe Aps School Edition-We got this up and running at the start of the school year for all of our middle school students and this has been quite successful. Many students haven't used it as they're so accustomed to using MS Word, but the upside for those who have made regular use of Google Docs has been extremely positive. We're going to really push all of our students toward making use of their school branded Google Docs accounts next year.

That is pretty much the web2.0 suite of apps that we'll be standardizing on with our students next year. Of course there are dozens of other apps that will be used along the way, but these are the web2.0 tools we'll be offering in grades 5-8.

Am I missing anything? How does this compare to the web2.0 platforms that your school is using? What do you think about this strategy?

5 comments:

  1. Holy Cow! That is intense. We most certainly do not have a School-wide web platform. We (with much griping and fighting) finally got all the teachers to agree to send emails home on a bi-weekly basis. And that even barely gets done.

    I am trying to involve teachers in more Web-based apps, but participation is low.

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  2. jehtro-thank you for the comment. The situation certainly isn't as rosy as perhaps I make it out to be. I'm guessing that next year perhaps 20-30 % of our faculty in grades 5-8 will make somewhat regular use of these tools. But these 20-30% I know will do some pretty creative and powerful things-and they'll share their success with other grade level team members and department members. So I'm guessing this percentage will grow a bit by year's end.

    From the standpoint of a instructional technology collaborator with these teachers, this system should make everyone's lives a bit easier. Instead of always deciding upon a service to use and how we'll be setting up accounts, we'll already have this scheme ready to go for blogs, voicethread, google apps, and wikispaces. So our conversations should be a bit more meaningful-instead of "how will we do this" we'll be able to spend more of our time planning interesting learning experiences.

    Thanks,
    Matt

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  3. I'm in the same boat as Jethro. I have struggled to even get all of my faculty to use email for school communications...very few use it as a communication tool with parents. I am always incredibly enthusiastic about all of these wonderful tools that are available for education, but no matter what I do, I just cannot generate ANY excitement with my teachers. It can get a bit frustrating at times, but I'm just going to keep plugging away and try to model these tools as much as I can...maybe someday, my hard work will pay off...

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  4. @Jerry - keep at it and work with your pockets. That is what I've done and the pockets have expanded. We still have a long way to go and like I said, I don't think a great percentage of folks will make use of these tools in the first year. But I know it will grow when others see the success. Good luck! I look forward to hearing of your progress.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post!

    Cheers!
    Matt

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  5. Matt--This would be a great syllabus for a course for parents. I sat with one parent today for an hour and all she kept saying is, "What do I need to know?" Well, since some of our kids will be (or are already) using these apps., this would be the foundation for Web 2.0 101 (that's too many numbers, I know, but you get the point).

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