5

Embedding in the Ultranet – Google docs

Google Docs are terrific for sharing and collaborating; the functionality of documents, presentations and spreadsheets is nearly as good as their Office equivalents and of course you can upload your existing Word, PowerPoint and Excel files and have them converted to Google docs.  I’ve not encountered any difficulty in uploading documents or images to Google docs from within the school network.

My favourite Google doc is the Google form, something that Excel has no equivalent for.  Google Forms allow you to gather informationww from people and have it automatically collated and collected in a spreadsheet.  They have all kinds of uses including surveys for research, collection of information and registration forms for event organisation.  I regularly use a Google form for our staff to register for workshops to attend during our Workshop Week each term.  As the registrations come in I can quickly get a visual idea of which workshops are filling up, then when registrations close I export the results to Excel for manipulation into confirmation emails and presenter rolls.

Google presentations are a useful way of putting a Powerpoint on a website (like authorSTREAM) but unlike authorSTREAM they can continue to be edited once embedded.  This opens up enormous possibilities for collaboration, probably no better demonstrated than by Tom Barrett’s Interesting ways series.  Here’s the one on (appropriately!) Google Forms:

With lots of fabulous ways to use Google forms with students I was very disappointed earlier this year when I found that a form would not embed in an Ultranet collaborative space.  Google presentations will not embed in a collaborative space either but you can configure an iFrame application and that works very well.  Of course, now I know not to expect “iframe”-type embed code to work, but I had completely forgotten that during my release 2 training last year I had embedded a Google Form into a Learning Task.  I’ve tested it again and it definitely works which is great to know because Google forms have lots of applications within Learning Tasks.

Inexplicably a Google Presentation will not embed in a Learning Task (I had high hopes there!).  I haven’t yet tested anything else in Learning Tasks – watch this space!

P.S. Another great use for your Google Docs account is for uploading/storing your images – very quick and simple to do.  Once in Google Docs each image has its own URL which means you can use this to insert it into any suitable Ultranet application without having to upload it to your content.

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Facebook

There is a lot of talk about Facebook – in the media, the staffroom, amongst the parents in the carpark.  Some parents flatly proclaim it the work of the devil while others get their under-age children online to help them acquire points in games.  Schools often have Facebook blocked but most students can freely access it on their phones.  Some teachers refuse to have anything to do with it because they think they’ll compromise their positions, while others seem blissfully unaware of any possible consequences.

Fact is Facebook itself is only a tool – it’s the way it is used that makes it useful or dangerous, good, bad or otherwise.

DEECD Technology A-Z warns:

SOCIAL NETWORKING/FACEBOOK

Safety information: Information posted on sites and in profiles is used to create targeted advertising. It is difficult, if not impossible, to delete an account once opened. There are privacy issues with Facebook. Users are offered the chance to ‘connect to your friends’ and then asked for their email account and password to collect details of email contacts in order to make the connections. All users (both teachers and students) should be aware of their digital footprint. Once images and content are posted online they may become public, despite your initial privacy settings.

The VIT Code of Conduct requires that “teachers are always in a professional relationship with the students in their school whether at school or not” but as explained here by Andrew Douch, this does not preclude the use of Facebook:

When I asked the [VIT] field officer about Facebook specifically, she confirmed that the alleged VIT anti-Facebook policy was unfounded, but cautioned that teachers who choose to use Facebook should make sure that their practice adheres to Principle 1.5 of the Code: “TEACHERS ARE ALWAYS IN A PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE STUDENTS IN THEIR SCHOOL, WHETHER AT SCHOOL OR NOT”  Part D of this principle says that a breach of this standard would include (among other things) “having contact with a student via written or electronic means including email, letters, telephone, text messages or chat lines, without a valid context”.

Therefore Facebook has no different standing to any other form of interaction, electronic or otherwise, between teachers and students.  It is the nature and topic of communication that is subject to the code of conduct, not the conduit of communication.  This is just as it should be.

Douchy’s WeblogVictorian teachers who friend students on Facebook will be automatically de-registered by the VIT

I strongly recommend staff do not ‘friend’ current students on Facebook; and I encourage them to carefully check their privacy settings to ensure that what is posted is shared only with friends.  If your friends have friends you do not know (and who doesn’t?) how can you be sure who is seeing your posts/photos/events or what your friends see via your other friends?  Another option is to categorise your friends in order to share only certain things with certain categories (see How to Friend Mom, Dad and the Boss from Read Write Web) but I still would not recommend being friends with an existing student.

Your profile should look almost anonymous to anyone who doesn’t know you, this is how mine looks.

If you wish to connect with your students the best alternative is to either create a Facebook page (which your students can ‘Like’ in order to see what you post there), or to create a Facebook group where you can control who can join and what is shared.

Categorising your friends, creating pages and creating groups is well explained in this article: The why and how of using Facebook for educators – no need to be friends at all.

Some of the differences between a Page and a Group are illustrated here:

Facebook Groups Vs Pages

Facebook Groups Vs Pages

At my school teachers of senior classes (VCE, years 11 & 12) have set up Facebook groups for their students; I encourage them to use a group for its immediacy and ease of communication but in conjunction to use the Ultranet to provide access to resources.

Recently I presented a workshop on using Facebook safely, creating a Facebook group and using the group to link to resources in the Ultranet – here is the presentation:

Andrew Douch has written about the value of Facebook Groups here: Why the Facebook group my students created for themselves is better than the discussion forum I created for them

Some more interesting reading:

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook An interactive graphic shows how default Facebook privacy settings have changed over the years.

3 Rules of Facebook privacy From Common Sense Media, good advice for parents to help your child set up their Facebook account with appropriate privacy settings.

Three ways to create fake Facebook profiles for historical characters from Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers. Use Facebook as a way for your students to consolidate and present their knowledge about a historical or fictitious character.

0

Embedding in the Ultranet – Glogster

Glogster

Glogster is a fabulous tool creating interactive posters. Glogs are an excellent format for students to create presentations showcasing their knowledge and understanding of topics studied.  There are heaps of options for customising fun and appealing graphics and text and all sorts of resources are easily linked or in the case of Youtube, placed straight on the Glog. You can read all about the benefits for students (according to Glogster) on the Glogster site.  I’ve used it as an ICT newsletter for our teachers (with the secondary motive of introducing Glogster)
and as a pathfinder of resources for student research projects.

Embedding in the Ultranet

Well…

Two months ago when I embedded the aforementioned ICT newsletter in our staff resources design space the code looked like this:

<embed width=”760″ height=”1028″ wmode=”window” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” src=”http://edu.glogster.com/flash/flash_loader.swf&#63;ver=1306921161″ flashvars=”sl=http://edu.glogster.com/flash/glog.swf&#63;ver=1306921161&amp;gi=20779579&amp;ui=8744139&amp;li=3&amp;fu=http://edu.glogster.com/flash/&amp;su=http://edu.glogster.com/connector/&amp;fn=http://edu.glogster.com/fontyedu/&amp;embed=true&amp;pu=http://edu.glogster.com/blog-thumbs/11/20/77/95/20779579_2.jpg&amp;google_analytics_url=http://edu.glogster.com/js/glogsterGA.js&amp;si=x&amp;gw=3,8,0&amp;gh=5,1,4″ allowfullscreen=”true”></embed>

and worked perfectly.

A few weeks later when I tried to embed the pathfinder into my library collaborative space the code looked like this:

<iframe src=”http://edu.glogster.com/glog.php?glog_id=21409784&scale=100″ width=”960″ height=”1300″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ style=”overflow: hidden;”></iframe>

and wouldn’t work at all.

That actually wasn’t a surprise because I’d already had failures with code that starts with “<iframe” but it was a BIG disappointment.  I got onto Glogster’s support site and posted a question about the code, specifically was there any way for them to provide “old style” embed code as an option (a la Youtube) but I haven’t had a response.

Incidentally, to make these glogs fit here I have slightly altered the code – where you see scale=100 I have changed 100 to 65, meaning 65% of the original size.

Network issues

All aspects of Glogster have worked perfectly within my school’s network and internet filters.

1

Embedding in the Ultranet – a new series

This is the first post in what I hope to make an ongoing series.ultranet_logo

Here in Victorian government schools we have a new-ish Learning Management System called the Ultranet.  Teachers will use the Ultranet to assign and assess Learning Tasks; to collaborate with their colleagues; record and share their professional learning and create resources for their students.

The Ultranet has Web 2.0-like tools such as wikis and blogs which can be used to provide access to all kinds of resources.  One of the key things I want to be able to do is to embed things I or others have created using other Web 2.0 tools – videos, podcasts,  animations, documents etc.  These might be resources I have prepared for my students or they might be the students own work.  I have found that some things embed easily while others simply will not.  My limited understanding of HTML code allows me to see the difference in the types of codes that embed and those that do not (any code that begins with “iframe” is guaranteed not to work) but sadly I don’t know what to do about it – perhaps someone will comment here and help me out.

What I do know is that it would be useful to others to know what will embed easily in the Ultranet before going to the trouble of creating something, rather than after, and that is what this series of posts will do.  Each post will also describe any other issues around using the tool in the school environment – for example something in the way my school’s network and internet filters are set up prevents me from uploading to certain sites even though I can visit and embed their content.

Future posts will describe a tool or range of tools that perform a particular function, with tips and ideas about how and when to use, but for today, just a couple of quick tips.

Youtube

Something as ubiquitous as Youtube doesn’t require me to explain anything about what it is and does BUT it’s worth knowing that you need to use the Old embed code for Youtube embeds to work in the Ultranet.youtube

AuthorSTREAM

I’ve described authorSTREAM previously, in this post.  Its embed code works fine in the Ultranet and there is no problem uploading your PPT file from within the school network (it can be scarily slow though, be patient it will get there).

Issuu

Again I’ve described Issuu in this post.  Embedding in the Ultranet is absolutely fine however I had to upload my PDF file from home.

0

Two great new tools

I’m always looking for useful tools to help me and other teachers to provide access to our documents and presentations in a really user-friendly way.  Two recent finds are authorSTREAM and Issuu.

authorSTREAM allows you to upload your PowerPoint presentations and then put them on another website (a blog, wiki, the Ultranet etc) using the embed code.  Yes, very similar to slideshare and other similar tools but what I really like about Authorstream is that it preserves your transitions and animations.  If you download their Powerpoint add-on you can also include YouTube videos in your uploaded presentations.  In addition, the add-on makes it super simple to locate and add YouTube and Vimeo video, and images from Flickr, with appropriate attribution of course!

Here’s a Powerpoint I’ve uploaded to Authorstream.  It’s one I created to demonstrate custom animations to my year 10 IT class:

Issuu does for PDF documents what authorSTREAM does for Powerpoints.  Upload your PDF to the site then grab the code to embed elsewhere.  This is a great way for teachers to provide their students with resources and information about a topic without having to email or share editable files.  The documents can be put front and centre on a webpage in a visually attractive, easily readable form.  On the site you can elect to have your documents private or public but even so I would exercise caution and not upload anything about individuals.  Issuu is also a fabulous way for students to publish their best work for sharing online – anything that can be scanned or saved to PDF can be uploaded.

Issuu is used by people to publish magazines – here’s a sample:

0

Podcasts

I love listening to podcasts! So often the radio is repetitive and boring (or full of sport) and when you have to drive 20 minutes or more to and from work it’s nice to think you can listen to something useful and actually get some value out of the time.  Even better, most podcasts can be downloaded automatically and for free from the iTunes store.

Online Degrees.org have just published their Top 40 podcasts for teachers.  It’s a fantastic list with suggestions for teachers of all disciplines and I’m going to have some fun checking out some new resources.  One that was missing is my absolute favourite podcast: The Ed Tech Crew which is produced by Tony Richardson of IT Made Simple and Darrel Branson (The ICT Guy), an Ultranet coach from Mildura.

Online Degrees.org have also recently published Creating an Educational Podcast which is an excellent rundown of things you’ll need to consider if you want to try podcasting yourself or with students.  For step-by-step instructions check out How To Podcast.

Have you ever created a podcast either with or for students?

What are your favourite podcasts to listen to (education related or not)?

1

Twitter rocks!

I know plenty of people have said it before, and plenty more will say it later…but Twitter rocks!  I have had two experiences recently that only confirm what a powerful tool Twitter really is.

The first happened last week.  I have been working on the new ning (I’ve written about the 2009 ning here and here) for next year’s year 12 cohort (we’re launching it to them during their early commencement program next week). 

As I had done with the original ning I applied via the Ning Help to have the ads removed as the ning is for purely educational purposes.  Last time it happened fairly quickly but I had been waiting several weeks with no movement of the ads. 

I have been struggling to use Twitter this term as our school internet provider has been quite erratic – even thought twitter is on the school “white list” I still get the red screen of death more often than not.  I think I’ve written here before that the iGoogle gadget BeTwittered still works even where Twitter is blocked but I don’t find it so useful or immediate as my usual Twitter client Twhirl.  Anyway, I happened to be making the effort to engage with Twitter last Friday and saw a tweet from Ning Advocacy so I replied:

ningtweet

A few minutes later I had this reply:ningreply

And not 10 minutes later the ads were gone!

The second great experience was today.  I have been helping out in a program for disengaged year 10 boys.  They are planning, constructing and planting a vegetable garden for the school.  The aim of the program is to keep these boys at school into year 11 and the VCAL program. 

My part has been to set up a blog where they can post their reflections on the project and put up their photos. 

blog

Today was the first opportunity we’d had to have them actually log on and write a post and all five of them wrote an introductory post about themself.  They also had a think about what should and shouldn’t be written on the blog and together we came up with some blogging guidelines (with help from Kim Cofino and ISB’s blogging guidelines).  They renamed the blog “The Mill Park Boys Outdoors” – I’d called it (boringly!) The Garden Project, I knew it would be changed!  When I got back to my desk I put out a couple of tweets asking for feedback.

garden

I was absolutely thrilled with the response and I can’t wait to catch up with the boys and get them to check it out for themselves.  I’m sure they will have new motivation to use the blog now that they know they have a real audience.

So thanks to all the lovely people who have responded (Roger, Shelley, Christian, Diane, Kate and Renai).  If you are interested in what our boys are up to visit The Mill Park Boys Outside and please, leave a comment!

2

Digital Bloom’s…it must be spring!

Bloom’s revised taxonomy and higher order thinking skills have been the flavour of the month here lately.

I came across Mike Fisher’s Visual Bloom’s wiki and forwarded it to my principal. 

Digital Blooms

She loved the visual representation with Web 2.0 tools  but wanted an annotated version to share with the leadership team.

Annotated blooms

Annotated visual blooms

Mike Fisher describes his work as “an implementation point, a discussion starter” and we had some interesting discussion about his diagram in our leadership meeting.  One person mentioned that she didn’t like the diagram’s similarity to the healthy eating pyramid and the inference that there should be more lower order thinking skills than higher order and her thoughts must have been echoed by others.  The diagram is described “a work in progress” and when I visited the site today I discovered that this revised diagram was added less than two days ago:

Visual Blooms 2

 

The new graphic also recognises that various Web 2.0 tools can be used at different levels according to the context of the activity.  The site is well worth a look at.

5

The Ning’s the thing

I’m part of a group from my school participating in the AGQTP Building the  Capacity of Professional Learning Leaders program (PLLP).  Our project is based around improving the study habits of our year 12 students and we’re focusing on two strategies.  One is to promote the use of John Munro’s Study Skills resources by teachers in their classes and the other is to set up a Ning to be used by students and teachers as a Virtual Learning Community.

My main focus will be the Ning.  The idea came from Adrian Camm’s Physics VLC which I wrote about earlier.  This Ning will differ in that it will only be for students at my school but will eventually (hopefully) cover all subject areas.

It is my first experience of setting up a Ning although I am a member of several others.  The setting up process was very straight forward, with only one or two surprises, although I’m sure there will be more hiccups along the way.  I’ve started by inviting the three other members of the PLLP group.  It’s been gratifying to see how quickly they have found their way around and started posting discussions, uploading avatars and customising their pages.  The first surprise came when I discovered that Anne had invited another colleague to join the Ning and she had accepted…and I had no knowledge of this.  I’ve now changed the settings so that I do have to moderate new members.  One thing we don’t want when this is opened up to students is them inviting friends who are not part of our cohort.  On the upside is the enthusiasm of Kate who has gone from not knowing what an avatar is to regularly checking in to see what’s been updated.  She says she can now understand why the kids love Facebook so much!

One of the discussions I’ve started is whether we should use photos or avatars on the site.  On one hand I think that given it is a closed community, just for our students and teachers, we should use photos to assist us recognising each other around the campus (900+ students on site).  On the other hand I think one of the goals of the ning is for us to promote safe online behaviour by modelling good practice – that would suggest that avatar’s are preferable.  What do you think?

I emailed the Ning team and asked to have the ads removed as we are an educational institution and they responded quickly and positively so that was very pleasing.

I’m still figuring out some of the structural stuff.  I’ve enabled chat but it doesn’t appear to be working from school although from home it does.  How do you add the Welcome page material for example.  Do we need all the sections – events, videos, photos etc.  What profile questions should we use to ensure the users are authentic?  Will we insist on using full proper names not nicknames?  How will we organise students getting invited to join? Etc, etc…

Love to hear your opinion on any of this, watch this space for further developments.