Student access to web tools

Presently I am working in an education environment that restricts student access to web technologies that I would like to use.   Keeping students safe is of course of paramount importance, but as we live in the 21st century awareness and use of these technologies are the skills our students need to develop for their future work life.  Working with a group of senior students, we were unable to access multimedia tools and reverted back to moviemaker and powerpoint.  Then came the opportunity to introduce students to networking, blogging, wikis and the like, and again I met with similar frustrations.  I turned to my professional network for advice in this regard and an  interesting discussion then began on this topic with both points of view being expressed in relation to working within the e-learning environment provided by Education Queensland (The Learning Place) and access to resources outside of this environment.

I share here some of the discussion for the information of other educators.  Undoubtedly there will continue to be two viewpoints amongst educators on this issue, similar to those expressed by Shane and Jonathan.

Shane Roberts:

Why would one need to specifically teach their students (and other staff) togo beyond the realms of EQ.  I’m not saying there isn’t relevant stuff out there beyond EQ, but setting out to send students and staff beyond EQ as the first option is not safe practice.

As stated, there is relevant stuff out there, but purposely promoting
external services equivalent to services offered by your organisation is not safe practice.  Ever been to a Telstra store for them to promote another carrier?

My main point of the first email was to outline the services available to EQteachers.  This was not an effort to single out Qld state / public teachers and I apologise if anyone else on this list feels marginalised by this conversation but the initial email was targetted to EQ teachers.

If one takes the time to explore Learning Place, BlackBoard, Voicethread, iConnect (Elluminate), and Curriculum Exchange they will be amazed at the functionality and resources they have access to.

And finally, we (EQ) teachers need to restrict publishing of student work to
public places to ensure student safety.  It is all about providing a safe
environment equitably for thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students in an EQ location.  This is no different to any other learning environment needing to be safe.  As a HPE teacher I know students at some stage may swim in the surf.  This does not mean I teach them there.  I would love to be able to have open access, but as an employee of EQ I don’t, and it is therefore my responsibility to ensure I follow policy and expectations.

Something else to consider is that any work we produce is owned by EQ, not personally by us.  Therefore decision to host outside of EQ services cannot be a decision made by an individual teacher.  Its also important to note
that we do not own student work either, and requiring them to host outside EQ services is fraught with danger in my opinion.  Now this generally gets the back up of many people but it is true – the work is owned by EQ therefore they control copyright.

Jonathan Clark:

OK. How about this scenario?…

/You’re organising a Travel Buddy project with a teacher in the USA.
That teacher says, “Great. I am excited about this. I am going to make a
web site where we can place pictures, conversations and things we learn from our Travel Buddy exchange.” The teacher sets up the site, but of course it’s blocked in EQ so can’t be shared with the class.

“OK,” says you, “I’ll build the site in Blackboard (ie within the EQ
System).”
/
On the surface this seems OK. But the issues I have are:

a. It takes away the initiative the teacher from the USA showed. I have
to say to her, “I can’t use your site, but you can use mine (if I set
you up access).”
b. It means that I have to do that work. It’s harder to share the load.
c. It smacks of arrogance. “OK. We can collaborate, but you have to do
it in OUR system, as we are not allowed to use your system as our
department views others’ systems as inferior (and unsafe).”

This scenario is happening to me right now.

So, in answer to Shane’s question: Because I want to collaborate on a
legitimate and valuable educational project with a teacher outside the
EQ system (and indeed outside my country).

BTW How many real problems were created in the past from all those
online curriculum projects we designed, built and participated in well
before our education systems started building their own online facilities?

Margaret Lloyd, Ph D:

Thank you to all contributors to this conversation thus far – the postings have given us a glimpse at the complexity of the whole issue.

My first response is to be concerned about the oz-Teachernet projects and their future in Queensland state schools. But this is something I will follow up off-line with the Learning Place. I am hoping that our projects – and we’ve just launched Land Yachts for the third time – are going to be seen as OK. We do spend considerable time and effort to make our spaces ‘safe’ and ***touch wood*** have had no incidents of inappropriate behaviour from teachers or students in the 15 years we’ve been running online projects.  We don’t charge anyone anything – and never have. We think we are running these projects for the ‘right’ reasons and putting some real power into the hands of kids and teachers. Although similarly based in Queensland, we don’t see ourselves in opposition to the Learning Place. We see them as complementary.

Having said that, I do understand why EQ, or in fact, any system does what they do to protect the kids in their care. It would be irresponsible to allow Web 2.0 into schools and not put any boundaries on its use. I have this feeling that an equilibrium will one day be found between care and access. All systems need to begin with rules and tight parameters that start to be relaxed as people feel their way with what they can and can’t do, or should and shouldn’t do. Having said that, I am prepared to put up a fight to continue to have EQ schools take part in oz-Teachernet projects. Last year, Land Yachts had 400 kids in all states of Australia taking part. None of us would do anything to put any one of those kids at risk.

Andrew Westerman:

In EQ, the Learning Place provides a location for parents and schools to
set up booking timetables for interviews via The Learning Place. This is
secure. Frankly, I would have thought a system based on email would have
been sufficient or better, but the facility is there if EQ schools want it.

The Learning Place also offer blogs (to refer to Marie’s query). While
Global Student may provide a more attractive interface, the
functionality is the same. But security is guaranteed with the LP.

As a teacher, I cannot be sure who runs or works for Global Student.
This means I am exposing my children to potential threats by using it.
Most teachers can see the possibilities for breach of duty of care in
that, especially if the blog is very personal (as we hope some will be).

Michael:

“Why would one need to specifically teach their students (and other staff) to go beyond the realms of EQ”

Because there is a big wide world out there that is inhabited by all the
students we teach on a daily basis, because every teacher has their own teaching style, preferences and needs, because teachers specifically (as a profession) are open and adventurous and like to try new things to see what works best in their classes (and every class dynamic is different), because teachers like to share and collaborate with teachers and classes all over the world. Or maybe we could just wrap Queensland in cotton wool, cut all the cables and pretend that there is not a world out there that our students need to be prepared for.

Jenni Fewtrell:

With Ed Qld’s revised Code of Conduct it looks like we may have to work
within the Learning Place for blogging and other collaborative projects.

Maybe with all of us working together to provide feedback about the
functionality of the LP. they will work on better usability for our younger students. For one, the multiple passwords to access LP is so difficult with any primary student.

We can only try….

Well said Jenni. 


Terrific Tools

Like most people who write a blog, there is never enough time to write about all the wonderful and interesting tools that are constantly evolving.  To keep this post manageable, I’m mentioning a few of the fabulous tools that I have come across in the past weeks  via the various networks that I attempt to keep up with.

Networking

StumbleUpon, a social media site that enbles users to discover and rate webpages, photos, videos, and news articles, has become a favourite plugin on my toolbar. If you haven’t tried it out, I’d encourage you to do so.  Like most networks or tools, StumbleUpon’s features are best experienced than described.  Briefly, you can identify the topics/areas you are interested in, then when you click the Stumble! button on your toolbar, it will present a site based on your selected interests.  You can then give it the thumbs up or down to refine your preferences.   Once you start using the tool, you see its wonders (and its addictiveness).  Since using it, I’ve come across some fabulous tutorials which I may not have otherwise found.   It can be used as a marketing tool, or in the case of educators, networking with other users to gain interesting and useful information.  Here are 5 power tips to get the most out of using StumbleUpon.

Information Organiser

The Personal Brain is a free downloadable visua information organiser that sits on your desktop and facilitiates keeping track of projects.  Great for a visual overview of what is going on either at work or home.  You can have as many ‘brain’ projects as you wish, or you can divide one ‘brain’ into different projects.  So it can be used for work/home.  Keep all your work related projects together and same with personal.  Notes can be added, web links, even files and images and there’s also a calendar.   It has potential in the classroom for brainstorming projects, project planning and even as a revision tool. Here’s a Youtube review of Personal Brain.

After using this tool now for several weeks, I’m quite impressed with its functioning.  It is intuitively easy to use, adding a new project is as simple as clicking on ‘Thought’ from the drop down menu > Parent Thought.  Add a sub-thought to this > Child Thought.  For a completely new brain > File > New Brain.  A paid version is available, obviously with more features. The free version has enough options to make it very usable and worthwhile.

Educational Videos

Teachers TV is certainly one of my favourites places to go when I want videos for the classroom, classroom management and personal development. Although I joined earlier this year, a mention of Teachers TV on Paul Hamilton’s site prompted me to go and take a deeper look.  As mentioned in Paul’s post, there is an incredibly rich supply of resources available on this site. What makes the site even more usable is that vidoes can be downloaded or watched directly via Quicktime or Windows medial player.  This overcomes the buffering problem that happens with watching online videos.  If you haven’t been acquainted with Teachers TV, I’d certainly encourage you to do so.

WatchKnow is an emerging  non-profit, online community that encourages everyone to collect, create, and share free, innovative, educational videos. Although not yet officially launched, it is available for beta-testing.  You just need to sign up (username and password is all that is required) to add videos.  The library is still building up.

Presentation Tools

Flowgram is Larry Ferlazzo’s No.1 site for Best Web 2.0 Applications for Education 2008. This is a great tool for presentations, tutorials, web and photo sharing; audio can be added and comments made by viewers. 

Magshow is a slide show creator alternative to my favourite slideshow creator, Smilebox (which requires a download and this proves difficult on different computers in a school setting).  Magshow enables the creating slideshows, panoramas or make your own map.

Rock You is a great new slideshow sharing site I came across via Larry Ferlazzo’s Best Web 2.0 Applications for Education 2008, rated No. 11by Larry.

Automotivator is a poster site I came across via Paul Hamilton’s site.  Create a motivational poster by uploading your own image or choosing a random image, add a quote and title, save to your computer or upload to a site.  This is an alternative to Bige Huge Labs which also has a poster feature.

Extranormal is another great tool that has potential in the classroom for students across the curriculum and across the grades.   It’s new animation tool that is so easy to use.   It claims if you can type you can create a movie.  It could be used for story making, explaining facts or concepts (either the teacher creating or students displaying their knowledge), revision topics, language students and so on.  I came across this via Paul Hamilton’s site.

ICT Tutorials

I came across ICT Teach via Patricia Donaghy’s site and it has been a minefield of wonderful free tutorials. Not only for school use but for my own personal learning.   For example, I have never found easy to understand tutorials for Photoshop and gave up on mastering its workings.  ICT teach has great simplified vidoes which enabled me to finally grasp the program.  ICT teach is aligned to UK syllabuses, nevertheless  all tutorials have universal value.  I’m continually going back there to check the resources, lesson ideas and just-in-time learning.  There is also what appears to be just about a whole syllabus set of resources on the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) which is an internationally recognised qualification which covers the key concepts of computing.  I got really excited about the prospect of this availablility in schools in my country.  It probably won’t happen, but isn’t it a wonderful concept that we could be teaching kids skills that would have universal recognition?

Image by macropolous