Sunday, 30 March 2008

Tandberg Content Server

A group of ePrincipals has been meeting to discuss Protocols around the use of the Tandberg Content Server. (TCS) the TCS records video conferencing sessions, stores them on a server, where they can be edited and made available for others to view. We talked about it's purposes for use and the management of this tool. It could be used for:
  • capturing generic lessons such as demonstrations, practicals, interviews with experts;
  • students can use it to catch up on missed lessons;
  • eteachers can use it in their appraisal process; capturing sessions for teacher pd;
  • authenticating student work such as oral language presentations, & practicals that can be performed in front of VC
Issues surrounding its use and management were to do with how long to keep the content, archiving & deletion. Access to logons & passwords - only ePrincipals have access at the moment, booking recording time with Asnet who currently manage the TCS, recording with the knowledge & authorisation of all those in a VC, how to allow access to the intended audience without logons & passwords. (This one was solved pretty easily by Trevor who discovered that individual recordings can be passworded - thereby all you need is to provide your audience with the URL & the password to view)
I think this is a great tool for our online learning toolbox but still a little ahead of our time for seamless operation with our still limited bandwidth. The biggest barrier is the huge files sizes - a 2min clip is about 35 mb. A typical VC is likely to be an hour.... you do the math.
Asnet will copy recordings to DVD & post out to schools but to realise the full potential we should be able to stream or download quickly on demand - still away off for us who in the rural remote areas (which is most of the VLN schools) are a long way off joining any high speed loops anytime soon.

Friday, 28 March 2008

SMS Roadshow

I took myself along to the MOE SMS Roadshow to get up to speed on what is happening with developing initiatives.

The day focused on enrol, electronic attendance, early notification, lms/sms interoperability & e-asTTle. The MOE has set up yahoo user groups for each sms so that feedback & discussion can take place around the performance & the development of these SMS.

I was particularly interested in hearing more about the lms/sms interoperability as many of our schools are ready to go into an lms . I don't think we have anymore conclusive information to help in choosing lms than we did when i wrote about this last year. One thing i was able to determine was that the interoperability development was following open standards, meaning that eventually any lms should work with any sms. For example if you have MUSAC for your sms then you won't be tied into using KnowledgeNet. So i guess my advise for schools choosing an lms now would be just go ahead and make a choice (regardless of your sms) eventually all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle will fit together.

Links from the roadshow

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Te Reo Online

Back at Opunake today to spend a PD day with Rangiroa. Our main focus today was the development of his course for putting onto his class website on Interact. We discussed the challenges of teaching his L1 Te Reo class of mixed abilities & ages - year 9 through to 12. There are students who are thinking this is too hard and others way too easy. We talked about how best to meet the needs of Maori students learning at a distance. There is an initiative running in all our cluster schools on raising Maori achievement so what about our maori students who are distance learners? We have talked about organising a VC hui for Maori teachers to discuss these questions. There is some interest from other teachers in the VLN schools but have not found someone with the depth of experience to lead and mentor this group of teachers.
A little googling shows me that there has been some research in this area but in the area of higher education. Maybe some of the answers can be found from the KAWM schools.
If you are or have been a distance learning Maori educator and would like to share your expertise with our teachers please contact me.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

ELearning @ Waitara

A short visit this morning to Waitara. I met a number of estudents and most seem to be well underway just one needing a rocket to encourage him to do more work when i produced an assessment for him to work on & he was a little unprepared... But students are well supported in this school largely through the efforts of Marilyn who is doing a wonderful job. My only concern is the sustainability of the extra workload put on one member of staff. Still early days at Waitara as this is their first year with any VC students and as a school they have more VC students than others in our cluster. They would be an excellent case study - questions being asked already relate to resource & funding of VC students, from the time it takes to supervise their study, to the setting up of practical lessons for physics, to the costs of providing new texts. It all adds up when you don't even have a budget allocation for any of it.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Coastal Maunga

A view of Taranaki from the Coastal side - not a speck of snow anywhere - an awesome day all around the maunga.

I had my first visit this year to Coastal School today. Coastal is unique as it is an area school with students from New Entrants right through to Year 13 (K1 - 12). It is great to be in a school where i may have a chance to work with the younger students again.

I met with Coastal VC students, a group of four Y11 taking Accounting, another taking Chemistry L2 & another Chemistry L3. They seem to have gotten off to a great start they couldn't tell me of any concerns they had. So just to make sure they were prepared for any eventualities i ran them through a few 'what if' scenarios to do see what they would do... All of these students say that having a class website with all their course work, notes & activities is really helpful especially when they may miss a VC from time to time. It is something that some of our own eteachers need to develop more fully and we also need to provide a better webspace for them to do that.
Joel our Coastal eteacher has developed his own website to deliver his own course content. A lot of work has gone into this site to prepare resources in a range of formats Keynote, PowerPoints, Flash & Podcasts and he is really happy to share these with anyone who visits his site. One thing i would say about this site is that it is static - a repository for the delivery of material, though there is a feedback form. There are no features for interaction here, such as bulletin boards, chat, IM. Having said that interaction around this class takes place in other forms - the weekly VC, emails, phone calls, & skype. We spent some time today looking at getting skype to work at school - we had the right settings from Telecom SchoolZone FAQs, i could get it working on my own computer but noone else could. Has anyone else had problems working skype through their school network - what are we not doing right?
I spent some time with Hamish, Coastal elearning lead teacher. Hamish gets a days release each week to lead elearning initiatives within the school and to work with teachers integrating ICTs in the classroom. Wahoo that would be a good thing for all our lead teachers :-) I am looking forward to my return visit so we can plan how i can best support him in this role.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Adobe Connect

I did a little PD session today on using the meeting feature of Adobe Connect (formerly Breeze). It was hosted by the Adobe Connect User Group Asia Pacific.
ELearning schools have the opportunity to use Breeze to support the delivery of their online classes. Just ask Eddie.
I can really see the potential of this for our classes - VC is not the only technology we can be using. I would also like to use it for facilitating PD sessions with our teachers.
You don't need any special software just a web browser and a fast connection and your away!
This PD session was recorded and can be viewed here.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Inglewood eLearners

OK not the best pic but just trying out my new cellphone ;-)
I met with students at Inglewood to see that they are all settled into their online classes well. They are a switched on group of young people & if they put the effort in are sure to do well this year. Students at Inglewood are studying Accounting, Te Reo & Art History.
I also met with Ross who is eTeaching (Ag/Hort). We looked at optimising images in online presentations to reduce file size & therefore upload & download time. We explored using SchoolZone mydesktop home web space for storing large files for students to access (Interact has a limit on file sizes). We talked about using copyright resources such as dvd, how to access video online (teacher tube & youtube) & sharing it with students. Ross is confident & interested in using technology to support his teaching so perhaps could be a good person to try out things like AdobeConnect, tandberg content server & exe editor tools.
I had some time with Michael who is currently on efellowship. I wanted to work with him on setting up a Moodle site for TaraNet. I look forward to having more time to catch up with him next time I'm at Inglewood.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Teaching Under the Microscope

Another session with Rangiroa at Opunake today. His VC class has really highlighted to me the demands we place on our eteachers as they 'teach under the microscope'. Everyday class dynamics such as mixed abilities, student & whanau expectations, even behavioural management are all amplified in an elearning environment. Teachers have to be quick to adapt to new technologies, extend and adapt their learning resources & teaching strategies, and be on the ball with communication with a widely dispersed group of people. It is not an easy feat to balance with the face to face demands of a busy school life. I guess what would make this challenge worthwhile is that we can make a difference for our students who would not otherwise have this learning opportunity and that along the way we are developing as teaching professionals to the benefit of all our students.

It was good to see Mark having a go at developing a Protopage site to showcase student work in the technology faculty. Check it out.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Clusters Collaborating

A new month, another VC meeting with the VLN cluster ePrincipals. Being part of the elearning cluster leadership group supported by the MOE has given this group a bit more momentum I think than it had in the past. We all share a similar direction (& also have the same accountabilities particularly in regard to funding - action plans, milestones etc) but we are all working through similar issues and have a lot to share and contribute that will be to the benefit of all our students not just our own schools.
The main focus of today's meeting was about the research that will be undertaken in support of this project. Eddie introduced Helen, elearning team research analyst, (sorry terrible pic taken on the phone). As a group we discussed what should our research questions be? What is important to know in our conversations with teachers, students, parents & the wider community?

  • Analysis & comparison of NCEA results - compared within schools, vc/non vc & nationally (student achievement)
  • Student engagement - what skills do they develop as elearners that they carry over into other areas (& vice versa - what skills are our students bringing to the elearning environmnet?)
  • Case study analysis of cluster demographics - what makes a successful cluster?
  • Student voice - their experiencee of a complex blended environment
  • Equity of access to online learning - often it is only the 'good' students who have access
  • ETeacher development - making the transition from a traditional to an elearning environment.
  • Teacher efficacy & enjoyment

It will be interesting to have some authoritative data to support our practice in schools instead of only working on what we believe to be true from anecdotal experience & a mish mash of available but mostly unavailable (or really difficult to access) achievement data.