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paul reid • blog » PLE
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Dec 14

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OpenAcademicI am impressed with the way OpenAcademic unifies powerful social-software technologies - the learner centred experience of Elgg, the community functionality of Drupal and Moodle’s course management + a Media Wiki. Refreshingly though, openacademic.org isn’t just buzz - it is actually happening. Coincidently, listening to a webcast the other day, some North American educators were discussing the prospect of a tool that unified various education focussed open-source social software technologies; I realised later they were talking about OpenAcademic. This discussion on EdTechTalk about ePortfolios in schools was of particular interest. It totally changed my understanding of what an ePortfolio should and could be.

I firmly believe the future of the ePortfolio as a concept is central to a future system-wide SOE (Standard Operating Environment) based on a social-software system (hopefully flexible and open-source) such as is mooted at openacademic.org. Perhaps beginning at the end of the decade? We teachers are currently attempting work with unsuited technologies, trying to achieve e protfolios we know have advantages for students, parents and teachers alike. What we really need are collaborative social-software systems hosted on the Internet in relatively open yet still safe and secure networked environment. WordPressIn the real-world, I accept this is some way off as an SOE, but still similar systems are within reach at the moment - a hosted version of Moodle, or as a simple content management system, WordPress for example: take the interface for the writing (blogging) system which is simple in form - *the emphasis with social software tools is on student produced content, and collaboration* - not WordArt - if I may just highlight an odd primary school example that some of my esteemed colleagues see using ICTs as meaning. MoodleIn keeping with the focus on learning content and collaboration, the filing system and presentation online is automated - these two large stumbling blocks are removed to allow the building of effective ePortfolios. In fact even the Moodle and WordPress interfaces are simpler than those of offline business/office tools we currently contort to fit educational needs such as Word, PowerPoint and Publisher.

In terms of the efficacy of ePortfolios as a ‘reporting’ mechanism in a K-7 setting there is definitely potential for a social-software e portfolio to be of great use. The time-saving aspect of a system utilising Elgg, Moodle, MediaWiki, Drupal or WordPress will appeal to Drupalteachers; for example they can easily be set-up to categorise writing and multimedia into Learning Area archives - for planning, reflection, negotiation, debate and again *collaboration* with teachers, cohorts and even external input (eg. schools overseas). In terms of assessment tasks, and avoiding the paper chase, they would are automatically archived to the database and saved as learning snapshots (writing, video, music, art, Kahhotz etc) because the students (with assistance) will have selected the appropriate learning area assessment “tag” for their work. Drafts can be saved and not displayed until publish is clicked. Teachers can moderate all collaboration via their in-box by clicking on approve, edit or delete when comments or completed tasks are published. An interesting discussion in the webcast above was the North American New Hampshire District model; ePortfolios documenting the learning journey and assessment linked to competency modules (our outcomes), and the association of projects and matching those with competencies (our Elgglevels). It would be awesome to have the Curriculum Framework integrated into such a system here. I’ve noticed Math is rarely included in the discussion on ePortfolios for obvious reasons - but for example, in a Primary School setting a screenshot could be taken of a score achieved in Year 3 Math Measurement at http://rainforestmaths.com/ for example - students could then blog (write/type) about their understanding in relation to the score displayed in the screenshot. Acheivement certificates from Mathletics could also be used. Maybe online maths syllabus tasks will in time become part of a social-software based SOE ePortfolio.MediaWiki

Possibly the greatest benefit of a such a social-software ePortfolio system is it’s usage for the duration of a student’s school life. Samples of learning difficulties could be recognised and collated by means of URI’s. Social-software e portfolios will have the bonus of ownership too - students will take pride in their work and be impressed by it’s volume and searchability for future reference. Different teachers over the time of a child’s growth, from Year 3-7 for example, could easily refer to the yearly archives to gauge the development of understanding, expression, past themes covered, etc.

[Cross-posted] This post was initially a response to an email by Peter Trimble to the eChalk email list.

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Jun 22

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I’ve been taking a look at web application based eLearning services. Nuvvo andSo many Web 2.0 choices! Chalksite certainly forge new ground with educators in mind. For educators wanting to run courses online for students to access at home and at school, these simple to use web apps may be an incredibly handy tool to have in the toolkit. While they certainly don’t have the scope of Moodle, Blackboard or WebCT, in time they promise to offer similar functionality. As these web 2.0 apps mature, the simplicity of their implementation is surely going to prove popular with educators. I run an Instiki wiki to host my student’s collaborative writing from my NB4Ts laptop. The ability to view, mark and add notes to the student’s good work from this portable base is a very convenient tool. On the flipside, the set-up of this was laborious and distracted from my planning and DOTT time. This is the exact kind of situation where these new online eLearning services such as Nuvvo and Chalksite start to come into play……

Nuvvo

Nuvvo claims to be the first free on-demand eLearning service. Nuvvo uses Web 2.0 innovations to facilitate easy course creation, search, and syndication. Individualvice), Skypewhich allows a person to display teachers to sign up and begin offering courses in minutes. Courses can be private or public, free or pay. Nuvvo has integrated with Skype (peer to peer voice ser his/her Skype status on the site. This means that university students using Nuvvo for example will have access to talk live with their teacher if he/she is a Skype user. Nuvvo says:

Nuvvo is your way to teach on the web. Everyone knows a little bit about something, and this free, AJAX-enhanced eLearning web service is designed to bring out the teacher in all of us. Sign up and build a course in minutes; advertise your course on our eLearning Market to get the word out. Get teaching with Nuvvo, Web 2.0’s answer to eLearning.

Also, there are capabilities in Nuvvo to enable rich media, such as audio and video. It is free to create a course and Nuvvo makes money from ads and by taking 8% of any course fees set by the educator. it looks like they have lots of activity there with courses both free and for a fee, from programming language tutorials to customer service training to foreign language to self-development.

Chalksite offers simple design built on the Ruby on Rails framework and allows educatorsChalksite to post messages, assignments and manage grading. Chalksite allows teachers to create their own weblog and about me pages to help communicate and display biography information which is a great implementation of a blog. The open and intuitive design sets Chalksite apart from Blackboard, Moodle and Elgg. Chalksite says:

It’s the quickest, simplest route to expanding your classroom onto the internet. Teachers, students and parents have a central point to access grading, assignments and messaging. Chalksite is a total web package designed just for teachers, giving you a personal website and tools you actually need without requiring an IT degree to use them.

Chalksite was designed for teachers and tested by teachers at every stage of its development. It’s specifically created to be the easiest path to online learning for real teachers and students — people who don’t have the time to decode complicated software packages or hard-to-follow instruction manuals.

While looking at the Chalksite website I noted it is similar to 37 Signal’s (designers of Basecamp) website and design sensitivities. While I couldn’t find any direct reference to the fabulous web 2.0 company 37 Signals it appears Chalksite have been directly inspired by their CSS and layout.

Chalksite GUI

The thing I like most about web 2.0 apps is their gentle learning curve. Chalksite seems to be a great “stand alone” classroom enhancing product that takes less than 4 minutes to learn. The current free pricing is restricted to 5 students. With the paid pricing starting from US$4.95/month for 50 students. Chalksite does allow unlimited assignments to students/classes with image/file uploading/sharing, a complete web-based gradebook that allows students to view grades, messaging to individual students or entire classes, and a personal website.

I get the feeling that for online courses to succeed, students must be able to become engaged interactively in the learning process through discussion board comments, and plentiful guided course document and assignment postings. The more interactive the site, the more the student will return to the site. For eLearning services such as these to succeed, interactivity and collaborative features will be the most requested features together with an intuitive interface (GUI).

Paul

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