Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ultranet … eating the elephant!

I have been using on-line learning management systems for a few years now … essentially moodle-based although called different names in different schools! The concept of anywhere, anytime learning appeals to me as a learner and as a teacher. Hence the idea of the Ultranet was also appealing … initially!

It’s hard not to sound bitter and frustrated, or not to feel let down by the DEECD with the #epicfail of the much publicised roll out day … but all that aside, I have started to take my first bites of this monster.

I have talked before about the power of twitter and again I must promote and thank my PLN for their support as I have asked what must seem like dumb questions. Although I consider myself to be reasonably tech savvy and I can set up moodle-based online classrooms quite quickly I have struggled to apply this knowledge to the new platform.

I have created a collaborative space for the year 8s at my school. I use the term ‘collaborative’ loosely … at the moment that just means I set up some pages and added the 107 students, 3 other  English/Humanities teachers and as many other yr 8 teachers as I could find on the list.

The pages are nothing more than pretty storage spaces for web links and files. I have always used my virtual classroom to provide such resources … it saves students research time if I provide some recommended sites (much like we also still ask our librarians to put together topic boxes of books). I have also always encouraged students to recommend links that they find useful. The true sense of collaboration would see the students adding the resources and I am guessing that Ultranet will allow this … I just don’t know how to facilitate that yet!

I know that another part of Ultranet is something called Learning Tasks. I have had a look at them … I even tried to make one up … not really understanding how they are actually used or what they should / could look like. I have no idea how to link them to the collaborative space, or even if they do.

I have a lot of questions and I feel as if I am learning to walk all over again. For a few weeks I felt like I was crawling around in the dark. I had a sense of what I wanted to do, I had some small idea of what was possible but no idea of how to achieve it. I tried the usual methods of getting help … the help guides weren’t really helpful, mainly because I couldn’t actually pinpoint what I needed to know … no-one in our school environment seemed to have the skills or knowledge, that may just be because I haven’t asked the right person but is also connected to the lack of professional development we appear to have access to … my PLN are supportive and patient but still make me feel like the dumb kid who is slow to catch on, which is more about my frustration at my slow progress than anything they actually do or say!

I know that in time I won’t feel so frustrated and helpless but it’s hard to inspire others when you’re struggling yourself.

So, for now, I am chewing my first bite slowly! My students are coming along for the ride. They are not ‘excited’ about Ultranet in the way that I read on twitter but they have quickly switched their question from “did you load the assignment sheet on infonet?” to “is the assignment on Ultranet?” They know this is our preferred virtual learning environment.

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