Since Monday’s state-wide, student-free professional development day, I have been pondering the what the future might hold for Victorian teachers and the Ultranet. According to some reports, six years and $88 million has been spent developing the on-line education platform that will allow 24hr access to lesson plans, timetables, student assessment data and attendance records.
Some teachers have been using the tools that the ultranet purports to deliver for many years already – web2.0 tools, such as blogs, wikis, slideshows, interactive calenders and message boards are readily available on the internet. These ‘early adopters’ of technology in education have tested the tools, used them with students and made decisions about how they can be used to improve learning outcomes. Many of these teachers have become ‘lead users’ of the ultranet, trained to deliver professional development to their fellow staff members and be responsible for the uptake of the ultranet in their schools.
It has been disappointing, to put it mildly, for these teachers that the ultranet was unavailable and running very slowly on the day that it was meant to showcase its benefits. As well as giving credence to the ‘blockers’, naysayers and critics, many of the hours spent preparing for the day have been wasted. Experienced teachers had plan B in place and the day was not a total loss, with the opportunity to introduce many other web2.0 tools to staff. Our staff were able to spend time exploring FUSE (Find, Use, Share, Educate), GradeXpert (assessment tracking tool), image, audio and video software as well as iPods and Google. Anne Mirtschin, our ICT expert at Hawkesdale and our beloved guru of technlogy, has written a much more detailed account of our day, including preparation and post-op at “Are we there yet? The Ultranet.”
When we first heard about the ultranet, four or five years ago, it’s premise was a ‘safe’ learning environment for Victorian school children, a ‘walled garden’, where students could learn about communication, collaboration and connections without risks to their privacy and safety. Since then, our students have been involved in many global projects without any concerning incidents. They have learnt how to be ‘cyber-safe’ and the importance of the digital footprint they leave behind. They have been prepared for life outside school, when there is no wall keeping them in.
Hence my pictures – the Porsche is what we’ve been using up to now – a smooth, fast and up-to-date vehicle for experienced drivers. A high-performance engine and easy to manouveur with your finger-tips, the Porshe is fast and flexible but risky to drive for inexperienced users. On the other side is grandma’s Volvo – solid, safe and practical. Good for learner drivers, the Volvo can be slow, clunky and difficult to turn. The Ultranet will give teachers who have not yet fully embraced web2.0 technology the opportunity to learn in a safe and secure (but slow and inflexible) environment. Hopefully, the owner and mechanics will keep the vehicle well maintained and up-to-date and it will transport many passengers , until they are ready to purchase their own high-performance vehicles!