Tagged: ultranet

Test driving the Volvo

ultranet_volvo

On Friday, about 50 of our Year 6/7 students had the opportunity to trial the Ultranet at Hawkesdale p12 College. Our school agreed to participate in the DEECD trial, involving 7,000 students from around the state being logged on simultaneously. They had several simple tasks to complete, including opening and customizing their Express page, writing a short profile and finding and joining a Collaborative Space. Apart from a few password and uncharged netbook issues, students were able to help each other complete these tasks with very little assistance from teachers. In contrast to Monday 9th August, this trial demonstrated that the Ultranet can be  a stable and user-friendly platform for students and teachers to work together.

So, our learner drivers have had their first lesson in the Volvo – they weren’t at all nervous, or excited, they just took it in their stride. For them, the ultranet is nothing more than a tiny part of cyberspace, where their teachers may encourage them to visit. Sure, it is a safe and secure place, where students can practise the skills of being collaborative learners and global citizens. However, I believe our students have access to very powerful tools and with that privilege comes the responsibility of sharing the learning that results. Very few students in the world have such complex technology at their fingertips, and just as we learn from those that have gone before us, we need to support others to improve their learning.

Globalteacher and Globalstudent have provided an outstanding platform to launch teachers and students on their cyber-journeys and it’s success is based on the global audience that blogging allows. Students need to learn the skills for cyber-safety and global student has proven to be an excellent way to achieve this goal. I hope that these opportunities to connect with a global audience are not replaced with test driving in a supermarket car-park.

Porsche versus Volvo

 porshe

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!

 old_volvo