The MAC arriveth…Digalo and E-Facilitation…

Well a big cardboard box popped through the school letterbox today with a shiny new mac inside it. So the revolution has continued although my first step was to use BootCamp to install Windows XP on the Mac as well – it felt a little rebellious in a sad geeky way. As I am sure I have said before there are pluses and minuses to both systems, but when you mix them together if you are not careful if it can get into a right mess. Although maybe that will teach me, to so early set up BootCamp and then Vmware and then start altering the boot setup until I could not boot in either Windows or OSX. Lol….well you live and learn.

Eventually with a bit of Linux on board it should be the perfect setup, although after one failed try have put the idea of Ubuntu on my Mac on hold for the time being. I must say however that Leopard has won me over to some degree with its ease of use; their are still the old niggles including the lack of a maximize window and that media player wise the Mac suffers dreadfully in comparison to XP’s surfeit of media players with every codec known to man.

Over at the Thinking Stick Jeff, has created a really interesting series of articles on the issue of school wide information systems, that do it all from assessment, reporting, course management, parent involvement, teachers websites and weblogs and much more. The article is interesting as ACS-Egham is about to begin a review to incorporate a school wide system called Ultranet. Ultranet being a new word in my vocabulary but generally meaning that the Intranet and external websites are connected in one whole management system, so as not to duplicate information and to give access to wll stakeholders in the system. A search on the word shows up a few Ultranets the most interesting being in New Zealand. I think these developments will be extremely interesting as I am almost pessimistic that all that a total system do is restrict the users and different stakeholders too much and so ends up not being used, along with the fact that it is often management centred rather learning/student centred. This could be a route I take for my Critical study, especially as setting up Social Networking for the language department is going to take a long period of time due to issues of time within departments for such initiatives and developments.

Finally in this rare round up the web facilitation course at Exeter University is beginning to take shape, however discussion are often stilted within WebCT although maybe my inability to follow threaded discussions is to blame. The introduction of a guest lecturer is interesting – Professor Robin Mason of the Open University. Some interesting discussions have begun, and the ideas about whether online learning communities can be as effective in a face-to-face classroom environment as much as a distance learning environment is an interesting one. As I have mentioned if I remember correctly I have been using multi author weblogs (with students as the authors) in an IT IB course, which works effectively as the discussion through both posts and comments is often different and adds to the discussion held in class. Also the course is meant to focus on global issues, and finally we have begun to find that other students from IT IB courses around the world are looking into our weblog and we are now looking into theirs. Students are now beginning to get the idea of what is all about, and love the idea that typing into google will come up with their article or discussion, or embedded slideshow…etc

The issue of assessment raised in the paper discussed by Mason is a crucial one, as on the recent Masters distance learning I have done. It was obvious that the discussions were interesting but never assessed, and also any collaborative activities were never assessed – so as a consequence it was noticeable that most collaborative activities which take so much time and motivation soon shattered and that discussions were often used by a certain style of student while others popped by on occasion. And as said for a Masters course with adults 100% participation is not needed but for school and sixth form students it is – which can raise issues unless areas such as assessment are addressed. The comments raised about a course being problematic if their are too many messages, was interesting. Maybe is it not to do with how these messages are shown e.g. these threaded forum messages are a nightmare in WebCT (and why do they give you such a small box to see your message in as you are writing…lol) – I find it desperately hard to follow and might indicate why my messages often seem a little incoherent.

My final thought is in agreement about the “the value of building up working relationship” within a distance based learning environment rather than trying to mix everyone around. A facilitator’s role to judge this is crucial as otherwise a student who maybe is contributing well through knowledge of his co-students can end up back at the start of Gilly Salmon’s model…