Skip to main content

Setting up Ning

School for us doesn't start until September 14th but I've completed all my computer changes for the year (dual monitor, 1Tb hard drive & 500Gb network hard drive, N-router & card, new headphone-mic) and my nephew has gone back home so I've got no more excuses to avoid getting down to work.
I had to decide how to work it this year: two years ago the school decided to use Sharepoint for our course management system. From a user perspective, it was less than successful although I do understand they're using it as a complete portal for the school. Having used Blackboard for the previous 6 years, it was hoped there would be major steps forward but Sharepoint seems stuck on the centralized-control paradigm and the opportunity to (easily) create, incorporate & share content by users (outside of Word documents) is limited. Adding content beyond the basic document is very similar to old Access Reports. Not user friendly.
More importantly, it is Internet Explorer centric. I understand that from a business perspective, it is the simplest thing to require the use of a particular browser. A friend who works at BMO loves Sharepoint... but he is also locked down on his desktop and thinks the new themes in Powerpoint 2003 are cutting edge (they haven't evalutated 2007 for internal use yet). The police department also uses Sharepoint well but again, they are not exactly a creative industry. We have students & teachers, each with their own tablet and administrative control over it. They are supposed to be experimenting; discovery is their job! And so they use the creative tools: Firefox with all its addons, Chrome (cuz it's Google), Safari (cuz some have Macs at home), Opera... and other more obscure browsers. And they have iPhones and Blackberries. Sharepoint doesn't work completely on any of them. Okay, Sharepoint works on your Blackberry if you want to plug in $4000 on the server -- and I hope our IT department does do this if only to show they're thinking proactively.
So that's one of the main reasons I'm not using Sharepoint for my classes this year. I flipped back & forth between Elgg & Ning and went with Ning because (a) I don't have my own server (and don't want to pay for one) and (b) don't have time to do all the coding. We'll push Ning as hard as we can this year and see what happens. Maybe Sharepoint will grow in the next year? We're apparently hiring a Sharepoint programmer ($$$) to do stuff for us.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Teacher Professional Development and Microsoft OneNote

During the first three weeks of July, I have the amazing opportunity to work at the Park City Mathematics Institute.  It is, without exaggeration, the best professional development opportunity for teachers of mathematics.  Participants spend three weeks thinking deeply about mathematics and mathematics education.

There are three main aspects of PCMI:

learning mathematicsreflection on practice (RoP)becoming a resource to others.I'm part of the team for RoP and in charge of the third aspect, in which participants consider a gap in professional development back at their home districts and work in small groups to help fill that hole by developing a rich PD seminar on that topic.

It is not easy to develop professional development.  Teachers who haven't written PD have to patiently learn how to write (essentially) lesson plans for someone else.

This year, I used Microsoft OneNote to facilitate the process.  We have a central OneNote Notebook through which I lay out the daily schedule…

Escape Room / BreakOut in OneNote

So when I was visiting Anna in Edinburgh during March Break, she showed me how she used Password-Protected OneNote sections within the OneNote ClassNotebook to help students check their work -- she set the password to the correct answer, so they knew they had it right when the Section opened up.

I figured I could use this for Math Review, so I set aside a couple of hours (turned out to be 3 hours but a fair chunk of that was solution-time) the other night to put an Exam Review together for my Grade 10 Mathematics course.  I pulled together as many multiple choice questions and short answer questions on the topics as I could Google and tried to balance each Section with a mix of topics and then threw in a couple of pop-culture questions, too.  The students worked on the problems in each section and used the answers as passwords to unlock the next section until they got to the Prize section.
Result?  Near total continual engagement for the 60 minutes class! Across three classes!  They lo…

Desmos, OneNote & Replay

So using Desmos activities are a great way to encourage exploration and discussion in math class -- if you haven't tried them, I encourage it.  They're collected at https://teacher.desmos.com/ 

But ... Desmos doesn't give you quite enough.  It doesn't have a way of capturing the work that the student does within their space, and it doesn't allow for annotation of class contributions as we come together to discuss.  Well, not surprisingly, OneNote comes to the rescue. 
Using the Windows shortcut Windows-Shift-S it is really quick to snag the Desmos screen and pop it into a waiting OneNote page.  From there, we can grab our pen and (using wireless projection) talk about what all the different responses mean and where to go from there.
(An aside : one of the nice features of Desmos activities are the way you can hit PAUSE and it will pause all the screens of the students working.  I always give them a heads up "10 seconds to pause..." and it's refreshing…