Sunday, March 07, 2010

Latest Reflective Blog Entry: on the Ultranet in Victorian schools

Recently, we had a PD session on the subject of the Ultranet, which is about to make its appearance in Victorian state schools. The enthusiastic presenter showed us all the fabulous things you could do with the new system. "And just think," he added. "If you give them homework where they have to look up something on the Net and they tell you they couldn't do it, you can check to see if they were on-line last night!"

At this point, somebody asked what happens if the kids don't have the Internet at home, as about half of ours don't (No more than 51 % of all our students have access to the Internet at home)? The presenter seemed taken aback and muttered that if there was enough will, somehow this problem could be gotten around.

Meanwhile, we should check out iGoogle, which we can show the kids. So, in a spirit of good will, I did. I had fun adding all sorts of useful widgets to my personal Google page. And that was fine on the staff computer. Just to test it, I tried it out on the student computers, which, alas, are set up to delete anything saved to the hard drive during a work session, because otherwise the kids bring games from home and we end up with viruses. This happened a lot last year.

I added a widget or two to the Google page, then re-booted and went back. Sorry. No widgets. So, until they can think of a way around it, no point in instructing students on the joys of iGoogle.

I am also using our Pathways classes - homeroom activities - to show the students some of the good stuff they actually CAN get out of the Internet and the library catalogue. This is mostly because I can't persuade most of the other staff to let me do likewise for their own classes. We subscribe to Echo, a newspaper index which does a whole lot of other stuff, but the only response I got from discussing it at meetings was "That's too hard for our kids." No doubt it's too hard for some of them, but that's why you do it a bit at a time. And they will need it at VCE level. Year 11 and 12 will involve a lot of newspaper research.

However, at least mine will leave Year 8 knowing some of it, if not all - there is only so much you can do at Year 8 level.

Last Friday I tried it. Some of them got it right away. Others wasted time and had to be kept in after school, if only for a few minutes. At least some of them know.

I will have to try it during a morning class some time.

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