My Edmodo / Ultranet dilemma!

The 2011 school year is now in full swing.  It feels good to be back. I’m really enjoying getting to know the bunch of students I have in the 3/4 unit this year. I feel refreshed and positive after a satisfying break.

My main goal for the first and second week of term one is to get the entire unit of 3/4 students (approx. 170 students) signed up to Edmodo. We already have a head start because most of the grade four students are still signed up from last year. So some of my spare time has been dedicated to omitting the students that have moved on and ‘tidying’ up the groups.

This year I have a larger group of Edmodo ‘experts’ across the grades that are promoting the positive aspects of Edmodo to the new students and my intention is to get these students to be the ‘teachers.’ In fact, it is already happening.

The next step is the parents! We have an information night next Tuesday 15th February and from my experience last year we should expect a rather healthy turn out. One of my favourite tweets from the @edmodo people over the summer break was that they had parent accounts active and ready to go on the site. My intention next week is to allow some keen parents (I think I have at least two or three) that are willing to sign up to Edmodo on the night with a parent account using the Smartboard so all can see the benefits. We will be promoting Edmodo as ‘the norm’, not an extra bonus for the ICT savvy.

If you are unaware of this new parent account feature, I’ve posted a link below to the Edmodo blog.

Now here is my little dilemma! I completely acknowledge that the Ultranet will provide all these things that I am talking about eventually. We are yet to sign parents up and our students have only recently been signed up. We have some dedicated Lead Users on our staff and I am looking forward to the next few steps of our Ultranet experience.

My question is: will the Ultranet and Edmodo be able to live in harmony at BPS?

I’d like to think they can. There are two main facts that I keep coming back to with Edmodo:

1. Edmodo adds new features regularly and they work instantly…in my experience anyway!

2. The interface is so user friendly for students. It looks like something they may have seen before (Facebook, Skype). The spaces are uncluttered and tailored to students across all year levels.

Outlook for me, my colleagues and students…

My thinking is that Edmodo could continue as a tool for instant communication between students and teachers, a place to hand in homework projects, to have ‘live’ discussion about topics, books, units of work etc. and much, much more.

The Ultranet will be the place for all other work, assessment and learning portfolios for my students.

This is me thinking out loud and I welcome comments, questions and musings.

Thanks for reading.

5 thoughts on “My Edmodo / Ultranet dilemma!

  1. Hi Rick,

    Would be interested in chatting to you further about this as I face the same dilemma at our school. I’ve just implemented Google Apps for Education which is absolutely brilliant. Much like Edmodo (which I agree is also brilliant) it is regularly updated, easy to use, free and ‘just works’! Where do you fit the Ultranet into this equation? Hopefully the Ultranet improves over time, but at the moment it is very clunky and difficult to use. If you’ve never used Web 2.0 you’ll be very excited about it, for those of us that are a fair way down that path it can feel like quite a step back in terms of functionality, and ease of use. That’s not to say it will stay that way, but how to you integrate it without it becoming another thing that staff ‘have’ to do that doesn’t necessarily improve life for either them or their students?
    My other issue with the Ultranet is that it is not ‘real’. That is, it is almost like we’ve tried to pack all the good things about the internet into one massive site and said “look at this great tool, it’s just like the internet!” Hey, instead of building one massive imitation internet, why don’t we just use the internet??? It’s a bit like teaching students about something that is just outside their classroom window, and never venturing outside for them to actually see and experience it. Surely we should use tools that are real and that students can use beyond their schooling over a fabricated environment that tries to mimic that.
    Anyway, I’m at a bit of a loss at how to move forward at the moment as well, but I’m thinking that adapting parts of Release 2 for our specific needs is the way to go. The other thing to consider is what are your local secondary schools doing? If they are gung ho with the Ultranet then the parents of students at those schools that also have kids at your school will start to expect to see information from your school on their Ultranet page.
    Good luck! I’ll be interested to see what position the new government will take as well…

  2. Hi Richard,
    Thanks for the comment. These are excellent points and require lots of thought and (I agree) more discussion.
    The parent comment re: secondary school is a really interesting one. I think I might do a bit of scouting and questioning to see what or how much of the Ultranet is being used in our local secondary schools.
    I have a new student this year (new to the school) at grade 4 level. She told me today when we discussed Edmodo again that she hadn’t seen it before, but her old school uses the Ultranet. This is Lara Lake Primary so I will question her further tomorrow to see what she completed on the Ultranet up to that point. I was initially impressed that she was able to look at Edmodo and already make the connection to the Ultranet without me prompting.
    As you stated, it appears that all these web 2.0 tools have been lumped out into the one place and it feels like there is an underlying feeling of us users having to drop tools and embed everything into the Ultranet and as you said…go back a step.
    It’s a tough one. I’m up for getting into it and haven’t been one of the ones to slag it off repeatedly. But to borrow your term it just feels clunky and difficult at the moment. And if it is like that for me, I’m worried about those students that are nervous with simple web 2.0 tools already.

    Cheers for visiting,

  3. Hi Rick,
    Congratulations on being so proactive and getting your students onto Edumodo, a great tool that works. Edumodo, Google Apps and others will continue to improve and increase the gap between themselves and the ultranet.
    I am a Secondary Teacher and in my experience the students will not engage with such a clumsy tool willingly. I do not blame them. They know that there are better things out there. Everything they use just works as you would expect it to. Their tools are intuitive, Ultranet is far from intuitive.
    I am one of those who repeatedly slag off the Ultranet. Not because I’m a negative person, at least I don’t think of myself in that way. It is because I feel that we do our students a disservice by engaging in sub-standard tools, for any reason let alone for political ones. I think my students deserve the best I can give them and I know, as I’m sure you do, the ultranet is not that.
    Here is a good test: Would you use the Ultranet with your students if you didn’t have to?
    If teachers do not give their opinions and voice that this tool is not of an adequate standard then it will just roll along and our classrooms will suffer and teachers will waste countless hours doing tasks that should take minutes.

  4. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for the comment. You raise and argue some really good points too.
    I especially am intrigued by the question of would we use the ultranet if we didn’t have to. Lots to ponder with that one.

    Am I following you on Twitter? Or do you have an account?


  5. Hi Rick, (and other comment authors),
    Great to see these conversations taking place around the ULTRANET and other web 2.0 tools already being used really effectively. As a lead user I too ponder this. My thoughts are that it would be a real shame for current practices to disappear, but there is potential for all of these tools and resources to come together in one place to build a picture of all the online learning and collaboration that students are engaging in. This also provides simple access to parents to all the collaboration, an academic profile of their student supported by access to all of the learning tasks that students are working on or have completed! I work at the same school as Rick and see some of the great work he is doing with his kids. I see an opportunity rather than a challenge! How powerful for a parent or student to be able to log into the ULTRANET and see their current learning tasks, feedback on their work, their learning goals, their class blog, their edmodo, a personal blog for recording their learning, iframes to websites or activities that could support their current learning! I think the power of the ULTRANET at this very early stage is the ability to ‘pull together’ a students online world in one place. It’s not about replacing, rather enhancing current practices. Food for thought. In terms of it being clunky… Last year I would have agreed, but there have been huge improvements made and like all online tools, it will continue to develop and change in response to user feedback. I remain optimistic! Great post Rick!

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