I just recently setup up Google Apps + Moodle single sign on. Now that we can provide email to all students, should we?
Why Student Email?
- Students need email in order to practice electronic communication.
- Our tech plan says we will teach students about electronic communication.
- Almost all modern workers have a work email.
- All universities provide a student email (Most require students to use the student email for school business and require the student to check the official student email with a certain frequency).
- Almost all students get personal email at some point (some classes require students to have an email address).
Why Not Student Email?
- Students could misuse the email (bullying, attaching malicious files)
- Students could get SPAM
- Concern about liability (proving nexus becomes easier when it is a school provided system)
- Parental choice (we might consider opting out kids, just as we have certain parents opt out of student work/photos online)
How I Think We Should Approach The Issue
- We know kids are sometimes misusing electronic communication now outside of school.
- Instead of saying “Whew, glad that is not our problem because it’s not on our system” we should be looking to educate the kids.
- We have an “educational nexus” with electronic communication.
- However, just because we provide it and expect it to be used does not mean we need to monitor all messages (we don’t not screen every note children write in their binder paper).
- We need to teach kids to report cyber bullying and save copies of emails that disturb/threaten them.
- We need to talk to parents about the role electronic communication plays in education (think about the importance of parent-teacher email, shouldn’t students start learning about self advocacy via email?)
- We need to create an AUP that says very clearly that if an incident does happen using our email system we are not responsible (we are responsible for educating about email use but not for monitoring student email messages).
- The alternative is to be hypocritical-to expect students to have email and to use it in instruction, but to not provide it out of fear.
- The other alternative is to not provide email and not push the use of student email in instruction, which means our students miss out on a chance to use these tools in an academic setting.
This week our school Moodle has undergone some major changes. Our friendly Moodle partner host (Remote-Learner) installed Mahara and connected the two installations together with single sign on (SSO). I then got inspired and used the instructions here to install SSO between our Moodle and Google Apps (Gapps?). I then got further inspired and hacked together a new theme with the YUI menus of Afterburner, the profile block of Aardvark, and the Moodlebar. (Trying to meld the greatness of New School Learning, Shaun Daubney, and Lewis Carr into one theme!).
You can download the theme here. (named Burnt Aardvark Bar).
So now, once students log into Moodle, they will be able to migrate to Mahara’s e-portfolio system and Google’s email and docs as well as participate in the activities on Moodle itself.
I plan to really push teachers to use the portfolio system as an end of the year assessment tool and chance for student reflection this year. Hopefully the e-portfolio process can become part of the way-we-do-things-here. I have heard that Mahara isn’t the most intuitive tool and so I am really interested in working with some students and teachers to run it through the paces. I talked with Open Source web guru Chris Kenniburg who gave up on Mahara in favor of Buddypress so I have doubts before I even begin that is Mahara is the best tool for the job. Mahara seems to be a more robust e-portfolio tool, while WordPress MU/Buddypress seems to be more intuitive. I like Mahara’s ability to have multiple layouts and its drag and drop module based page creation. However, I love WordPress’ thousands of themes. We will see.
The google apps piece is a nice way for us to move more into the cloud. I am not sure how we will use the email feature (will it be required for school communication, will it be monitored). Right now it is just available and slightly unofficial. As for the docs, hopefully some teachers will be willing to use it with their students this spring and we can make our push to get rid of MS Office and go Open Office+Apps for productivity software.
The most important piece about this week for me is that it gives me a taste of what Moodle 2.0 will be like. I see the vision of Moodle 2.0 as Moodle as a hub in a webby world. We have the key pieces in place and the single sign on works. However, in Moodle 2.0 students will be able to pull docs from Google into Moodle and then out to Mahara in one seamless flow from creation/collaboration to sharing/assessment to reflection/documentation.
It is also a reminder of how awesome Moodle 1.9 is.
An outline of information about Open Office I prepared to present to school teachers and administrators.
Facts About Open Office
Contains word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool (also drawing, math editor, and database)
Looks a lot like Microsoft Office 2003 (same features, but some options are in different menus)
Is free (can be installed on ∞ computers)
Is open source (like Firefox, Moodle, and Android phones) extensions and modifications are allowed (democratic community guides the path of the software instead of dictatorial corporation).
Is lightweight and runs on any operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux & new/old hardware)
Can open files created by Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007 (.doc, .xls, .ppt, .docx, .xlsx, .pptx)
Can save files in Microsoft Office 2003 format (also has its own file format)
Can save files as .pdf (don’t need to have cute pdf installed)
Is popular (108 downloads of Open Office 3 in one year)
Who uses it?
Why Are We Considering Open Office?
We will need to upgrade software eventually
Microsoft Office 2007 is available (MS Office 2010 is in beta testing
Since training is going to be required, why not invest money we would use on buying software into training people?
You can keep using MS Office 2003 during the transition (since we already purchased it)
If we choose MS Office 2007 we will have new computers with 2007 and old computers with 2003. (mixed environment)
If we choose Open Office we can install open office on all computers right away (free to install, consistent environment).
Makes a $400 netbook a $350 netbook (12% savings)
Can be installed for free at home (on Windows, Mac, and Linux-a $150 savings per student
Google Docs is free and complements any office suite we choose.
- Ideology – Public education and open source have similar goals
Arguments for Microsoft Office 2007
The presentation software has more templates
Microsoft Office has a large market share so we should expose students to the dominant brand
Some features on MS Office 2007 work better
Complex MS 2003 documents (lots of tables) might open more consistently
One school going open source not to save money but for the ideology (they also save money)
When students walk into your classroom what do they see around the room and on the walls?
- Posters about classroom procedures?
- Posters about important concepts or future careers?
- The daily/weekly schedule?
- Examples of excellent student work?
- Pictures from classroom field trips?
- Learning objectives/standards?
- Extra handouts in a file folder?
- Your desk with a few photos of your family?
I hope you answered yes to a few of the above (at least you are there right?).
When students visit your website, what do they see?
For many teachers, the answer to this question is quite different. However I believe that if we see our website as an extension of our classroom, we stop seeing the website as extra. It is just like moving from a class that had only three walls to four walls. There is now more space for you to hang stuff up, but it doesn’t mean you have to change all that much. The kinds of things you can do in a physical classroom you can do on/in your website. Your website gives you a chance to connect to students, provide information, set expectations, and communicate with parents.
Why do you hang stuff on your walls?
Classroom walls have been recognized as important to educators for a long time 🙂 You usually have a central focus which is a board or a screen to write/display information like schedules or the days instruction. However, the other areas of the walls are not ignored. They are decorated to create a sense of place, to give students a sense of pride and belonging, and to set the tone of the learning that you know will happen inside those walls. We decorate them because we know students will be in our rooms looking around.
Kids are online looking around
Many of your students and parents are active online. They use the web to find information (like restaurant/movie reviews), do work, and socialize. Your website is a chance to provide them with important messages and give them an impression about you and the class. Additionally if your website is interactive (Moodle, Blog, Wiki, Ning) then your website can be more than just a wall but an extension of the entire classroom.
You have a 5th classroom wall. Is it getting less attention than your other 4?