From Bulletin Board to Learning Site
Project History
la_notetaking.gifSeveral years ago I wanted to create a "cute" website with active links that would serve parents and students alike. http://www.jmeacham.com/ , http://www.rapides.k12.la.us/region6tltc/halliburton/ The site would have information about the events that occurred during the school day, links to spelling lists, homework assignments, and pictures of students at work and play. While researching websites I began to grow concerned about student safety and decided that a website didn't really meet my needs. The idea was placed on a back burner and from time to time I would ask someone..."Isn't there a district site where parents and students could go without the "universe" having access to our little corner of the world?" Eventually I posed the question to Bud Hunt. So many individuals had replied, "No, it doesn't exist" so often that I honestly didn't expect Bud to have a different response. Instead he said, "As a matter of fact, there is a district site called Virtual Campus and I am doing an introductory class on Thursday of this week. Join us."

Needless to say the first class was overwhelming but by the end of the second class I was ready to tackle the task of setting up a Virtual Campus site for our fourth grade team. As with any project there were successes and huge moments of frustration. Inserting links, http://www.rainforestmaths.com , convincing parents that the word 'enrolment' was in fact spelled correctly (British spelling) and making certain that spelling lists were updated, files organized (new goal) and cursing myself for choosing a long username were just a few of the frustrating moments. There were also exciting moments with parents emailing us that they appreciated having access to the newsletter from work (many fathers read the newsletters and emailed questions).Other parents checked the class calendar for events, some emailed me with a gentle chastisement that it was Monday and that the spelling list wasn't online. Many parents tried the links that were embedded in documents. Given the design, it was successful as a "bulletin board."

As a team we were saving paper by not making eighty-four copies of the newsletter, sending notices and/or reminders home about up coming events but we began to realize that our management of the site failed to engage our students educationally. There were some bonuses for students such as the glossary: http://www.teachers.ash.org.au/jeather/maths/dictionary.html but the site was more of a bulletin board than a learning place.

la_plagiarism_s.gifOur pod team mate, Mick Huiet, had students emailing him their homework assignments and saving paper. We didn't want twenty-eight emails so we began asking, "How do we make this useful for our students" without driving ourselves insane?

At the same time that we were experimenting with Virtual Campus, our school P.T.O. purchased ELMOS for each classroom. Additionally, we were able to connect the ELMOS to websites and project the site on a large wall. Each teacher began projecting websites that we had used for the Virtual Campus site and had students interact with the site and one another. The activity was taken one step further when students were asked to find sites that were useful, come back and "show and tell" why others might be interested. Our one team members used this strategy far more effectively and thus the drive became to fine tune the Virtual Campus site.

Eagle Crest is a looping school (teams get a group of third graders and the students leave the teacher at the end of their fourth grade year) and until a couple of years ago each loop existed independent of the other half. Teachers exchanged shared materials, asked polite "how's it going" questions of one another but did not work collaboratively. Times have changed and it started with our
"E. F. Hutton" member. When Ruth Mehra speaks, people listen. For a year we taught next to each other and slowly we became team mates (we are on opposite ends of a loop). With the addition of Stephanie Potter and my two team members we've come together as one larger team. The sharing of ideas benefits all third/fourth grade students and it helps support us as individuals.

Purpose
It is now our goal to team up with the incoming fourth grade team and create a site where the student is able to access websites that have been screened for safety and are educationally sound and challenging. We will listen as students share their learning and continue to evaluate the effective use of the Virutal Campus site.


Accomplishments or we know:
  1. We know that parents will access and use the site and provide feedback.
  2. We have interactive sites that are educational.
  3. Students will add to the sites and share their enthusiasm if time AND equipment is provided.
  4. It is important to update the site on a regular bases and change the "look" in order to keep parents AND students interested.
  5. Evaluation is an important component of the project.

Future Tasks
The things I still see that need to be done...

  1. Keep in mind that this site has a variety of goals: safe place, information for parents, site where students may access learning and engage in activities that further that learning.
  2. Make sure that the site is maintained, upgraded and is an integral part of learning.
  3. Improve this site so that students will USE it and provide feedback on ways to improve this learning tool.
  4. Share our learning with colleagues and be willing to mentor them.
  5. Learn how to use a podcast.
  6. Search for grants that will allow us to purchase Promethius boards (all grade levels need at least one).
  7. Find funding so that all students have access to computers

Timeline:
  • Summer of 2009: third/fourth grade teams meet and work to design sites that mirror one another
  • Summer of 2009: sites are almost ready to launch
  • Fall of 2009: sites are evaluated, revamped and introduced to students and parents-launched
  • 2009-2010 continue evaluating needs**