Category Archives: Ultranet

Timetable Challenge: Part 3

In earlier posts, I wrote about the challenges our school was facing as we continue to grow in size and deal with the issue of timetables and our response to this by moving towards a 7 day timetable.

One of the issues I encounted was around the use of calendars (specifically Microsoft Outlook and the Ultranet) to schedule events and create my work program:

 I am struggling at the moment to find an efficient and effective way of managing this 7 day cycle. I use Microsoft Outlook to manage my calendar\work program and set each of my classes to repeat weekly. Under this new 7 day cycle, I am unable to create a re-occuring appointment that occurs 7 days apart, as weekends are included in the cycle. Given it takes 3 weeks for the cycle to return back to Day 1 being on a Monday, I had thought I could create a reoccuring appointment to reoccur every 3 weeks, however with days taken our for public holidays and other events, this confuses the cycle and makes it difficult. Other than entering each class I teach individually for the term, I’m struggling to find a way to do this.

I am pleased to report that I have found a solution to this problem (thanks to a Google Search and these instructions) by using Microsoft Excel to create a list of my events and then import these into Outlook. Who knew you could import events from Excel into Outlook!

I’ll attempt to explain the process:

I started by creating a spreadsheet in Excel that used the Outlook fields as the headings for each of my columns.

I created a sepearte worksheet for each of the times I teach (9am, 10am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 2:15pm)

I entered all of the classes that I taught at that time over the 7 day cycle (eg: Day 1 at 9am, Day 2 at 9am, Day 3 at 9am etc..) with the class being in the subject column and the room being in location.

Not wanting to enter each date individually, a google search found a formula that produced what I needed.

=IF(WEEKDAY(C2)=6,C2+3,C2+1)

In an attempt to explain what the above means, the formula looks at the day in C2 (in this case Monday). Using the WEEKDAY function, Excel can count each of the days of the week (1=Sunday, 2=Monday, 3=Tuesday etc…). When it arrives at a Friday (the 6th Day using the WEEKDAY formula) it is set to add 3 days to the next date that appears. For all other days,  it simply adds 1 day; thus removing weekends from my list of days.

Once I had entered the first 7 classes of the timetable cycle, I used the fill down function to obtain the rest of my classes for the term. To set the event in my calendar to appear as busy, I entered “2” in the Showtimeas column.

I repeated this process for the classes I had at the other times throughout the day.

I then collated all these classes onto 1 worksheet of a seperate spreadsheet.

The next step was to select which area of the spreadsheet I wanted imported into Outlook. This involved highlighting all of the cells that contained data (including the column headings) and naming this range. The easiest way to do this was to enter it into the box next to the left of the formula bar.

From here, I saved the file (I had to save it using the 97-2003 version of Excel to import it), closed Microsoft Excel and opened Microsoft Outlook

From the File menu, I selected Open and Import.

I selected Import from another program or file and selected Microsoft Excel

Using Browse I selected my file and made sure I set the options to Allow duplicates to be created.

I selected my calendar as the destination

It then informed me that my DATA range would be imported.

This has now meant that all of my classes now appear on the correct days of my calendar !

It has also saved me the pain and trouble of entering each class individually. As I have my outlook calendar linked to my iPad and my iPhone, this has also been very handy as I move from room to room this year for my lessons.

Now… If I could just work out a way to import events into the calendars in Ultranet Spaces…… 🙂

A reflection on 2011

Having recovered from the end of school madness, Christmas and the New Year, I have enjoyed the opportunity to sit and rest for a few days and catch up on some blogs in my Google Reader. I’ve really enjoyed reading posts (and posts and posts) from both friends and members of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) about their reflections from the past year and how it has helped them set goals and directions for the coming year. I’ve always been one to set goals and targets for the year, but have never really reflected on my achievements from the year before. So, thanks to some help from my Outlook calendar, the following jumped out at me as achievements throughout 2011:

Photo created by Carol Browne - Used as part of a Creative Commons Licence 2.0

Photo created by Carol Browne. Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

New School – New Role:

Part of moving to a new school saw me take a new role; that of the ICT Specialist Teacher. This was a big change for me, having been a class teacher since the beginning of my teaching career.  This experience has taught me a lot; particulary about the value of time. As a classroom teacher I had the freedom and flexibility to move and manage time throughout the day depending on the activity and the outcomes I wanted to achieve. As a specialist teacher, I only get to see each class for 1 hour a week, so this simply is not possible. It has taught me to “cut the waffle” when explaining tasks and be much more succinct in communicating information so students can have more “time on task”. It has also required me to develop the student’s skills in becoming self directed learners and to create resources and provide access to materials that allow for this to occur.

I have also loved the learning curve I had been on. Having never taught ICT has required me to research lots, draw upon my own experience and the knowledge of my PLN to develop my program. Highlights would include the cybersafety movie making exercise I attempted in Term 1, seeing students develop their own Scratch projects and finally getting my Prep classes to log on.

Establishing a new student council:

Regular readers of my blog will know that student leadership and student councils are an area of passion for me so it has been really exciting to establish the a student council at a brand new school.

Given we were a new school, it took us until mid Term 2 before things were well and truly up and running.

Highlights of the year included students developed campaign posters in the lead up to the election and using the Victorian Electoral Commission to help run elections. I had used the Electoral Commission at my previous schools and was excited to be able introduce the students and staff to the experience with many commenting on the professional nature of the election.

2011 was also the first year I worked with students outside of Grade 5 & 6 on a student council. I really enjoyed having younger students on board and to provide an alternative perspective and to offer their support. The majority of them were keen to take on jobs and roles and with a little bit of coaching and support demonstrated they are capable of achieving great results.

Towards the end of the 2011, we also held our 2012 elections, enabling our student council to be operating from day 1 of 2012.

Online Assemblies:

Through my work as a Web Conference Leader in 2010, I trained students in my class in the use of the web conferencing software, Blackboard Collaborate (previously known as Elluminate) so we could run an online school assembly.

I have been able to continue this at my new school in 2011 and have again trained some students to help in the running of the assembly. This has now become embedded in the culture of our school, with an online assembly operating each fortnight. It’s been great to see teachers and students exposed to this technology and to also have members of our school community that would otherwise be unable to attend school events log in from home, work or wherever they might be.

Ultranet:

Having lead the introduction the Ultranet at my previous school, it was great to be able to apply my learning from previous mistakes made when we went about setting things up and going about student registrations.  By the end of 2011 we successfully registered all of our Grade 1-6 students (being aprox. 300 students).

Another great advantage of starting at a new school has been the ability to use the Ultranet in establishing processes and procedures. Rather than make the transition from one process to another, it has been far easier in using the Ultranet from the beginning. Through the community space I developed, staff have been able to add school events as well as book rooms and resources using the calendars and post meeting minutes using a blog. I consider this to be a great achievement in our first year.

One of  greatest challenges we faced being a new school was the flow of our data from CASES21. I was hoping to do a great deal more with students and the Ultranet earlier in the year, however numerous technical difficulties set us back and meant that we truly didn’t get to it until mid Term 3. Having said that, I have been really excited about the use of Learning Tasks and hope that I will able to build upon this next year.

Acting Assistant Principal:

OK, so maybe it was just for two days, but it was an experience I really enjoyed and one I hope to get the opportunity to do again. The experience gave me insight into the bigger picture of our school and understand why sometimes they just don’t get to your issues when they do. It was amazing the number of issues and tasks I was required to do in two days.

Presenting at the Innovations Showcase:

After a gentle nudge from a few people in my PLN, I submitted an application to present at the 2011 Innovation Showcase run by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. My presentation focused on the work I had done with student councils at my previous school and sharing some of the valuable resources out there to support SRC Teacher Advisers.

Increasing Network:

Moving school has also seen me become involved the ICT Network that exists within our local cluster of schools. Again this has been a great source of knowledge from those in the know. I have taken on board many ideas and suggestions from this group in regards to my teaching and have also loved to opportunity to share my own experiences and knowledge.

Twitter once again has proved to be invaluable in providing professional knowledge. I was please to learn about the experiences of those who attended to Google Teacher Acadamy in Sydney at their Meet Up session and finally put some faces to twitter names. The Melbourne #TeachMeet session towards the start of Term 3 was another great opportunity to meet members of my PLN and share and learn from others.

Ultranet Share N Tell:

I feel really privileged and proud to work alongside Anne Mirtschin and Mel Cashen in delivering these online sessions. It’s great to always see and hear what others are doing with Ultranet to spark your own ideas. Wendy Macpherson and Graeme Henchel from the Ultranet team at Central office have been invaluable in offering their insight into updates and developments taking place and have always been willing to hear suggestions and ideas from those using the Ultranet within their schools and classrooms. With the loss of our Ultranet Coaches in 2012, I can only expect that the demand for these session will increase (and see the UltraTweeps Teacher’s Games team increase and take out the gold medal in Laser Tag!)

VISTA:

The Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisors has continued to move along and has been involved in some interesting projects throughout the year. A major highlight was initiating a discussion around the establishment of a state based Junior School Council for primary school students. Whilst this had been something many of us in the field had been thinking about, it was great to get some of the key stakeholders together and get some ideas down on paper. Other highlights include working with Joel Arrons to develop the VISTA Podcast, the presentation of the inaugural VISTA Award for outstanding SRC Teacher Advisor at the VicSRC annual Congress and being involved in providing teacher professional development sessions at the Junior School Council congress sessions across the state.

Personally, I also achieved many things throughout 2011. Having worked in the education system for over 7 years now, I was able to access my Long Service Leave pro-rata and used this across the Melbourne Cup Weekend to attend a close friends wedding in Sydney. Melbourne Cup weekend in previous years has involved me chained to my computer for 3 days writing end-of-year reports. Taking leave made me realise that through some strategic organisation (and a last minute marathon effort!) it was possible to take some time off and still get my reports done.

Another major development has been selling my house. Having lived in my local area for just under thirty years of my life and with most of my friends and family now living on the western side of the state or closer to the city, I felt it was time to move on. We’re hoping to find a nice townhouse or apartment closer to Melbourne and enjoy the benefits associated with inner-city living. With settlement taking place in just a few more days, we’ve been fortunate in finding a place to stay in the meantime whilst we continue what seems like a never ending search for the right place to live.

So, with 2011 well and truly completed, it’s time to focus on 2012 and the year ahead. I have numerous thoughts and ideas swimming around in my head about what I hope to achieve both professionally and personally throughout the year and hope to post some of them with you soon.

What were your achievements throughout 2011 ?

What goals do you have for 2012 ? What are you looking forward to ?

A lesson in Learning Tasks

Throughout this term I have been experimenting with Learning Tasks on the Ultranet with my Grade 3-6 students in their ICT Lessons. The project for the term involved them working in small groups to create a podcast based on our school values of Respect, Relationships, Rigour, Resilience and Responsibility.
I setup the project using the following approach:
  • A task explaining the project requirements.
  • A discussion where students posted the members of their groups.
  • A submission where students entered their script and attached their podcast file.
  • A journal where students recorded their reflection at the end of the task.

Lessons Learned and Tips for those new to learning tasks:

  • Break down a major project into VERY small tasks.

Don’t make tasks or submissions so big and involved. This enables you to better keep track of where students are at.

In my example, I had students write their script and upload their podcast in the one submission. I would have been better to create a separate submission for their script and a separate submission for their podcast. This would have enabled to me to keep a better track of where students were up to with the task.

  • When working in groups, create a discussion so students can say who they are working with…..

This provided me with evidence that stated who they wanted to work with (also meant they couldn’t change their minds !

  • ….but don’t allocate future tasks until you have setup the groups in the submission.

Learning tasks doesn’t allow you create submission groups once one of the student has started the task

  • Only the group leader can edit and submit the task.

Others in the group can view the work, but can’t edit and make changes. If the leader of the group is away, you need to go into the submission and change the group leader for the task.

I am also going to create in my Personal Planning section a template for future submissions\tasks\journals etc… that I will copy and change when creating new activities. This way, I can list the instructions for completing the activity without having to type them out each time. (eg: explaining that a discussion needs to have a title, what type needs to be selected etc…. A submission can explain how to attach a file etc…..)

Throughout the term, there was an upgrade to Learning Tasks which brought on some good changes and some issues. I really like now how all of the folders are closed rather than every folder opening expanded. One issue I encountered has been around the setting of dates for tasks. I had a situation where I wanted to extend the due date of a task, but it wouldn’t let me do so unless I changed the start date of the project to the current date. This annoyed me as I wanted to see when I commenced the task with students and because I had to change the start date to get it to work, I lost this information. I have reported this to the helpdesk and hope they provide a response or arrive at a solution soon.

Changes I’d like to see:

  • Students to be notified somehow (perhaps via e-mail) that there task has been assessed\graded or that an observation has been recorded.
  • The ability to award all students within a group submission to receive the same grade (rather than having to make each task individually)
  • The ability to “bulk” mark students submissions. This would be handy if teachers were using learning tasks to record homework; they could make all as satisfactory, and then go and change those to unsatisfactory.

Going Further:

After experimenting with learning tasks, next year I hope to:

  • Make greater use of selecting the VELS standards that will be achieved by completing the task. This will assist me greatly during report writing time.
  • Using the observations section rather than the comments section to record observations related to students successes or areas for improvement.
  • Adding my students VELS scores as confirmations so this data can be available to others.
  • Encourage our teaching staff to use Learning Tasks to record assessment data as our school moves into an open-plan, co-teaching environment.

Have you been using learning tasks ? If so, what for ?

What successes have you had ? What issues have you encountered ?

Do you have any suggestions for improving the platform ?