Since the beginning of our 1 to 1 programme we have been using two main forms of Online Learning Environments. We use StudyWiz as a formal portal for both students and staff to access, and eventually parents. At our school StudyWiz began it’s life as an online document repository and a link between teachers and students. Overtime staff have picked up some of the additional tools to communicate with sports teams and to create Creativity, Action and Service reflection journals for IB.
Our school also utilizes our internally run Apple Wiki Server 2 (Mac OS X Server). This is a relatively new product that is an excellent option for a 1 to 1 school. The package allows use to run blogs, wikis and calendars internally which are password protected The benefit of a using a Wiki Server is that the system uses the same student usernames and passwords, and these are authenticated back through the server. This removes the impediment of third party solutions. The permission settings for each blog and wiki or calendar can be changed to give small groups read and write access or to make a calendar public to parents.
In my opinion, the StudyWiz OLE does not offer the blog and wiki technology that is required within a 1 to 1 laptop school. Therefore the Apple Wiki Server offer a great contrast and have been successfully used by some teachers. The learning curve is very gentle as you would expect from an Apple product. It’s one limitation is that functionality to make radical changes to fonts, colours etc has been locked down to maintain an “apple look”. You can still edit HTML and add videos, images and tables and use RSS feeds to track comments and changes.
This document provides an excellent overview of the main functions – L356550A_Wiki_TB
Source – Apple Wiki Server Documentation
The initial use of the platform was to develop creative spaces for students to work, or for teachers to develop resources. Some teachers use them for small project work, or for discussion, reflection and commenting functions. My Economics class uses a space shown below. The weakness of the wiki platform is that the system doesn’t automatically generate a hierarchy of pages of a crumbs tray/ bar at the top of the page, showing how to get back to a previous page. Students and teachers need to manually add links to help student navigate back in forth. This issue lead to the occasional lost pages, which can be found through the search function.
The most useful administrative function is the internal calendar application. This allows our school to set up a variety of calendars for assessments, sports and university advising visits. Permissions are set on the calendars page so that they can only be updated by staff. Students and parents can view the calendars. From these calendars we can generate iCal feeds to synchronize this data into the students iCals on their personal macbooks. See our public calendars here. (read access only)
The blog functionality is similar but more basic than other web based alternatives. They don’t offer the same functionality as wordpress, but a blog is automatically created and linked to each user account. When they first sign in they the see the following page, which directs then to “My Page” to Wiki and to Blogs. My Page is a filter of the blogs at the student contributes to, or has developed.
An example blog that I operate within our school is shown below.