The Cloud – My Vision
Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 | Author:

I’m at the stage I need to make a decision. Admittedly, it’s not just my decision and will be shared with the rest of the staff and yes, children will have a say too, but primarily it is my decision.

The decision is where to go with our online learning. Currently we have a range of online tools (also known as a VLE in Becta language) and these include Purple Mash, J2E and Brainpop amongst others. I wrote about the decision to choose between Google and Live@edu here and I still haven’t started either. I have installed Google but just for the calendar. I have spent a term-and-a-half swaying between Google and Live. On one side I have many people on Twitter using Google and loving it, on the other I have Hampshire about to start their Live solution. It was due in October but there have been a few delays in getting it right but full credit to Hampshire for delaying it until it’s ready.

Then there’s also the VLE that I spent two years sharing with teachers, Studywiz, that we could use as well. So I have options. Lots of options. For those unsure about VLEs, I wrote about whether to VLE or Not to VLE here

As I wrote earlier, a VLE is a collection of online tools. I have that. But what I don’t have, is somewhere to put them all under one umbrella. I want to make it simple to access them all. So I thought I’d jot down what I want to achieve and then see where I end up…after this waffling about where we are so far.

So what would my VLE have in it? (I’m calling it VLE, you could call it online space, cloud, magical land of stuff, whatever)

Control

I want control over logins. I want it simple e.g. firstname.lastname. I want full control over what can and can’t be published. For example, children shouldn’t publish live unless I let them have that access right. When I say ‘I want power’ I mean the school has the control of course. I would like control over the tools available, so year 6 see more than year 1 for example.

Also, I want one login. They login once and it’s there. All of it. Just simple and easy. If they have to login again to access a certain tool, fine, but it needs to have the same structure as the other logins. Typing firstname.lastname twice is possible, I can live with that.

Email/Messaging/Discussions

I want to have emails for all staff and children. I’d want to be able to control who sends what, meaning that youger children, say up to year 3 can only send internal messages but older children can use this as an external system too. I’d also want the ability to archive messages and to keep them after children had gone. For example, if a child wanted to, they could still use parts of it in Year 7/8 whatever. Maybe. But I want that potential. I obviously want all messages to be stored and to be able to search and check them.

Discussion forums should be included too, this is a key thing in Studywiz and I would love to have discussion forums in certain areas of the cloud thing.

Blogs/Sites

I want children to be able to make websites and/or blogs. The blog could be used as a learning journal as they progress through the school and the sites could be used for personal use as well as for certain projects. We have a project in year 3/4 where children will be looking at the local area and the teacher talked about videos and a travel documentary. It’d be great to have a website containing embedded video, photo galleries, hyperlinks and good old writing too.Yes, we have blogs in our school, but the children don’t really use them yet and I think teachers would prefer it if children had their own separate ones.

Pictures

I would love an area like Picasa or Flickr where the children can upload pictures and share them with their friends. This could be photos of them out and about, playing football or scanned in pics of work. Then they could make an e-portfolio type thingy too.This should also include some kind of embedding (maybe on the sites mentioned above) that allows children to use animoto/photopeach/vimeo etc to embed their content.

Writing tools/docs

They should have access to Google docs/Office online as well as J2e-type tools that let them type, publish, make presentations, spreadsheets and all of those sorts of tools they’ll find useful to complete homework and to share their learning.

These would also be used for staff to share documents, reports, policies etc to make it easier for us to work collaboratively. You all know how amazing Google docs are, I want that functionality. Simple and easy sharing from an address book. I want to click a couple of times and the whole of Year 3 have the document or all staff etc.

Animation/video

I’d love a video sharing area. J2E has a great new animation tool that would be part of the package, so I wonder if they could create their video (or upload one) and save it into a video area online. A self-contained, personal (safe) youtube. They could send links to their friends and share their work.

Creation

This includes picture creation using some of the amazing Purple Mash tools and music creation using something like Aviary. These should be available to the children when they log in too. These tools should make it simple to create a piece of magic and then share it with others either by uploading it to a gallery or by sending a link to others.

Sharing/Giving work

Teachers should be able to create a page and share work/homework very easily. This could be a link to a document or a video or a discussion forum. They should be able to easily include hyperlinks and embed web2.0 tech as well. Similar to the blog, but private to just the children in their class/year group.

Cost

Apart from the extra bits like Brainpop or Mash, I’d like this to be as free as possible.

What have I missed? I look at the list above and it is a little biased towards things that I know are possible. I know that I can pretty much design that myself using Google tools and some clever people at 2Simple and J2e to help me make this work. But I’d love to know what else was possible.My current time scale is to get something in place by Easter, then spend the Summer playing with it and sharing it with some staff before launching it in September.

So please share your ideas, I really would love to hear them…

**Edit** It has been pointed out that this will just be a serious of tools under one umbrella, and that’s true, but what tools should be included?