Photo by ohhector
a distributed learning school (DL) and have limited face-to-face contact with my students. My students are in grades 8 to 11 and I am responsible for math and science. At this point, these courses are paper based. Their other core courses, English and Social Studies, are delivered in WebCT.
A challenge has been setting up an effective way to communicate directly with all of the students. Many of the 8s and 9s do not have an e-mail that they use, so e-mail communication is mainly through a family or parent account. We do have a school website where Google Calendars for each of the grades are posted. This has worked well in terms of posting time-lines and important dates, but not much else. Add to the mix the fact that I have very few so called digital natives in the group, and perhaps you can understand my difficulties. (Teaching 21st century literacy skills to this group will be a whole other post...)
I have only dabbled in using wikis, so this past Professional Development (PD) day I set up test wikis in Wetpaint and Wikispaces. After tinkering around for a bit, I felt that I was just duplicating what I already have on the school website, so I don't think that the wiki is necessarily the way to go to improve communication with my students.
I've used Moodle a little bit; as a participant in a few KnowWeeks courses, and I was part of an Open School BC pilot project delivering Science 10 through Moodle. My district is hosting Moodle in house (as part of the one to one tablet laptop program, I believe), but to access Moodle students have to get onto the district server using Citrix and then log onto Moodle. Citrix can be a little slow and has a nasty habit of kicking you off. I looked into a Moodle hosting service and they seem to fall into two groups--the "it's too good to be true" $5 per month options and the "wow, that's a lot of clams for a small school" $5000+ per year options.
WebCT Students' Lounge
Photo by imedagoze
An idea that my colleague suggested is setting up a "Students' Lounge" in WebCT, in which all students would be registered. Announcements and batch e-mails could be easily handled here. In addition, almost all students should already be signing into WebCT every day. I have to find out if there would be any costs to setting up this 'course' and enrolling all our students.
Where It's At
Right now, barring cost, the best option would appear to be setting up a Students' Lounge in WebCT. I'll also investigate to see if the district could be convinced to make Moodle available out of house (is that the opposite of in house?)
How Do You Do It?
If you don't see your students face to face on a regular basis, how do you ensure that communication is effective and efficient? Are there other tools out there that I should be investigating? As always, thanks for taking the time to read this!