Connect and mrhinchliffe.net

As I gear up for another year at the coalface, I’ve been looking at the digital tools I have at my disposal, and the best way to use them.  For the past four or five years, I have had a class website – mrhinchliffe.net – where I have tried to keep all lessons, daily work pads, programs, parent correspondence and items of interest to the students in one place.  In recent years, I moved away from online platforms such as Edmodo, and incorporated my own online testing and social media aspects into the website as well, combining these with each student’s school Google account.

With Connect now up and running (and with new features being added regularly), I’m looking to scale back my use of mrhinchliffe.net and move things over to the Connect portal, for a number of reasons:

  • students have an email address that they will take with them to high school, or any WA public school for that matter
  • There is no grey area for student data storage – it is being kept and maintained by my employers
  • The in-built assessment and records module looks flexible enough for my needs (although it will be a step backwards form my current arrangements, it makes sense to use what the Department is offering)
  • In my communications with e-Schooling, they outlined their reasons for teachers to not make use of class blogging systems (e.g. data storage concerns, security issues, overseas hosting)

Last year, I used Connect as a trial – in addition to my use of a class website.  I had one SIS class set up, with all subject areas within it.  It became very messy, very quickly.

This year, I will be setting up multiple classes – English, Mathematics, HASS and Other (Science is taught by a specialist in my school, otherwise I would have had a separate one for that too).  I will still be using mrhinchliffe.net to host my developed lessons, however (I enjoy having more control over formatting and linking of videos, PowerPoints etc).  My daily work pad and programs are also available for any parent (or student) to view there, and I will be using it as a “home base” for links to any cloud based learning for my students (Quizlet, Khan Academy, Reading Eggspress, etc).

Parent communication remains an unknown at this stage – parent access to Connect can only be unlocked for a whole school, not class by class, so there needs to be a conversation at our school before that can happen.  If it doesn’t, then I’ll have to think about how I want to keep my parents best informed as to their child’s up-to-date progress.

In previous years, I have provided my students with an email account through our school’s Google Apps account, and used the Google Drive function regularly for collaborative documents and chat sessions.  This year, I will expect my students to correspond using their emails that they have access to through Connect, but I will also set up Google accounts using the same username as their Connect account, so we can still access Drive, and students can also still use their Google accounts to log into third-party websites such as Khan Academy and Quizlet.  I will not be utilising the school email system this year, as a result.

Finally, in previous years my students have run electronic portfolios as part of mrhinchliffe.net.  With the Department frowning upon this practice, I’ve decided to scale this right back this year.  I’ve developed other programs to run which still target the Information and Media Arts aspects of the curriculum to take its place, and I will tinker with some different options for ensuring student reflection and feedback is maximised.

All in all, I’m looking forward to implementing Connect much deeper into my classroom philosophy, despite some compromises having to be made to the workflow I have developed over the past few years.

Bring on 2015!