OK here’s my wish list. This is what I’m thinking of doing starting a month from now, and I’m posting here hoping readers with more experience can give me the benefit of their wisdom.
Basically, I want server space where I can host
a) moodles for the (up to 12) classes I’ll be teaching from April.
1) These classes will be blended learning, i.e. the bulk of the classwork will be in class (with no computers), and I’ll have them access the Moodle out of class for homework (because I’m not entirely sure that ALL students have access to computers at school or at home, and while I MAY be able to book ONE class period in the computer room from time to time – like once a semester – I also may not).
2) I also do NOT want on the Moodle front page things like “Click here for University A students, Click here for University B students, etc”, ie. advertising to all comers exactly which other universities I work at (perhaps this will require separate domains for them?) Is it possible for my students to just type their password and get sent directly to their moodle module?
3) I plan to put pretty much the same stuff into each Moodle module for each class, at least initially till I get a better idea of what their various levels and needs are. What I plan on putting there are:
i) a forum for announcements from me (assignments, etc) and where they can discuss and read each others’ responses to the assignments (individual blogs may be better for this part, tho).
ii) Assignments/quizzes which will include short sound files (possibly hosted on my domain if enough space, otherwise links to the outside), graphics, photos
b) I also would like a community blog for my department. I’ve started it one on edublogs.
The idea is to celebrate the achievements and work of the department members, and to have all members able to write posts and upload files, etc. Is edublogs the right medium? I notice, for instance, that I can invite only people who are already edublog account holders, so that means each staff member will first need to create their own edublog then tell me their user name then I invite them, right? Trouble is, only a couple know what a “blog” is at the moment, and the others have I don’t know what level of computer skills so I’d like to make this as easy as possible for them.
I may want at some stage to move this blog over to my own domain, if/when I get one, and I hope this is not hugely impossible.
c) I also want to have, separate from the Moodle, a blog of my own which will be a general “my blog for my students” blog, general info for all my students, such as stories, profiles of students doing interesting things, upcoming events of potential interest, internet resources. Due to the fact that all my students are (false) beginners in English, I’ll need to be able to post stuff in their native language sometimes (Japanese).
Last year I made 4 separate blogs for 4 different classes, but I found that a lot (but not all) of what I was writing on there was relevant and of potential interest to all the students, so I started wishing I’d made, or had separately, a main blog for such general stuff. One thing I did, for instance, was to post to the blog student responses to homework assingments (after removing all their names) so that they could read each others’ homework and my comments to them, and hopefully respond/comment on those (only a small minority commented, tho rather more did read the posts).
As it seems that student use of computers is going DOWN (a purely subjective impression at the moment), while every student has a cell-phone, I’m thinking of using a Japanese-based blog host which allows cell-phone access to the blog (you can read it on your cell-phone, also post to it, send photos to it) via something called the QR-code (don’t know if this exists outside Japan). Go here and scroll right down to the bottom and you’ll see a little black square with squiggles in it in the LH sidebar. That’s the QR-code. Anywhere else using this?
d) Finally (?) I would like to get an informal dialogue going with my students by having either a class blog or them making their own individual blogs, linked by RSS. I’m assuming an outside host would be better for this than using the Moodles (can you have blogs in Moodle?). I haven’t made up my mind whether I want something completely public like eslblogs/uniblogs/elgg or something like Blogmeister (which I haven’t played with at all) or Drupal?. Is there something halfway between the completely open and public and the “walled garden” of Moodle? Something like My Space (but not MySpace) where you can’t SEE the blog unless you’re a member of the community? My reasoning is that some of my students may be intimidated (at least at first) by the completely public nature of an “open” blog, which may prevent them from participating in this part of my program.
Oh, and the Moodle AND the class blogs will need to have Japanese language capability.
Whew! That’s it (for the moment). Any suggestions? Comments? Words of wisdom or warning… etc.