I’ve been doing blogs and web-stuff for so long that I know that it’s just not enough to put up a web-page about stuff going on in one’s classroom and call it done. In the middle of my first year at DeMille we piloted a web-portal called SchoolLoop. Way beyond a simple place for teachers to post assignments, it was a place where students could post their assignments, there was a grading module and “closed-circuit” email system to foster communication home and on-campus. At the end of the year, the school board decided that the portal required “further study” and let one or two high schools continue the pilot while closing it down for the rest of us. SchoolLoop was so great and it’s loss so frustrating that I didn’t bother with any school web pages, except for my daily iCal agendas, the whole year. This year I really needed to do something about that.
For a bit I thought about using Geeklog and then Moodle to create an online ed-portal. But both options seemed to be too much work and the better choice, Moodle, wasn’t on the list of portals available from my web-hosting vendor, GoDaddy. When I inquired from my district I found out that they had experimented at one high school with Moodle but the bandwidth requirement brought the whole district down. Not a good sign. Then I heard about Digication on Leo Laporte‘s “Net@Nite” podcast and immediately signed up for a free account. It looked a lot like SchoolLoop but I stopped using it when I discovered that to create a class/course I needed to input my students’ email addresses which wouldn’t work because about 50% of my students did not have email accounts (and even if they did, none of them would have been accessible behind the district firewall). Damn. I almost gave up completely, then I saw that their was a way to create the accounts manually without requiring an email address.
OMG, even though it’s a bit clunkier than School Loop, I have been absolutely loving that I can create assignments, the students can open them, and then click a “reply” link and type in their response without having to navigate dropped boxes and worrying about whether I was looking at a current version of the assignment, etc. They also have something called “Spots” where one can set up more traditional web-pages to post one’s syllabus and assignments and that sort of thing. It completely eliminates the need to have a separate public webpage. My spot is “Mr. B’s Tech Lab – Room 700,” which is definitely still under-construction. There are some posting limitations (for example, one graphical image per page…), but on the whole I give Digication an A+. Only problem is that I have a lot of student work that I have to work my way through. Damn, this thing really helps shorten the workflow from student work to posting to grading. JBB