In my last blog post about collaborative learning, I briefly touched on the issue of finding a reliable, accessible, safe and affordable method of pupils storing their work where teachers could view it and mused that J2Launch might be a serious contender. Having chatted to Teresa Howlett at Cleeve, we decided to investigate this option further, partly because most existing subscribers would get better value from J2E if they did, and partly we were both dissatisfied with the current options often proffered as a solution: Dropbox, Google Drive and Office 365. As well as these three, various software options have been suggested to get work from an iPad to the school server. However, as it’s priced per device, it can prove to be expensive and the work is still on the school server and largely inaccessible.
There can be little doubt that tablet technology has been the main IT purchase for schools in 2013/14. There are many reasons for this and schools will each have their own reasons for purchasing a particular device. However, no matter which device, iPad, MS Surface or Android, one area that remains largely unexplored is how pupil’s work is viewed, collated and stored for evidence without teachers having to have access to the specific device the work was created on. I haven’t heard of it happening yet, but I can’t believe that it will be long before an inspection team investigates this issue in the near future, particularly given the expense on mobile technology. As a governor, I too would like to see evidence to justify the capital expenditure. I often hear phrases like ‘the children really enjoy using them’ which is good, but when it comes down to it, that isn’t enough. We couldn’t get away with that with maths and English, so why are we seemingly prepared to for IT expenditure?
Posting work to a school blog or website is becoming more popular, but this is a small percentage of the work completed. Just like the display board, not all work gets published, for a variety of reasons. The blog or website is usually the publishing medium for the showcase pieces, leaving the majority of the work… just where exactly?
In the past, it has been saved on the school server. This was OK, but the work was still only accessible whilst in school and that’s not always convenient. Neither was logging in to individual pupil accounts either, but that was the only option a while back.
Access to the web has brought a number of options for gathering and storing work. Learning Platforms are an obvious vehicle, but I suspect that few have really used their LP for this. I find the disadvantages of Dropbox, Google Drive and Office 365 outweigh the advantages. Yes, they’re free but Dropbox falls foul of eSafety guidance as it stores your data outside the EU and shared drives in Google aren’t that easy to manage, as this video, mentioned in my last blog points out. It’s an acceptable solution if you’re that way inclined, but for the majority of busy classroom teachers, I suggest it’s far too fiddly? I wonder how many will make it to the end of the video? Not many I’d bet. At this point I ought to address the ‘we have someone who can do that quite easily’ argument. Well, you might now, but if that person goes, how are you fixed then? I’ve been round long enough to see this reliance on a specific individual fail when he or she departs. Self-designed websites, tracking systems Learning Platforms and blogs…… I fear this approach is fraught with problems and isn’t sustainable.
So, to J2Launch. If you currently subscribe to J2E, then it arrives as part of your subscription. If you don’t, it might be worth considering even if you don’t intend to use the online software. As expected, all work saved in the J2E software suite is saved to the pupil’s My Files area. However, there is also an upload facility that lets the user park any files in their My Files area, within reason. If you need to store all your holiday photos, there’s Flickr! This uploading works for iPad apps that save work to the Camera Roll. I’ve yet to try it out on my MS Surface and recently purchased Tesco Hudl.
I’ve been using J2E, and therefore J2Launch for some time now and find it a very valuable tool for monitoring work. To protect pupil privacy, the screen shots are from my demo account, thus explaining the lack of participants and content.
Firstly, I log on and select a class folder to view.
Once there, my first clue as to how busy pupils have been are the numbers on each folder. These are the files, including images gathered from various sources. Obviously this isn’t the whole picture as a pupil might have done 3 pieces of quality work against 12 lesser pieces, but that’s my job to make sense of this.
Next I’ll move to look at a particular pupil and see just what they’re up to.
From the looks of this, Peter W has taken a few photos, recorded some sounds and has made a start on putting them together in a J2E file. I can then open his this file to view it. In the not too distant future, I’ll be able to use a feature that’s still in development, Sticky Notes, to annotate the work with text, voice or video comments.
If Peter had uploaded any other files they would also be in the files area.
I am finding that the ease at which I can access a pupil’s files on any device very useful, both at home to review the work and in class to use as exemplars as a sort of a real-time visualiser.
For demonstration purposes I have set up a user on my J2E account that both Teresa and I intend to populate with various pieces of work, not only from the J2E suite of programs, but also from other software and apps on different platforms. Sometimes this work will be left in its native format, as in the Pivot animation below, but perhaps inserted into J2E where some reflective writing can take place. Sometimes only having access to the finished product doesn’t quite tell the full story and by pasting screenshots of work as they go along with some commentary, pupils can provide evidence of development. I could, and have in the past, copy into Word/Publisher, but if the pupils paste into J2E, I can view this more easily… an when Sticky Notes arrive, even better.
The Apartment Design folder was created by me to show that once a topic is completed, you might want to tidy things up a little. Just get the pupils to create a folder for that topic and park all their files in there. That way you have a permanent record of work done in one folder.
Another handy tip to keeping the files easily found is to use Tagging. By clicking the ‘i’ on any file, a dialog box pops up and you can tag your file with an appropriate keyword. Handy if, sometime in the future, you really need that work you did on control and you can’t find it…. because you didn’t park it in the control folder. Just type in your keyword in the search box and all work tagged with that word will be there.
The J2Launch option isn’t the only way to crack the evidence trail problem and it might not be for you, but I’ve yet to come across a method that is as easy to use and/or doesn’t involve bouncing a pupil’s work from place to place to its final resting home.
I would gladly pay £199 per year just for the facility to keep all the work online and accessible plus a little more for access to the J2E software and if Ofsted do drop by, simply provide them with a log-in and let them view for themselves.