Thursday, August 25, 2005

Looking for Private Messaging System

I've been at district inservices and am feeling lucky that our Staff development people are so skilled. However, skilled or not, I'm a bit overwhelmed as I walk into so many curriculums that are new to me. Part of the overwhelmed feeling comes from seeing so little space for children's voice and choice within these mandated, packaged programs. Every moment of the day is involved in preselected activities. No chance to choose their own books or discuss what interested them; there's only time for what the publishers say they should be discussing to ensure they develop the six comprehension strategies and 500 skills assigned to grade five).

In any case, student blogs are feeling all the more essential to me, and all the more out of reach. I'm a strong proponent of Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly (rather than not at all). So this waiting until I have it all figured out, all presented to district admin, and all approved, is frustrating. I'd so much rather be working on that than figuring out how to use the 18 different manuals and worksheet books that go with the new language arts series.

I'm wishing for an in-between solution. I want a secure way to correspond with my students, hear their thoughts and ideas. I don't want to be slogging around notebooks and hand writing responses. I don't want them to need to make it perfectly edited because there is an outside audience. I do want a real reason for them to be writing, forming their ideas, expressing their thoughts. I think that at least initially, getting to know the new teacher would be motivation enough.

Email would be a good solution if students had accounts, but in our district, they do not.

One option might be Moodle. They have a large web site with lots of information, but none of it makes clear if it would work well for this and if I truly could get it to work on my .Mac space or my TIES web space (TIES is my ISP). I contacted the TIES helpfulness with the info from Moodle, but TIES has not yet replied, and I'm not sure they will. In any case, this fall is NOT a good time for me to dive into my first SQL experiences.

I could use Nicenet, but they could reach each other's posts, which might get in the way of students speaking their minds. I seem to remember we could send private notes within Nicenet. I'll check that out.

In the mean time, I'd love to hear of other ways to fill this gap. Please share them with me.