True to type

4th January 2008 at 00:00

Online networking goes further than Facebook. Duncan Wilson has created a site where pupils can vote on each other's work.

Secondary

Social networking has transformed the possibilities for interactive resources for the classroom. It has dynamic, user-generated content that grows, it can be shared and is particularly beneficial for rural schools.

I created a password-protected working site called Schoolpal where pupils can make friends, write their blogs, upload and download documents and send messages.

Perhaps the most exciting development is the voting features - pupils can publish their work and have it voted on by their peers. Each half-term we award a prize for top of the charts and I believe the "positive peer pressure" has been inspiring.

At the moment my pupils are uploading and voting on screenshots of posters and PowerPoints produced as part of their GCSE coursework. Our next GCSE unit is spreadsheet-based so I will create a category for spreadsheet interface screenshots. After that we will be running a competition for best data entry form design in Microsoft Access. The voting really does increase the pupils' interest and I have noticed some good features of design being spread around the pupils' work.

Pupils have one vote per day on each piece of work, which encourages them to return to the site and view new content.

Duncan Wilson is head of ICT at a school in Wales. www.teachict.co.uk is his site.

How to set this up

You will need to choose a platform on which you can build your site. I use free platforms such as Joomla (www.joomla.org) or Mambo (www.mamboserver.com) but there are many more excellent tools available. The nice thing about these platforms is that there is no complicated computer code; if you want to do something you just download an extension file and install it and, Hey presto, your site has a voting system or a message board. Some webspace providers even offer one-click Joomla or Mambo installations so you don't even need to mess around setting it up.

FTP (File transfer protocol), to transfer data from one computer to another, is a must. I use a free package called filezilla (www.filezilla-project.org) to upload and download my files with the FTP address, username and password my webspace provider gave me. I have integrated this in my department as a secure site and now run an online club with regular club tasks, I send group emails to keep the pupils up-to-date, store files for them to download and have an excellent gallery of their work on display to be voted on, social networking. A demo can be seen at www.demo.schoolpal.co.uk.

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