flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

In a recent 2 Regular Teachers podcast, Rick Kaylor-Thomson and Adam Lavers looked back upon the Ultranet. With the current IBAC investigation into the whole affair, they touched on some of the good things to come out of the Ultranet, as well as some of the not so good aspects (including the exorbitant opening day.) It once again had me reflecting. Here then is a summary of what I see as the good, the bad and the disappointments relating to the Ultranet:

  • What If: One of the best things to come out of the Ultranet was a compelling vision for ‘what if’. Sometimes the hardest challenge when implementing any sort of change is helping people to actually imagine it. The possibilities to collaborate and connect in a safe digital space was clearly communicated by the Ultranet. Although blogs and wikis have been around for years, the Ultranet organised all of these possibilities in one central space.
  • Implementation: Although the vision was clear, too much time was spent on teaching the tool, rather than the pedagogical possibilities. To me this is teaching technology 101, it is about the learning, not the tool. Sadly, there was little dialogue or discussion about what such a space might look like in the classroom. By the end of it all, I had lost count of the amount of times I had seen the New Brunswick video. Interestingly, in a recent interview for Radio National’s Future Tense, Neil Selwyn argued that what is needed in regards to technology is some sort of support and guidance from above. The problem though is that the Ultranet offered that opportunity and with its demise a massive gap has been left.
  • Teacher-Centred vs. Student-Centred: Everyone seems to have come out of the Ultranet with the reality that we need some sort of virtual space. The problem is that for many the solution has been to invest in the world of the LMS. Often this answer is about aspects such as reporting and accountability. However, there is limited provision for peer to peer communication and supposed ease of use. What this does more than anything else is reiterate the model of teacher-centred learning. This is led many to develop dual spaces, whether it be blogs, Edmodo, Facebook or Google Apps. Maybe a mixed solution is the best solution. However, more needs to be done in regards to the LMS’ to integrate some of these other spaces.

So what about you? What were your experiences with the Ultranet? Or maybe you have used something else? As always, comments welcome.

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A Reflection on the Ultranet by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

7 thoughts on “A Reflection on the Ultranet

  1. I really enjoyed this discussion of learning objects. It helped provide historical context about what the Victorian Government tried to achieve with the Ultranet and FUSE.
    The initial idea proposed was that teachers would contribute to the resources available. It failed for a number of reasons, one of which was that there was an assumption of ‘build it and teachers will share’. From my experience, this was not the culture present across the board even if they were all being paid by the same entity. However, as you touch on with the rise of blogs and other means, it planted the seeds for ‘what if‘.
    The one point I wondered from your conversation was the idea of ‘edtech refugee’. I think this is a really good way of capturing the feeling when all of the sudden people from different faculty were brought into the technology team. I was a lead user and I was used to joke that technology has a way of finding its own. Just wondering if anyone has elaborated on the refugee metaphor in the past?

  2. If I found myself at loose ends, trying to find a project to devote the rest of my life to, I’d be pitching funders on building a national, open access portal to build an educational commons.

    Source: American education has all the downsides of standardization, none of the upsides by Cory Doctorow
    Although it was not necessarily ‘national’ or ‘open access’, one of the things that was attempted by the Ultranet was an educational commons. The challenge I found with this was around mindset. Even though staff were paid by the government, many teachers saw resources created as their own, not something to be added to a collective repository.
    I kind of get the feeling that this maybe what Bonfire is trying to achieve. I have not given it enough time to know though.

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