First Steps with Utranet

by Sandy  •  3 Oct 2013  •  Pedagogy, Showcase

Ideas for involving children in your virtual classroom


This is a picture of Omanu School, in the sunny Bay of Plenty.  Recently, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Hannah Mortimore, the head of the 5 strong eLearning team at Omanu. The school has invested a lot of time and energy into getting things right for the implementation of their newly revised elearning strategic plan.

During my time with Hannah on this particular visit we discussed her approach to Ultranet implementation with her class of Year 3 students.

“One of the most common questions asked of me by some staff was; how do we find the time to do all this? So my approach with my particular class was to find ways to involve the children as authors and contributors online, as well as me. I wanted to give the children ownership over the direction we took with our learning on Ultranet, in doing so providing a model to the other classes of the different ways the tools in Ultranet could be used.”


Create your own classroom News Channel

The class started their own online channel in the News Centre.  Hannah added the Room as a contributing group to their own Room 23 News Channel and it was immediately a hit with the children.

“Being able to share their news in this manner has given the children an authentic place to write and share their personal stories and, for me, it has been a great place to find out more about the children without having to spend the first 30 mins of every day doing News”, says Hannah.

Hannah chose to use the News Centre because of its ease of use for her Year 3 children. She wanted a space where she could build a sense of community with her students. She isn’t concerned that commenting or replies are not available in the news centre as “there were lots of other opportunities throughout Ultranet for the children to contribute and participate online”

Room 23 News Centre

Create a “Learning Showcase” Page in your Virtual Classroom

Room 23 has a dedicated page in their Virtual Classroom which is open to the public to view. Each week the Chief of the Week is responsible for photographing the learning in the classroom and then uploading the images to the media gallery.  It is a place to showcase and celebrate the learning in Room 23. With commenting enabled in the media galleries Hannah says the next step will be to allow both the children and Room 23 parents to comment on the learning as well.

“Using the Learning Showcase in this manner will allow this space to become an online diary of Room 23 learning and events where our captured community audience can particpate – a bit like a blog but with entries being captured first through photography with the commenting and discussion coming in afterwards.”

Room 23 Learning Showcase


Create a simple “Learning Log”

Room 23 used Padlet to create a very simple learning log on the front page of their virtual classroom.  The Padlet was embedded into the virtual classroom using the export iframe option in Padlet and the Stream Layout view was used.

“Because the padlet is embeded into our virtual classroom, The Chief of the Week can update it directly from there without having to go to Padlet itself.  Being able to update the learning log directly from within the page is a huge benefit. It seems so age appropriate and simple to use. To contribute all the children do is click the green pencil in the bottom left hand corner.”

Room 23 Learning Log - Padlet