Ultranet 2015-11-09T03:20:55Z http://www.ultranet.co.nz/feed/atom/ WordPress Tim N <![CDATA[Ultranet 2.7 released]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=3203 2015-02-08T22:09:28Z 2015-02-08T22:08:28Z Much was happening in our lab and test bench over the break and a series of exciting new features were packaged into our January update.

In response to feedback the new Toolbar and Dashboard has undergone a major revision targeted at keeping key navigation links close at hand. A new shortcuts tab is now the default landing page and this provides immediate access to Favourites, Class Pages, Virtual Classrooms and any Custom Links that have been created. The web Home page and uSpace can now be accessed directly from the personal toolbar ribbon as well as from the drop down user menu.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.12.29 am


The filtering function on the Class Activity dashboard screen has been refreshed. Activity can now be filtered by content type.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.18.49 am


Class Pages

Page editing has been significantly simplified with a brand new intuitive drag and drop design for both class and web pages. You can now also create layout templates to standardise and further simplify the page building process across the school.

Three new modules have been added to the module bank – headings, paragraphs and an embedding widget. Each of these can be used several times on a single page making it much easier to construct content without the need for the Page Content module.

dragdrop editor


Parent Portal

The original parent portal view is now the landing page for parents when they log in and they can access class pages, favourites and custom links from the ‘Shortcuts’ button on the blue title bar.



And that’s not all!

There will be another update for ‘Toolbar activated’ customers next week to introduce the new Resources widget for the Virtual Classroom, and further page builder enhancements are also well underway.

In the meantime, if you haven’t activated the new Toolbar and Dashboard then we’d encourage you to take advantage of this engaging and intuitive new interface. If you would like to request activation or have any questions then please let us know by sending an email to info@ultranet.co.nz, calling the support desk on 0508 777 7373, or logging a support ticket through the Support Portal.

Sandy <![CDATA[Shared Online Learning Hubs]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=2805 2015-02-13T03:36:37Z 2014-11-07T01:07:24Z Schools in New Zealand are very good at using their websites to build home/school partnerships and to connect, communicate, celebrate and share with their community. So, why not use these website ideas and take them one step further by building up shared online learning hubs inside Ultranet. You can use these to connect staff with professional learning and school administration and to connect your whole community with the curriculum.

Getting Started

Most schools I work with choose to use  The eLearning Planning Framework, (written by the Te Toi Tupu Consortium on behalf of the Ministry of Education) as a self review tool to plot their next steps for school-wide implementation of elearning.  Often we begin with the “Beyond the Classroom” dimension. Rewriting the descriptors as questions encourages us to think about the purposes for using technology and the purpose for online learning in our schools.

  • How do you use technologies to engage with whānau / iwi and community, in culturally responsive ways?
  • How do you engage with whānau / iwi and community to help students learn effectively and safely online?
  • How do you find ways to make digital technologies and digital literacy available to support home-school partnerships?
  • How does your school use digital technologies to connect for learning, locally and globally?

Usually, it does not take long for our professional learning discussions to move on from “Beyond the Classroom” to the other dimensions of the framework. In so doing we are continually refining our existing understandings about how we design and deliver curriculum with what I call A3 level access (anywhere, anytime, anyplace), as well as providing inclusive learning opportunities for our 21st century students.




Using Ultranet Webpages and Virtual Classrooms to develop shared online learning zones for all ages and stages

Many schools are now starting to do just this.   A great place to start is to provide A3 access to curriculum resources and content.  The following examples show how some schools have developed kid friendly zones which provide access to learning resources and curriculum for the students. The idea is that these shared online learning hubs present curriculum content in a variety of ways with links to websites as well as movies, illustrations and audio files.

Student Learning Hubs 2014-06-23 at 5.51.40 pm


What could you achieve with an online hub for your staff at your school?

Bethlehem School have set up numerous shared online hubs for their staff.  These hubs form an integral part of their school intranet. Here are 3 examples.

Enviro Schools Online Hub iPads Online Hub Staff White Pages Hub


So where to from here?

Could you achieve even more with your staff online learning zone?

How are you “supplementing traditional ways of teaching as well as opening up new and different ways of learning” for your students?

click map


Our new  Ultranet Virtual Classrooms have been developed with all of this in mind and are set to provide a digital platform to help take the design and delivery of curriculum to new levels. I am looking forward to unpacking the principles behind Universal Design for Learning; providing multiple means of engagement, representation, action and expression using Ultranet Virtual Classrooms as my Digital Hub.


Effective Pedagogy teachers as learners ]]>
Sandy <![CDATA[Using 3rd party tools to add interest to your website homepage]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=3024 2014-12-10T23:29:44Z 2014-09-29T23:28:03Z This post builds on my previous post “How to make your Ultranet Website look Great” which deals with some of the basics of layout and table design on your Home Page. In this post we will look at the use of other tools which can be used to give your Ultranet website some wow factor.

On this screenshot of Te Kura o Matapihi’s home page,  I have highlighted 5 features which have been integrated into the design of the page.  These have either been added directly to the HTML code or embedded using an iframe.  Read on to find out how each of these features has been implemented.



Roll-over buttons have been used to add movement to the page . Click here to learn how to make a rollover button.

slideshow has been created using WOWslider. Click here to find out how to embed this into an Ultranet page.

An embedded news feed is used to bring the latest updates from the News Centre through to the website home page.

The principal’s posts on Blogger are streamed through to the website to make a one stop shop for visitors.

Finally, an embedded Google calendar  completes the page.





Sandy <![CDATA[How to make your Ultranet Website look great!]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=2940 2014-12-10T23:31:07Z 2014-09-15T05:17:04Z Te Kura o Matapihi is a semi rural, special character school in the heart of the Mount Maunganui peninsula.  It is a school which is successfully engaging whānau and extending learning for their tamariki beyond the classroom.  Over the last few years the Ultranet Platform has played a key (behind the scenes) role in supporting the school to achieve their vision and goals for their tamariki and community.

Ko te kai a te Rangatira, He kōrero, Ko te wai a te Rangatira, He wānanga | Collaborating with others to achieve our goals
Ka tu rangatira ai ta tatou tamariki i roto i te ao Maori me te ao Whanui | Developing life long learners who will make a difference in Te Ao Māori and the global world.

Let’s take a closer look at their Ultranet home page and the tools they have used to make this an excellent example of how a school’s vision can be expressed from the look and feel of its public website look through into the virtual classrooms. This blog post will look at how Te Kura o Matapihi has designed their website home page and subsequent blogs will explore some of the other tools they have used to create elements of the page.

When designing your website home page it is a good idea to sit down with pencil and paper and plan the layout.  If you have existing school branding then you may choose to use this, and the colour themes it contains, as your starting point. The easiest way to organise your layout is to use a table structure to contain the content.

Firstly, make sure you know the dimensions of your page so your content will fit.  Te Kura o Matapihi’s home page is a full-width page with a width of 940 pixels (px).  It is important to note here that the full-screen option is available on the home page only. Once inside the site all webspace pages have the navigation panel on the left of the page. The appearance of these internal pages will vary depending on the layout template you have selected and the modules you have chosen to use on the page.  You can find out more about changing the elements on the page here.

Note box3

The structure of the kura’s home page is underpinned by 3 HTML tables.

The first table contains the roll over buttons. It has 7 columns and just 1 row.  The second table is a more complex one with some groups of cells merged vertically and others merged horizontally. There is also a slideshow created using WOWslider. This has been embedded into the top left cell of Table 2.  Both of these tables have images inserted into each cell which have then been hyperlinked to the corresponding subpage.

In Table 3, 3rd party media (Blogger and Google calendar) has been embedded using iframes . The final component of the page containing contact details is just an image inserted at the bottom of the page.


TKoM Home Page - Tables

So,  let’s have a look at how the tables were set up.

Whilst it can be a little time consuming,  planning how you want the tables to look will save you time in the long run as as you will know from the outset what dimensions to make the images and content that you want to pop into the cells. You can either specify the size of each cell in the table,  or alternatively make your images the exact size you need allowing the cells to resize to match the media.

Table 1 (below)  is the one with the roll over buttons in each cell.  You will notice in the graphic above that the images are separated from each other by a tiny white border.  This is because each cell has been set at a fixed width of 134 px  and the image inside each cell is only 130 px wide.

Whilst this is only a few pixels it is important to consider white space when designing the overall look of your page as it gives visual breathing room for the eye.  Including white space in your design is another reason to split your page up into more than one table.  By doing this you will not only keep your tables easier to manage but you will have more control over white space areas on your page. You can also subtly change how your table looks by adding a value to either “cell padding” or “cell spacing” Cell padding sets the amount of space between the cell contents and the cell wall. Cell spacing controls the space between table cells. .


TKoM Table 1

click map

folder structure

To produce a more complex table you just need to give more thought to the layout of your images and text within it.  Start on paper and do the math!  Know your overall page dimensions before you begin.

To build a table similar to the examples below you will need to configure both the table properties and the cell properties.  It is also more than likely that you will need to merge and split cells until you get the layout you want.   I find it easiest to start by making my images using the dimensions I have planned out on paper and then systematically uploading them into each cell of the table.  This way I can watch the table grow and tweak it as I go.

click map

Pop up Menu

TKoM Table 2

Pop up Menu

TKoM Table 3

The brief for Te Kura o Matapihi’s website  was for it to have an informative “newsy style” design which would keep their community informed and connected to the school as well as to support their tamaraki’s learning.

Ko te kai a te Rangatira, He kōrero, Ko te wai a te Rangatira, He wānanga | Collaborating with others to achieve our goals
Ka tu rangatira ai ta tatou tamariki i roto i te ao Maori me te ao Whanui | Developing life long learners who will make a difference in Te Ao Māori and the global world.

Look out for my next post when I will unpack some of  tools the school used to create content and add vibrancy to their site.

Sandy <![CDATA[Future Focused Community Engagement]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=2859 2014-08-11T23:09:00Z 2014-08-11T23:09:00Z Earlier this year in  “Building Home / School Partnerships” we blogged about sharing ideas on ways to connect and communicate with your community by integrating Ultranet Webpages, other Social Media Tools and Virtual Classrooms. Today I want to explore this theme further and take a brief look into why it is so important to engage with our communities and what this engagement might look like.

In her article “Community Engagement and the New Zealand Curriculum” (2010), Ally Bull argues that there is a need to think carefully about what community engagement might mean in a future-focused curriculum, and how  important this is now if schools are to start laying the foundations for tomorrow’s interactions with community. She discusses the need to “reframe” community engagement so that this goes beyond just informing parents about what is happening at school.

If the purpose of community engagement is for the community to engage collaboratively with schools in decisions about curriculum, and if we want schools to have a 21st century curriculum, then it is important that the wider school community has the opportunity to engage with future-focused ideas about education.

So, in the context of 21st Century eLearning Pedagogy, what are these future focused ideas we should be exposing our community to?

Take a look at the presentation below, originally developed for a Community Information Evening at Omanu School.  It explores  ideas around Digital Literacy, the Industrial Age vs the Knowledge Age,  Multiliteracies and Digital Citizenship in a fun, catchy style designed for both a student and  community audience.

The presentation explores these themes and is then contextualised to Omanu School in terms of their vision and plan for elearning and the role of Ultranet within this. There is a purposeful endeavour by the school to extend their vision for eLearning by developing a “shared language of learning”  with the community.

The immediate  “take away” ideas from this presentation are that…

  • Ultranet gives the school control over the way aspects of  learning are published and shared with parents and the wider community.
  • Ultranet supports and encourages home-school partnerships which can contribute to raising levels of achievement.
  • Ultranet provides a forum for secure social networking where children can start to learn how to become good digital citizens. Staff and students work together to develop protocols for appropriate use of this tool as they set off on their journey as digital citizens.
  • Ultranet provides opportunities for 21st century learning by helping teachers to blend the  curriculum with ICT and with a more personalised approach to learning.

The school’s online “Community Zone” provides the community with further support and access to the school’s vision for elearning and home/school partnerships. Expectations for  Online Safety, Social Networking and Participating Online are established and shared and the school continues to explore opportunities to reframe their community engagement practices through opening up their Parent Portal.


If you would like to find out more about how the Ultranet Parent Portal can help you build on your existing home/school partnerships or if you would like a similar presentation personalised for use at a community evening then please do get in touch with us at info@ultranet.co.nz.


Sandy <![CDATA[Flipping a Lesson with Integrated Tasks]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=2664 2014-06-29T23:55:10Z 2014-06-20T02:50:32Z Have you heard about Personalising Learning or Flipping the Classroom?

Read on to find out more about how Karen Hill from Bethlehem School in Tauranga touches on  these 21st century learning principles with her year 3 students using her Ultranet Virtual Classroom and the Interactive Task Module.

Three years ago, driven by the desire to provide her students with 21st century digital literacy opportunities which engaged her learners and made reading fun, Karen took on the challenge of personalising her reading programme by “flipping” her guided reading lessons using the Ultranet Integrated Task Module .

Bergmann and Sams, define flipping the classroom as learning  which; 1) transfers the ownership of the learning to the students; 2) personalizes learning for all students;  3) gives teachers time to explore deeper learning opportunities and pedagogies with their students. They say flipping the classroom maximizes the face to face time with students and makes learning (not teaching) the centre of the classroom.

Check out this youtube movie of Aaron Sams talking about his experiences with flipping the classroom with secondary school students.

So how does Karen apply the above principles when flipping a reading lesson for her Year 3 Students?

Each week Karen makes an integrated task for one or more of her reading groups. The students have 2-3 days to work through the task. These tasks are purposely designed to develop the independence of her 7 and 8 year old learners.

Karen told me how important it was for her to provide authentic, multi modal reading tasks which helped the students to learn without the teacher. She believes that one of the most important elements of the task design is making sure she is helping the students to build schema for concepts which may be foreign to them. This is where the ability to hyperlink and embed multimedia and visual elements in a task has been very successful.

The key to personalising the learning and flipping the reading lesson is that the students have access to the text and supporting content before the actual guided reading lesson, at school as well as at home.   The questions in each task transition from literal questions, through to inferential questions, and on to evaluative questions, encouraging the students to read and think in different ways.  Karen says that this has allowed the students to become more genuinely involved in shaping their own learning and personalising their pathways according to their needs or interests.

Often, at the end of a task she will include a hyperlinked element to extend the natural curiosity of the children or to develop a specific learning modality such as the arts or music. Because the students have already had access to the text they come to the teaching session more prepared and with a deeper understanding of the text which means she is able to go further and be more creative with their learning.

Another idea to enhance learning in your  literacy programme is to use the Interactive Quiz module alongside a task. Karen occasionally uses these quizzes  as part of her assessment practices and when designing them she uses the STAR question format to formulate the questions. Over time she is able to see patterns with student responses which then inform her teaching.

The Trouble with Heathrow

Over the years Karen has learned that numbering the questions in the tasks is very important so that the students know where they are.  In the following example the students are able to click on the hyperlinks to discover more about dogs.  Click on the live links to see how Karen engages the students with humour!

click map

Afghan dog eating at table dow wiping feet dog talking dog no bath guilty dog walter
From Corned Beef to Captain Cook

In this example Karen scaffolds the content for the students by providing them links to more information about the Corned Beef Cow and its artist Michel Tuffery, as well as encouraging them to find out more about Captain Cook if they are interested.

click map

corned beef cow captain cook Michel Tuffery
Concert Night

What I like most about this example is the use of the “Show, don’t tell” technique which enables the student to experience the Amazon Rainforest through action, thoughts, senses, and feelings.

Karen also allows for vocabulary exploration in many of her tasks such as the “stomach churning” link in the example below.

click map


Giving students access to these rich resources has certainly helped to foster a love of reading in Karen’s students.  They love them so much they are continually pestering her for new ones and she now has a bank of over 50 integrated tasks which she can pull from her archives, making adjustments as needed for the next group of students.

Do look out for the new and improved Task Module in our latest Ultranet release. With its improved functionality to integrate rich, multi modal resources into a task it makes it even easier to flip your classroom and personalise some of the learning pathways for your students.

Tino pai rawa atu! Karen and the Year 3 Students at Bethlehem School.  We think that this is a fabulous use of Ultranet’s Integrated Task Module.


stomach churning world map Amazon Jungle Cruise Amazon and River Dolphins Rainforest animals and plant life Amazonia Explorer corned beef cow Captain Cook Michel Tuffery




dog eating at the table do this dog talks guilty dog Walter the Farting Dog ]]>
Sandy <![CDATA[Building Home / School Partnerships]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=2053 2014-07-23T05:02:13Z 2014-04-17T02:49:23Z Your school website and Ultranet virtual classroom can provide the perfect starting point to connect with your community and engage with your whānau.

Is your website looking a bit tired and need of a revamp? Do you want some simple ideas for connecting with your parents using your Virtual Classroom?   Below are some ideas showing how different schools have used Ultranet Webpages and Virtual Classrooms to connect with their community and engage with their whanau.

Our first examples are from Hanmer Springs School , Wairakei School and Merivale School. These school websites provide excellent examples of how Ultranet modules and other social media sites can be integrated under the one ‘roof’ to provide clear and succinct messages about the school, learning and events to the community.

These schools communicate events and notices and share student learning via the News Centre. The content in the News Centre is pushed through onto the home page so that it can be seen at first glance by the reader. Twitter feeds, Facebook feeds and google calendars are also embedded on to the homepage providing parents and caregivers with details about school events, cancellations etc.

Wairakei School 2014-04-17 at 10.10.16 AM Merivale School Homepage
 Celebrating Learning and the Community Spirit of your School

Te Puna School and Te Kura o Matapihi are just two of many Ultranet schools using 3rd party applications such as Vimeo, Youtube, Photobucket and Animoto  to bring their websites to life and to celebrate ‘a sense of community’ and student achievement.

Celebrating Community Spirit with Animoto Te Puna School Homepage Vimeo Feed and use of Ultranet Media Galleries

Check out the TP News at Te Puna School.
Check out the Whanau Family Fun Day at Te Kura o Matapihi

 Specialist Interest Group Webpages

How do your special interest groups at school connect with their communities?  The following example is a student lead Enviro Group webpage at Omanu School.  A blog (using Blogger)  has been embedded into the page content using an iframe.  In addition to this, students can upload and comment on images in the Media Gallery module on the page. They can also share events through the Ultranet Calendar module. Could you set up a similar forum for your school Kapa Haka Group, Choir or Student Council?

Setting up a webpage in this manner invites the community to respond in two ways. Community members with their own user accounts provided by the Parent Portal functionality within Ultranet, are able to comment on the images in the media gallery.  The extended community (anyone without Parent Portal logins) are invited to respond via the blogger interface itself.

Enviro Blog

Enviro Blog

Communicate Classroom Learning via your Virtual Classroom

My final examples show how 3rd party applications such as blogs, google presentations and google docs have been added to the page alongside Ultranet Classroom tools to provide an integrated view of the learning activities that the children have been participating in.

In the junior examples, the learning logs are co-constructed with the teacher and the students are then able to share their classroom learning with their families by clicking on the arrows at the bottom of the presentations. The teachers at this school were already familiar with applications like Powerpoint and Keynote so the idea of building on this was the most obvious starting point for the school to begin sharing their classroom learning in an asynchronous manner.

The Learning Logs (created in Blogger and integrated into the Virtual Classroom) in the Y3-6 examples go one step further by making connections to other artifacts i.e. workflows in uSpace, artwork, videos and images in media galleries and other interactive tasks in progress in the Virtual Classroom.

Y1 - Hyperlinks to Daily notices in Google Docs Y1 Virtual Classroom Landing Page Y3 Virtual Classroom Landing Page Y4 Virtual Classroom Landing Page Y5-6 Virtual Classroom Landing Page

What I enjoy most about all these Ultranet Website and Virtual Classroom examples is how Ultranet has helped to bring everything together under one roof. The concept of ‘Write Once, Promote Everywhere’ enables these schools to have multiple touch points with their community touch points which are not dependent on any one particular device or digital platform. Aggregating all this communication in one place, the school website,  also creates a fabulous sense of community and sets the school up for more in-depth home/school partnerships.

The Virtual Classroom examples are relevant, vibrant, collaborative and purposeful for both the students’ learning and for their families. When interacting with these pages I can almost feel and hear the vibes of the the happy, excited children going about their learning.

If you have any further questions about how any of these ideas were achieved please don’t hesitate to contact us as we are more than willing to help.

Tim N <![CDATA[Announcing the Win8 mobile app]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=2439 2013-11-28T22:48:12Z 2013-11-28T22:42:09Z We’re very excited to announce that a Windows 8 App for Ultranet will be available from the start of term 1 next year.

With the same brief as the new iOS App this will be targeted at leveraging the capabilities of tablet devices to seamlessly capture and transfer content and evidence of learning for use in media galleries in uSpace profiles and on classroom pages. It is also a great way to easily view gallery content and pick up articles and notices from the News Centre.

Win8 Gallery View

If you are interested in trialling the Windows 8 App from mid January onwards then please email us at info@ultranet.co.nz.

Sandy <![CDATA[Read all About it…]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=2337 2013-11-25T22:01:24Z 2013-11-25T22:01:24Z At Greerton Village School in Tauranga a class of Year 3 and 4 Students have been taking the lead on the their learning by becoming the school news reporters for the school’s Online Newspaper, which is delivered via the Ultranet News Centre.

Using the Ultranet News Centre to develop real life writing opportunities

Room 9’s teacher, Mr Annear, says:

“it has been a great way to motivate the children to write. Everything the children write about is “authentic” because the subject matter is happening around them.

Knowing that the article will be published on on our website also gives the children  a real purpose and a buzz. Sometimes we report on school wide events and other times it may just be something which the children are interested in.”

GVS Has Got Talent 2013 The Learning Ducks Term 3 Music Assembly

The real success story is how the school has linked the articles in the News Centre to the School Event’s Media Gallery to encourage the audience to delve deeper into the subject being reported about.


Caroline Taylor-Levey says:

“It has also been a great way to promote talent in the school and celebrate children’s learning.  When something is reported on at school the children go home and tell their families, who then log on to our website.  

The links to the School Events media gallery not only bring the learning to life but they also serve to archive our school events and learning for future reference.”


]]> 0 Sandy <![CDATA[Bring uSpace alive with a Roar]]> http://www.ultranet.co.nz/?p=2003 2014-07-28T05:39:02Z 2013-11-07T03:34:15Z

Facilitate Shared Learning in uSpace

“Students learn as they engage in shared activities and conversations with other people, including family members and people in the wider community.”

(Page 35 of the New Zealand Curriculum Document)

At St Marks Church School, in Mt Victoria Wellington, Claire Francis has taken a traditional and simple idea of the “Travelling Toy” and put a 21st century twist on the learning.   Claire’s class of Year 2 students have developed a learning community around “Leo the Lion” in uSpace.

Leo’s adventures are now bought to life online, through the blog and the media gallery. The students  take Leo home and share his adventures with their classmates.

Students take photos and video of their adventures with Leo and upload these to the media gallery by logging in to Ultranet from a computer at home. They can also upload these images via a Mobile device like the ipad using the Ultranet Mobile App .

Media Gallery in uSpace

Media Albums showing photos and videos of Leo’s Adventures

Claire says that ” this is a great example of how elearning can be used to motivate and engage students with the learning task . By using uSpace (instead of the old style book) to record Leo’s adventures the students have an immediate audience for their writing”.

The ability to comment on a picture in the media gallery and on a blog post also allows the students and their families to interact with each other beyond the classroom walls.

Leo the Lion Blog

Leo the Lion Blog facilitating shared learning with student commenting on blog posts

How to build a learning community using a “Common Name” Account in Ultranet
  • Create an account in Ultranet using your pseudonym or common name .  Enable uspace and the mobile app for this user.
  • Share the login details with your students so that they can “post as” that pseudonym.
  • Ask the children to make the pseudonym a “Buddy” in uSpace.
  • Start posting……

Building shared learning communities, such as this one in uSpace, is a great way for younger children to get started with participating and contributing in Ultranet.

uSpace provides a safe, virtual environment in which to develop ideas around 21st century digital citizenship, as well as as authentic learning opportunity for students to develop written language skills.