A New Online School Learning Community

I just heard about a new online learning community – available gratis to secondary and middle schools outside the UK (and for a small fee within).

Rafi.ki is a not-for-profit online community designed just for schools, currently secondary and middle schools. It uses cutting edge yet simple to use technology funded by the DfES, DfID and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, to enable schools to work with each other simply and effectively across the world. Rafi.ki contains a built in communications centre which allows for a number of different methods of asynchronous and synchronous communication. Each of which can be switched on and off depending on the needs of the school. Features contained within the communications centre include:

  1. Instant messaging – this is a tool for synchronous (real-time) communication which users can use to find and communicate with other users online
  2. Video conferencing – a tool which can be used for video conferencing using a PC and a basic web camera and microphone
  3. Audio conferencing – a conferencing tool which can be used where video is not available
  4. Email – internal, secure email system which can be used for asynchronous communication between users
  5. Forums – online discussion forums which can be created by teachers to discuss work and other issues
  6. Blogs – a drag and drop design tool which pupils can use to create media-rich and engaging web-logs and other web-pages

The community provides online synchronous and asynchronous support, hosted educational projects, aid in global twinning between schools and classes, an intuitive, robust, easy to learn interface. The environment provides various levels of authorization and supervision for students and teachers.

I have been playing around with it for a few days and am thinking of using it for hosting a collaborative project with a school in the USA. It seems like a lot of fun with much potential for supporting learning. I think it pays to have a look see by registering and playing around with it. It might be right for some global projects that you are thinking about.

( I have no affiliation with the site's sponsors or operators other than my expressed interest in giving it a test run to check it's suitability for our school's needs.)

Views: 66

Comment by SusanTsairi on August 1, 2007 at 11:50am
Reuven, thanks for sharing! It sounds very interesting.
Comment by Reuven Werber on August 1, 2007 at 12:24pm
I think you"ll love it Susan! Hebrew support so-so.
They said they would love to have more Israeli schools!
Comment by Dennis O'Connor on August 23, 2007 at 12:39pm
Reuven, I like the 'looks' of this environment. I'm also drawn to their stated intention to "...break down cultural, religious and social barriers between peoples and really improve their education too!"

This seems like a mandate for all online education.

I'm poking around the site (applying some of the evaluation techniques we shared this summer in powersearching). So far, So good.

The advantages of working with an established charitable group are clear. There's a synergy that comes from connecting with people who 'get it'.

I'm musing on how a collaborative project between schools would work with Moodle as well. I'm sure the tech would work, but you'd lose the pre-established international community that Rafi-Ki delivers.

Toward the end of our class, I thought to check the language modules installed on our Moodle. I was disappointed that Hebrew wasn't installed. I've asked Moodlerooms to install the language pack. When it's in, I'll ask you to give it a look.

Is http://www.iearn.org/ a viable system for your project? It's been around for awhile and seems to have an interesting array of courses. I'm not sure if they provide free collaborative space.

As always Reuven, you help me think! Thanks

Comment by Reuven Werber on August 23, 2007 at 2:59pm
Hi Den,
We did a collaboration with a Montreal school using MOODLE. It gave us a good place to communicate.
One of the things that "grab" me about rafi.ki is the "sleek" flash-based interface that allows almost everything to be done by drag and drop. The colorful visual environment will be very appealing to hs students who dwell in that kind of virtual environment. I haven't found an area there that would allow building and showcasing a big project, so I thought of using rafi.ki for communication - homepage building - introductions and something like wikispaces for actually building a collaborative project.

The rafi.ki team wants to grow and are very open to suggestions for developng their environment.
HOWEVER, I showed it to some of our teachers reccommending it for use on our collaborative project. They didn't like it precisely because it was too open and allowed too much opportunity for communication within the rafi.ki community. In my eyes, rafi.ki has done a very nice job of allowing a "safe" yet open environment. I haven't yet given up trying to convince our teachers about using it. But if that doesn't work I have some other ideas of how to get our kids on that platform :-).
Comment by Henry Warren on September 14, 2007 at 8:02am
Reuven, you know you can turn off each of the communications tools individually within Rafi.ki and close certain areas (e.g. the social areas like the school yard). That might make it more palatable for the more wary teachers.


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