• How to Use K12Advantage.com



    Why K12Advantage.com was created

    Before we get started, I would like to mention that K12Advantage.com will always be an evolving work in progress. Additional features will be added as new technologies become available.

    K12Advantage.com was designed to be a free, all encompassing site dedicated to fostering collaboration in K-12 education. Collaboration amongst K-12 professionals is becoming increasingly popular. Many school divisions are provisioning their own internal collaboration servers and while this is effective for facilitating collaboration amongst internal staff, it creates an information silo which is inaccessible to other school divisions.

    Many of the K-12 related web sites on the Internet have a very specific focus making collaboration very distributed and fragmented. This also makes it difficult to build large collaborative groups and locate / interact with peers. The focus on a specific discipline / department of most other K-12 sites also hinders inter-departmental collaboration (i.e. curriculum browsing and starting discussions with other departments such as facilities and technology). K12Advantage's goal is to create a feature rich collaboration space for all K-12 departments world wide. In order to accomplish this goal, we need your help. Get involved! Tell us what you like about the site and equally what you'd change. If you see an area where content is sparse, be the first to post a topic for discussion or suggest a CMS article. Together, we can make this site the most comprehensive K-12 resource on the net!


    K12Advantage.com Features and Layout


    The Landing Page:

    When you first visit K12Advantage.com, you are greeted by the landing page. This is the main page of the content management system (CMS). Here you will find samples and summaries of content from the various departments (Administration, Curriculum, Facilities, Finance, Technology) including:

    • Forum posts
    • RSS feeds
    • Blog entries
    • CMS articles
    • Event Calendars
    This is meant to provide you with a brief high level view of what's new throughout the site.

    Also on the landing page of K12Advantage.com, you will notice the "Conference Rooms" icon. We'll go into greater detail about the conference rooms in the "live collaboration" section of this document.

    Navigating K12Advantage.com

    Navigating the system is quite simple. You also have multiple options for navigation in some cases. On the landing page you obviously have this large group of icons which take you to the department or subsection you're interested in.


    Your second navigation option which is available no matter where you are on the system is the top navigation bar.


    Your third option, which is only present in the CMS is the section widget.


    Searching K12Advantage.com

    Adjacent to the navigation bar at the far right, you will notice the search bar.


    Type the search string you're interested in finding in the search bar and a list of results will be returned. For more advanced searching, click on the "Advanced Search" link at the bottom of the search bar. The advanced search screen gives you the ability to searched based on username, date ranges, search strings and the type of content (blogs, forum posts, CMS articles etc...).



    Forums

    K12Advantage.com includes a very extensive forum structure. The structure uses categories and forums. Categories are the higher level containers used to organize the actual forums in which you can view and post messages. The curriculum and technology sections have extensive forum hierarchies.

    Curriculum Forums

    As stated above, the curriculum forum hierarchy is extensive and as such, we will describe it in further detail. The first level of the curriculum forum is the primary language of instruction. The two languages currently present are English and French (although in the next week or so we'll be adding Spanish). The hierarchies are almost identical under each language, the big difference being each area will focus on materials and resources specific to that language.



    For example, underCurriculum -> English -> Grade Specific -> Grade 1 -> Mathematics -> Resources and Lesson Plans you would find english resources for grade 1 math, while under Curriculum -> French -> Grade Specific -> Grade 1 -> Mathematics -> Resources and Lesson Plans you would find french resources for grade 1 math.

    In the above example, Curriculum -> English -> Grade Specific -> Grade 1 -> Mathematics are the category folders and Resources and Lesson Plans is the actual forum where messages can be viewed or posted.


    There are also categories under each language called "Division Level". This category is for discussions and resources that are more geared to a division level (ex: elementary, middle or junior / senior high) rather than a specific grade.



    All lower level forums under the categories contain the same three forums General Discussions, Resources and Lesson Plans, and Evaluation / Testing / Rubrics. Discussions and questions should go in General Discussions, actual resources and lesson plans you wish to share should go in Resources and Lesson Plans, and any resources related to testing and evaluation should go in Evaluation / Testing / Rubrics.



    Forum Statistics Screen

    Since the forum structure is quite extensive, there is a forum statistics box at the top of every page in the forum. The default number of entries to show is 15 but you can increase it up to 100 by using the drop down box in the top right corner of the screen. The statistics box shows you the most recent posts in the forums, blogs and CMS.




    Posting to Forums
    Posting to forums is quite simple. The default setting for our system is to enable the WYSIWYG (graphical) editor. We recommend Firefox or Internet Explorer while using the WYSIWYG editor. It does work with Google Chrome, but some functionality is lost and as such we do not recommend using Google Chrome with this site.

    Forum posting buttons are shown below. You can post a new thread, reply to an existing thread, edit a post you've already made and change it or reply to a thread quoting the original author's post in your post.



    The first part of the editor window can be seen below. There are number of feature buttons included with the editor including: font style / size / color, smiles, attachments, bold / italics / underline, alignment, insert hyperlink, insert image, insert youtube video (to name a few). To see what a button does simply mouse over the button and a small pop up will tell you what the button is for.

    Be sure to give your message a meaningful title, message body and last but not least, please include descriptive tags for the message. Tags are like keywords that allow people to search for posts that relate to them. Let's say for example I'm posting a message that contain French math games that conform to Alberta, Canada's grade 2 curriculum. I would include the following comma separated tags making it easy for others to search for the content:

    Canada, Alberta, grade 2, French, math games

    The order of the tags is not important, just that you separate values with commas and make them meaningful.




    The second section of the editor window allows you to manage attachments, add a poll to the message with up to 10 possible answers and (by default) subscribe to the thread so you get notified via email when someone replies to your message.



    Subscribing to Forums

    Beside each forum you will notice a green circle with a check mark and an orange RSS rectangle. Both of these buttons allow you to subscribe to forums you're interested in. The green circle allows you to subscribe to a forum via email and the orange RSS rectangle via an RSS reader. Both options allow for immediate notification, daily or weekly digest.



    Blogs

    K12Advantage.com also includes a blog system. The system is self explanatory, choose the category which best fits your blog and start your blog. Curriculum blog categories are broken down by grade or by subject area.



    Event / Training Calendars

    K12Advantage.com includes calendars for every department in every province and state. If you have an event to add to the calendar, simply choose your department, then click on the calendar icon on the right bar of the screen. Choose your province or state and the calendar will open. Put in the new event either by day or date range (if multiple days). The province / state page also contains a summary of all upcoming events for that department at the bottom of the screen.




    Live Collaboration

    There are a number of tools included in K12Advantage.com that facilitate live collaboration.

    Friends Lists

    Similar to other services, you can compile a list of friends. Click on a user's name and a pop-up menu will appear, select "+Add as Contact".



    Next, you'll be presented with a confirmation screen to add the user as a contact, be sure to check the "Also send friend request" check box.



    Chat Bar

    Again, like other social sites, K12Advantage.com includes a chat bar at the bottom of the screen.



    The chatbar will display all of your friends who are currently online. You can click and select one of your friends and start a text chat session.



    Besides simply text chatting, you have the option of engaging in a video / audio chat as well as performing file transfers.



    Chatbar Chatrooms

    The chatbar also includes text based chat rooms allowing for group text chatting.



    Conference Rooms

    K12Advantage.com also includes conference rooms. Conference rooms include text / audio / video chatting with whiteboard, desktop, group document and youtube streaming video sharing.



    If you need to use a conference room, be sure to click on the appropriate conference room calendar and add an entry to book the calendar for the time frame you need it.

    Regards,

    Ernest Aleixandre