What is an Intranet?
There are two ways to talk about Intranets: as physical computer networks (see left) and as community information.In both cases, a distinction is made between public information (the Internet) and private information (an intranet).
Websites can have public and private content (requiring a log-in to access the private). When the logins are granted based on in a community (like a school), the site is called an "intra-net", just as activities inside a school's walls are called "intra-mural". However, an Intranet does not have to be inside a school's walls. Ideally anyone who has a role to play in a school should be able to log in to the school's Intranet from home to access their school files, communicate and work together.
Why Have an Intranet?
People who have an interest in what happens in schools are called "stakeholders", and these include administrators (who want to help the school function), teachers (who want to provide educational value), students (who want valuable experiences), parents (who want their children to succeed) and community (experts helping teachers, businesses who help with projects).
The nature of each of these roles can imply differences in access to information, software, and collaborative groups involved in learning and working together. These are not the same from school to school, however, and a "one size fits all" Intranet can stifle creativity, innovation, and effectiveness. On the other hand, having every school build their own Intranet from scratch makes other problems.
From the perspective of classroom learning, the community of an Intranet can be a great audience for student publishing. Schools need to be very careful about what they make public about their students, but with the community students should not be anonymous: administrators may want their students to be celebrated for achievements, teachers may want their students work to be appreciated by parents, and students may want to get help when they have difficulties, and praised when they succeed.
The Empowered Teacher model for Intranets is made up of two different websites. The "sandbox" is a place where all stakeholders figure out what information, software and groups should be created to support student learning and other school functions that do not belong on the public website everyone can see. When a teacher introduces an assignment in class, students go home and work on it, connect with each other to develop projects, and submit their work so that teachers can comment on it, the "sandbox" is what they use.
The other website is like an online teacher center, where projects are developed and teachers study and work together in what are sometimes called "professional learning communities". We call this the "collaboratory" because it is a place teachers collaborate on activities that will then be put on the sandbox for students and other stakeholders to use. The "collaboratory" is also classroom for teachers to learn how to use new technologies and other "in-service" topics that keep their professional skill and knowledge up to date.
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