In part 2 I stated that when setting up a VLE for mathematics there is one important point that must be considered: the VLE must support quality teaching, teaching that supports the NCTM standards. In particular, the NCTM theme standards of problem-solving, communication, reasoning, and connections. In part 3, I will describe what components the VLE should consist of.
The elements of a VLE should promote a social constructionist classroom--one where students are creating products meant to be shared with other students. Residing on the Web, it should be an environment freely accessible by all students. In addition, all components should be easily accessible from one point. This "homebase" could be a teacher's personal homepage, or just as appropriate, a wiki. In fact, a wiki may even be more advantageous than a personal homepage due to the fact that wikis are editable by all members of the VLE. I have tried two sites that host wikis--swiki.net & Seedwiki. It's a toss up here. Both of these sites would be a great homebase for the VLE.
Next, the VLE needs components that allow for the creation of products for the edification of all. One of these is a blog. A blog is an excellent place for students to record their learning. Each entry is public record, meant to be read and commented on by other students. I have tried many sites that host blogs (all free)--LiveJournal, Xanga, Bloglines, & Blogger. Obviously, my choice is Blogger. Because it is so simple to set up and use, I have also set up almost 100 student accounts as well. Blogger is also my choice because, using Flickr, digital photos can be posted as entries with little difficulty (scroll down a few entries to see an example). This opens up the world of digital cameras to the mathematics classroom and increases the number of products students can create and share.
Finally, for today at least, a VLE should have a discussion forum as one of its components. Among other things, discussion forums increase discourse, participation, reasoning, & reflective thinking. You can set up a discussion forum like the pros use at ProBoards.com. This site is highly recommended!
After all of the choices have been made, the wiki homebase can edited to include links to student blogs and discussion forums. I will be doing this later this week with my class. Check back, links will be provided.