Ecto Blog

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Feb 13 | 593 comments

We added a new navigation feature:



Next to your “dashboard” tab in the top navigation bar we have added a “my groups” tab. If you hover over the “my groups” tab you get a list of all of the groups that you are a member of. If you click on one of those groups you will jump to that group. With this new tab you can now navigate from one group to another without having to stop by your dashboard.

We hope you will like it! Thanks to the members of the LLF for suggesting this navigation improvement!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Feb 11 | 425 comments
Just a quick note to let you know that your external message indicators (that is the e-mail you get, if you choose, that indicates that you have received a message in Ecto) now includes the message body as well.

That means you don’t have to log into Ecto to read the message.  You still will have to log in to Ecto to respond to the message.

We hope you like it!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Oct 30 | 1104 comments

I have been contacted by a teacher who is looking for schools or classes in the UK or elsewhere for that matter that are interested in engaging in collaboration and global learning initiatives.  The teacher is a British expat and is responsible for the technology and PBL projects at his primary school (K-8) here in Chicago, IL, USA.

If you are interested in working with this school send me a note to “Truls” using the Ecto messaging system.

Also, if you have similar request let me know and I will publicize them for you!

Cheers for lots of global learning!!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Sep 25 | 215 comments


As recently reported on several blogs, the U.S.National School Board Association has issued a study, which encourages schools to explore social networking in the classroom.

Noted eduBlogger, Will Richardson, rejoiced along ith many of his readers. Quoting's coverage of the NSBA study, Richardson called attention to two exciting findings.

1) The study suggested that it's not just students who are using social networking sites outside the classroom--a large percentage of educators are involved as well.

"Social networking may be advantageous to students - and there could already be a double standard at work. 37% of districts say at least 90% of their staff are participating in online communities of their own - related to education - and 59% of districts said that at least half were participating. 'These findings indicate that educators find value in social networking,' the study notes, 'and suggest that many already are comfortable and knowledgeable enough to use social networking for educational purposes with their students.'


2) The study showed that most parents recognize the educational value of their children's use of Web 2.0 sites and expect schools to integrate Web 2.0 into the classroom.


"In fact, 76% of parents expect social networking will improve their children's reading and writing skills, or help them express themselves more clearly, according to the study, and parents and communities 'expect schools to take advantage of potentially powerful educational tools, including new technology.'"

You can read Will Richardon's blog at:

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Sep 25 | 198 comments


Multiple participants in the blog discussion commented that they love the idea of integrating social networking in the classroom and challenged the group to think more about how best to accomplish that integration.

In addition, some voiced concern over the danger of using sites like MySpace or Facebook in the classroom and others wondered exactly how the use of these sites could be adapted for educational aims.

Apparently they had not yet heard of Ecto!


  • Social networking is a key component of Ecto
  • The Ecto interface is familiar to students because it looks and operates just much like MySpace or Facebook-for instance, teachers and students all have personal profile pages
  • Ecto is safer social networking environment because it has multiple control features built in for teachers and administrators. There is no need for classroom use of "after school sites" such as MySpace or Facebook


  • Unlike MySpace or Facebook, social networking/connecting in Ecto is not an end in itself but a means of enabling collaboration in the wired classroom andallowing teachers to administer their online in an efficient, engaging manner. Teachers form groups for each of their courses and subgroups for project-based lessons
  • Ecto merges social networking with a full-featured online LMS toolset (attendance tracker, gradebook)
  • Ecto enables users to upload their own learning content and create auto-graded learning items. The community then shares this content in a vast open,library where everything can be rated and commented upon by the global Ecto network--much like YouTube's library of videos or Amazon's inventory of product reviews

Any educator who wishes to bring social networking into the classroom in a way that harnesses its power in service of collaboration and learning needs to find out about Ecto. If someone you know is interested in Ecto, a good way to spread the word is to direct them to the new Ecto video "What is Ecto?" at:

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Aug 14 | 528 comments

We are currently experiencing a server error caused by the outgoing mail notification function.

If you perform the following actions in Ecto you will be rewarded with a nasty error message:

  • Create a new account
  • Invite someone into your group
  • Join a group
  • Send a message

The actions actualy work correctly, i.e., you can create a new acount, invite someone into your group, join the group, and send messages, the problem is that the outgoing mail to let you know about these events does not go out and an error message is displayed. 

We are very sorry for the inconvenience that this creates and we are working very diligently to get the problem fixed.


The error has been fixed and the system is back to normal.

Thank you for your patience and support of Ecto!


Truls Henriksen 

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Aug 07 | 294 comments

We just completed a short movie that describes some of the functions of EctoLearning. The movie also features some of our users talking about how they use Ecto to help their students learn better.

Click here to see "What is Ecto: The movie"

Let us know what you think!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Jun 14 | 287 comments

We have added the ability to connect to your friends/contacts and fellow group members via Skype. Just add your Skype user ID to the "Online Stuff" section of your profile.

Then people can Skype you directly from Ecto by clicking on your Skype status on your profile page.

Give it a shot and let us know what you think!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Jun 14 | 331 comments

We just pushed live a major update to the profile function. We added an outreach section, an education section, and a professional section. As always, all fields in you profile are optional.

We also added a new feature where you can choose who sees the various fields in your profile. The default option is public. Keep in mind that all public information may also be picked up by search engines. The next level is that you may choose to share some information with the fellow members of your groups. The most restrictive setting is to share the information just with your friends/contacts.

As always, be careful with information that you share online.

Let us know what you think of these updates!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on May 23 | 314 comments


We pushed another update live yesterday.  Everyone now has their own content area on your personal dashboard.  All of the content in that area is private, but you can always copy content from your own dashboard to any of your group dashboards to share with others.

We also rearranged the account, profile, my pages and theme links to gain better use of the dashboard space.

Let us know what you think!



Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on May 16 | 156 comments

We have pushed one more change today. The “Learning Pages” area of the group has been renamed “Content”. Besides renaming the area we have improved how content is managed.

First, you can now place files, and links directly on the group – they do not need to sit on a page.

Second you can now add and edit the content in the group directly from the group – you do not need to first go to the page that contain the content.

Last, we have tweaked how the content is presented. For example, you can now see the meta data about the content by mousing over the little bubble at the end of the content name.

Look at the screen shot below as an example of the new content layout.

We think this will make adding and sharing content easier and more meaningful.

Let us know what you think!

Thanks for using Ecto!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on May 16 | 318 comments

We have rolled out two new features based on popular demand.

We have added a new role in a group called "Author". The Author has all the same rights as the Member -- in addition they can add and edit content within the group. Keep in mind that the content that is created by others retains their integrity. That means that nobody can edit a piece of content created by another author.

That leads us to the second now addition

We have now added a new collaborative capability on an item by item basis (or section by section basis). The creator of a piece of content may add other users as editors on a specific content piece. You can add as many collaborators as you would like and as the owner of the item you can remove the collaborators whenever you would like.

The screen shot below shows how you can add or delete collaborators from the edit item (or section) screen.

Try these new features and let us know what you think!

Thanks for using Ecto!!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Apr 24 | 312 comments

We have talked to some of our users. Here are a few clips that we have put together so far.

Click here to see what some of the Ecto users do with Ecto!

Let us know what you think!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Mar 30 | 376 comments

Today we launched a corporate version of Ecto that we are calling Ecto Connect! Go to and check it out. You can log inn over there using your regular username and password. Everything works the same way - it just looks a little different.

Let us know what you think!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Mar 07 | 330 comments

We now have a new method for organizing evaluative content in Ecto. You can now create assignments from the group dashboard page. An assignment can contain one or more learning pages and what we have called non-Ecto items (such as an extra credit opportunity). Once you have created an assignment you then have access to a much improved grade book that allows you to assign points and weights to every element in your assignment. You can also compare student performance across assignments as well as across the student population. I will write a more detailed description on the assignment function soon.

In this update we also added a sorting function that puts the groups that have new content on top of your group list and any members and friends that are online on top of the members or friends list.

Let us know what you think and keep the suggestions coming!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Feb 27 | 327 comments

We are very excited and proud to be selected as a member site of The Human Network. The Human Network is an initiative of Cisco Systems, Inc.

"On the human network, everything we do, we do together. We rewrite stories, music and industries. We build puzzles, ideologies, and nations of people. Come visit the sites that are changing the way we all work, live, play and learn. Be part of the great things we do when we all get together."

Ecto is one of three sites selected for the learning aspect of The Human Network. If you have a story of how Ecto has helped you learn or teach please let us know so that we can share it with the community on The Human Network. You can send your story to username "Truls" in the Ecto messaging system or to truls [at] ectolearning [dot] com.

stephen becker, ph.d. (Dr_Becker) (admin) on Jan 04 | 609 comments

How about becoming directly involved with Ecto in our mission to revolutionize education? If you are an aspiring college student or grad student with skills in video production, editing and corporate communications, we need you.

Ecto currently has two openings for video production internships. You'll be working closely with the Ecto team to produce and edit two 2-3 minute videos on the philosophy of Ecto, the future of education technology, and the features of our system.

Candidates must be highly motivated, capable of self-direction, creative, and flexible. Candidates must also have experience with basic video production and editing. Please also have access to your own equipment—DV camcorder, lapel mic, computer with video editing software. The films will incorporate still images, graphics, and a small amount of interview footage, which will be done at our pilot schools.

Ideally we are looking for candidates who can earn college credit and can work with us at least 20 hrs per week for 2-3 months. This opportunity will result in valuable items for your portfolio/reel. The internships are unpaid.

We are located on the north side of Chicago. This position may require some driving so the candidate must have a reliable automobile and valid driver’s license and insurance. Most work can be done from home/school.

If you are up for the challenge please email a letter of intent and a resume to Stephen Becker at stephen{at}ectolearning{dot}com or just send me a message in ecto to Dr_Becker with your contact info. If you have samples of previous film/video efforts, please direct us to them.

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Dec 21 | 417 comments

Today we released a couple of new features.

  • “Who is on-line” indicator: Now you can see who has logged in to Ecto. The indicator is on your friends list and in the members list in your groups. You can also see which one of your members is actually working in the group as well.
  • Usage tracking: As a group owner you can collect usage information from your members. If you include a learning page in your tracking (you can turn tracking on and off on the learning page, just like you include a page in the grade book) you can see the first time the student visited the page, the last time they did and how many times in total they were there.
  • Manage messaging: As a group owner you can now turn off the messaging function for your students for the duration of your class. The messaging capability resumes once the time limit expires, you turn it back on or you log off from the system.

Let us know how these features work for you!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Dec 18 | 197 comments

Good Monday morning. There are a number of updates and new stuff in Ecto this morning:

  • Dynamic Rubrics – the first version of a dynamic rubrics builder is in place. Take a look at it when you create a short answer or files submit section on a learning page. We will have a separate blog about this soon.
  • Gradebook / Popup Layout changes – some changes based on the fact that you now have rubrics to help you grade.
  • Reset Gradebook attempts – we added the ability to reset a graded item
  • Page options to hide “points” and “not yet answered” info boxes on a learning page – click on the edit page button on a learning page to try it out.
  • New Blog Layout
  • New thread layouts
  • MyPage on Dashboard – you have always had the ability to build your own personal page that is tied to your profile. With this new layout it is easier to get to and easier to edit. Try it out; let’s see how creative you can be.
  • Owner can send messages to the group – if you are a group owner or group admin now you can message your group or any subset of your group right from the group page.
  • Disable user images in groups – as a group owner or group admin you can now disable a user's picture if you find it disruptive. The user will get a message that their image is being blocked in the group.
  • Timeout setting – we changed the idle timeout from 20 minutes to 60 minutes.
  • Plus miscellaneous bug fixes from the “the technical team has been contacted” e-mails.

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Nov 28 | 298 comments

We had a major update with a bunch of new stuff today. In addition to the list below, we did quite a few user interface tweaks in response to the great feedback we have received:

  • We redesigned the “create section” function. Instead of radio buttons you can now just click once on the section you want.
  • We implemented incoming RSS Feed capability. Now you can have your students blog in whatever blogging tool they like and you can aggregate all of their feeds right here in Ecto.
  • flickr – yep we have integrated with flickr so now you can bring flickr images to your learning page.
  • We have added descriptions to Files and Resources.
  • Short answer questions now have an expected answer. Students can see the expected answer after they have submitted the learning page for grading.
  • We have implemented a Clipboard in Ecto. Now you can copy content that you see in Ecto to your Ecto Clipboard and then use that content later when you are creating your learning pages.
  • We have redesigned the way you create and manage related groups
  • We have included your avatar (your picture) on the membership list in a group and in the forums
  • We have also included a function where the forum moderator can designate a string to hold posts until they have been reviewed by the moderator.
  • The moderator can now also edit forum posts.
  • We completely redesigned the Grade book to make it easier to use.
  • In the attendance tracker we added a feature so that the instructor can mark all as present
Oh, by the way, the two-tone Ecto is coming soon! Enjoy these updates and keep the suggestions coming!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Nov 21 | 321 comments

We are upgrading the system and bringing over the library from Ecto 1.0. To do that we have to bring down the system, so Ecto will be down in the morning of Wednesday November 22. Once the migration is over you will have access to more that 7,000 learning items that you can use to learn, to teach, or do both! We are sorry for any inconvenience that this downtime will cause.

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Oct 23 | 385 comments

This is kind of fun.

Go to your personal dashboard (that is the page you get to after you log in or when you click on the Home tab). Click on “Edit Theme” in the Account section.  Select your color (hue) in the outer ring of the color picker, and then set you brightness and saturation in the middle square. Once you have a color you like, click on the “Update” button.

Darker colors really look good. Have fun, and let us know what you think.

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Oct 23 | 367 comments

We just released our team creation function. If you go to a group you can see the teams section right below the members section.

Go ahead create a team, you can always change and delete teams as you learn how the function works.The basic concept is this: After you have created a group, for example your Robotics Club, you can then create a team for the building of the robot and another for the programming of the robot. Each team will be able to see what the other team is doing and you can focus the leaning pages and the discussions to the appropriate team.

Give it a whirl and let us know what you think.

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Oct 19 | 342 comments

We just released the Ecto search function.  It searches the local Ecto libarary for content, pages and groups.  In addition it searches youTube and  Flickr and we also created an easy jump to do a Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Wikipedia search as well.

The best part is that if you are accessing the search from a learning page that you are creating you can  add the content into your page with one click.

Try it out, it is pretty cool!

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Oct 04 | 326 comments

Google just released their gadgets for use outside of the Google. That means that you can now include one of the 1,200 Google gadgets (found here: on any one of your learning pages. Just find the gadget you would like, configure it per the instructions on the Google site, grab the code from the code box and paste it into a content section on your learning page.

Try it out, it is pretty cool.

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Oct 04 | 350 comments

If you are a curriculum developer and would like to use Ecto to distribute your curriculum and in addition would like to earn additional income by re-selling Ecto to your clients, please let us know either by addinga comment on this post or by sending us and e-mail to contact{at}ectoprep{dot}com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Oct 02 | 292 comments

Do you think doing joint projects with students in foreign countries is a valuable learning experience? Let us know what you think and why.

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Oct 02 | 342 comments

It has been proven that social constructivist pedagogies, such as Project Based Learning, significantly improve student learning. Schools desire to put these pedagogies into practice but they are limited by their existing tool set which prevents them from implementing the required collaborative active learning environment. Do you agree?

Truls Henriksen (Truls) (admin) on Oct 02 | 196 comments

We have completed many changes to Ecto and hope that you will find them useful. If you have any comments or questions please do not hesitate to send us a note and tell us what you think. Send any comments and questions to contact{at}ectoprep{dot}com. Or, of course, comment away to this post. We look forward to hearing from you!