Hwb, Hwb+, J2E, Office 365 – What’s the difference?

Every pupil and school staff member in Wales has a login to the Welsh Government’s Hwb platform which contains a host of different software made available for free. The project started over 6 years ago, and yet many schools are yet to make any use of it. One of the main reasons for this is confusion as to what exactly all this Hwb stuff is. So today we will try and explain the different parts:

Hwb

Hwb is the main resource hub (hence the name!) It has links to all the other software described below as well as having resources for teachers. If you were teaching during the NGFL days, then Hwb is the closest thing to a replacement for that great service. As well as classroom activities, it has notices of upcoming training, and events and news about education in Wales.

Hwb+

Hwb+ is a Virtual Learning Environment, where teacher can create class pages with links to websites, documents and videos for their pupils, enable them to hand in homework online and write on message boards. Hwb+ was the first part of the new platform to appear, and it’s fair to say that it has caused frustration for a lot of teachers. The technology crashed often in the early days and the Bible sized instruction manual didn’t instill confidence. Many schools found Hwb+ so confusing that they spent years ignoring the whole Hwb project, assuming it was all the same. Hwb+ seems to be mentioned less and less these days and many schools seem to have given up on it.
UPDATE: Hwb have confirmed that Hwb+ will be discontinued as of summer 2018. G Suite for Education will be added in its place

J2E

J2E is a collection of useful software, allowing pupils to paint, type and create animations or databases. Pupils can save their work on their own personal cloud drive and the teacher can see their work. Those used to 2Simple or Purple Mash will find some similar tools in J2E, although not quite as comprehensive.

Office 365

Yes, this is Word, Powerpoint and Excel, but it’s so much more. Most importantly, it all happens online. This means that pupils can access their work from home and can work collaboratively. There are also a lot of other tools within Office365, including a hwbmail inbox for every teacher and pupil.

360 Degree Safe Cymru

This resource is only for school leaders (and ICT co-ordinators). If you don’t have such responsibilities then you can safely ignore it! 360 Degree Safe is a very thorough self-evaluation programme to help ensure your school treats e-Safety with the importance it should. This doesn’t just cover teaching e-safety, it includes data protection, filtering and reporting of incidents. It may well take a year for a school to complete it, so don’t get worried when you first take a look!

Encyclopedia Britannica

The online version of the longstanding encyclopedia is a useful place to research for information. Whilst it’s important pupils learn how to research using web search, sometimes an encyclopedia can be useful. It’s best feature is the ability to search only for articles that are easier to read.

So there you go, all the different bits of Hwb. Some schools use all of them, most select the ones they find useful, some don’t ever log in. How much you use is your choice. However, there are some aspects of Hwb that contain vital tools for teaching the Digital Competency Framework (J2E and Office365), so if you’re not using those, you’d better have a similar software that you do use (Purple Mash and Google Apps are recommended).

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