Moodle Blog

Moodle Blog9: Why Moodle? Challenging the Cynics

Saturday, 26. January 2008 von admin

There is much discussion in education circles, not least in the fora of the TES , of the merits of VLEs such as Moodle. There are those who claim Moodle is another fad which will fall out of favour, never having proved its educational value. And then there are those who actually use it.

So what are the arguments exactly? For – that it engages students because they get to go ‘on the computers’, that teachers can put their resources on it, even deliver lessons on if for students to do in their absence and get said work marked for them by Moodle while they go down the pub.

Against? Well, apart from the fact that giving teachers more drinking time down the pub might not be construed as long-term beneficial, some people see them as no more than a graveyard for dead Word docs. If that’s the ethos in your school then I’m afraid your VLE is terminal. VLEs don’t just have to be a repository for last month’s Word doc homework; they can provide examples of levelled tasks, marking criteria; they can showcase excellence; students can upload , share,comment on videos, animations, podcasts; parents can get a look in at what their child’s up to…

At which point the argument of the cynics changes tack:

But where is the proof that a VLE can enhance learning? That will improve grades? (Because if there is no proof, then obviously it isn’t worth bothering with…) I confess now to being the Arch cynic because I am not sure there ever has been any one factor, certainly not in my 2 decades of teaching that has enhanced learning or improved grades. (And where grades have improved, the cry is always of ‘lowered standards!’ so you can’t win) The key to remember is that just because there is no magic solution doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new initiatives. If they work for a while and if they work for some, then go for it. VLEs have a better chance of working than most ‘fads’ because they tap into the current psyche of the teenager – get everything online and get it NOW. And as long as the internet survives, so will Moodle.

Which then leads to the argument that learning will just become too mechanised, students will become automatons – click here click there –type in this box – you got 100% well done – now go to Maths to do the same. Where’s the human element? Still there; of course it is and always will be, fads or not, Moodle or not. In the schools such as Our Lady’s Preston where Moodle is used to great effect, it complements, not replaces good class teaching. This is what we emphasise in our Moodle training sessions. Yes there are the forums and the wikis and the workshops to share ideas in cyberspace but there is still the classroom and the human voice and Danny will still come in ten minutes late smelling of smoke. I remember early on in high school in 1971 and having to write an essay for my English teacher speculating on the classroom of the future. I, along with most of my classmates wrote of these huge, computery things which would teach us all we needed to know and Mr Green would be out of a job. Naively I thought then – but presciently as it turned out – he commented on my efforts in red: do you really think there will be no place for teachers in the future? Moodle is the teachers assistant, not their replacement. If it is well prepared and involves the students, they’ll learn; if it isn’t – they won’t.

Moodle Blog 8: Basic Moodle – getting the students to log in!

Monday, 21. January 2008 von admin

getting the buggers to..I was going to paraphrase Sue Cowley and call this ‘getting the buggers to Moodle’ but this would seem to suggest an inherent unwillingness on the part of students to use Moodle – and  I don’t believe this to be the case.  Moodle mirrors so many of their out of school experiences already –  they communicate via  IM or forums (chat); they will upload images to their Myspace/Bebo; they will send attachments in their email; they will do online quizzes for fun and get instant feedback… the challenge then, is to integrate Moodle into their online lives such that they access it, like MSN or Bebo, without a second thought. And they won’t do that if they think it’s just another means of making them do boring homeworks.  Some suggestions….

  • Appearance is All: when setting up a course page, add images; enlarge the font; give it snappy titles – even if is year 8 Algebra; the style has to appeal before they’ll want to access the content
  • Personalise your Pages: the course doesn’t have to stay static all year just because it was set up and finished in September – use the topic description at the top to add messages to students doing well; reminders of events. Many Moodle sites use their front page as a showcase/messageboard – but there’s no reason why a course page shouldn’t do that also, to a smaller (more select) audience.
  • Tease them in: add a competition or give them a task where the answer is only on Moodle and the first one to find it gets a reward
  • Invite Interaction – add a forum, preferably related to a topic currently studied but at worst,  merely to ask them what they feel should be included  it’s to draw them in..
  • Grant them Instant Gratification – that is, include where possible a Moodle quiz or Hot Potato activity that will give results as soon as they have done it, rather than leaving them wondering until the next time you mark their work. It is worth making the effort to learn how to customise HotPotatoes quizzes and Moodle quizzes so you can personalise your feedback to your school or even class…on which subject…
  • Give them Games! Mainly for KS3 but I have seen good examples of these used for A/As level students too. There is a wide variety of free or cheap educational flash games that will work on Moodle and that provide another way to segue from online games to on-Moodle games. Only these will test their learning at the same time. One that stands out is Content Generator wtpstudents love the Penalty shootout game; they relish in the sarky comments the teacher makes in Walk the Plank and the new En Guard allows for personalised comments to be included in the finished item. But more than this, their creator, Andrew Field is gradually making them all SCORM compliant  so the grades will show up in Moodle’s markbook like Hot Potatoes or Moodle’s own activities.
  • Allow for after-school access: a difficult one – we still can’t assume all students have the internet at home.  We try to offer as many opportunties as possible to give students the opportunity to go online. At Our Lady’s we are an extended school and have  computer rooms and an LRC open at break, lunchtimes and when the buses have left. 
  • Begin with the Basics – follow these Good Practice tips

Moodle Blog 7: Hot Potatoes as Peer Assessment in a Moodle Workshop

Tuesday, 15. January 2008 von admin

Just a different take on the conventional way of using Hot Potatoes in Moodle. (For those unfamiliar with Hot Potatoes, click here) hotpotatoesRather than have the teacher check the students’ learning with an exercise they’ve generated themselves, it might be both informative and fun for the students both to generate a Hot Potatoes activity and – via the Moodle Workshop module – to try out and assess those of their classmates. This could be done as a summative task at the end of a unit of work and would need at least two sessions – perhaps one class session and one homework. The students would need to come prepared with the information they wish to use in their quiz for testing their peers. They would then have to learn the very basics of Hot Potatoes. I am a Hot Potatoes trainer and for Our Lady’s Preston have used a Moodle lesson on the basics of Hot Potatoes. I set the students off on this lesson first, which gives them the choice either of following screencasts, or paper worksheets or just diving straight in. If you only have time for one activity, the J-match is probably the easiest to master first, although the J-cloze would probably be a better test of their learning. Allow students time to generate one exercise of their own which, at the end of the session they will save as an .htm file and upload to a Moodle workshop. When their friends try out the exercises they’ll get instant feedback but the results won’t show up in a gradebook as they’ve merely been uploaded as webpages, not in the Hotpot module. That’s not important here – the big advantage of the workshop is that the whole class can upload their activities into the workshop and allow their classmates to view, do and comment on each others’ work.workshop

A workshop isn’t the easiest of modules to set up: some things to bear in mind are:

  • use Criterion grading if you are unfamiliar with the workshop – this will allow you to set the standards by which the students grade.
  • keep the Moodlers’ names hidden – that way they will not know whose work they are assessing and won’t be biased!
  • set a reasonable number of items for each student to assess, according to the size of your class. I chose three per student in a class of thirty
  • Set up the league table – perhaps to theTop Ten nothing beats an element of competition!

The actual assessing of each others’ work – the second session – can be set as a homework and if you set the dates such that all gradings must be in before your next lesson, your class can be greeted with their results on an IWB, prompting a discussion on why the Top Ten had been considered more useful than other exercises lower down the league.

ICT – independent learning – revision – peer assessment… co-operation… group discusssion …plenary….boxes..ticked…

Moodle Blog 6: Basic Moodle – Beginners’ Top Ten Tips

Sunday, 13. January 2008 von admin

Nothing complex or fancy – just ten suggestions for Good Practice when starting out in Moodle.

  1.  The  ‘Name‘ of  a new resource that you upload is the text students will see to click on – so give it something meaningful, such as Click here for homework Jan 13th rather than worksheet1.add resource
  2. 2. Before uploading resources , go to Admin>Files and make a folder with an appropriate name – teacher or topic. Then upload the documents to that particular folder. Won’t matter in the early stages when there isn’t much there but if several people are uploading resources and they all just ‘dump’ them in the files area, locating a document there will very quickly become extremely difficult.
  3. For each topic/week section, add a (small) image. It breaks up the text and makes the course a bit more attractive when first accessed. Use the label similarly to break up lists of resources.
  4. If you have many files to upload, put them all into one folder and’ zip’ them up. Right click on the folder>send to compressed(zipped) folder. Moodle will not accept ‘normal’ folders. Once it’s in the files area, click on the prompt to ‘unzip’ before linking to them
  5. To avoid long lists of worksheets one under the other (mum’s shopping list) – choose instead to ‘display directory‘ This will show a briefcase icon and when the student clicks on it, the files will be shown, rather than cluttering up the page.directory display
  6. 6. Always choose the option of opening the resource in a new window. That way, Moodle is still in the background and won’t vanish if by error the student clicks the X once they’re done with the file.
  7. If you’re planning a new simple worksheet for Moodle that you haven’t yet done in Word – don’t. Choose the ‘compose a webpage‘ option and type it straight into Moodle instead. That way, students can access it from one click, rather than having to endure the message ‘do you want to save or open this file?’ then having to make that decision… . then having to wait…. webpage …much quicker.
  8. Aim to add a Forum wherever possible on a page of worksheets/homeworks. It gives students the opportunity to question classmates or the teacher about the work and is a simple way in to Moodle’s interactivity.
  9.  Likewise, set up the Choice  activity to gauge how well students have understoood a task.
  10. Ask them what they want on Moodle – and try to do it! It will be more successful if it fits in with their needs rather than with what you think they should get.

Moodle Blog 5: Advanced Moodle: Unseen but not Hidden – Sites within Sites

Thursday, 10. January 2008 von admin

site within a siteMoodle, for all its justified advantages, isn’t the smartest looking VLE around: all too often you get  a course page, crammed with useful stuff, interactivity, lesson resources, hyperlinks – but to get to the section you want you are obliged to scroll  half a mile past a monotonous compilation of a teachers’ well-intentioned uploads. There are several ways around this – and in an age when appearance is all – students will be more inclined to use a course page that attracts their eye rather than reminds them of  mum’s shopping list. The simplest way is to ‘hide’ the topics/weeks not needed at present. Students will then only focus on the what you need  them to see at the current time – although if you want them to be able to access their grades from an earlier term, they are then prevented from doing so.  Another way is to make them ‘unseen’ rather than hidden. Resources, grades and so on are still fully accessible, but you have to hyperlink to them , rather than have them visible on the page. This can be done within the Course Settings.  Choose your number of topics/weeks and set up your course- say 6 sections. Then make your last (6th) week or topic the one in which you have the stuff you’d like to make invisible. Go back to Course Settings and set your number of topics/weeks to 5. That final section is still available; it just isn’t seen. This can be used to good effect in  a Moodle ‘webpage’ if you want to hyperlink to places elsewhere on your course but want to keep the page tidy and not have to show them. I’ve also used it to make a course look like a ‘real’ website. You make the framework of your course offline, in a webdesign program. You make your Course Settings to one topic only and in that section put all the resources you need for the course, which you then hyperlink to pages in your ‘website’. In the Course Summary you can upload an image which students can then click on to reach the  website you’ve made – and then to access all the activities from within the site. It looks much neater on a page – doesn’t suit everyone though, because some people actually prefer to see everything on one page; it reassures them more to scroll down mum’s shopping list than to head off into unknown webpages. But – it is something that can be achieved by being Unseen, rather than Hidden,  and  it’s worth a thought.

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