Top Ten Things to Try in Moodle

“You’ve got 25 minutes to show them Moodle…”

Although I left my school, Our Lady’s Preston, 2 years ago, I still volunteer there from time to time and help out with their Moodle stuff. Last week, I met with the 8 new teachers who will be starting in September (two of whom I actually taught; that’s what happens when you do 3 decades  in one place.) They had an ‘Induction Day’, where they were zapped with all the protocol and procedures of the school so they’d be prepared for the first day back. My brief? Introduce them to Moodle – in 25 minutes.

On the understanding they’d get some hands-on training in the new term, I decided to make this more of a motivational, aspirational session, showing them Moodle’s potential, in the hope they might want to experiment.  Of course, you have to have a handout! Mine included a link to Learn Moodle, our August MOOC , a great place for teachers to start,  and a link to Mount Orange, our School demo site with example courses and data.  It being the week before the launch of MoodleCloud ,my lips were frustratingly sealed about the possibility of trying stuff out on their own free site, but if you’re reading this and you want to try Moodle, head over to MoodleCloud and get yourself signed up.

I began with two points I consider quite pertinent based on my experiences with Moodling teachers in UK secondary schools:

1. Yes, Moodle is the school’s VLE/LMS and yes, it is used in other schools in our area and in the country too – but actually – it’s not just something teachers use in schools – it is global, used by millions in every country, by huge corporates, NGOs and top universities.  When I threw in a few logos, they were surprised. If all these famous entities and more use Moodle, it must have something going for it beyond Mr Brown using it to store his Word document worksheets. Perhaps it’s worth thinking outside the box school.

2. Yes, there is an increasing number of cool sites, programs and apps you can use with your students. (Like many schools, Our Lady’s issues each teacher with an iPad. They started this the week I left :( ) Ipads are very popular, and several of my ex-colleagues are straying from Moodle into app-land – but using stuff that, actually, we can already do in Moodle. I suggested the teachers check out Moodle before creating  accounts for themselves and their class on some new place in cyberspace.

These days it’s all about Lists. “The Top 100 Comedy Sketches of 2014″; the “Top Twenty Tanning Sprays”; “The Top Five Fat-free Foods” … and so on. I’ve even been doing some lists myself for moodle.com. So I gave them …

The Top Ten Things to Try with Moodle

… but in reverse order, starting with the coolest. I hoped it might make them think a little about their own practice, particularly when the one area  many people remain stuck on is actually at the botom of the charts.  So here goes:

1. Peer (and Self Assessment)

You’ve just been practising the past tense in French. Each pupil writes a paragraph “What I did last weekend”. You make a note on the board about what to check -verb endings, gender etc – and the pupils swap exercise books and feedback on each others’ work. Very popular classroom activity. Well you can set it as a homework in Moodle – using the Workshop activity – giving them a chance to try an example assessment and self-assess too if you wish.

2. Collaborative learning

Each table in your classroom has a great big sheet of paper or a flip chart and students work together to add information to it. Use Moodle’s Wiki or Glossary – or use Moodle as a placeholder for Padlet, Google Docs or Office 365 where they can write collaboratively.

3. Reflection and debate

As teachers, we evaluate our lessons, look for ways to improve. Our learners should be doing the same. Moodle’s Feedback, Choice and Blog options allow for self-reflection, focused or wider-ranging, and Forums can spark off discussions on the topics you’re currently studying.

4. Independent/Personalised learning

Moodle’s not just for practice; it’s for teaching. The Lesson activity gives branching options allowing learners to select their own path, and Conditional Activities let you direct your class to different content according to previous performance.

5. Assessment

While many LMS have a quiz option, Moodle’s Quiz is not to be confused with a 10-question-multiple-choice- Get -the answers -at- the- end- and- that’s- it-Pub-Quiz.
Pubquiz

Its many standard and contributed question types, behaviours and feedback options mean it can be a formative as well as a summative tool. You can teach through a Quiz, not just test.

6. Submitting work online

Again, worth mentioning that while those other sites, apps or VLE-lites that teachers may have encountered do allow pupils to send in work to be graded,  none offers the variety of Moodle’s Assignment  in both submission and feedback options.  Additionally, Our Lady’s  is a PoodLL school:pupils can speak or perform their homework and teachers can record their responses.

7. Progress tracking and Rewards

Two “quick fixes” for motivation here: enabling Activity completion checkboxes  means your class (and you) have a clearer view of where they are up to. And awarding cool-looking Badges to 15 year old disengaged Johnny when he finally gets over 45% in your Quizzes might just be the turning point he needs.

8. Multimedia

Moodle makes it very easy for people who don’t want to fiddle with code to embed video and audio. YouTube videos display in a label or a page; you can even set the start time.

(At this point, I happened to mention that we seemed to be moving from getting the students actively involved to having them passively watch a video or listen to a podcast. I had an agenda…)

9. Online text books

Perhaps this is unfairly in 9th place,  but I was duty bound to include it as the school has invested in these commercial SCORM packages manufactured by text book authoring companies.  The MFL ones offer listening activites which may be done for homework for example. Another department couldn’t afford a text book for each child, and so buying the VLE package was a sensible solution.  However, in essence they are simply the online version of “turn to page 43 and do exercise 2a and 2b”

10. Share  Powerpoints and weblinks

So we get to number 10 (number 100 in some people’s book) Time to make the point that – of course – having a space to store and share your wonderful slideshows and the worksheets your learners dropped in the gutter on the way home IS a useful feature, but it will hardly tap into their higher order thinking skills, or even stretch your own teaching techniques.

**************

In the last five minutes, we made the connection between Moodle and Bloom’s (which many have made before.)

Lo and Behold -the higher the number in our Top Ten, the higher up in Bloom’s. Our Peer assessment, Reflection, Collaboration – slot neatly into the Analyse, Evaluate, Create, while  the Videos and Powerpoint sharing are down in the Remember, and (with luck) Understand. The learners are going down from actively engaging in their learning to passively taking it in.

So the message in the 25th minute was: if you really want Moodle to help enhance your teaching and their learning, make Dr Bloom happy and aim for the Top :)

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