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 4: Hot Potatoes – Cool Learning

Friday, 04. January 2008 von admin

They’ve been around a while but they’re not stale – the Hot Potatoes suite from Half Baked Software hotpotatoesTheir big advantage – apart from enabling non-technical teachers to create a myriad of quizzes, multi-choice, crosswords, gap-fills and jumbled passages  for free – is that they are self marking and when uploaded to a VLE such as Moodle they are SCORM compliant; students’ grades will be recorded in the markbook, saving hours of teacher time. ‘Straight out of the box’ they appear quite plain but it is not too difficult to include images in the exercises once you realise the best way to do so is to upload the photos in advance and link to them.  The Hot Potatoes suite is particuarly popular with language teachers because of the ease with which audio and video files can be included in activities :Jose Picardo’s  Spanish site Asi Se Hace includes many questions based around youtube videos, while Heidi Behren’s German site  Klar  uses mp3  voice recordings for  GCSE listening revision. Martin Holmes of Half Baked Software has also made Textoys -free for limited use, unlimited use for a small price, a set of two programs specifically designed for language teachers to create interactive exercises.While the  Hot Potatoes program itself is free to non-profit making establishments, there is an item rather dauntingly known as The Masher which will link together a set of exercises so students can go from one to the next in  a sequence chosen by the teacher.  Here’s a pack on a recent cylone in Bangladesh. It costs nothing to link three exercises; any more and The Masher must be paid for. However, for anyone that way inclined, the latest version of HotPotatoes makes it  relatively straightforward to edit and link pages in a web editor such as Dreamweaver.   Our Lady’s Preston offers Hot Potatoes training for teachers from an Accredited HotPotatoes trainer click here for more info.

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