Thursday, November 27, 2008

first use of moodle

I've only just started to use moodle. The whole idea of a "learning management system" didn't appeal to my contrarian attitudes. I often find that "educational systems" are not best for education and where possible I prefer to swim in the big ocean rather than a regulated pool

However, moodle has become very popular (and is now being advocated by some members of SugarLabs) so I decided to check it out.

It's always hard to figure out where to start with a new system and moodle has lots of features

After playing with the system itself, this teacher documentation page turned out to be a good starting point.

There are some good teaching ideas in there which enable teachers to digitally enhance the sort of things that they already do in classes. This section about Creative Glossary Practices appealed to me:
Instead of creating a glossary on your own, why not have the students create them as they encounter unfamiliar terms? A collaborative glossary can serve as a focal point for collaboration in a course ...

When students are responsible for creating the definitions, they are much more likely to remember the word and the correct definition. Engaging in the process of learning, debating, and refining a glossary can go a long way toward helping students begin using new terms ...
I thought this was a great idea - not too difficult to implement, one which would appeal to the students and which had a good chance to enhance the learning of something which in more traditional teacher directed classroom settings can be dull

In setting this up I found that moodle has Glossary activity features such as:
  • Duplicate entries allowed
  • Allow comments on entries
  • Ability to grade entries
  • Able to attach images which are shown inline (using Encyclopedia format)
  • Auto linking so that words in the glossary are highlighted when used elsewhere, such as in Forums
This is my first activity using moodle with students. We started today with creating a Glossary of terms to do with the Human Body, my Year 8 Science class. The students enjoyed it, being able to type in their own meanings and to see the meanings that other students were entering. I'm off to a good start with moodle.

What I am doing does fit with the moodle philosophy page which defines (extracts only):
Constructivism - people actively construct new knowledge
Constructionism - learning is particularly effective when constructing something for others to experience
Social constructivism - extends constructivism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another

I felt these terms had real meaning in the context of the activity I chose to begin with - that this section of the teacher documentation page reflected a real understanding of these concepts.


Bijan Parsia said...

I used moodle for two classes before the University of Manchester switched to Blackboard this year.

It was widely and passionately hated by me and others. Aside from being sloooow and having a horrid interface, it's a walled garden. I'd rather have a mailing list than a forum and I hate not having my course materials public.

As for things like the was such a pita I never even tried. I was doing better in 1998 with a wiki.

With my third year projects I had them set up a google code site and a google groups and we're using google docs...which all is working great. Real tools used appropriately. PartyChat (on google chat) is great too! We can easily mix private and public stuff and everything is easy to fine.

plakboek said...

Bijan, you just need to change the settings of your course to public to allow guests to view your course. Sometimes Moodle administrators can frustrate this by locking down the site settings to prevent guest logins. Sloooow Moodle performance happens when it is running on server hardware that is way below specification. With enough grunt and some minor tweaking, it should not be an issue.

I am interested to read of your use of Google Docs .. I think that increasingly we will see bridges being built to tools outside the classroom such as Flickr, Wikispaces and Delicious. Moodle 2.0 due for release in April will have built in xml database links that will permit this kind of cool links with outside resources. Stay tuned!

Bijan Parsia said...

Hi, plakboek.

Thanks for the tip. I'll look in blackboard to see if this is an option. But I think defaulting to closed and not making it very salient how to make it public is a big problem. I'm obviously fairly web app savvy and I just couldn't be bothered to determine this (and I tried a bit). Blackboard is similarly's still not clear to me that I can put assignments in to only be revealed by a certain date/time (I'm pretty sure I can, but the process is baroque at the least for something that needs to be bulletproof and drop dead simple).

Re: slow moodle...I'm pretty sure we have "reasonable" if not *great* servers...but this is, itself, and issue. I don't see anything in Moodle that *should* be heavy hardware dependent (given the *tiny* load we have on it...maybe at most 10 courses with a max of 50 people in a course and as few as 8 in mine).

Plus I just hate the interface. It strikes me as much easier to put something together myself. I'll be interested if Moodle 2.0 does integrate better. I don't immediately see how having an xml database will help...Moodle still is a walled garden. I can't just grab a piece of it and integrate it with *my* website or with google's stuff. I don't want to *link* I want to *incorporate* (though linking is better than nothing!)

(Here's the google code site for my 3rd year project: