Posts Tagged ‘LMS’

I have a secret. Tucked away in a not-so-quiet corner of our school (due to current rebuild!) is my classroom. (That’s setting the scene – not the secret). And among the many students who come and go during the day, is a Year 9 class of keen writers. I can’t name them because a) that’s unprofessional and b) they are so clever, they may just read this.  So, let’s call them, Class x. Next week, Class x and I will continue our learning journey together. Having just marked 28 x 3 pieces of their NZ poetry assignment, I know it will be fun.

Now over the years, I’ve come across a vast array of wonderful online tools to assist with the creative writing process, which, as we know, isn’t always an easy one, even for clever people. In the spirit of tilting the classroom and, safe in the knowledge that these students always bring their best to the learning table, I’ve developed a writing lesson (actually give they’re not superhuman, probably lessons) using tools I think will develop their skills, challenge their thinking and (most importantly) enjoy.

Below are the exact instructions these guys will receive via the school’s LMS. The laptops are booked, the links work, the tools have been tested and I’m quietly confident they’ll love this one. I’ve given them options for both online and paper planning and intend to discuss and model mind mapping as most are stuck in the focus cloud rut. We also discussed plot structure and plot types at the end of last term.

These students are working at Level 4-6+ of the NZC so my intention was to keep things open-ended. I’ll let you know how they get on!


In this lesson, you will use an interactive online tool to select key elements of a practice story. Even better, this tool uses tried and trusted tropes (click to find out what a trope is) so in terms of engagement, you’re bound to do well! Our learning objective is for you to structure your writing so there is a clear beginning, middle and end.

Part one: Planning

1. Read this page

2. Add trope to your glossary of literary terms

3. Go to the periodic table of storytelling

4. Note that tropes are organised by column into different aspects of storytelling

5. Have a play – click on different elements (boxes) to find out more about the trope

6. Add any new words you encounter to the class glossary on the whiteboard in the relevant column – I will take a pic and upload to ultranet page for future reference 🙂

7.The discs at the bottom of the page show combinations of tropes for some well-known stories

8. Pick a minimum of four tropes from at least 3 columns to use in your story, read about them, note them down

9. Plan your story using the interactive planner or on paper

10. Print it or take a photo of it on your phone

Part two: Writing

1. Mind Map ideas – paper (see me for templates) or online (try bubblus, mindmup) Note: when mind mapping you are not simply dumping down ideas. The connections are important – especially for writing as your story must have a thread holding it all together in order to flow and be engaging.

2. Start writing – online or in your journal (whichever you prefer)

3. If you are writing online, copy and paste your finished work here , the Analyse This tool will give you a break down of sentence lengths and type, repeated words and phrases and punctuation usage. You can use these stats when editing.

Extra Reading: now or homework: These sites offer more tips on structure in writing, showing not telling and character development

1. Writing Forward – Show Don’t Tell

2. Writing Forward – Developing Characters

3. Helping writers become authors blog – 5 Elements of Story Structure

4. Christopher Brooker’s Seven Basic Plots

Word are like sunbeams, the more they are condensed the deeper they burn.  Robert Southey

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A reflection for where digital learning sits currently at my new school…and a chance to refresh my prezi skills!


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One of the biggest challenges when transiting from secondary to a tertiary learning environment is the realisation that just because a young person achieved Level 2 English and is willing to pay the fees charged by a tertiary provider, this does not automatically mean they will “bring something” to the learning table.

I’ve read a bit his year on the learning needs of Gen Y and other adult learners and my analysis is they are pretty much the same as all learners – i.e well-prepared engaging lessons from a person who knows their stuff, regular feedback on progress, a supportive and  inclusive learning environment and the opportunity to learn via a range of tasks.  (And yes of course the digital bells and whistles but even oldies expect that so that’s not unique to Gen Y).

So all things being equal, if that is provided, you take it for granted (doh, I know, first rule of teaching – never assume anything!) that those aged 18+ will automatically come to class with a certain level of inherent engagement. This seems especially pertinent for those who are not “second chance learners” and whose courses are preparing them for specific industries.  And even more true when those learners are regularly exposed to that industry via guest speakers, visits and supervised work placements.

Not so.

Many of those coming straight from secondary schools do not seem ready to manage their own learning. I read an article on The Conversation this week by Rohan Price which beautifully summed up my conundrum for 2012 – if the teacher/tutor/lecturer is providing the type of interactive learning opportunities expected (even demanded) by C21 learners, students must bring something to the table too.  That means reading the notes, logging on to the LMS, reading feedback, asking questions, contributing to discussions and basically, doing the work. Old fashioned – I know.

Don’t get me wrong. I feel for Gen Y – it’s a tough environment they are walking into. Tougher than many of them understand sadly.  But if well-meaning educationalists who are focussed on student success deliver their end of the bargain, it seems only fair that students do the same.  Students who tend to succeed at this level are those aged over-20, who have travelled/worked in low paid jobs for a few years and who have a specific career plan in mind.  Yes, they are self-motivated because they get it – it being Life Outside School.

So parents/caregivers – be brave, let them take a gap year or two – not in some fancy finishing school but working and paying their own way (even if they still live at home, in fact especially if they still live at home!).

Teachers/tutors – don’t beat yourself up when students aren’t succeeding as well as you feel they should be given the blood you’ve sweated in preparing and delivering classes.  Learning is a life-long process and not everyone is ready for the tertiary environment at 18.  Perhaps what they are actually learning is far less tangible – skills such as self-management, getting enough sleep and eating well, clocking in and out.

Oh and take heed from feedback Price received from some of his students – “Why don’t you just LECTURE us?”.


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Use Your Moodle!

After returning from a placement in a local secondary school recently, it was heartening to see e-learning slowly infiltrating the classroom in the form of a school moodle.  Fellow students also observed and used moodles in action at various school around the country so clearly this is one app that is finding favour with teachers. One reason for this is that Moodle (Modular Object Orientated Dynamic Learning Environment) is a software package that was designed using pedagogical principles so clearly it has sound educational application.

Moodle is an online learning platform that enables teachers to create learning environments for their students.  Moodles are generally introduced on a school-wide basis and teachers  than add pages for their departments/classes.  You can copy and paste directly into your page or upload documents, share links, embed video/podcasts so plenty of options for creating an online community that works for you and your class.

Rather than reinvent the wheel I recommend a visit here for a 5 minute introductory video that encapsulates the main principles and uses of moodle in a user-friendly fashion.  The analogy used compares moodle to lego (hence the modularity) so think of it as adding “blocks” or functions to suit your needs as you go.

I’ve seen moodles used by teachers to set extension work for more able students, to share notes (allowing absent students to catch up on missed work in their own time), to share assignments (unnamed creative essays) , to set homework tasks and to reinforce reminders about looming deadlines (the dreaded reading logs!)

Moodle enables teachers to cater for different learning styles, and for mixed ability classes. It supports self management, encourages self-directed learning and is based around four basic components: sharing, communication, collaboration and evaluation. Note the strong linkages to the newly revised NZC.

You can embed a wiki into a moodle or add links to one for students to share work/comments but generally, a school wide moodle is set up to be less interactive for students (they can’t edit pages) and relies on students suing their school email (this can cause issues for students who don’t often check their school account but is not an insurmountable challenge). From a teacher’s point of view, the benefits of this LMS (learning managing system) includes:

  • the ability to organise content
  • assign levels of interactivity
  • ease of use 
  • reliability  (can handle many users)

You can see how different school and tertiary providers are using moodle here – although their material is protected you can login as a guest to get a sense of what they are doing with moodle.  They way I think of it, a school’s website  is  its shop window for the community and parents. Its moodle is the coal face – the online space where the nitty-gritty of everyday school life and learning is shared from daily notices to assignments for specific classes.

Watch the video which outlines plenty of other benefits and uses but with 1.9million teachers worldwide using moodle, I’d say this is one LMS we’ll all be seeing a lot more of as we move forward in our careers.

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