Posts Tagged ‘moodle’

Friday. Students currently enjoying coffee and croissants supplied by me (on World Teachers Day too!) as inspiration for an afternoon of feature writing with a 4pm deadline looming. So a chance to reflect on digital technology my students have embraced independently to enhance their learning as part of a Media Communication course.

It was with some delight I learned at the end of term one when conducting a survey on their study habits that several of the keener learners had been connecting outside the classroom via Skype. Now Skype (or a Voice over Internet Protocol VoIP as it’s technically known) isn’t new.  But what has been interesting is how my students have utilised this tool. It has been hugely significant in terms of reflecting a transition towards taking more responsibility for their own learning which has been a challenge for many of them this year. While the keener learners set it up, the less engaged were also using this option by the middle of the year when they could see and hear how the rest of the class were benefiting from it. Skype has enabled them to :

  • clarify ideas/concepts discussed in class
  • brainstorm story ideas
  • share ideas/networks for interviews
  • develop their intro writing skills through the “tell a friend” approach
  • learn how to give constructive criticism of their writing
  • test their knowledge of key terms and concepts
  • revise for tests

Yesterday they started work on a class newspaper with their peers in Christchurch.  Coordinating a class newspaper with a team of fledgling reporters some 350km apart is a daunting prospect (for me at least).  They met for the first time via video conference and learned when trying to allocate roles that paper-scissors-rock doesn’t work via VC due to broadcast delays!

That afternoon, they quickly set up a google docs account where they are building a bank of story ideas, allocating pages and assigning tasks.  Again google docs is not new. It enables users to create and edit web-based documents, spreadsheets, and presentations as well as store documents online and access them from any computer. I am interested to see how my students are using it to their advantage.  Our chief reporter is currently watching the ChCh-based editor type feedback in real-time as they refine story ideas together. Simple.

And while I have used Moodle this year for extension work, sharing readings, assessment updates and to send email messages to students, the ChCh group has used Facebook.  Straight after yesterday’s first VC my students were added to the ChCh group and can now instant message their peers to keep each other informed of progress, share ideas and give encouragement.  Perfect.

So while producing a 14 page, tabloid newspaper with a group of students based in separate cities who have never met might seem daunting, suddenly thanks to digital technology, social media and good old Kiwi ingenuity, anything is possible!

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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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So having established that you would like to include some online elements to teaching creative writing, either collaboratively or via peer review, what’s out there?

For a start there are blogs and wikis. I’ve already written quite extensively about blogs that allow students to comment on work, share ideas, resources and links.  If you’re still not sure how to start, visit Auckland based media studies teacher Hayden Maskell’s blog which has some great resources for formal writing on his blog which could provide a starting point.  See the blog roll on this page to link to Hayden’s blog and make sure you acknowledge his work if you do use it.

As part of our elearning course, I’ve created a wiki which at the moment is pretty bare but in the future I definitely intend to use as an online workspace for students.  A wiki would definitely enable peer review of work through a communal, online share workspace. Wikis offer the added bonus of instant publishing. Site members can add content (including text, videos or photos) or edit content that others have added.  Changes are tracked automatically which lets the administrator (teacher) see at a glance who’s contributing what.  Discussion pages allow for more conversation and idea sharing. Privacy controls let the administrator (teacher) determine who has access, and assign levels of interactivity.

Schools are  also increasingly using moodles as online spaces to manage content.  Moodle’s work much the same as wikis and blogs. You upload content to share with users who can then download/upload their own content for sharing.  With a wiki and a moodle you can define access rights so that the users may be restricted to a class list.  In English in Aotearoa, April 2010, No. 70 (pp34-39), Christchurch based teacher Brian Hutching outlines his experience using a moodle for a collaborative writing project.  The article provides a great overview of his learning objectives and rough timeframe for “teaching’ the unit as well as assessment.  Students wrote a novel online by adding chapters to a book based on a theme they had brainstormed together. He used the moodle to reinforce key teaching points such as the role of conflict and climax in plot development.

When it comes to story writing there are a number of sites where you can review or add to stories uploaded by members. Perhaps one of the the best known is FanFiction. The interface isn’t very exciting but this site allows you to rewrite your own chapters based on a books, movies, comics, anime and more.  And of course, students must have a basic understanding of plot, characters, setting and theme in order to retell/recreate the story in their own words…There are extensive reviews of writers’ work posted throughout the site.

For creating original work online, you probably can’t go past google docs.  The educators page outlines the many and varied uses and has a downloadable pdf you can use to set up an account.  Google docs enables you to create and share documents online, upload and edit from anywhere and share changes in real time. Once you’ve helped set up free accounts for your students, they’ll be able to access spreadsheets, documents, and presentations anytime from any connected computer. In theory at least, that means no more misplaced assignments!  It also means you can see what students are working on – and provide timely, formative feedback while their projects are still underway.  Students can use Google Docs to view and respond to each other’s work as well providing opportunities for co-operative learning and peer review. You’ll find some ideas on how to use google docs here and here.

Other sites I have had a cursory play with (most have an introductory video on the homepage so you can quickly see if they might work for you – all are free!) include:

  • Plotbot – allows you to write screenplays in your browser.  You can write a script with as many or as few people as you want.
  • WriteWith – allows students and educators to upload documents, share tasks, assign tasks, chat, and track actions
  • ReviewBasics – allows users to upload documents, images, and videos that can be viewed by a specific group for commenting, annotating, and marking

Whichever application you decide to try, remember that technology should always be secondary to the story telling.  A fair amount of teaching needs to take place before encouraging your kids to unleash their creative talents online collaboratively or otherwise.  So teach the basics, spice that up with some online interactive activities (grammar games etc), discuss what constitutes good writing, set the parameters, introduce the online element and watch them fly!

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