11 September 2009

On Using Moodle

I've been interested in using online resources to help facilitate instruction in my classroom for about 10 years now. I started using web pages, Blackboard and about 4 years ago was forced into using Moodle.

I hated it at first. It looked too plain/complicated/boring. I hear those same criticisms now from others who start using it. After using it for quite some time now I would say that if someone offered me something else I would stick with Moodle. Once you learn some of the functions you are able to produce quite a bit. It has a fairly intuitive interface and once you do something a couple of times you become a pro at it. Very quickly, users can start using short-cuts they discover and modify settings to fit the needs of their classes.

It's not about what Moodle can do/offer, it's about what you can bring to students through Moodle.  I use it for embedding videos; subscribing to RSS feeds; interacting with students via discussion board and chat room; providing assignments/grades/feedback; sharing student projects; sharing curriculum with other educators; and much more.

The assignments you can give in Moodle do everything we are told to offer in our assignments. It's not just handing out a worksheet, but students can engage with the curriculum in ways that could never happen before. They can see current and relevant discussions/articles/videos about what they are studying as well as have opportunities to discuss that with a worldwide community instead of just inside a classroom.

The benefits of Moodle are well-documented in other places so I won't continue here. I think if teachers would actually start using it we could save massive amounts of time. Sharing entire courses with each other can take as little as two minutes before an entire course is duplicated and ready for customization by another staff member.

Most if not all of my students would never want me to go back to the way things used to be. They like having instant access to what we've covered in class 24/7. They like the discussion boards and sharing links. This kind of interactivity is only getting stronger.

Teachers need to quit complaining that these tools are something to learn in addition to what they are already doing. These kinds of resources should be utilized instead of what they are already using. Whether we like it or not, it is nearly impossible to take a student who in his/her free time is streaming video-listening to music-social-networking-texting-etc. and slow them down to the pace of a face-to-face class. Students will never again be without nearly instant access to information. Memorization isn't as important as it once was, we need to make a shift to train students to find and evaluate information.

Moodle assists teachers who are moving in that direction. So you can complain about what Moodle can't do (which is less and less every year) or you can join the world-wide Moodle community and drastically improve your classroom. Moodle users help each other, they quickly answer each others questions, and they want to see what others are using it for.

If you want to get started you might want to try setting up your own Moodle site. After that, consider sharing your work with the rest of us at Moodle Share.