My colleague Arvind Grover spearheaded an initiative this year to introduce Moodle into our middle and upper school program. Early in the school year, he conducted a very thorough training session (along with his staff) and since that point, I've heard only positive things about how Moodle has enhanced the learning environment.
Here's just one example of how I use Moodle. My broadcast journalism students will sign on to our intranet and access the Moodle/Courseweb (via their laptops). Their assignments, homework, links/resources are all online waiting for them in one central location on Moodle. It's a commons of sorts – because just my students and I alone can access, communicate and share course information. There's also the ability to have class chats, forums and other features that we'll probably delve more into in the fall. Anyway, Arvind is not only a techno-wiz, he also has his own ed. tech. radio show and he is certainly "the man" when it comes to using Moodle.
A.B. Explain how Moodle works for K-12 education and the benefits of using it? A.G. Moodle is web-based, course management software. It gives each course a private web site where you can post assignments, give grades, have asynchronous discussions (bulletin boards), have live chats, have student and teacher blogs, have wikis, give online quizzes/tests and much more. It is an incredibly comprehensive solution that is available for free. No really, free, open source, download, install and you’re ready to go. What’s not free is the time is takes you to learn how to use it, the server required to host it, etc. But if you have the resources to handle that (doesn’t take much) you are good to go.
Moodle is about maximizing the power of the Internet to help students learn. Let them engage in conversations about historical issues at home, the conversation continues outside of class. We all know 40 minutes isn’t enough, and Moodle changes that paradigm. It lets students have one view of their workload – all assignments automatically populate their calendars. It is an organized place for learning that is at the same time totally flexible to a teacher’s style and a student’s style. Each has the power to customize their own view of the information. Perhaps I only want to see my calendar on the front page and you want it on every page, that works. You can change the language to hundreds of different options. Each course could be written in a different language, perfect for foreign language courses. You can even organize outside the traditional course ideas – we have "courses" for varsity soccer, advisory groups, the newspaper and more. This way they have a workspace on the web without creating new account in new places. One places gets it all done.
A.B. How would a school go about implementing Moodle into their programs of study? Is it difficult? Teacher/Admin buy-in?
A.G. I think a school needs to start with their objectives. Ask what are we trying to accomplish? We were trying to utilize the web to extend the classroom, and Moodle was a great fit. It wasn’t difficult for us as we phased it in. We started by showing teachers how to create assignments, a basic step. Then as teachers began to get more comfortable some figured how to hack the HTML and some figured how to upload audio files. We let teachers run in the direction that works for them. But all along we told them that we wanted to work with them and that we’re there to help. We of course started it all off by showing the admins what was possible – the old whiz-bang show (but we weren’t selling snake oil).