Leap-frogging Moodle

The ICT Teaching and Learning committee at my school are reviewing the VLE and were so impressed with the Frog presentation that they want it to replace our current Moodle, affectionately called Bernard after the late Father Bernard Orchard who was twice Headteacher of the Senior School.

So, for me this means I need to lead Frog. Today I am going to the Frogtrade conference to discover some work that actually impresses me beyond the shiny visuals Frog delivers better than Moodle. Aiming to be brief, here is what I know so far:

1. Frog allows a teacher to quick set assignments allocated to particular pupils without having a course or website set up. Moodle doesn’t.

2. Moodle does stuff Frog doesn’t. Peer review assessments. Glossaries. I asked the sales rep from Frog to show me how these might be achieved in her demo site. The glossary she put together looked ok – tabbed alphabetically, pupils creating terms – but it did not register the creators name or allow them to comment on or rate each others entries. This might seem small but, if you think about it, is important in developing the classroom beyond it’s walls. Equally with peer assessment, Frog do not have an alternative yet, or a roadmap. They do plan to have a roadmap for it though.

3. The Moodle company we saw – webanywhere – have the ability to write back to SIMS. This means you can do your registers and reports via Moodle. Or on your smart phone. Frog does not have permission to write back to SIMS yet.

4. Moodle is open source and drives a community of wonderful developers and teachers sharing good practice across the world. This means if the company we employ goes down we can move our stuff to another Moodle host.

5. Frog is a one stop shop. School to company. No middle man company. They develop everything and are therefore responsible and accountable in a more urgent fashion.

6. Frog has a mac-like toolbar that can be customised to specific links inside or outside the VLE. School delivers a set but users can choose their own too.

7. Frog has some nifty tools like room bookings, internet controls and other stuff like that. My colleague, Dr Brooks, tells me it’s very draggy-droppy. Frog bricks allow teachers to drag and drop content around which makes it intuitive.

To summarise, my trip today is to find good pedagogical practice in Frog. As a school we are leap-frogging moodle. Moodle is built with pedagogy at it’s heart. Frog is not. So my real question today is can Frog beat, or even equal, Moodle. As a teacher I love the tools that transform learning. Frog puts it all online, but does it transform anything?

I just asked the good doctor how he has got on test driving the demo site. He created a webpage easily enough but got stuck on creating a quiz. The ICT T&L committee have a meeting in a week or so to decide whether or not we go Froggy. I fear it’s a done deal. Pedagogical arguments don’t seem to hold water. Ready, steady, jump….

I’ll report back on my findings in the next few days.

TeachMeet Moodle presentation

Many thanks to the legendary Leon Cych (@eyebeams) without whom this would not be a video. PS there was no camel so it goes on longer than the usual 7 minutes.

The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.

Using technology in the classroom, using it for learning, is an endeavour that engages some teachers. Others do not find it particularly enlightening – they don’t get bitten.

I remember training a music teacher in the ways of Moodle over two years ago. Since then he has not used it for anything other than revision lists and other three line whip orders from above.

Two weeks ago he came to me with a dilemma. The new Music GCSE requires pupils to identify different sections of 12 pieces of music, most of them classical. A recent internal assessment revealed that his class of non-classical musicians were struggling with the basic identification: e.g. they had to listen to 10 second bursts of a Mozart Symphony and place in a certain section of the whole symphony (e.g. exposition subject 1). Not easy for an unfamiliar ear. So, he asked me what we could do to help them. His solution had been to write a booklet and put the music files on a CD.

This is how we rolled:

  1. Split the audio into the ‘identification’ items using audacity.
  2. Upload the audio files into a folder in a GCSE Music Moodle course.
  3. Build multiple-choice quiz questions with the choices being each of the identification categories for that symphony.
  4. Access the audio file URL. Course files >> right click audio file >> properties >> highlight >> copy.
  5. Paste the URL into the question HTML box
  6. Edit the HTML code to make the URL text white so it will not display
  7. Edit the feedback text and set which answer is correct
  8. Save question

This gave us a multiple choice question with the audio automatically embedded as a mini MP3 player and the seven answers underneath with radio buttons next to each possible answer.

The teacher then was able to create new questions:

  1. Open (edit) the existing question
  2. Edit the title
  3. Change the link to the next audio file
  4. Amend which answer was correct
  5. Amend the feedback accordingly
  6. Click ‘save as new question’.

He did this with no further support from me.

The result of all this was a Moodle course whereby he could easily create quizzes for the pupils to do every week, and repeat and repeat. Moodle keeps an eye on progress and even tells you which question each pupil got wrong. There is a progress bar (3rd party block) so pupils can see if they have not done something. There is a quiz block that displays who is doing best on the quizzes. The teacher has also displayed the directories to the audio file folders enabling pupils to go and listen to the pieces without doing the quiz. Equally he created directories for the presentation files he had used with them in class.

The reason this was such a win for me is because the teacher already had the ICT skills to do this stuff. I showed him how to do everything once and he picked it up. His motivation was a genuine desire to help his pupils learn. We couldn’t come up with any other potent solutions.

The last thought that springs to mind is about Moodle itself. Could any other VLE do this? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. When a teacher needs something and technology provides the solution… hey presto!

Next up he wanted to be able to use music notation as the answers to multiple-choice questions. I showed to print screen, edit in a graphics application and upload to Moodle in a table. We were not able to display the text next to the radio buttons so we created a table with each image labelled. The pupil would then choose the correct label from the answers displayed.

One thing leads to another…

‘How many years can a mountain exist before it is washed to the sea?

How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?

How many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn’t see?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind.’

Bob Dylan Blowin’ in the Wind 1963

e-safety

I started writing a Moodle course for e-safety this week.

Moodle esafety course

I am authorised to deliver the CEOP materials but the course will be taught by another teacher as well so I cannot use these in the course. Instead I have gone for (lesson 1):

teach-ict.com e-safety quiz games

a social networking flash video

a Moodle quiz to identify who has accounts on various social networks

A Moodle assignment with a comprehension exercise on a cyber-bullying article from the BBC

I am now wondering where to go next. It is such a big field. The ThinkUKnow and CEOP reporting buttons are there, which we will have a look at, but what activities are best for the pupils to learn all about e-safety. I would rather it was less about the teacher and more about the pupil doing. Any ideas or resources?

Twitter posts for Staff Induction #stbens

Today I introduced new staff to the classroom tools we use. I used a Moodle course, an IWB flipchart and a Google Form (click here to see results of self-assessment form).

2009SeptStaffIndPscreen

Before work in the morning I tweeted for a shout out. Here are the results:

Continue reading

Pull it all into one place – a conference (or classroom) feed 26 July 2009

Pull it all into one place – a conference (or classroom) feed

Netvibes is a tool I have played around with. See my public universe here. (screenshot below)

netvibes

I sometimes make a mistake with tools. The wood gets in the way of the trees and I start developing the use of something as an example (facility) for the whole school (see subject tabs at top of image). Big mistake.

The right (?) thing to do is to make use of it yourself for your own teaching. That then serves as an example to others of how it might be used.

I just saw this tweet:

lindseyb16: Netvibes Page for #blc09 info, http://is.gd/1NPoJ especially like the mobile site from november learning http://is.gd/1NPry.

If you check out the links you’ll see a netvibes mashup of pages bringing together all the information on one conference into one place. The BLC (Building Learning Communities) conference.

I was so impressed I wrote this post. Imagine how you could bring everybodys contributions into one space. Blogposts. Tweets. Facebook updates. Links. Relevant reading material. Widgets. Not all these things are happening in my classroom right now but I like the idea of pulling everything that everybody does into one space. You could have a different page for each topic or project. You could link to it from the subject/course homepage. It might be a bit tricky to get all the work going in feedable formats but if you’re using Google Apps then all work could be published and fed out to the netvibes page, even if via a social bookmarking tool.

Obviously this would be vulnerable to misuse and abuse, but it could moreover be a fantastic way of bringing cohesion to your teaching and learning.