MoodleMoot II

Review of day 2 of the MoodleMoot conference in Milton Keynes below. Martin Langhoff reveals Moodle’s role on One Laptop Per Child; Paula de Waal on the hype and reality of Web 2.0 in the classroom; Daniela Rappitsch and an unusual scheme for marking coursework; and Ray Lawrence on effective Moodling.

And both my Sloodle presentation and Pieter van der Hijden’s one on Moodle and Gaming are now available on Blip.tv in the Learn4Life page. (Lots of other education and technology videos there too).

Moodle on One Laptop Per Child

Martin Langhoff made clear that he is not a member of the OLPC foundation, but that he is one of many external developers working with the foundation. His part is in getting Moodle working on XS – the school based servers and wireless stations that will form a central base for OLPC in the field – linking to the greater internet and providing updates. Offline access to Moodle content will also be available (for when students take their machines out of range), though not by providing a local install of Moodle …. which would consume too much memory. I hadn’t really been aware of the XS part of the OLPC project, so this was quite new to me. His keynote ranged quite broadly, and it was the first time I’ve seen one of the OLPC machines in the plastic.

I and MY Hype of ‘Social Software’

Paula de Waal considered hype vs. reality of using web 2.0 in the classroom. I have to agree with her that without a clear strategy in advance for handling the volume of text, asking students in a large class to each keep a learning blog can easily overwhelm a tutor. I had just 11 students blogging last year, and found that quite time consuming. Hard to imagine keeping up with 70 blogs. The quality of contributions is important not just the number… so evaluating comments and entries requires evaluation of content, looking for evidence of critical thinking and knowledge and understanding. This is time consuming.

One of her key questions was “do ‘digital natives’ know how to LEARN online?” – which is a good point. Its one thing to use web 2.0 this and that for social and personal purposes, something a little different to use them for effective learning.

Paula noted that Web 2.0 tools are not convergent… as not everyone uses blogs, wikis, etc in the same way. She related a story of a discussion forum attached to a course which had around 1000 forum posts without any relevance to learning or the class topic as an example of social use taking over from educational use.

Paula had some useful advice for using web 2.0 in class, though some of it is a little obvious:

  • Make your expectations of how students will use the technology clear
  • Monitor the process, intervene with proactive inputs whenever it is necessary to guide students into a learning flow instead of a manipulation hype
  • Calculate the time needed to learn mechanics of the tool, and provide tutorial activities… to help students use the tool in a particular way (blogging for learning, not for unloading or socialising). (e.g. if over half of todays teens are blogging, then almost half are not!)
  • Monitoring and assessment can be much more time consuming and will eat up free time if technology lacks reporting tools

I disagreed with some of her points and opinions on Web 2.0, however. She argued that a lot of Web 2.0 tools are about creating ‘my’ space rather than ‘our’ space, and that they can encourage egocentric selfish approaches. She thinks that people are using AJAX tools to use the web like the PC was used in the past – to create personal spaces and microworlds, pulling online content to personal pages and spaces. True for RSS feeds, but otherwise most Web 2.0 seems to me to be about inviting other people to come into our spaces.

Incredibly Titled Presentation

“Teaching and Learning Scenarios in Virtual and Real Environments Analyzed According to Didactical and Organizational Aspects” is a title that doesn’t so much trip off the tongue as come veering off at the bend, crashing into a crowd of innocent paragraphs standing on the corner.

A number of case studies were presented, but what caught me most was the use of marking and peer review in one (large) class. Of a group of students, each week one would have to write something and other would have to comment on it as a form of peer review. Submissions were checked only to make sure that they were substantive and not empty, and all received the same mark as long as they were not empty. Further feedback was through comments at the start of each lecture on a random selection of that week’s submissions.

Sounds quite kooky but, as was said in the presentation, the purpose of assessment should be to support learning, not as an end in-of itself – and this use of peer-review combined with regular feedback in class was designed to do just that. Interesting, but not necessarily easy to use more widely without some more thought about the fairness of the marking.

Effective Moodling

This session, led by Ray Lawrence, revealed a number of useful guidelines for teaching online – most of which are really quite general in nature. In truth, it wasn’t really about Moodle at all. Some of the guidelines:

  • Ensure a manageable time commitment
  • Support different activities for different people, to suit different learning styles and preferences and make activities welcoming.
  • Actively promote collaboration – facilitation is key.
  • Interaction between participants is where the greatest learning takes place, so encourage this (sometimes it is, I would say)
  • Facilitator presence… be present, not dominant; the values is in getting learners to think for themselves. Provide good feedback and encourage non-contributors. Also encourage reflection.
  • A visible feedback table which shows goal completion is useful.
  • And to reiterate,skillful facilitation is required – content is not enough.