Teachers like being organised. It helps the lessons, the classes and even the students, but sometimes staying organised can be complicated when everything is on paper. Loosing assignments, misplacing agendas… these things are common and can really throw a teacher off. So, why not have everything online? Well one could say that it would take too many websites to manage and would be just as confusing as with paper.
Although, wouldn’t it be great to have a website where you can put lesson plans, where you can correct assignments, where students can blog, interact, chat, peer review, take quizzes, make their schedule, listen to podcasts and where parents can stay in the know? Sounds ideal doesn’t it? Well it actually exists.
Moodle is an online “community” of sorts where teachers can create a whole online classroom. The teachers profile has a calendar to manage events or things to not forget. There is also a comments section on the teacher’s personal page that enables them to write reminders that will stay there. Moodle is great because the teacher can upload files (whole classes or just reviews can be useful), he or she can also grade on the computer and submit the grades on Moodle, the teacher can also give out badges to students for different things (the teacher can create his or her own badges). Moodle gives the teacher so many opportunities to be organised and to make the class more fun. With Moodle, the teacher can also give many resources for exam revision and studying. Teachers and students can collaborate on class “Wikis” to summarize the content of a class or of a semester. Because the teacher has control over it, he or she can change or delete any false information while still giving the students a chance to share their knowledge.
For parents Moodle is also great because they can check their child’s progress and see their grades. Actually, the teacher can decide exactly what the parents can and cannot see, the parent role is not there by default and the teacher has to create it. I think this is great because the teacher and the student know what the parents can see, the teacher can control exactly what is permitted and the parent is satisfied with being involved. I think that a really inclusive teacher could even let select or volunteer parents participate in the forums to answer questions and help the students. Parents can even be assigned to oversee a debate or chat.
The students have a similar page to the teacher’s that is, they have a calendar, comments and a section on the left where all classes are listed and where the blog and forum are. I think that Moodle can also make teamwork easier because students can chat live and work on “Wiki” pages at the same time. For students, Moodle can be an encouraging platform to do assignments and homework, I think that technology and cool tools like Moodle motivate students to want to work because it’s fun, it’s easy and it’s all online.
I think that in an ESL class, Moodle would be a great tool because let’s face it, not every student likes English class. I think Moodle would make a class more interactive and would make students want to make more efforts. I think it is great that students have access to all their classes and that they can easily communicate with other students and with the teacher. Debates and discussion can easily be hosted on the chat and I think that it is motivating for students because it can count for easy participation points. The teacher can ensure everyone is there and participating and give points for that. Another thing I think would be very useful for an English class is the podcasts. I think that for oral skills it would be great for ESL students to get and create podcasts on pronunciation. The teacher could put one up about the sound “th” and then ask students to each make one with as many words containing “th” as possible. It would be a way to ensure everyone practices and would also be a lot of fun for the students. For writing skills, with Moodle it is easy to get students to do peer reviewing which, in my opinion, really helps students writing skills and not only that but gives them practice on giving good critiques and also on not taking critiques too personally. I think it’s just a good life skill and their writing will only get better for it. Just for the teacher, receiving assignments online is really great because there is no more paper involved and so so more lugging assignments around, loosing them, tearing them by accident etc… Even better, no more wasted paper, Moodle is very green.
Another great great great thing about Moodle is that it was translated in many languages and on top of that it is FREE. Now how many tools like this can you find for free…And it’s not just free it’s also OPEN SOURCE which means anyone can modify it or add plug-ins and share it with everyone else. Moodle is a community program that only gets better and better without any licencing problems.
For me, the downside of Moodle is that is can look complicated in the beginning. The website offers a good demo in different roles to help get used to the website. I think that to set it up, it would have to be done progressively just so the teachers, students and parents can get used to the new kind of classroom. I had a hard time getting around at first and I found it a bit overwhelming. Once I got usd to it a little I could see how it would be a really good tool. Another small downside is that it is on the internet. Now, in school usually children have access to the internet but a select few might not have it at home. I think that is something to think about and to check before starting Moodle with a class, otherwise some students could be left out.
A part from these small obstacles, Moodle is a great free tool that can really turn a classroom around. It can make students interested and invested in class and I think it’s a great thing when students want to learn and know it will be fun. I think Moodle could create this really fun kind of atmosphere.