Posts Tagged ‘review’

Start Moodling!

Friday, August 6th, 2010

I am all for shameless plugging of whatever I happen to be working on at a given point in time, and for this week DTLT sent me packing through the web to figure out what all the moodle non-sense is about. What I found was an LMS (Learning Management System) that is open source and does not give me the willies or cause me to gag. I spent this week looking through screencasts, playing with an instance of moodle, and reading a download manual. With all of that in mind here is a brief review of what I liked about moodle and how I would use it if I were one of those funky teaching types.

To begin allow me to point you to a video put out by the creators of moodle themselves which covers how awesome their LMS is over everybody else:

Now if the sweet and touching guitar music did not make you want to download this LMS right away, you have no heart! Okay, no in all actuality LMS are a company and want to package their product as the best thing on the block. With overlords of CMS LMS whatever you want to call it floating around, I can understand wanting to put out a strong impression as your first and foremost goal. However, I found that the level of documentation on the website to be quite helpful and beyond that a number of users independently putting out screencasts to help with the initiate or technophobe. A website that offered some pretty decent and straightforward tutorials was target”blank”>moodletutorials.org.

I hear that there is supposed to be a big upgrade to Moodle 2.0, but I have not had the opportunity to play with a beta so I can only speak for my experience with 1.9. I had no troubles getting my teaching website off of the ground and if you look at the site, it is pretty but at least it is up and doing what it should be. Now I would like to give you all a look at the little site I had been playing with, but unfortunately I have yet to figure out how to get guests into the site despite having selected “allow guests without a key” any number of times! I must admit to you all that I am not exactly the most technically inclined member of DTLT. I usually have to fumble my way around, but be ready for an updated post so I can give you access to all the juicy details of my imaginary class. Frankly it’s like playing house for me : P

So to give you a good breakdown on this whole moodle thing. I dig it. I like the options and features it comes with, but most of all it is about usability. I suck with setting things up, but I really managed to work my way around the interface and get a feel for it very early. I may have a few snags in creating the perfect site, but for just getting it off the ground and ready to use it is a snap. With loads of drop down menus and small question marks around any option that might seem the slightest bit confusing, the website is very easy to navigate. I have been working from a system administrator perspective, but upon seeing a whole host of helpful websites and videos it seems that most teachers and students can quickly get a feel for this LMS. As a big fan of simplistic layouts, I am very happy with how moodle lays out activities and assignments on an easy timeline on the main page of the course.

So what did I like about moodle?

I really enjoyed moodle’s glossary module, which once you turn on, gives you the option to set up course dictionaries, a main one designed by the teacher and also a secondary (or you could say weekly) glossary that can be student built. What’s even sweeter is having the autolink function, which will link to your definition of a word anytime a student comes across it on the course site. So, if I define “historigraphy” and then have it appear in a document or anywhere on the state, it gives the students a link to the dictionary page also on the site. Is it a simple tool that other LMSs might have? Yes, but I think that it is a powerful tool, especially when student made.

Example

This glossary module is particularly handy for a language class. I started looking into using the glossary to have students (imaginary ones) suggest mnemonics for a new word or phrase as well as give example sentences. Also the addition of a keywords function allows for students to select synonyms of the word which when clicked allows students to jump right to the other word’s definition. Students building their own dictionary will cause them to remember the words more distinctly as they debate or see how other students are remembering symbols and sounds. A student built dictionary is far more meaningful than a one-to-one correspondence dictionary within the text books themselves.

In terms of my foreign language example, I have found that moodle does not seem to read the Chinese characters as anything other than “special” characters. If it weren’t for playing with my iPod touch lately I would not be complaining, however when I switch my iPod’s language to Chinese, my iTunes re-categorizes all of my Chinese songs into alphabetical order despite them being written in characters. If it weren’t for that I would have a nasty unordered list of Chinese music artists.

How are other foreign language instructors in the States dealing with that?

Conclusion!

I am by no means finished with this whole moodle thing, but a post has to end somewhere. Moodle has a host of useful functions that easily will integrate with any class setting from wikis to inbuilt quizzes, and a fairly easy grading interface moodle offers a wide variety of options. It seems as if one can actually submit essays into moodle where teachers are able to grade and leave comments all in the same space. That’s sweet! But like all things in life there are obviously problems with this sort of program, but with my use only being a test run I am less than certain what those problems would be. However, they are most certainly there, because no program is perfect and each has their own specialties. For instance, Moodle’s blogging platform just doesn’t touch wordpress in style. And now since I’ve made a scene about this whole “having issues” matter; I think that something like an LMS that is an all in one package has one major flaw, it does everything, but really specializes in nothing other than managing the content. Yes, it rings of jack of all trades and master of none, but don’t get me wrong, moodle’s set up gets a big thumbs up from me.