- Beyond the school gate
- Improving student learning
- Let's teach maths and science
- What's real in a virtual world?
- Careers and transition
- Curriculum for the 21st century
- Early childhood education & care
- Teachers and Teaching
The ICT agenda
Oodles of Moodles
As schools grapple with the costs of technology Renée Hoareau advocates a solution worth consideration. Moodle is feature-rich e-learning software for schools that can’t afford commercial variations.
‘...these are going to be the real challenges and the idea that we can put these kids back into a one size fits all print box and train them as if we were in the 1950s or 60s is just not viable anymore.’
Dr Allan Luke, 2002
This year Mount Waverley Primary in Victoria is celebrating its centenary. Year-long school festivities which focus on past achievements and milestones have been planned. One hundred years of developing partnerships in learning with the wider school community has shaped Mount Waverley Primary’s identity and promoted its key values. Students are currently studying the historical displays and have developed ‘Xpressions’—stories with Kahootz (a three-dimensional modelling software)—which has heightened the sense of these values and their appreciation of their school.
Significantly, this year also marks Mount Waverley’s segue into whole-school implementation of e-learning. Juggling the usual commitments, celebrating, learning about new ways to learn and implementing school priorities will make the year memorable for all.
The e-learning challenge
An Intranet for accessing a resource bank of files and classroom resources is used for document and curriculum content creation. The shift from using this technology for task-oriented activity to integrating technology into classroom practices has been a brave step, particularly in this busy year.
Open source software
Sustainable affordability of learning technologies is important for every school budget in the implementation of effective e-learning plans.
In 2002, Dr Kathyrn Moyle spoke about the pros and cons of open-source software for schools at the ACEC (Australian Computers in Education Conference). The discourse continues today as schools grapple with the costs of technology.
A decision was made early in the year to utilise an online learning environment where learning and communications can take place with the whole school community; thus teachers, students and parents could explore what could be achieved beyond classroom learning anywhere, any time.
Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (Moodle) was the school’s choice. Apart from loving its engaging name and the fun of playing with its onomatopoeic potential, most teachers questioned what it was.
Put simply, Moodle is a virtual learning environment (VLE), an electronic system that can provide online interactions between learners and teachers. Moodle is an open-source e-learning platform—open to public use, free. It has a very large user base across 142 countries. Many schools, education bodies and universities in Australia are discovering the opportunities for teachers and students that these VLE enable.
Opportunities for changing pedagogies
Moodle is an excellent platform for schools of any size. Schools in Victoria using Netspace as their provider have been given access to and hosting of this service as part of their annual fees. This has allowed large primary schools, like Mount Waverley (609 students), as well as smaller communities like Bridgewater Primary (60 students), to explore learning in a new collaborative shared online environment.
The diversity of tools provides a way to promote both student learning in a multimodal multi-literacies approach and professional growth. In addition, online learning further supports new curriculum directions and the disciplinary and interdisciplinary areas of communications, design, creativity and technology, thinking processes and information and communication technology.
Suitability for primary schools
Moodle has been successful at both Mount Waverley Primary and Bridgewater Primary because it has been customised for their needs. Not all modules have been made available. The emphasis in selection is on activities and resources that augment class activities rather than selection for iterative courses that require summative assessment.
The language set (being a global resource, there are numerous languages other than English that can be chosen) can be modified to enable ‘Site News’ to be titled ‘School News’ and ‘Word of the Day’ can become ‘Yard Duty Today’. This makes the school’s curriculum, management and organisational information more authentic and purposeful. The use of customised, colourful theme sets (skins) helps to frame an identity, promotes a sense of ownership of the software for the school and makes for a more personal experience for administrators, teachers and students.
A constructivist model for learning
Moodle is designed to help educators create quality online courses and resources. In a primary context, a range of highly engaging student-focused activities can be developed by individual teachers for their classes.
Moodle, as with most commercial VLE, has an extensive range of tools that encourage diverse learning modes including: chat, forum, poll, calendar and quiz creation tools; journals (information holders) to support the display of any electronic content; a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) document creation tool; cycling glossaries and surveys. The tools allow for peer assessment, teacher management and grade assessment. Some of the dynamic components include the inclusion of Rich Site Summary (RSS) and dynamic news feeds. Education Network Australia (EdNA) provides several of these educational feeds such as Book Week and EdNA School.
An initial hook into Moodle is the use of chat for collaboration between students in a class, between classes and between schools. Teachers’ faces light up when learning objects are automatically available for students by a click on a hyperlink. They are also keen to collaborate to create activities for classes and share these resources with colleagues.
Miles Berry, deputy head of St Ives School, Haslemere, and author of ‘An Investigation of the Effectiveness of Moodle in Primary Education’ undertook action research in 2005. He ran a pilot with grade 5 and 6 maths classes to identify the extent to which online learning is effective in a primary school in three interrelated areas: as a tool to support knowledge management in and beyond the school, in terms of measurable gains in pupil attainment, and in its effect on pupils’ approach to their studies.
Berry provides a summary of the benefits:
- access any time, anywhere
- improved motivation for students
- access to other learning styles
- opportunities for independent learning
- better integration of ICT tools
- increased parental engagement
- movement towards learner-centred, collaborative approaches
- support of social constructivist pedagogies
- online assessment with instant feedback
- sense of community
- ICT skills development.
Further along the process of online learning, parents will be invited to participate. They can use the security of user-authentication to view their children’s work from any Internet connected computer. They can participate in decision-making and development of school policies. The myriad of purposeful communications enables parents to have a key role in partnership with the school. This provides a way of promoting transparency and accountability for school processes, and allows all school community members to become involved in school activities.
Mount Waverley Primary is on an e-learning journey to extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom. Online initiatives are playing a significant role in supporting school goals to provide rigorous, challenging and engaging programs that meet the needs of students, and improve attitudes to learning and connectedness to school.
Berry, M (2005). ‘An Investigation of theEffectiveness of Moodle in Primary Education’, available at http://moodlemoot.org/mod/resource/view.php?id=14
Anstey, M (2002). Literate Futures: reading the future, Access Ed, Queensland Department of Education. A video.
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