My goal for this online course was to familiarize myself with different websites and programs that I can use to enhance my students’ experience in the classroom. My previous entry was on Glogster, which I now feel comfortable using in my classroom. I am also evaluating a software program called Wordle, which is a web-based brainstorming program.
For my third entry to my Blog (which I can now count WordPress as something new I have tried out- although I think I prefer Blogspot’s user interface), I am going to look at another software program I have only heard about called ‘Moodle’. Moodle stands for Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, or, “huh??”. While I would normally provide an introduction to this program, I would be just paraphrasing a marketing video they post on their website. Check it out here:
Also, here is a teacher explaining the multitude of options that are available on Moodle:
She seems excited about Moodle and appears to use it quite often in her Grade 8 classroom.
After speaking to a colleague about Moodle, I found out that the Durham Board has a special contract with Moodle where they have the software already set up according to school. After logging in my account and watching some instructional videos, I do not have what is needed to set Moodle up. I emailed a tech person/teacher in the board but considering it is July, I eagerly await his return email in late August. If I end up getting a reply, I will continue to update this blog with my adventures with that.
Weebly: How do I work this?
Since I cannot access Moodle, I thought I would instead discuss my experience with Weebly and having a class website last year. Weebly is the free website platform that I used this past year to make my class website. I taught the fifth grade last year, and my website is here:
On the whole, I was very impressed with how user friendly Weebly was, and how it really gave me the all the necessary tools that I needed. As you can see from the website, I organized the website into headings according to months, and then further subdivided into both Homework and Class Updates. This website was vastly superior in look to the website that the school was using. I really wanted to encourage my students to visit the website in the evenings at home, so I tried to make it as kid and parent friendly as possible.
Weebly mainly works with a drag and drop process of adding content to the website. I found this much easier to use because I could see instantly where information will appear and how it will be formatted. Comparing this to a blogging website where often the information is put into a text box and then formatted by the computer, I much preferred the ability to see exactly how the site will look. Weebly offers different text boxes- paragraph with title, paragraph with picture, titles, picture and two column layout- all of which they call ‘elements’. You can upload photo galleries, a slideshow, google maps and youtube videos. It was also possible to add a blog, an area where people could leave messages and forums as well. I chose to make this site simple a way to pass information on to parents and students, rather than a Web 2.0 format. Weebly also allows you to change the format of the website, and the offer many pictures and designs. While this is much more limiting than Glogster, for example, it does allow for some personalization. During the school year, I would change the images and layout according to what we were doing in class. I also let students who had finished all their homework choose the layout as well.
Weebly: Student Reaction?
I found the website helpful for many reasons. In writing down what we had done in class, I was able to reflect on my day and what had occurred. I was able to keep track of homework assignments that might be rubbed off a blackboard. I also noticed that I got a lot fewer notes in students’ agendas. I never encouraged parents to not send me notes, but with the creation of the website it limited the notes regarding class trips, fundraising and projects. I updated the website every day or every other day, depending on the volume of homework that was due. I did not give an inordinate amount of homework and I often gave class time to student so they could work on their assignments.
Weebly: Should we stop using agendas?
The class website opened up an interesting debate in my school. If we have class websites, why do we need to ask parents to purchase agendas? The additional money could be re-allocated to something else, or simply not asked for at all. This was my first time having a class website, so the discussion was interesting to me. With the information on the website, we being eco-friendly and encouraging our students to use new technologies. My school started to do away with the printed version of the monthly newsletter, and instead updated the same information as it came in onto the website. Parents were given the option of receiving a paper copy, and only about 20% of my parents opted for this. Parents liked the idea of checking the website while they are at work at about 3:30, so they know what their child should be working on when they come home from work. Students would check the website in evenings for their homework assignments, and I noticed the completion rate go up slightly.
On the negative side, I did notice some students relying far too much on the website for reminders. How do you do your math homework when you come home and you didn’t know you needed the textbook? Many parents also liked their child using the agenda as a rote memory tool- the action of writing down the assignment put the reminder into their heads.
I think there is still a place for the classic agenda. Many students need to take ownership of their work and not rely on someone else to remind them of what is due. Some nights I would be too busy or I would forget to update the website, and the students who did not use their agendas would often forget about the work that was due. I also think the agenda is a teaching tool- it teaches the students about responsibility and the need to write things down. The website can act as a helpful reminder and a place to extend what I am teaching in class, but it cannot replace some of the basic responsibilities of being a student. I slowly weaned my students off of having their agendas signed each night. I did this for the first few months, but eventually I just gave them a few minutes to write down what was due. After this, I just put the reminders on the board and told students to copy it down before the end of the day. This last step was a bit much for some students, who still needed constant reminders about writing things down. For some students however, this started to ingrain the process of writing reminders down because that is what a good student does.
Moodle and Weebly: Moobly!
While I was disappointed I could not access Moodle, I was pleased to be able to share my thoughts on Weebly. I will be using both tools next year in my class and I will be looking for ways to link the two processes.