A blend of Moodle and Web 2.0 technologies

Learning is complex

Learning is a complex process, and to manage this complexity we’ve invented systems such as classrooms, timetables, rules, and detention. Even in online learning environments, Learning Management Systems (LMS) are put in place to ensure that learning is happening according to plan. Moodle is one LMS that many educational institutions have adopted.

From Moodle to Networks

In the past 2 -3 months, besides using our course Moodle page, my students and I also experimented with a diversity of Web 2.0 tools. Many of us signed up for an account in social network sites, and it didn’t take long for some of the students and I to meet in Facebook and in Twitter. Immediately friend requests were sent and we were following each other.

Within weeks, what started 3 months earlier as a formal class discussion forum within the closed environment of Moodle has now evolved into a complex network of enthusiastic and independent participants. We are now sharing not just Moodle forum posts but also blogposts in WordPress or Blogger, videos in YouTube and Vodpod, Tweets, Boxnet files, Flickr photos and videos, shortened URLS, and bookmarks in Diigo libraries.

Breaking the formality

The formality that we are familiar with in Moodle has become less stringent. Frequent sharing of jokes and the use of acronymns such as LOL, OMG, and LMHO has enlivened up the faceless nature of the dialogues in Facebook and Twitter.

The increase in the number of web-based tools that students are using is also accompanied by a significant improvement in the way they search for, present and organize information online. In their own initiative, some of the students are sharing their experiences with Tweet deck, HootSuite, and Symbaloo. This shows that their experiences with the internet has made them aware of the real need to learn how to manage the deluge of web information.

From novice to experts

This blend of Moodle and Web 2.0 tools is enabling students to take charge of their learning. Students display an increased sense of responsibility. For example, they put up their own Facebook “Teacher-student-mentor” page into which they meet and discuss issues related to their school work and their profession (teaching).

With the absence of the teacher’s control, the students are now seeing the need for them to assume the roles of experts, to offer advice and to lead discussions.  And they are further encouraged to improve this independence and leadership by the fact that their efforts are being acknowledged and appreciated by the members of the network. This approach is taking learning using Moodle to a new level.

Tech savvy… still need guidance!

Though young people of today are naturally tech savvy, they still need adult guidance. The teacher’s online presence makes a lot of difference to the learning environment, from the type of photos which are shared and the issues which are discussed to the number of students who actauuly participate in the discussion. It’s utterly irresponsible, especially in online learning environments, to assume that students will learn quality content and skills entirely on their own.

Issuu with Youblisher

Modern online publication tools are making reading online materials an experience that anyone can enjoy and look forward to. In the past week, I’ve been exploring two of these tools: Issuu and Youblisher.

Issuu is a web-based tool that makes realistic and customizable viewing of online documents and books possible. Materials which can be uploaded to Issuu are PDFs, MS Word documents, or MS Power Point files. The result is a truly stunning super sleek online Flash e-book that one can actually flip through.

Issuu’s Flash media viewer presents the content of any document like a real magazine as the page flips with a click of the mouse. Gone are the days of having to scroll down and up the page. With Issuu, the experience of reading online has become more enjoyable.

Issuu e-books can be made private or public. When public viewing is enabled, one can also decide whether or not the original document is downloadable.

A URL link and an embed code which comes with every Issue e-book make sharing easy on social networking sites such as blogs and Facebook.

Below is an e-book published using Issuu.

Youblisher is similar to Issuu but it has gone one step further into visually reproducing the experience of reading a book in real life.

With Youblisher, not only you can see the corner of the page curls when it is about to flip, but, provided that your speakers are on, you can also hear the page flipping!  Like Issuu, there is no scrolling up or down the page. You, instead hear the page flipping at the click of the mouse. Youblisher makes reading online fun as you look forward to flipping the page again!

To publish in Youblisher, your materials must be PDFs. Uploading of documents is easy and preparing your publication involves only 3 short steps.

Below is the same e-book above published using Youblisher.

Teacher Observation Form

Like Issuu, a Youblisher e-book comes with a URL and an embed code which facilitate sharing.

Both of these tools are FREE.



Web content curation and teacher education: who is responsible?

I’ve spent a significant amount of time this week wondering about how I could utilize available technology in my teaching. We are already into the first week of the semester and I’m still not sure about how to best do this. By using the word ‘available technology’, I am not talking about the VCR, or TV monitor, or OHP. I’m referring, instead, to the Internet and its wealth of web-based resources and tools.

The Internet and the www have revolutionised humanity. They have influenced and changed everything that we do, from banking and communicating, to education and the way we relate to one another. And regardless of whether we live in New York or Fiji, new media literacy may well be an important precondition to success in the 21st century.

As a teacher educator, I feel that I have a role to play in this regard. I must integrate technology into my teaching and the education of my students. But this has proven to be a difficult undertaking.

There are two reasons why I find it hard to teach my teacher education students about how to use the Internet and web-based tools in their learning and teaching. First, I am not aware of any previous effort to do this in my teacher education institution or any other teacher education institution in the Pacific. This is understandable as most of the new media and web-based (Web 2.0) tools such as Twitter and Facebook, are new inventions. The Internet itself, when compared to the VCR , is also a relatively new technology. There is no existing curriculum to guide classroom practice in this area. My teaching, I guess, would be just based on my own experiences with various new media and tools.

The second reason why I find it hard to begin this adventure is that there is just too much information (web-based resources and tools) available on the internet. The rate at which new blogs, videos, Web 2.0 tools are added to the Internet is just mind-boggling. People are producing new stuff all the time.

Thus, teaching students how to use new tools in their teaching is one thing. Teaching them to be able to sift through thousands of websites and identify content that matters, is another. Using Robin Good‘s words, I need to teach my students so that they are able to “manage this deluge” and “help bring more utility and order to the web”.

I believe that content curation skills and knowledge must be made core parts of all teacher education curricula. Today, the problem with teaching is not the lack of teaching resources; it is the lack of knowledge about how to make sense of the all those resources that are already available.