4 Ways to Establish Relevance with Moodle

One of the first things you learn when studying adult learning is that adults need to know why they are learning something and how they can apply it to their lives.  In other words, they need to know how something is relevant to their condition and context.  It’s not only adults who need that.  Humans of all ages need to know, too, why they are learning something and how it is going to change their lives for the better once they know it.  It is the teacher’s job to help students establish relevance.

Please notice that I said “help students establish relevance.”  I say that because teachers can’t open up a student’s head and put the information into it.  Rather, they have to offer the tools by which the students deconstruct and reconstruct the knowledge for themselves.  Tools include activities that are transferable, lessons that are well-organized and include materials and activities that are on point, and resources that students can explore outside the classroom.  At times, we can all get lost in the details of a lesson or a unit while planning it.  We generate an assessment and align it to the standards of the lesson.   Then, we create these fun and engaging activities, or serious and challenging ones.   In short, we do all the other things that lesson and unit planners should do, except we forget the part about helping the students answer the question, “Why do I have to learn this?”

Here are four ways you can use Moodle to establish relevance.

Labels

Take the mystery out of it by explaining the WIIFM of an assignment immediately.  WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?”   It’s an acronym trainers and adult educators use, but K-12 educators can also use it.  Essentially, you are telling them what you expect them to get from the lesson.  Then, it’s up to them to verify that is what they got.  In my classroom, I would expect my students to challenge me if my WIIFM statement doesn’t match their experience or understanding.  I would also work hard to rectify that problem.

Competencies and Learning Plans

Do you share your standards with the students?  Make it easier for the students to understand what’s happening in class!  Share with them the standards you have aligned to the lesson and unit.  Additionally, in Moodle, you can create learning plans based on competencies (Moodle’s term for standards) that administrators load into the software.  These learning plans will show the students all the standards aligned to a course and the activities aligned to each standard.  Be sure to explain all of this to the students when you share their learning plan with them.  Otherwise, they might think this is nothing more than a checklist, and learning plans can be so much more useful than that.  For more information on competencies and learning plans, please click this link.

médicament zopiclone sans ordonnance en ligne
médicament imovane sans ordonnance

Discussion Forums

Use discussion forums to address the “elephant in the room,” which is the usual question about relevance.  In this case, peers can help peers; we often find that peers can teach one another just as much as the teacher can, so give them this opportunity to help one another.

Journals

You can download the journal plugin from Moodle.org at this link.  Teachers use the journal activity to pose a question and review students’ answers to that question, which is a great way to do a little formative assessment!  Explicitly pose questions such as

  • “What do you think this unit is all about?”
  • “How can you apply what you’ve learned during this unit to your life?”
  • “In five years, what will you remember about this unit?  Why?”

What Do You Think?

Do you think these four components of Moodle can help learners to establish relevance within their own minds?  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section provided.

Adapt Authoring Tool and Moodle

I have been working with the Adapt Learning Framework and Adapt Authoring tool of and on for a while now.  (Follow the community @AdaptLearning to learn more about this “Ground breaking #opensource project and THE online community for #multidevice #elearning” (quote from their Twitter profile page).  This post features one of the projects I created using the framework that I included in a my demo course.  You can view the course at this URL: http://heatherssandbox.org/moodle331/course/view.php?id=2.  Sign in as guest.student with the password =uC7U8*j when prompted.

The project focus is “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” by Dr. Martin Luther King.  In my opinion, this would be a great opener to the school year for seniors in high school English, especially this year with the events that have occurred since the election and most recently in Charlottesville.   It is controversial still, more than 50 years after it was first written.  Students can also easily relate the letter to events either they or someone they know have experienced.  Unfortunately, racism is alive and well, not only in the United States but around the globe.

Installing the software is not easy, but the community provides directions that you can follow easily. Make sure that you read the directions carefully before trying to install it! There are multiple steps involved, including installing Node.js, Git, Mongo, as well as the tool itself.  You must install each program properly for the software to work.

The community provides YouTube videos that introduce the tool, so I will not “reinvent the wheel” by providing an introduction in this post.  Rather, here is the first video for your viewing pleasure.

To see the “Letter” project, please click this link. I would love to hear your thoughts about it. Please leave a comment in the comments box below this post.

Regards,
Heather

3 Things to Think about When Developing Your Own Moodle Site


Recently, I started developing a demo course in a Moodle installation hosted on my site.  The latest version of Moodle is so powerful and useful.  It shows the dedication of the thousands of people who have contributed to its continued success.  Having been a fan for many years, I have enjoyed watching its progression from simple to cutting edge.  As I contemplate my future, I have decided to start using Moodle on my private site for more than just testing plugins and ideas.  Instead, I want to create an actual, usable site similar to that which I created for a corporation I used to work for.  Here are three things I have been thinking about since I started this process two days ago.

Know Your Moodle’s Purpose

In the past, my Moodle installations have been used for testing purposes. Now, I know that I want it to resemble what I would present were I teaching at the secondary level. The purpose of the site must be understood. Using it for K-12 will require slightly different approaches than post secondary and much different approaches from those used in corporate settings. Having already hacked a Moodle for a corporate LMS, I can speak to this confidently. Depending on the purpose, there are plugins to consider, appearance choices (especially theme!), and layouts to design to best accommodate each type of learner.

That brings me to an important point. This site isn’t about me; it’s for those who will view it and/or use it. So, while I might think something’s groovy, that may not align with others’ thinking. That makes knowing the site’s purpose all that more important.

Creating a site for grades 9-12 is more in line with Moodle’s tradition and history, but it is being used in corporate settings more in recent years. Still, putting this one together ought to be a lot easier than what I have done in the past – as long as I stay true to its purpose.

Plan Your Moodle

Deming and those who practice Total Quality Management (TQM) are not kidding when they stress the importance of planning. I typically spend over 40 hours preparing one one-hour presentation; imagine how long this project is going to take! Still, planning is important.

It’s also important to not get mired in details and plans, though. I will never finish that way. So, using the rest of Deming’s framework, I will Plan, Do, Check, and Act. Using an iterative process (oh no, agile!), I can get close to done without taking forever, as one would with the waterfall method of anything. Since learning of him in 2006, I have returned to Deming’s ideas many times. They continue to make the most sense. They are simple, and yet rich and deep.

With Deming and Sutherland (a founding father of Agile) in mind, perhaps I will even think in terms of sprints! I did not with the corporate Moodle; instead, I tended to respond to needs and satisfy my own whims. I don’t think that would be a good idea this time, and I must learn from my mistakes.

Rehearse Your Moodle

Today, I finished listening to Carmine Gallo’s The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, and the one practice that Steve Jobs never sacrificed before a big address was rehearsal.  He rehearsed for hours upon hours.  Many of us cannot say the same, myself included.  Although I prepare a presentation for many hours, I do not typically rehearse said presentation for more than a few.  Well, with a site that is supposed to show who I am as an educator, I think it probably best to beta test it, which is the software world’s version of rehearsal.  If you are interested in being a beta tester, please leave a message in the comments.  I’ll be sure to contact you.

I’ll leave you with some quotes about success I find valuable (DeMers, 2014).

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”

— Steve Jobs

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”

— Bruce Lee

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

— Colin Powell

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

— Albert Schweitzer

“Fall seven times and stand up eight.”

— Japanese Proverb

Reference

DeMers, J. (2014, November 3). 51 Quotes to Inspire Success in Your Life and Business. Retrieved September 9, 2017, from https://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/51-quotes-to-inspire-success-in-your-life-and-business.html

WHY TEXT-DEPENDENT ANALYSIS IS MORE IMPORTANT NOW THAN EVER

The explosion of media and technology…has made it all the more important that students master the core skills of gathering and evaluating evidence. Reading and writing with independence and confidence will remain master arts in the Information Age. (Vicki Phillips in Schmoker, 2011, p.93)

Phillips’ quote resonates today because of the media explosion that occurs on a daily basis (indeed, sometimes multiple times a day).  As teachers, we may decide we are obliged to help students navigate the turbulent river of information that comes through so many channels – our smart phones, the television, the radio, social media, etc.  I submit that we need to help them, and we need to figure out exactly how to help them.  Text-dependent analysis is a skill that can help them – and us – to cut through the clutter and find the gems of truth therein.

Recently, I finished a professional development course offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education called “Text-Dependent Analysis,” otherwise known as TDA.  This course taught us how to teach close reading and critical thinking about what one reads.  The DOE deployed this course at an opportune time, since many teachers are going to struggle with how to teach students to read with an eye toward deep understanding and toward analyzing for credibility or veracity.  I, for one, was not taught this particular strategy, so I have relied on my training as a history major, not as a teacher.

Close Reading – an important part of TDA – is composed of the following steps.

burkestepsofclosereading

(Beth Burke, n.d.)

Something I think we don’t do enough of in today’s classrooms is multiple readings of a text.  TDA requires multiple readings, for one cannot possibly deeply understand a text after only one reading, and it is probably difficult to understand deeply after two readings as well.

Something I would change about TDA as it is now taught is to gradually replace teacher-generated text-dependent questions (TDQs) with student-generated TDQs.  Teacher-generated questions can often sway a student toward one side or the other, even though these questions are NOT supposed to do that; they are intended to get the students thinking about the text in increasingly complex ways.  Additionally, many of us recognize that the best way to learn something, to master it I should say, is to teach it.  Therefore, if students create their own questions to share with others, they are in essence teaching one another the art of TDA.  That’s my opinion; feel free to disagree with it in the comments.

TDA can help students to filter out the noise that media explosions constantly subject us to these days.  It can help them (and us) to discover truth in the midst of so much nonsense.  It can help all of us to support our democratic republic and to help it progress.  We have made so much progress in our short time as a country, and recently we are seeing citizens regress into publicly displaying worldviews that we as a country felt we had long ago abandoned.  It saddens many of us to see it, but there is something we can do about it!

Try TDA today.

References

Burke, B. (n.d.). A close look at close reading: Scaffolding students with complex texts. Anne Arundel County, MD: Anne Arundel County Reading Council.
Schmoker, M. (2011). Focus: Elevating the essentials to radically improve student learning.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Waxing Philosophical: The Purpose of Education

There are so many articles, blog posts, and books about the purpose of education that it might seem odd to see yet another one. However, this might be a good exercise for any teacher to try, if only to determine his or her own views on the subject. Reading about it, or listening to someone speak of it, is one thing; forming an argument is quite another.

If you ask almost any teacher why he or she entered the teaching profession, you are likely to hear something like this: “I want to help people, especially the kids.” And if you were to ask those same teachers what they think the purpose of education is, you are likely to hear that it is to help students learn what they need to know to become effective, productive, and happy people as they mature into adulthood and beyond. That is true.

That is not the whole story, though, and we all know it. History tells us that many schools were established centuries ago in the colonies to teach children how to read the printed word. The Bible was a popular text, for example, as Protestantism indicated that reading the Bible for oneself was virtuous and recommended. Instead of relying on the minister to show one the way, it was important that a Protestant was somewhat self-reliant and able to speak to passages in the Bible that were relevant to the situation in which they found themselves.

History will also tell us that as the country industrialized, so too did the education system. School became the main venue for teaching students how to work hard in factories, pay attention to directions, and do basic things like reading, writing, and math (the 3Rs). When you read literature about this priority in education, you will often see a photo of students sitting in rows of desks with their hands folded in front of them, patiently listening to the teacher. This helps the reader connect schooling to aspects of industrialization such as the assembly line.

Finally (at least in this post), schooling was used as an assimilation vehicle, too. As immigration to the United States increased, schooling provided the children with the opportunity to learn about what it means to be an American, and to learn English. Schools’ practices related to this varied widely, of course, depending on the location. Assimilation continues to be a priority today.

Some controversies surrounding public schooling can be traced back to the inequitable quality of education that groups of students received based on their location and the funding available to the schools / school districts. In higher-income areas, students enjoy more advantages: better technology, more experienced teachers, pristine infrastructure, and more extracurricular activities with up-to-date facilities. My high school benefited from affluent alumni; we received donations all the time to keep our facilities thriving. We needed those donations, as the school district was always in a financial bind. But other high schools in the district were not so fortunate, and it showed – crumbling buildings, ineffective faculty, disengaged students, and few resources. I subbed in one school district that featured a bank branch in its high school as well as its own TV studio from which students would broadcast the news during homeroom, and in another school district where trash cans served to catch rain as it leaked through the roof, and teachers had to buy their own copy paper. The quality of education was strikingly different. The affluent school district allowed teachers more freedom to innovate, and encouraged its students to develop 21st Century Skills. The poorer district forced teachers to use a ‘standardized’ curriculum that was scripted and required teachers to be literally on the same page each day. The students and parents lined up once a week to receive donations from the Panera located in the town adjacent to theirs. The students learned hand signals and cues to keep the class on track. My ‘favorite’ was “Clap once if you can hear me,” to get the students to quiet down. If that didn’t work, the teacher asked, “Clap twice…” and then, “Clap three times…” – you get the idea. There was also a procedure that involved snapping one’s fingers, but I can’t remember exactly when that was used. Teachers in this school spent a lot more time on classroom management than they did on fostering collaboration and creativity. No, it was not the kids who were to blame; it was the adults’ view of the kids’ capabilities that was.

Therefore, it would seem (to me, at least) that the practice of education often runs counter to the expressed purpose of education. In my study of education over the years, I have found the following expressed purposes of education. Some we can all agree with, others are worthy of debate, and some just make us cringe.

• To prepare children for adult lives
• To help them become “God-fearing” people
• To prepare them to become effective and informed citizens
• To inspire students to be creative, innovative adults prepared for jobs that don’t exist yet
• To further humanity down the road of progress
• To “produce” adults who know how to follow directions
• To “provide” the knowledge they’ll need to succeed in their profession
• To lift children out of poverty
• To help the nation become a melting pot of cultures that all get along
• To help children learn how to learn so they can be lifelong, self-directed learners
• To encourage children to approach life as fierce competitors, prepared to win
• To develop critical thinking skills that will protect children from charismatic and overly ambitious people
• To demonstrate that geographical boundaries are no longer as relevant as they’d once been
• To convince children that all can learn once they understand their own processes, and can construct knowledge
• To push children beyond their perceived limits and barriers
• To instill in children a realistic confidence in themselves – and others
• To promote collaboration in the world of work and regular life
• To enculture children in the content areas they study, which they may someday enter as academics or professionals
• To explore “strange new worlds”
• To inspire children to become teachers too
• To further the cause of education’s continuous improvement
• To identify the special and support their development

Those who have been disappointed by the U.S. education system may add the following.
• To give kids something to do
• To turn them into “sheeple”
• To help them “ace” standardized tests and become “standardized people”
• To control children’s thought processes and mold them into those that best serve authority
• To show children what their “place” is in the world
• To keep children tied to their communities
• To regulate the knowledge that students have access to
• To teach kids irrelevant stuff they’ll never use again

I think that the purpose of education emerges school by school, and perhaps even classroom by classroom. A beautiful principle that makes up the American Idea is that divergent thought is supposed to be supported. Even in the age of standardized testing, teachers still expressed themselves through their practice, and this is wonderful. What would help these creative, compassionate, passionate teachers would be to provide them all with the same access to tools they need to educate 21st century kids to use 21st century skills. What would be wonderful is to see the schools in any neighborhood in terrific condition, radiating hope for, and confidence in, the students it serves. Its doors would be open to the community, allowing anyone who wanted to learn the chance to do just that. If we could agree on just these simple things, perhaps we could fulfill the purpose of education so many teachers go into the profession believing to be most important: to help children become happy, healthy, productive, passionate, compassionate, critically thinking, creative, and loving adults.