Although I was a fabulous note taker in high school and college, I never was a wonderful student. I often copied down everything the teacher wrote and said, having no idea what I was supposed to be learning. I spent lots of late nights cramming in last minute information so I could get just get by. I just couldn’t learn during class. It was too much for me to listen, write, and comprehend all at once. However, once I “got it”, I had a natural tlalent to organize and explain. Maybe I should become a teacher?
After teaching math and computer classes for 5 years, I was asked to teach one hour of biology for the 2006-07 school year. Little did I know how little I really knew about biology. The first year was torture. I spent way too much time with an antiquated textbook and Wikipedia. I dreaded teaching that hour. Due to my lack of plans and confidence, I had to deal with lots of behavior problems. Somehow I survived and the following year I taught 5 hours of biology. This gave me a chance to really dig in and relearn biology. I relied on youtube, Discovery Education, NPR, NCSTA, and countless other sites to provide me information and teaching strategies. Once I started to understand the expectations and concepts I absolutely loved the class! This experience has not only taught me more about all living things than most would like to know, but also how to be a true internet learner.
Last school year left me feeling kind of down about the current biology teaching practices in my school. I really want students to understand the concepts, not memorize or “kind of get it”. I want them to apply the concepts to real situations. I want them to think critically and be amazed by the diversity of life on this earth. I want them to think outside of the box and realize the important role humans have with all other life. Somehow, all of this has led me to creating an online Moodle site for my class. This is my first school year using Moodle and I have had very little training on it. The original plan in September was to upload all handouts, presentations, assignments, and video clips used in class. I figured this would be beneficial for students to refer back to review and use to study at home. Absent students would be able to access what they missed. Parents would be able to login and check out what their student is doing in school. Other staff members could login and use my materials. After a few months I noticed most students were not visiting the site very often. Considering the many hours spent uploading a ridiculous amount of files and links, I was quite disappointed. This has required me to rethink the content and use of my Moodle courses.
Concern: Course Structure and Organization
My original Moodle site had way too much information and not enough student involvement.
After giving a few quizzes on Moodle I noticed how much students liked the instant feedback.
Because of this I added practice quizzes for them to study with. I also had my students post to their first forum last week and it was a huge. I am going to the them post once a week for the rest of the school year.
Concern: Checking all of that work!
The tests and quizzes are easy to check. I love the re-grade option in Moodle and use it often! I don’t think I would be as concerned about all of the grading if I were “just teaching an all online course”. I would think those instructors have to allot grading time into their daily routines. However, from 7 – 3 each day, I am completely occupied teaching. Not necessarily lecturing, but talking with and forming relationships with students. This does not leave much time to plan, update Moodle, or grade assignments. I assume and hope this concern will lessen once the online portion of the course exists and just needs tweaking.
Here are my Top Ten Moodle Tips for Rookies.
Theye based upon my Moodle experiences from my classroom and what I am learning from the Michigan Learns Online Course.
Top Ten Moodle Tips for Rookies
1. lay out a specific outline of the major units, modules, topics ahead of time
1. use color themes (different titles, documents, links get their own color)
2. put all due dates in a consistent location
3. send our email/text email reminders of important deadlines and due dates
4. limit the amount of links/attachments per lesson and per unit
5. have students post and comment to a forum about once a week
6. have students submit all online work through moodle
7. weekly practice/quizzes
8. post example work
9. post student successes
10. number or date posts/assignments