After a couple months of playing around with moodle I’ve finally decided to throw it out. This is actually my second look at the platform. The first time I passed it over because I felt it fostered the building of walled gardens, which might be good arrangements during a school’s transition from brick-and-mortar to the web, but aren’t things we want in the long run.
But this time, after experimenting with my senior students I have to say that while it’s very powerful, it has a steep learning curve for both teachers and students and I’ve found this to be a significant barrier to school-wide use. Our work with WikiEducator came to a similar conclusion–the editor was too complicated–and so people were putting their energy into making the tools work instead of making content.
Now, I like the ideas in moodle, and to be to be fair to it I have to say we are a small school with limited resources and maybe a bigger operation could put more people into developing the platform. But that doesn’t get around what I think is a more fundamental problem. I’ve been told moodle was developed as a tool to manage distance learning; but even if that’s not true, it is a tool that requires a lot of centralized management and it’s a tool that fosters lock-step instruction. It takes a fair amount of work to create an online lesson in moodle and if I am going to invest that time, it would have to be for something I was going to use over and over again (a legacy of its distance-learning roots?) But I very rarely use exactly the same material in my teaching from year to year and even when I do I very rarely teach the same thing the same way twice. Each year my mix of students is different, I’m different, and the way we interact and what we collectively know is different, so I just don’t find a battery of lessons and quizzes all that useful.
Moodle is just too muscly for me. I do like the way it handles calendaring and student submissions, but I think I can’t get that in the more nimble and user-friendly Edmodo. My Grade 8 and 9 students and I are playing with that platform right now. We’ve only just set it up, but the initial response is more favourable than it was for moodle.
I’ll keep you posted.