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Using moodle as a learning tool

 What was our key cluster goal?

Three years ago Hamilton Girls' High School (HGHS) and Hillcrest High School (HHS) started meeting together to form an ICT PD Cluster. The aim for our cluster was to have an LMS in place by the end of the three years. Both schools had been to MOE roadshows which were showcasing the benefits of an LMS and a MLE plus workshops offered by Edtech and NeweraIT on their LMS products. Teachers at HGHS started using myclasses as a means of providing additional resources (great when students were away). They tried to use the discussion forums (some were excellent e.g. a forum on the smacking bill) with limited success due to the internet speed. They had little success with ELF's.  Teachers across the cluster were committed to increasing the communication between students and teachers and finding new ways to give students feedback.

 How did we go about achieving this goal?

In 2010 six teachers completed a Wintec ICT online learning paper where Moodle courses were set up as part of the course.  HHS ran a Moodle pilot with a small cross section of staff (less than 10 teachers) while HGHS were using myclasses. Staff from both schools travelled to Auckland for an MOE Roadshow on LMS - this was an invaluable way to see what was on offer and to discuss together what our schools' needs were. This was a significant opportunity to talk, compare, contrast and review where we were going as schools together. I valued the input from Hillcrest High School staff, as I came away from the day thinking of one LMS but the discussion in the car on the way home and the subsequent conversations using MLE Reference Group, plus related contacts, staff at school and students brought us to our decision to go with Moodle.

In 2011 our Teacher Only Day our keynote speaker, Andrew Douch whom we Skyped in, showed how simple things (now we have teachers talking about doing podcasts) could hugely influence student learning and included how an LMS could impact positively on student learning. He illustrated how a LMS could support and enhance student learning.

2011 Teacher Only Day http://cobhamconnections.wikispaces.com/Teacher+Only+Day+2011

 Why and how Moodle?

We value the freedom Moodle extends to us as well as its flexibility and versatility. The cost (or lack of immediate outlay) was a bonus and its use in many tertiary environments has meant that many of the teachers had used Moodle - even if they were the recipients in the courses rather than the creators of the courses. It has been easy to set up on our school servers and time will tell as to whether we need to look at off-site hosting. As the HEDON (Hamilton Educational Open Network) group gains traction in Hamilton we may be looking at hosting opportunities for all schools for things like Moodle. HHS are in the process of moving Moodle over to a Linux server (onsite), and at this point will be setting up all subjects, and allowing students to self-enrol in courses. They are looking for a much wider buy in with the new setup. and have moved the school entirely to Moodle. Moodle is now the home-page for students and some courses are fully functioning (e.g. Media, Biology, Mathematics, Technology and some Languages). HGHS have also allowed students to self-enrol in courses of their choice. They also have a section that staff are using for Professional Learning and discussion forums.

 Student Voice: A focus group of students discussed what they liked most about their learning and what they liked teachers doing - I had to prompt them heavily for discussion on an LMS type scenario and then they were able to give me good reasons for why they liked this method of enriching their learning. The key points for them were that they liked "modern" teachers who answered their questions and were happy to keep explaining things until they "got it". Having access to the notes and powerpoints and other aids for the lesson left them more time to talk with the teacher and have the discussion they highly value.  (Andrew Douch endorsed this during his keynote presentation at our Teacher Only day.) This was intriguing for me as it was a real cross-section of students and they all supported this thinking. They liked having access to their credits online (this is quite an administrative task) and found it helped their motivation. None of them had any real problems getting access to computers at home (this has been a criticism of using LMS) in the past.

 What do the students think? In collecting student voice we have ascertained that students do enjoy having access to resources in an online forum. Getting a structure for the Moodle courses that will allow growth and collaboration will be critical yet challenging.

We are working to have a collaborative area for all students to access resources and be involved in discussion forums for a given subject and then provide a separate area for teachers of a single class to critique work, give feedback, look at quiz answers for their own teaching group. Some teachers have chosen to use wikis outside of Moodle but we are asking teachers to work to use the LMS provided so the students are visiting a common area. Teachers wanting to act in isolation may struggle in the Moodle environment.  What is the place of eportfolios in the LMS? A number of learning areas believe the eportfolios are the most important for them as they collect evidence for moderation of NCEA assessments.

Where to from here?

One of the key things staff want to take advantage of are the quizzes online and the ability to give students feedback online and provide the rich resource links to things like YouTube. 

Teachers are taking advantage of professional learning opportunities (one-on-one tuition with our facilitators; ½ day teacher release to create resources and the Learning Area days) to up-skill and create resources for sharing on Moodle courses.

Both schools have invested heavily in a wireless solution campus wide - while this is in its infancy we believe we will have more students bringing devices to school and making access to Moodle and eportfolios easier. Our Languages learning area is using eportfolios to collect evidence for students working at the senior level in NCEA. For some teachers they are considering whether Moodle or eportfolios is the preferred focus at this stage.

 Have we achieved our goal? Not yet - but we are well on the way with "Moodle" being the catch word in our staffrooms these days.