With a dash of yourself thrown in mix it all together

moodleHow Moodle tries to support a Social Constructionist view

I’m going to go through the earlier list again, this time pointing out existing features in Moodle. Pedagogy and software design are closely intertwined in online learning – the “shape” of the software can help or hinder the teacher in what they are trying to do.

  1. All of us are potential teachers as well as learners – in a true collaborative environment we are both

    Many of the activities in Moodle are designed to allow students to control common content, such as forums, wikis, glossaries, databases, messaging and so on. This encourages students to add to the total course experience for others.

    We made a huge step with a Roles implementation which further breaks down the distinction of teachers and students, allowing Moodle system administrators and teachers to create new roles with any mix of capabilities they like. If you want students to be allowed to facilitate forums, create quiz questions or even control the course layout then you can. There is a very fine degree of control – for example you can allow students the ability to delete posts in just one single forum if you like.

    I hope that people will take these features and experiment with control in their courses, allowing students more flexibility to do things that were previously thought of as something teachers should do.

  2. We learn particularly well from the act of creating or expressing something for others to see

    Moodle has a wide range of ways in which people can create representations of their knowledge and share them.

    • The course structure itself is terrific way to construct a shared and active representation of the learning journey that everyone is going through.
    • Forums of course are the core of this, providing spaces for discussion and sharing of media and documents (using the media plugin filters, attachments or simply links).
    • Wikis are collaboratively-built pages useful for group work and other negotiations.
    • Glossaries are collaboratively-built lists of definitions that can then appear throughout the course.
    • Databases are an extension of this idea allowing participants to enter structured media of any type (for example a collection of digital photos or a library of references).
  3. We learn a lot by just observing the activity of our peers

    The participants link in the navigation block is the main place where you can see everyone in your course. It shows a lot of information about your participants and how recently they’ve been there.

    An Online Users block is the best way to see everyone else who might be on right now.

    The Recent Activity block shows a great deal of information about what has happened recently, and via link you can see reports with more detail. Things that happened not only include changes to the course and forum posts, etc, but also things like assignment submissions and quiz attempts. Students can’t see the results that other students got from these activities, but they do get some sense that everyone is submitting Assignment 1 now and this peer pressure hopefully helps those who need it.

    Finally, almost all the modules will “tag” an entry or change with the name of the user, so that you can see who did what and when. For example, wiki pages all have a history link with full details on every edit.

  4. By understanding the contexts of others, we can teach in a more transformational way (constructivism)

    There are many different ways to find out about people. Access to these can be decided on a site basis (different sites have different privacy policies):

    • The user profile contains several fields where people can provide information about their background, etc. In particular there is a user profile photograph, which appears throughout Moodle whenever that person writes something. The photo links back to the profile page.
    • A compendium of forum posts (and discussion starters) by that person in that course (or across the site).
    • Individual blogs allow people to express things in a public but reflective way, often providing access to thinking that might not normally expressed in, say, a forum. Others can give comments on the blog posts.
    • Overall activity reports show all the contributions from a user in a course, including assignment submissions, glossary entries, etc.
    • User log reports show detailed logs of every action taken by a person in Moodle, as well as graphs showing overall activity statistics.
    • The survey module provides a variety of proven questionnaire instruments for discovering interesting information about the state of mind of the group.
  5. A learning environment needs to be flexible and adaptable, so that it can quickly respond to the needs of the participants within it
    • The course page itself is the main tool for a teacher, allowing them to add/remove and structure activities as necessary. Changing the course is one button click away at any time, so the teacher can change it on a whim. We have AJAX features, so that activities, sections and blocks can all be simply dragged-and-dropped. Access can be restricted according to time, conditions or user profile fields.
    • Roles can be applied individually in every context across the site, and can be further tweaked with overrides. So if you want to create one single quiz where everyone has access to everybody’s results, or allow parents of students to see parts of your course, then you can.
    • Navigation around the course and site is automatically generated.
    • The gradebook is automatically maintained, and reflects the activities in the course at any given time.
    • There are preferences for many aspects of appearance and behaviour, at site, course and activity levels, allowing educators to fine-tune the behaviour of Moodle in many ways.
    • External systems can be integrated easily, to maintain authentication, enrolments and other things, allowing Moodle to react smoothly as data in other systems is modified.
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