Making more of Moodle

I’ve been asked to co-facilitate a staff development session during a forthcoming training day. I haven’t done this for a while. We last held a full staff training day during the summer of 2010, for which I spent quite some time researching and preparing. Part of the requirement was to produce a thought-provoking ‘poster’ – one of around a dozen – for staff to view and talk about informally, and to provide stimulus for later discussions that I facilitated. I remember the conversations of the day quite clearly – and many surprised me. All were very positive, and most indicated that staff are regularly using technology to support their curriculum activities, and furthermore are wanting to do much more with the tools available. However, acquiring the skills, and making the time for staff to apply these is always a problem. The agenda for the next staff development day will be slightly different, but will once more encourage challenging conversation.

In education, it’s often difficult to achieve buy-in to new technology. New ideas are coming to our notice regularly, but simply presenting a new technology jut doesn’t work. Typically the reaction in this instance is predictable and not unexpected; “we don’t understand this new tool!”, “we aren’t able to replicate the technique in the classroom!”, “we don’t see the relevance to the curriculum or the learner!”.

So, we’ve got a title, ‘Making More of Moodle’. Moodle has been a great tool. It delivers so much valuable content to our learners. Or staff are (for the most part) very comfortable with Moodle. It does what they need it to, teaching staff have each found it to deliver or enable the right balance of technology, academic practice and pedagogy. Is this enough though? Back in the summer, the poster I produced was titled ‘I am a 21st century learner’, illustrating the needs and expectations of our students in the application of technology to support learning. Assuming these needs are present, there must also therefore be an expectation from the learner to participate in activities facilitated by a 21st century teacher. We don’t need staff to be technology ‘gurus’, but we do need to ensure a certain level of digital literacy among staff – sufficient enough to either match that of our students, or to be confident enough to learn from our students and recognise that their digital skills and abilities may offer reciprocal benefit.

Most important is to avoid a preaching session. That’s not going to work. I’ve experienced the results of this approach before, and whilst limited of success may result, standing up before a group of teaching staff and asking them to use a particular tool isn’t going to get us far.

This time around, have been asking my teaching colleagues to contribute to the agenda. There are some really good examples of how to use Moodle in creative ways, particularly those that will encourage participation, and develop more advanced skills than simply downloading another document / spreadsheet / presentation! I want our staff to come forward and say ‘hey – I’ve had a great experience with technology, and i want to share it’. In respect of Moodle, I want staff to say ‘here is a really simple tip – it needs to heavy preparation beforehand, or any special skill set, just follow these simple steps’. That’s what I’ve been asking colleagues to contribute – short, simple tips that anyone can benefit from.