It has been an exciting couple of years since we first launched Moodle. There have been many teachers who jumped on board right away, those that were curious, and those who just wanted to explore the features. What is surprising is that I hear from students who rave about the system. They like the social aspects of Moodle. They like chatting with friends in their classes and working on assignments. They enjoy the freedom to access information when they want to… which according to the moodle logs is often at 11pm, 1am, 2am, etc.
I cannot think of a tool that does more for online learning than Moodle. It seems perfect on it’s own, but now we have added a new dimension to our eLearning platform: Mahara. What is Mahara? Well, it states that it is an ePortfolio system that allows users to upload files, create multiple webpages via widgets, create multiple blogs, form groups with discussion boards, and add friends for sharing ideas and learning resources. If you think of Moodle as a structured classroom then Mahara would be like recess. Both are critical to the well being and educational development of a child. The neatest part (and most scary for school administrators) is that students now have the control over what is added to their “Mahara Personal Learning Space”. They can use it to store documents and class projects, connect with friends, create webpages for class presentations, and much more… all the while controlling who can see or access that information. So much so, they can even control the dates that the content they create is available.
The Moodle and Mahara setup is unique in that they share the same login via Moodle Remote. The Moodle Remote service is used to allow seamless login from Moodle to Mahara and it transfers user account information as well such as a profile photo, school name, email acocunt, etc. In this sense, the two completely different websites act as one and are tightly integrated.
I view Moodle and Mahara as an essential combination. Often times a student will be required to give a presentation and provide demonstrations, speeches, etc. With Mahara the student can not only collect and organize documents and information, they now have a method to present their learning and knowledge in a form other than a paper or a cardboard display. Imagine allowing students to use Mahara to blog about what they are learning, prepare and display formal papers, embed video media that reinforces what they are learning, create video media on a subject, and be able to share this all in one spot! That is the advantage of Mahara for the student and the student has the ability to create multiple blogs and webpages for every class and control who can see that information.
I have a teacher who is working in elementary schools. She presented me with an idea of what she’d like to do with students in regards to social studies. She is going to assign students an important figure in American history and they will need to “become” this person. In the activity, the student will need to gather as much information about the individual as possible and then begin to write in a blog as if they were the person possibly reflecting on current situations with the mindset of the person they are researching. In essence they will be creating a “profile” for the person they are assigned with photos, text, video, and blog. Then to mix it up, I believe the teacher is going to make the students interact with eachother to debate topics as their characters.
It is a great use of technology.