Moodle for Michigan

Hot off the heels of the MACUL Teacher Technology Conference I am inspired by the creative uses of technology across the state of Michigan!  I met and had a chance to chat with several people on how they are integrating technology in the classroom.

I was part of two presentations at MACUL.  One was a three hour pre-conference workshop which walked individuals through all the ins and outs of Moodle administration. The second session was a 60 minute introduction to the new Socialwall course format for Moodle. Teachers wanting to do blended learning need to have a central point of information, links, and content for the student.  Moodle does all this and more and these two sessions at MACUL laid out a game plan for what we are trying to do with Moodle.

There are currently three pillars I am focused on improving for all Michigan K-12 teachers.  There has been a lot of help on this mission and I think the more we talk about things the more people are understanding where we want to go.

Lower the Barrier to Get Started
We are very focused on improving how Moodle looks and operates.  We hold trainings for Moodle Admins to help them simplify the homepage and make thoughtful decisions in activating filters, themes, and other Moodle user experiences such as activity defaults and hiding settings.  We also embarked on a 2 year process to create a new way to use Moodle called Socialwall.  The Socialwall is a Moodle course format that operates similarly to Facebook with a timeline of posts and a familiar posting interface.  Socialwall is also fully integrated with Moodle and teachers can make use of all the awesome Moodle activities and resources right in the Socialwall timeline.  We know not every teacher needs the power of a full LMS for simple classroom communication and occasional project or web experience.  That is where Socialwall can step in and provide these teachers with a tool that puts them on the same platform as teachers who want a full blown online/blended learning platform.  So, we lower the barrier of entry so that we can support beginners and advanced users on the same platform – Moodle.

Share Content
Once we have teachers talking about the same tool and building the same skill sets we need to share best practices and replicate success.  We also need to be able to share course materials amongst classrooms, grade levels, schools, districts, and the entire state!  Imagine the power of sharing pre-built free courses built by fellow teachers!  I worked with several people to setup just that!  We have a Michigan Moodle Hub loaded with courses that can help you get started right away with content, materials, assignments, and quizzes.  Right now we are building a catalog of courses teachers can download and make their own.  The real power will come when we can collaborate across the state with pre-built courses made right here for teacher, by teachers.  Each teacher will be able to publish their course into the Michigan Moodle Hub and it will make a copy and share it with others.

Integrated Gradebook
The integrated gradebook will make all the difference in the world to teachers.  By having quizzes and assignments automatically put into the student information systems will greatly enhance the usage and appeal for teachers.  I dare to say it, but this could be what helps spark usage of Moodle across the state and might be the catalyst that sparks real and ongoing interest from teachers in using Moodle for blended learning.

Moodle allows for the most flexibility and features at a pricepoint that cannot be beat!  The last thing we want is for teachers to invest time and effort into a platform (Blackboard, Schoolology, Brainhoney, Edmodo, etc) only to have funding run out or to have it eliminated due to funding issues.  With Moodle our schools can provide a cost-effective tool for blended learning that can be customized to meet teacher’s needs.

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