The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 11, 2009

CCHS explores Moodling

CCHS Chemistry teacher Cricket McCaffrey-Clark and math teacher June Patton gave a presentation on Moodle, a free open-source software package designed to help educators create effective online courses with lots of opportunities for interaction.

The two teachers are part of a pilot group of teachers who took part in online training this past summer and formed a group to help each other to learn to use Moodle in their classrooms.

“The Concord Education Fund (CEF) gave us a grant to pay for training and our time. It has been incredibly time-consuming. There’s been an amazing shift in how I view what we do,” said McCaffrey-Clark. She has been teaching for 21 years and is very excited by the opportunities afforded by this software. She is very grateful to the CEF for the grant and hopes to bring more teachers up to speed on the tool in the coming year.

McCaffrey-Clark gave a tour of the tool’s capabilities. She can post the syllabus, assignments, class notes, solutions to the homework, quizzes, old tests to use for studying, and websites for useful information. She is figuring out a way to format the information. “Most of the course content is now online,” said Patton. In her class, one student is assigned each day to take notes in class and post them. This is quite helpful to students who are absent.

Patton said there is wide acceptance of Moodle throughout the world by high schools and colleges. In addition, she said, online courses are going to be a big part of continuing education during students’ lives. Patton feels it is very valuable to have the students using Moodle. “It’s a huge service exposing them to this now… It is enriching what I am doing in the classroom.”

“What’s different here is that this is a password-protected learning environment,” said McCaffrey-Clark. The teachers have posted a number of activities students can do to learn the material. In some cases, they have posted quizzes. The students are allowed to keep taking the same quiz. The teachers can see how many times they took a quiz to master it.

Students can post questions to teachers. Teachers post the answers. All the students can see the questions and answers. McCaffrey-Clark told the committee, “The answers are not in email anymore. It’s all here.” In addition, students can answer other students’ questions. “Currently I have four students who are teaching assistants. They do online work and lab work.” Having the students has been very advantageous. said McCaffrey-Clark. For one lab, she had her students post their lab data. There were eight lab groups in a class. For that lab, students could access eight sets of data when writing up a lab. “We could not do this before,” said McCaffrey-Clark.

McCaffrey-Clark made a forum for an assignment online. In one class, one student posted a response and then everyone in that class responded to that response. In another class, each student posted an independent response.

“It’s a powerful shift,” said McCaffrey-Clark. RSC member Jerry Wedge commented that this is 21st Century learning. “It’s what we have been talking about in the Facilities Master Plan meetings.” He felt it must change the pattern of homework. Students check the Moodle site several times during the day and night. “The real beauty is that our kids are online a lot. But here, they are making the connection back to education and using [the computer] for learning.”

McCaffrey-Clark said, “One of our goals is to make a Moodle for teachers to learn Moodle, to provide that flexibility that we’ve enjoyed.” Patton added, “We’re really happy with this. It’s an amazing experience. It’s lots of work and time, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

McCaffrey-Clark said Technology Specialist Barbara Peskin is using Moodle at the Concord Middle School, “So those kids will be through the learning curve.”

RSC member Louis Salemy said he was glad to see CEF funding was so successful. McCaffrey-Clark said, “We wouldn’t be where we are without the training and without the financial support. We couldn’t justify the time we are putting in.” She recommended stipends for the first-year teachers learning this tool. More and more teachers will use the Moodle. Patton pointed out that even teachers that were hesitant to using their ActivBoards are now using them.

Badalament thanked them for all their hard work, their leadership and for being visionary thinkers. “Give praise where praise is due,” he said. “They focus on what students need. They are part of a new tech leadership group. And they have done a terrific job in leading their colleagues.” Superintendent Diana Rigby also praised their efforts. “It is your colleague-to-colleague relationship that makes the difference.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito