Grow a Moodle

moonflower seed after soaking overnight

I have been thinking about and scouring the net for ‘best’ models of trying to get teachers to use Moodle for some time. I have tried a few things myself with mixed success until the most obvious thing hit me.

There are gigabytes of info on ‘growing gap between the teachers and students in using technology’. And what do we mostly do? We get ‘experts’ (adults) and fellow teachers teaching the newbies, reluctant or otherwise. Yet the biggest resource and pool of experts sits right in front of our nose – our students!

Talk about focusing on solutions not the problem…

Last week, I did a little “hunch test” to check the viability of students teaching teachers about Moodle. I gave my class (mixed Year 11 and 12 – 15 and 16 years of age) a simple task:

“You have just been given full editing rights in a course in Moodle called Teach a Teacher. Your job is to upload two files and then create a folder with these two files in them. There are a couple of clips called 2 Minute Moodles to help you work it out. Go and see who gets it done!”

None of these kids have ever had teacher privileges in Moodle. Four out of 12 never bothered watching the clips – they just worked it out and completed the task within 5 minutes! Another six watched the clips and got the job done in about 10 – 15 minutes. Two of them got the job done in about 20 minutes. They were all pretty pleased with themselves!

This little experiment encouraged me to start formally mapping out a school-wide “Teach a Teacher” programme.  The idea? Pretty simple really: Train the students, then let them train the teachers. The catch? Students make an offer teachers can’t refuse. Let me explain…

If Maggie comes to her teacher and says: ‘Miss, do you want me to show you how Moodle Assignment activity works?”, she will probably get a polite “ah, that’s very kind of you Maggie but you see … I am not a computer person and I just …”

If Maggie comes to the same teacher and says: “Miss, lots of people in our class lose or get late with assignments. Would you like me to show you how we could submit our assignments from home to save us forgetting to bring stuff from home?”

No decent teacher in their right mind would refuse a student to tell them something that would be genuinely helpful to both. Most students love to teach, they are naturals at it. What a great way to establish/improve the relationship while learning something mutually useful.

Now, imagine students asking teachers questions like these below beginning with a phrase – “Would you like me/us to show you how you can…” (with aspects of Moodle in brackets):

  • store all kinds of files in a place we can all easily access them anytime we want or need to (files & folders)
  • allow us to talk like equals without the loud kids always having the say (forum)
  • help us when we are stuck searching for good websites (weblink)
  • make us work on something together not just individually  (wiki)
  • let us help you put together lots of pictures, links and videos because we prefer that to a textbook (website)
  • submit our assignments out of school to save us forgetting to bring stuff from home (assignment)
  • check what the class really thinks without people pretending (choice)
  • note down things as they happen and then use them in class (blog)
  • make quizzes fun and challenging, not boring (quiz)
  • show you how to use quick messages to each other, not emails (messaging) …

“Anything else you want to know?”

Julian Ridden (the friendly ‘human Moodle Google’) hit the nail on the head tonight when he said that during his teacher training sessions, he spends more time on answering the ‘why to’ question rather than ‘how to’. The questions/answers above may read as ‘how to’ but they really are a ‘why to’ becaue they come from the mouth of the person for whom this whole thing is mostly designed for – the student.

How do we get to train the students? Like any good teaching – using simple activities and challenges. The one described above worked a treat – “let’s see if you can” (upload two files and create a folder). You could get your students to compete who gets the most posts in a forum to learn about forums. You could get them to compete for the most disgusting food photo (they’ll love that!) or the funniest video clip and that way learn how to use WYSIWYG/HTML editor and multimedia filters. You could get them to do ‘battle of the sexes’ and learn about assigning groups … I am still working on it here but work on it yourself – you know your students best!

What is the benefit in all of this for the students? Aren’t we wasting their school time to learn this stuff? Preparing for and learning how to teach someone a skill, communicate appropriately and implement the training, then evaluate and improve is a hugely important and valuable lifelong skill for any student.

Many of these things can surely be built into some sort of assessment task or certificate. But just imagine getting a personal reference from a grateful teacher whom a student has taught well something useful. That stuff gets kids bucketloads of self-esteem, jobs and something that the whole shebang of education really rests on – a meaningful relationship and a chance to grow through learning. ‘Teacher’, ‘student’ and ‘learner’ are mere placeholders here, holding onto their ‘traditional’ meaning may not be helpful (long live the rhizome 😀 ).

To me and thousands of moodlers around the world, downloading and installing Moodle is like planting a seed. People make it grow.

I hope this helps someone…

11 comments

  1. joseph thibault

    Tomaz, great post. I especially like the list you show of all the “why to”s. Cheers and good luck with your larger implementation of teach a teacher.

  2. Ivan Langton

    Fantastic post. Going to try and implement this today. I have also been struggling with the global adoption of moodle and this may well help to get the ball rolling. Thanks. 🙂

  3. Dan Needlestone

    Have also been looking into this model but have struggled this year. I think it depends on the culture of leadership you have amongst your students but I still think it’s a great model. Additionally I want to have students running social areas of our Moodle, student run areas to share conversations pictures hobbies etc…
    Have written a little about progress on my blog but need to write more.
    Thanks for great post.

    @Dan
    Thanks Dan. I know this ain’t the first time someone is doing something like this (get students to teach teachers – I think Mary Cooch is doing a similar thing…and that’s just from the few people I know) but it is as you say a worthy model. You are absolutely spot on about the culture.

    The larger aim of this whole thing is not necessarily (just) learning to use Moodle but to eke at the self-defeating culture of ‘minimal effort’, ‘we don’t innovate because we are not such a good school/smart’ etc that can be so damaging around our school among staff and students alike.

    I have had exactly the problems you speak of. Some of it was because kids were ‘socialising online’ everywhere (ie Moodle became ‘school thing’ and as such quietly loathed – let’s not pretend here), but mostly because of the (lack of) inertia on the kids part themselves. For example, the Student Corner was running well at the time of that video clip last year (Moodle change a school), now it is gathering dust.

    Time will tell, many things can go wrong but I prefer die trying than die wondering. My gut feel says this is a step in the right direction. As I say right at the start – there ain’t ‘the best’ model in the world.

    Cheers & thanks for taking the time to comment.

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