Moodle Wizard?

Today, I have been closely following the #mpos10 Twitter tag from the 2010 Moodleposium in Canberra. The next best thing to being there (but then again, I get to ‘go’ to many sessions simultaneously…)

This afternoon, I found an absolute gem that I just have to share – a course called ‘Translating Learning Outcomes in Moodle‘ by Srinivas Chemboli, Lauren Kane (@l_kane) and Lynette Johns-Boast from Australian National University in Canberra (presented and available as part of the 2010 Australian Moodlemoot I happened to miss 🙁 )

This resource speaks to the educator and Moodle fan/user/improver/researcher in me, particularly after the recent conversation(s) with Mark Drechsler (see the post, presentation & comments) about Moodle course design, key features of a ‘good Moodle course’ and a long standing distaste for ‘technocentric’ thinking (as Papert explains in his seminal paper). I have been banging on ‘people and learning first, technology last’ for, huh, some time now (strangely, I still have a job with a software maker 😉 ). This course/resource fits the bill very, very nicely.

I invite you to have a look and explore at the course yourself. In a nutshell, it starts with ‘what do we want to learn’ down to ‘what Moodle tool(s) to use’. A very nice, diagrammatic flow that would complement Joyce Seitzinger’s excellent Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers poster. But it is more than a flow in a sense that the user actually gets asked some questions along the way. And that’s the reason for the title of this post…

Imagine Moodle standard shipping out with a ‘wizard’ (for lack of better word…) that guides the teacher or whoever we choose in the course as a community to create activities, resources and other? A wizard based on the insights of Srinivas, Lauren, Lynette and their team at ANU that starts with a problem, idea, learning/teaching goal and ends up (!) in choosing the appropriate Moodle tool(s) for the job, in the very context where it is used.

Imagine the delight of ‘tech integrators’ in changing their role to ‘learn-with-tech integrators’ (which is what they really are most of time but titles often betray 😉 ). Imagine educators seeing Moodle not as a piece of software but a way to help and encourage meta-thinking about teaching and learning needs of people they work with. Or as Punya Mishra aptly states:

“Learning about technology is different from learning what to do with it”.

A word of caution!

Whatever the ‘wizard’ and its qualities, it will never, ever, ever, ever be a panacea, an all-fitting solution or perhaps even a substitute for great teaching. Or as another apt line, this time by Tony Bates, goes:

“Good teaching may overcome a poor choice of technology, but technology will never save bad teaching.’

Teaching and learning (the separation of these two terms is so superfluous sometimes…) has always been a bricolage, endless contextual adjustment of things, not an automated process because it is/they are essentially some of humanity’s biggest and oldest ‘wicked problems‘.

But sometimes we just need a little bit of helping hand to set us off on our exploring, moodling ways.

Thank you Shrinivas, Lauren and Lynette!

18 comments

  1. Joseph Thibault

    Would this be similar to Clippy the ever-helpful paper clip in Microsoft?

    A user opens Moodle, turns editing on and gets prompted with helpful tips like “to get started, why don’t you add a post to your news forum”/”insert a picture to liven up your online classroom” etc.?

    I’m intrigued.

  2. Joseph Thibault

    Would this be similar to Clippy the ever-helpful paper clip in Microsoft?

    A user opens Moodle, turns editing on and gets prompted with helpful tips like “to get started, why don’t you add a post to your news forum”/”insert a picture to liven up your online classroom” etc.?

    I’m intrigued.

  3. human

    I’ve always turned the damn Clippy and co. off. Maybe it was the ‘cheesy’ factor 😛 … Moodle user would have the same option of course with any ‘wizard’

    Concept at the moment but I think we’re onto something that makes sense. The devil is in the detail, as always.

    Cheers

  4. human

    I’ve always turned the damn Clippy and co. off. Maybe it was the ‘cheesy’ factor 😛 … Moodle user would have the same option of course with any ‘wizard’

    Concept at the moment but I think we’re onto something that makes sense. The devil is in the detail, as always.

    Cheers

  5. David Jones

    I’m interested in this type of approach, in fact posted something about it this week http://bit.ly/amgCqR as part of the odd, on-going thought. Seeing Lauren and company’s presentation at MoodleMoot sparked similar ideas.

    Desire2Learn apparently has an instructional design wizard that may have some connections with this idea.

    I agree that the “devil is in the detail”. Which is why, given the chance, I hope to play with some ideas within the more limited confines of a single Moodle activity (BIM) and see how things evolve. Interested in hearing what folk might think about doing more broadly.

  6. David Jones

    I’m interested in this type of approach, in fact posted something about it this week http://bit.ly/amgCqR as part of the odd, on-going thought. Seeing Lauren and company’s presentation at MoodleMoot sparked similar ideas.

    Desire2Learn apparently has an instructional design wizard that may have some connections with this idea.

    I agree that the “devil is in the detail”. Which is why, given the chance, I hope to play with some ideas within the more limited confines of a single Moodle activity (BIM) and see how things evolve. Interested in hearing what folk might think about doing more broadly.

  7. human

    Hi David

    Thanks for your comment and your insightful posts, been lurking for a while at your work, some great stuff!

    This is a fertile ground which, sadly, e-learning has not explored much; irresponsibly and perhaps hasted by the need to promote the new and flashy wares. It could (and hope so!) make a difference in the future as users become a lot more savvy and more and more people heed an ancient observation that information and mere exposure to it (“here is the manual”) does not equate to knowledge and learning.

    I would like to stay in touch and share ideas about the ‘wizard’ design and its underpinning approach, I am hoping to drum up a few people from around the world to work on this. I for one believe it’s worth it (but so did the designers of the goddam awful Clippy & those pesky ‘wizards’ in the past… ).

    Thanks again for dropping by, appreciate it.

  8. human

    Hi David

    Thanks for your comment and your insightful posts, been lurking for a while at your work, some great stuff!

    This is a fertile ground which, sadly, e-learning has not explored much; irresponsibly and perhaps hasted by the need to promote the new and flashy wares. It could (and hope so!) make a difference in the future as users become a lot more savvy and more and more people heed an ancient observation that information and mere exposure to it (“here is the manual”) does not equate to knowledge and learning.

    I would like to stay in touch and share ideas about the ‘wizard’ design and its underpinning approach, I am hoping to drum up a few people from around the world to work on this. I for one believe it’s worth it (but so did the designers of the goddam awful Clippy & those pesky ‘wizards’ in the past… ).

    Thanks again for dropping by, appreciate it.

  9. David Jones

    G’day Tomaz,

    Thanks for the kind words. Really interested in keeping in touch with this work.

    On a related note, I think you raise another interesting issue with your observation that e-learning has not explored this much. In particular, the reasons for that lack of interest.

    You suggest the interest in the “new and flashy wares” as one factor. I agree. But I wonder if there are more? Talking about what those factors are could help make it easier to solve.

    David.

  10. David Jones

    G’day Tomaz,

    Thanks for the kind words. Really interested in keeping in touch with this work.

    On a related note, I think you raise another interesting issue with your observation that e-learning has not explored this much. In particular, the reasons for that lack of interest.

    You suggest the interest in the “new and flashy wares” as one factor. I agree. But I wonder if there are more? Talking about what those factors are could help make it easier to solve.

    David.

  11. Paul Jacobbson

    Dear Tomaz

    Talk about 2 degrees of separation! I’m in my Pearltrees account and hovering nearby is a Moodle pearl from this young woman in France. It has your WATER demo video of the course that you ran with 40 students. Wonderful!

    I really liked the Choice survey you did with student profiles coming up instead of anonymous votes because as you point out, there’s all that feedback about learning preferences etc.

    I’m 3 months into designing 100 online courses in Business Studies covering a dozen qualifications. It’s engrossing. It’s a grand obsession. I’m discovering web services that I fantasised about a decade ago – and now they are here! Moodle is part of that wave (even as I think that Moodle should be developing a simplified hybrid to participate in the future).

    Remember when we (as educators) stripped back Powerpoint to a blank slate and created our own style because “death by Powerpoint” was a real possibility? Well the same thing is happening to Moodle: as an educator, I am stripping it back to a white screen – no “scroll of death” and not a hint of those dozens of type-written links to resources and activities. On that void is created the NEW INTERFACE – and I want the ease and facility to do this for my students. Not just a Theme – a showcase of ingenious connections. For instance, my metacourses have an embedded Google frame that can be explored fully without leaving the Course. I still need the LMS and I embrace the centrality of services that Moodle provides for the user; but I realise now there is a lot of work required to transform Moodle assumptions into students’ expectations of a learning environment.

    Kind regards, Paul Jacobson.

  12. Paul Jacobbson

    Dear Tomaz

    Talk about 2 degrees of separation! I’m in my Pearltrees account and hovering nearby is a Moodle pearl from this young woman in France. It has your WATER demo video of the course that you ran with 40 students. Wonderful!

    I really liked the Choice survey you did with student profiles coming up instead of anonymous votes because as you point out, there’s all that feedback about learning preferences etc.

    I’m 3 months into designing 100 online courses in Business Studies covering a dozen qualifications. It’s engrossing. It’s a grand obsession. I’m discovering web services that I fantasised about a decade ago – and now they are here! Moodle is part of that wave (even as I think that Moodle should be developing a simplified hybrid to participate in the future).

    Remember when we (as educators) stripped back Powerpoint to a blank slate and created our own style because “death by Powerpoint” was a real possibility? Well the same thing is happening to Moodle: as an educator, I am stripping it back to a white screen – no “scroll of death” and not a hint of those dozens of type-written links to resources and activities. On that void is created the NEW INTERFACE – and I want the ease and facility to do this for my students. Not just a Theme – a showcase of ingenious connections. For instance, my metacourses have an embedded Google frame that can be explored fully without leaving the Course. I still need the LMS and I embrace the centrality of services that Moodle provides for the user; but I realise now there is a lot of work required to transform Moodle assumptions into students’ expectations of a learning environment.

    Kind regards, Paul Jacobson.

  13. human

    Hi Paul

    Small world indeed 😀

    I recently had a funny exchange over Twitter with an e-learning designer. His ‘rule’ was ‘if it’s more than 3 clicks away I won’t do it’. Very much against death by scrolls or whatever (aren’t we all!?). So, catchy line that kinda makes sense, right?

    My reply was: How about “if something is WORTH 13 clicks away I will gladly do it” ? 😉

    While not dismissing design at all (after all, look at the horrible Clippy I refer to earlier on…) I feel we often substitute style for substance. Simplicity is the key, indeed, but then as many people would say ‘but what if I want to do this and that …’ and features come creeping. As long as we keep an eye on the main reason we are ‘here’ for (eg learning, socialising, whatever …) we doing fine IMO.

    On the Moodle front … Moodle may be full of bloody buttons as it is but strangely and quite often, unlike with PowerPoint :D, so many buttons actually really change things. For example, experimenting with assigning different roles in Moodle may take a few clicks and nutting things out a little but the sense of empowerment and responsibility (I speak from personal experience with some pretty ‘tough’ kids) is priceless and well worth a hundred clicks if need be.

    Anyway, I digress from the design argument.

    I think my dream, just like yours it seems is a blank page (well, maybe a single red button or something to press 😉 ) and a course goes from there in various ways. I have something in mind … working on it.

    Let’s stay in touch. Regards & thanks for your comment.

    Tomaz

  14. human

    Hi Paul

    Small world indeed 😀

    I recently had a funny exchange over Twitter with an e-learning designer. His ‘rule’ was ‘if it’s more than 3 clicks away I won’t do it’. Very much against death by scrolls or whatever (aren’t we all!?). So, catchy line that kinda makes sense, right?

    My reply was: How about “if something is WORTH 13 clicks away I will gladly do it” ? 😉

    While not dismissing design at all (after all, look at the horrible Clippy I refer to earlier on…) I feel we often substitute style for substance. Simplicity is the key, indeed, but then as many people would say ‘but what if I want to do this and that …’ and features come creeping. As long as we keep an eye on the main reason we are ‘here’ for (eg learning, socialising, whatever …) we doing fine IMO.

    On the Moodle front … Moodle may be full of bloody buttons as it is but strangely and quite often, unlike with PowerPoint :D, so many buttons actually really change things. For example, experimenting with assigning different roles in Moodle may take a few clicks and nutting things out a little but the sense of empowerment and responsibility (I speak from personal experience with some pretty ‘tough’ kids) is priceless and well worth a hundred clicks if need be.

    Anyway, I digress from the design argument.

    I think my dream, just like yours it seems is a blank page (well, maybe a single red button or something to press 😉 ) and a course goes from there in various ways. I have something in mind … working on it.

    Let’s stay in touch. Regards & thanks for your comment.

    Tomaz

  15. human

    @David Sorry for tardy reply to your question/invitation. And a very good, important question while at it!

    Reasons for lack of interest of software makers in helping educators with some kinda ‘stimulus’/guide/wizard beyond the pesky ‘Clippy the Helper’?

    Perhaps ‘thinking in menus’, where everything needs to be covered. Methinks as developer: “Teaching? Waaaay too complex (and sure is a lot more complex and protean than operating a piece of software), we can’t cover it all and put it in neat little boxes. Besides, we provide the tool and they do their stuff with it, they know it best and why should we tell them what to do with it… Not our job!”

    Other end: perhaps developers “knowing what education looks like and needs” from their school experience which was, if they are adult these days, was kinda the same as in Victorian England or Prussian Army. There’s a teacher (knower), there are students (dunce) and one shall pass to the other then check. Not much to it really, simple. So, let’s make that process easier, but with a modern spin (ooooh, multiple features of a gradebook, woooooow…”). So, developers never actually talk to teachers (at least not the crazy creative ones 🙂 ) on the ground! BTW, big plug for Moodle and its community requesting stuff, building etc. and Martin having the nous to head things in a particular direction for years.

    In both cases, it’s a ‘not our job’ syndrome. Imagine cars, airline seats or cereal being produced this way…

    There’s surely more but I gotta fly, hope you get a chance to reply. As you say, thinking about these factors could help make it easier to solve. Right on!

    Cheers

    Tomaz

  16. human

    @David Sorry for tardy reply to your question/invitation. And a very good, important question while at it!

    Reasons for lack of interest of software makers in helping educators with some kinda ‘stimulus’/guide/wizard beyond the pesky ‘Clippy the Helper’?

    Perhaps ‘thinking in menus’, where everything needs to be covered. Methinks as developer: “Teaching? Waaaay too complex (and sure is a lot more complex and protean than operating a piece of software), we can’t cover it all and put it in neat little boxes. Besides, we provide the tool and they do their stuff with it, they know it best and why should we tell them what to do with it… Not our job!”

    Other end: perhaps developers “knowing what education looks like and needs” from their school experience which was, if they are adult these days, was kinda the same as in Victorian England or Prussian Army. There’s a teacher (knower), there are students (dunce) and one shall pass to the other then check. Not much to it really, simple. So, let’s make that process easier, but with a modern spin (ooooh, multiple features of a gradebook, woooooow…”). So, developers never actually talk to teachers (at least not the crazy creative ones 🙂 ) on the ground! BTW, big plug for Moodle and its community requesting stuff, building etc. and Martin having the nous to head things in a particular direction for years.

    In both cases, it’s a ‘not our job’ syndrome. Imagine cars, airline seats or cereal being produced this way…

    There’s surely more but I gotta fly, hope you get a chance to reply. As you say, thinking about these factors could help make it easier to solve. Right on!

    Cheers

    Tomaz

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