Our trainer Mary Cooch has her third book published today -and who better to review it than herself!
Moodle 2 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds is available from Packt Publishing and in its introductory paragraph quite clearly states: “This is not a book for Geeks“. Not that I have anything against Geeks – I have serious Geek tendencies myself at times, but my experiences with explaining Moodle to regular school teachers has taught me that they’re not interested in the codey stuff behind Moodle: they don’t want to know what SCORM or AJAX are; they just want to put their stuff on for their classes. And have a life.
So this book is for those teachers. It starts with the premise that you are a teacher in a course that has been set up for you and Chapter 1 takes the reader through what “course” means and how you might want it to look. In Chapter 2 we learn the basics of uploading files and images and how the “file picker” works. We discover that there are more places than just your laptop/computer to get files from -that you can bring in from Youtube, Flickr, Google docs and other places too.
A constant source of frustration for me when writing Moodle 2 First Look was that I was doing the book when Moodle 2.0 was still in development, and so every time I added something to a chapter, the Moodle developers changed it the next day and I was having to rewrite bits of chapters all the time. I am aware with this current book that a month from now Moodle 2.3 will be out and we will have drag and drop uploading as another option, Where possible I try to mention the new features coming in 2.3 but I suspect that with any software that is regularly updated, it’s tricky for books to be totally in line with current versions. (That’s why I always tell people to go to the free docs.moodle.org which is more up to date than any book!)
Chapter 3 gets “interactive” by showing newbie Moodlers how to add assignments, forums, glossaries, choice and other activities where students are actually engaging with Moodle rather than simply reading or watching. The book is based around a “Rivers and Flooding” geography module of work which would lend itself to a variety of ages. Hopefully the ideas generated can be adapted to other subject areas.
Chapter 4 is about saving the teacher time by getting Moodle to do the marking! And so we look at the Moodle quiz at a basic level and at the free HotPotatoes software. This is not part of standard Moodle and I have deliberately only dealt with standard Moodle modules in the book. However, HotPotatoes is very easy to use and it is possible to add a plugin to enable Moodle to record the scores – so it is a win-win either way.
Chapter 5 is games! Free games. Games you can make and play on other websites embedded into Moodle or games you can download, adapt and upload to Moodle and have Moodle record the scores (so your headteacher can see Progression while your class think they are merely playing games) Win-win again. In Chapter 6 we take a step outside of Moodle to learn how to make sound files and movies that can be added to Moodle for our students’ learning and enjoyment. The idea too is that students can then learn the skill and make their own audio-video resources. Audacity is used for the sound files and and older version of Movie Maker for the movies. I was conscious throughout the book that Windows and Microsoft don’t have the monopoly on schools and teachers’ equipment and am careful to offer alternatives. However, I suspect the situation is still that most schools work in a Windows environment so I didn’t feel too guilty about the emphasis being that way. I wonder too if those teachers and schools with an Apple flavour or a love of Linux are possibly more tech savvy anyway?
Chapter 7 is about free stuff on the web that some call “Web 2.0″, although the term sounds a bit old to me, especially in the light of “Moodle 2.0″ being rather passé these days! We look at blogging. Google Maps, Voki, Storybird and more. And then from the fun stuff we go to the sensible stuff in Chapter 8 – how to ensure all your students have access to the resources you add. Nothing worse than putting up a Word 2010 document for homework only to discover a child only has Word 2003. Should never happen and won’t after this chapter. We also look at iPods, iPads, iPhones and the like and how they work with Moodle. (And I did that without owning any of them!!)
Finally Chapter 9 takes us to the next level: creating decision-making exercises with the Lesson module; restricting access to activities according to certain conditions and finally look at different ways to make our course page appear more like a webpage. Moodle 2.3 will allow you to display course sections more aesthetically and there are contributed course formats available but throughout the book I wanted just to focus on what is there already and how to work around it. Not all schools, especially primary schools have their own IT managers who can add fancy extra modules and I wanted the book to have a broad appeal.
In summary: if you are a teacher who wants to or needs to learn Moodle to make it interesting and educational for your classes but you don’t want to learn unnecessary or complicated stuff and you want instructions in plain English, then hopefully this book will be useful to you.