I usually spend about 8-10 days each year in the computer lab. First, I like to do at least one on-line type project. Most years lately, it’s usually the Langston Hughes WebTrack (through TrackStar, a beauty service I should probably talk about later). And until last year, I usually also got in wikis or a web page of some sort. (Aside/Tip: Web pages and wikis (a type of reader-editable web page) are great ways to get kids to expand and revise their writing. By making them start with a 600 word word essay, and then requiring 5 links of at least 100 words each, I am getting them to add 500 words to their essays, and they hardly notice that they’re now writing over 1000 words. Many do more than 5 link pages. As long as they can also add pictures and graphics, you won’t hear many complaints. More on this later too.)
Secondly, I usually try to STAR test their reading at least three times a year. That takes the slowest ones at least 25 minutes or more, not counting log-in issues: “You forgot your password again? You misspelled your name. Your CapsLock key is on. Not your student number, your password. Take out the space between your first and last name. Remember, to the system you’re Thomas, not Tom.” But the quickest are done in about 10-12 minutes . So I figure we might as well spend the period in the lab, and with the Moodle at the county office of schools, I can set up an on-line class, with warm ups, lessons, and quizzes that the kids can work on at their own pace. And even better than using the clickers, quiz questions can be short answer, with multiple correct answers and partial credit. Moodle is the free version of a Blackboard sort of thing, but Blackboard costs a fortune, and Moodle’s way better anyway.
Moodle is also beauty for the forums/discussions. When we read The Martian Chronicles, it sort of blows their minds, and I set up discussion boards with leading questions so they can sort of figure out the answers between them. I can drop in and post my comments and remind them that I’m “listening,” and they really get into it. It’s fun to watch the discussion unfold.
I also usually set up a chat room for them to jabber at each other, so they don’t do that in the book discussion forums. I can also say that I’ll be online at a certain time for help or questions.
We have a lot of fun with Moodle.
Anyway, I set up a demo Moodle for teachers to check out and play with. Let me know if you have any questions, and what you think. Start at the News Forum, and then play around a bit.
MOODLE DEMO (for Teachers) – Click the “Log in as a guest” button. Or create an account, post in the forums I’ll be setting up soon, and get more privileges to play with stuff.