So Moodle got sorted this week (though I still have a few missing students), so I'm now 'happily' transferring content from the Padlet sites. As this is mainly things like session slides (I'm not going to re-create old activities - that's way too time intensive) I have noticed just how awful Moodle is at just doing this. I would hasten to add that Blackboard is pretty bad at this too and - considering the main criticism of LMS/VLEs is that they are misused as content repositories most of the time - this is pretty damning.
Why so? It's that "drag 'n' drop" fetish which seems to infect every learning application. I put it down to the fact that when teachers are surveyed or interviewed by developers this is the only element they can articulate. They want something different, engaging, interesting but that's the only thing that they can give a description of. To be fair, why should they? I do wish developers would ask teachers what it is that makes students interact with course content and work from there.
But no, we get a fractionally faster way of uploading a file or an awkward way to create a mildly engaging quiz question/activity that gets old very quickly. Granted, Moodle does ask if I am uploading an image as a file attachment or for content display, but I won't be saving a lot of time there. And if I am adding files as an attachment I have a miserable time keeping them updated or synced, which means that the majority of teachers will "drag 'n' forget". Default file handling when the student clicks on a file is crude. And before Blackboard users tell me that WebDAV just synchronises your files from your desktop system then is a single desktop or a network drive you have difficulty accessing off campus really that useful? Not much take up by users either. You can see why offerings like Google Apps for education are proving very popular. Yes, there's our good friend DnD but it's the collaboration features and previewing that makes it useful for students and teachers.
Personally, I manage my working files in OneDrive (if you work on a Microsoft campus you'll have this under the corporate IT system) so all my attachments are now links to shared groups of files on OneDrive that syncs with my tablet and desktop(s). If I update a slide, every student can see the changes. They get to preview them easily too. I'm sure Google and OneDrive aren't the only games in town either.
In 2016, this isn't a lot to ask. Next time I'm asked to evaluate a VLE I'll be expecting this integration to be built in. And should I find "Drag 'n' Drop" touted as a major feature I'll be the one rolling on the floor in the corner.
The worst of the administration seems to have subsided a little, so I am getting a little more time to reflect on the tools I've used so far.
The less good feature is that they are pretty slow to create (especially if you liven them up with images) and the limited text can be quite restrictive. Yes, you can add blocks of text as an image but it's a faff. While I suppose almost every online quiz is a bit of a pain to create, it's a shame things are just so linear. 10 questions a week is plenty if you need your sanity to hold out over a semester or two.
Padlet, I guess, has similar issues in its inflexible nature, especially when trying to assemble an inter-linking VLE type structure, but I forgive it. Now I have sorted out a common layout for each week's work (slides, individual tasks, group tasks and further reference) it isn't too bad to re-make a padlet and change the content. A home page links to individual weekly pages which, in turn, have pinboards that are open to students to edit.
Last week I asked students to create references individually and post them on the pinboard, then in groups add their top presentation tips. I was staggered by the quality and quantity of responses and it was great to share feedback with everybody (you do have to choose your words carefully though). So now I have a page of reference examples, common errors and presentation advice that is a useful resource for the rest of the module.
There were a couple of students who had difficulty posting: it is possible for students to delete (by accident, I'm sure) or hide other's posts but I didn't rate that as significant. I'm converted, but a good VLE with links to the pinboard element would probably be the better option.
It's symptomatic of teaching new material for the first time that it has taken this long to write my first post. The intentions were there, pictures were taken in good faith but it didn't happen.
Although I'm rusty, I like to think I know what I'm doing and have been well organised (once I sorted out where I was storing everything), but content creation has been a nightmare. I began this semester with two clear aims:
My variant of TBL probably isn't going to please the purist but hey, I have to deliver this so I want to do it my way and learn from the screw ups in my own time. So no scratch cards them. Just Kahoot, surprisingly. I will write up a proper case study at some point but it does work (even if it's a bit clunky).
I create a quiz (10 questions) then run it myself, screen grabbing each question and pasting it into a PowerPoint slide. The session then runs like this:
Very few issues first time around and it went down very well. Questions were a mix of issues covered in the previous week's seminar and the students' individual study tasks (aka 'homework').
Finally, a shout for Lidl (hey!) for selling a really handy headset with a microphone and mobile/tablet 3.5mm jack for just £9.99 - add a splitter (about £1.50) and a little USB audio card (£2) from eBay and I have a really flexible audio tool. I just need the time to use it!