Saturday, November 20, 2010

If the technology doesn't work...

It was brought home to me recently the impact of technology glitches on student confidence.  In my class Moodle, I had a discussion forum that turned out to have a bug - the forum type where each student creates their own thread.  We were using the forum for journaling about doing research (I find the Moodle journal function easy to mess up), and wanted to make the journal a series of private conversations between my students and me.

Students really enjoyed reflecting about their learning - even asked if we could do this again!  But then students couldn't get into their threads.  It was only about 20% of the students, but suddenly they were locked out, frustrated, wanting to tell me what was going on with them, but unable to.  I provided lots of alternatives - email me, write it and hand it in, and for the week we discovered the problem, gave everybody credit even if they didn't get the work done.

But we lost the conversations that were going on.  And now students are worried that this will happen again.  Other parts of the Moodle that work fine are now suspect to them.  We are starting a new project - two way journals - where pairs of students read the same book and journal back and forth about it.  This year, I added using a discussion forum in the Moodle as one of the ways to do it (other alternatives are email,or  keeping a folder or a diary to pass and forth).  But one student told me she didn't want to use the Moodle, "just in case there's another problem." 

Up until now my students have been enthusiastic Moodle users.  Now they're not so sure.  It will take a lot of positive experiences to overcome this one bad one. 


  1. Hi Fran!

    I couldn't help but great sympathize with your problem. It's really frustrating when after working hard to get students excited and motivated to using some tech tool to enhance their learning something like this happens and washes away all that hard work.

    I don't use moodle (yet), but I had a similar experience with Wallwisher (which's been very unstable lately), where I asked all my students to write comments/quotes they liked about a book we're all reading (Three Cups of Tea) and after successive failed attempts they asked me if they could bring it in a piece of paper or write me an email. It completely ruins the whole pointof the activity, which is them sharing their different interpretations of the book. :-(

    But I say we have to be persistent. Hang in there!

  2. It's so easy for technology to do you dirt, no matter how well you prepare. But you are absolutely right - "have to be persistent." Definitely worth it!