Monday, February 14, 2011

Moodle vs Blogs

    A few years ago, I wanted to give my students a way to experience discussion online.  I wanted to give my shyer students and deliberate thinkers a way to participate equally.  I wanted to give my students time to think, so they could edit their response instead of just blurting it out in class. 

    I tried out using a blog, posting the question and then having students comment.  It worked, but the logistics just about killed me.  First, I needed to keep my students’ identities private.  Second, since teens don’t listen well to instructions, I knew that I needed to do the setup myself.

     This is doable with a class of 22 third-graders.  When you get into secondary education, where you may have 150 to 200 students, you ask yourself regularly if you are nuts.  To set up just two classes of students took me a good chunk of a summer week.  (Create the account, get the verification email, but first set up dummy emails in your gmail accounts, click on the right link….)  “Free” tools are great, but the time cost is one of the dirty little secrets of using technology.

    The blog only allows for one discussion thread, and I have always enjoyed the way multiple conversations (threads) appear during my own online classes, providing for lots of diverse-but-focused conversations.  I also want my students to use wikis and blogs.  And each new tool requires setting up more accounts – for which students will promptly lose the passwords. ;)

    I decided I needed one platform (location) with one setup and one logon.  Is there a steeper learning curve for me with Moodle?  Oh, yes.  But 1) I have a safe location, so kids can use their own names, 2) I only have to set up student information once (except for when they forget their passwords, of course J), 3) students only have to remember one logon, and 4) there are lots of versatile tools I can use within Moodle including wikis and blogs.

    One downside is that it’s hard to show student work to parents easily.  But POS (parent over shoulder) is working for us for now.


  1. I have been through the same internal debate many times and have come to a blended solution - we have Moodle as our private class space, but students will "publish" their writing on a blog (understanding it is public), I am thinking of even throwing in public class Google site which the class has full editing rights of and is available as a portal for parent's as could be chaos, or could be a great opportunity to teach students about "digital citizenship".....we'll see.

  2. Claire - I'm curious - How old are your students, and how much support do you get from your administration?