Technology doesn’t always get used in the way that the creators originally intended. By the turn of the millennium, for example, my 486-66 tower computer was being used to prop open the office door; it was Lifehacker air conditioning. Today, it is well established in our minds that there are technologies that disrupt, and technologies that sustain. Then there are technologies that can be used to either disrupt or sustain; Moodle is one of these technologies.
Martin Dougiamus, the creator of Moodle, in an article in Moodle Docs titled Philosophy, stated his case for constructivism, constructionism, social constructivism, separate, connected, and constructed behaviour. He said, “Moodle doesn’t FORCE this style of behaviour, but this is what the designers believe that it is best at supporting”. So, from the start, he had conceived Moodle as a disruptive technology that would give students an online environment of their own, a voice, and agency. Unfortunately, a lot of teachers grabbed the platform and used it not to disrupt, but to sustain their teacher-centric practice.
Here are some teacher-centric ways you can use Moodle: Create content for the students to read; publish a list of useful links to get more reading; post a video of yourself talking in an authoritative way about your subject; create a quiz so the students can self-assess their progress; post homework exercises for students to do over the weekend. If you’re a geek teacher you can create badges and award them to those students who choose to play your game. That’s using Moodle to sustain teacher-centric practice.
Here are some learner-centric ways you can use Moodle: Set up a forum where students can ask questions, let the other students answer first, let them upvote good answers, only intervene if you need to; set up an empty glossary and invite the students to explain concepts in their own words, solicit feedback through the comments; encourage the uploading of short video clips made by students as they reflect on their learning journey; spend some time showing the students how a wiki works and familiarising them with markup language, then encourage them to create their own revision resource; invite them to co-construct a revision quiz. That’s using Moodle to disrupt.
Here are some truly radical ways to use Moodle: Flip the online space – make all the students teachers and all the teachers students, switch roles, take teach-back to a whole new level; encourage your students to open free accounts on H5P and embed their interactives into the Moodle space; suggest each small study group creates a whole Moodle course around their project for the other students to access, don’t tell them how to do it just watch and learn from what they do. Now as a modern teacher all you have to do is follow Sugata Mitra’s Self Organised Learning Environments and make like a granny. Login to the Moodle and use the comments and forums they will have set up to appraise and support.
It was popular once to say everything becomes television. Today you could say everything becomes a network. This freer more distributed knowledge base is moving like tree roots to dislodge the pillars of the monolithic Learning Management Systems like Moodle and Blackboard. In an attempt to regain control, the universities started offering MOOCs like tweed jacketed, pipe-smoking professors making lame attempts to be hip. They entirely ignored the original intention of the MOOC as it was conceived by connectivists Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier, and once again the old school hijacked a learning environment to sustain their old institution-centric practices. I never used to understand the famous Marshall McLuhan quote, “The medium is the message”, but I totally get it now.
One technology that has emerged to support the trend towards distributed and democratised knowledge is rather charmingly called, Tin Can. I recall as a child turning two empty baked bean cans and 10 metres of string into a field telephone. For people who want a more important sounding name, it is also called xAPI or the eXperience API. xAPI is SCORM turned on its head. SCORM was the aviation industry’s solution to delivering consistent pre-approved learning packages across a world campus to a guaranteed consistency and standard. Faced with compliance training of a hundred thousand baggage handlers, it was a reasonable solution. xAPI allows the learner much greater freedom and ensures them recognition for their efforts. Now, free-range learners can roam the networks, and their interactions with learning objects embedded almost anywhere in the wider online environment can trigger a log entry to a Learning Record Store (LRS). Over time, the aggregate of these interactions builds up into a useful and insightful history of the learner’s journey. It’s early days for xAPI yet, but I think we will see it linked with micro-learning, micro-accreditation, and personalised learning environments.
If we are preparing our students through project-based learning for the increasingly likely gig economy, then the employer of the future turns out to be someone remarkably disinterested in what you have done and interested only in what you can do for them now. If you’re a geeky data-informed learning designer, then you’ll be best-fitting regression lines to learner trajectory scatter plots to predict their future performance. The employer of the future is more likely to turn to a recommender system that produces a list of suitable candidates available to start now than they are to browse portfolios. Anyway, the employment agents of the future won’t be people, they’ll be an algorithm.