Moodle and other education technologies in language teaching

Moodle has been developed based on the social constructivist principles. At present, its course management features are great and a number of tools, including the discussion forum and glossary, allow for some level of collaboration; however, the platform, itself, is not open and, thus, limits the full potentials of the the blogging and wiki tools.

In fact, learning management systems, like Moodle, Blackboard, Sakai, and DesireToLearn, have been criticized for guarding the walls of the university. Unlike other open platforms, wikis and blogs, these learning management systems fail to open up access to education, promote continuous learning, or bridge the learning networks confined to a classroom to other larger learning networks.

Despite its drawbacks, Moodle, if used properly, still has a lot to offer to language teaching. For instance, at the language institute at a university I currently work for, Moodle can help not only to move in a more paperless, environmentally-friendly direction, but also to increase transparency and facilitate collaboration, however temporary. Moreover, using a web-based tool can greatly improve the quality of learning materials, replacing black and white photocopies with multimedia learning objects.

The following Prezi presentation show some of the Moodle tools as well as other more open platforms, i.e., Social Bookmarking and Screencasting, that I’ve used to supplement Moodle to further enhance learning experience.

Note that the tools on the X-axis are organized according to how similar they are to paper-based technology. The tools, i.e., Link to a file or Add a Glossary,  on the left closely resemble paper-based technology, while those closer to the left are more digital. As for the Y-axis, the tools lower on the axis, i.e., online quizzes, are less social; the tools higher on the Y-axis allow for more learners’ collaboration – something to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the right tools for presentation, participation or collaboration.



A brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the tools

1. Link to file

  • Advantages
    • Moodle has a huge storage capacity and allows instructors to share large files (100MB per file) with students.
  • Disadvantages
    •  Sharing files this way requires uploading and downloading and can be time consuming.
    • Other Moodle features discussed below offer more efficient ways to present information.

2. Add a webpage

  • Advantages:
    • Instructors can create a webpage to present
      • copy and paste text-based materials
      • embed multimedia media files (i.e., lectures, movie trailers)
      • embed PowerPoint slides (via SlideShare)
        • Slideshare is the world’s largest community for sharing presentations. Instructors can embed presentations on their Moodle. Alternatively, they can create their own PowerPoint, upload it onto Slideshare and embed it on their Moodle.
    • embed a screencast (via Screenr)
      • Screencast is a digital recording of the computer screen and the user’s voice. It can be used to
        • create learning objects
        • have students make voiceover for sitcoms and political speeches
  • Disadvantages
    • Not interactive. Only teachers can create a webpage and add content to it.
    • If instructors put too much text on a webpage, it can be frustrating for users to scroll through.

3. Add a book

  • Advantages
    • contain a table of contents
    • break a long webpage into multiple chapters
    • students don’t have to scroll down and read a giant “wall of words” on a webpage
    • Course management features
      • can control which chapters students can see
        • though this option should be used to prevent cognitive overloading rather than controlling access to information
  • Disadvantages
    • Not interactive. Only teachers can create a book and add content to it.

4. Add a glossary

  • Advantages
    • sort vocabulary and collocations
      • alphabetical order
      • category
      • author
      • date
    • add automatic hyperlinks
    • students can add and edit
    • great for learning
      • business vocabulary
      • the academic word list
  • Disadvantages
    • lacks an attractive design

5. Link to a webpage

  • Advantages
    • create links to websites and copyrighted materials
    • can link to eResources at York Library.The electronic journals can be linked to but not downloaded and then uploaded onto Moodle.

6. Social Bookmarking (via Diigo)

  • Advantages
    • highlight on the browser
    • share highlights and comments with a group
    • allow for facebook-like interactions; users can “like” or “comment” on an article
    • turn reading into a social activity
  • Disadvantages
    • Has not yet been integrated with Moodle; thus, users need to have a different login

7. Discussion Forum (the best interactive tool on Moodle)

  • Advantages
    • both teachers and students can post messages
    • increase transparency
      • students generally take an interest in the work of their fellow students
    • teachers can
      • post reading / listening discussion questions
      • post good sample assignments
      • have students post their assignments (conversation partners and U-life reports)
      • organize student-led discussions
    • Great course management features
      • Using the Q & A forum, students will not be able to see other postings before they post their answers
      • Can assign grades to messages
        • Rating scales
          • percentages
          • connected vs. isolated learners
          • excellent / good / satisfactory
  • Disadvantages
    • Discussion board messages usually don’t have an existence beyond the duration of the course; though the discussion questions you post can be recycled and reused in another course

8. Hot Potatoes Quiz

  • Advantages
    • can create multiple-choice, cloze, matching, crossword, and jumbled sentence exercises
      • not only grammar quizzes but also can insert a reading or link to multimedia materials
    • generate results for teachers
      • the scores
      • the number of attempts
      • the time spent on the test
    • allow teachers to better identify the students who need more help
    • provide individualized, formative assessment
    • save class time
      • especially in a multi-skill course in which not all students need a particular kind of practice
    • can support inquiry-based learning
  • Disadvantages
      • Does not support user interactions
      • Extremely individualized learning can be extremely boring

9. Survey (via Survey Monkey or Poll Daddy)

  • Moodle 1.97 does not allow users to create their own survey
  • Use Survey Monkey or Poll Daddy
  • Advantages
    • conduct needs assessment
    • mid-term and final surveys
  • Disadvantages
    • the free account only allows for 10 questions per survey

10. Choice (poll)

  • Advantages
    • can conduct a quick poll
    • the results can be anonymous or non-anonymous
  • Disadvantages
    • can only ask one question at a time

11. Wiki (via wikispaces)

  • The Moodle Wiki is not the most user-friendly and because only students who have access to the course can have access to the wiki, it is not an open platform and does not tend to have an existence beyond the duration of the course. Therefore, it’s better to opt for other more open platforms, i.e., Wikispaces.
  • Advantages
    • encourage collaboration
    • user-generated learning materials
    • build learning communities
    • foster informal learning
    • develop the ability to navigate in networks
  • Disadvantages
    • Wikispaces is not integrated with Moodle
    • Will look into other options.

One thought on “Moodle and other education technologies in language teaching

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s