Webbing-In

Eugenia Debbie Coutavas, edcoutavas@gmail.com

In two of my recent classes I piloted the use of two new technologies¯new for me, that is!

During the summer semester, I used Moodle for an advanced conversation class, and I continue to use Moodle today.

WHAT IS IT?

Moodle is a free open-source course management system similar to WebCT or Blackboard. Like Blackboard, Moodle offers an interactive environment where students can submit writing, check assignments, and post to a discussion board. Teachers can also do many things including upload lesson plans, links, and photos; assign tests, and keep track of students' work.

HOW I HAVE USED IT

I attended a tutorial on how to use Moodle many years ago. Despite this, I didn't find the interface familiar. That's probably my biggest complaint about it: It's not very pretty. You need to get used to a lot of little icons. But I dove in and have found that using it actually helps me focus as a teacher. You may choose from different formatting styles on how to present your classes; I use the "topics format," which displays each of my classes as a separate module. This makes the page rather long if you have 20 or more classes, but you can hide individual classes from students. Its features are too numerous to outline here, but there are many resources on YouTube to help get you started.

The feature I like most is the ability to add links to other sources at a moment's notice. For example, during a recent class discussion about the green movement, I added a link to an eco-friendly clothing line's Web site¯the same company that was mentioned in our class reading and that we had just been talking about. For homework, I asked the students to visit the site and gather further information about the company's mission relating to the green movement. In fact, adding links and uploading Word docs are basically what I did most. I like not having to distribute photocopies of Web sites or articles I find relating to our class themes, or displaying a Web site while students scramble to write down the URL. For me, this is the most efficient aspect of Moodle.

As with other online teaching software, Moodle just adds another layer to your face-to-face teaching time. I certainly do not use Moodle to its fullest potential; that is, I know I have just scratched the surface, but it helps me scope and sequence my class with great ease. I look forward to learning about it and using it more often in the future.