Example of a checklist

Formative assessment is a key element of good teaching & learning. Students should always know how well they have learnt a topic – what they know well, and what they could improve on. Allowing students time to self-assess is not always possible during lesson time and Moodle can be used to solve this issue, shifting some of the self-assessment for homework.

The ‘Checklist‘ package (updated less than a week ago) is very easy to use, and creating your first self-assessment with it should be a breeze, as long as your criteria for self-assessment are clear and easily understandable by students.

Example of a checklist

Example of a checklist - using optional items to categorise items

Although it is a great resource, I must warn you that the Checklist package does not allow for a scale to be used (e.g. I am very confident doing this, I am confident doing this, I am sometimes confident doing this, I am not confident doing this, I do not know how to do this) and you should use either the ‘Questionnaire‘ or the ‘Feedback‘ modules to achieve this, though in my opinion it takes longer to setup and is not as ‘child friendly’. The Checklist package allows only for a very simple ‘Can do / Need to work on’ setup, which I have found to be very useful to students, and myself.

The package can be used in your everyday teaching, and here are some of its benefits:

The obvious one – it helps your students

My students often need to write individual targets for each subject, and it is invariably difficult for them. Prior to using the ‘Checklist’ module, I was doing other self-assessment activities but the more organizationally challenged students struggled to keep a record of it. Now, they can easily see what they need to improve on at all times, especially if the criteria are grouped together. Using the module has encouraged students to write meaningful targets as opposed to the dreaded ‘I need to get better grades in ICT’. Overall, they become more familiar with the syllabus and our expectations as teachers.

Individual checklist

Each student gets their own checklist, with a progress bar

This tool will help you with your lesson planning

At the moment, my students are revising for their mock exams, and though I have planned revision activities based on past test results and past experience, it is always useful to know what the students need the most – right now. The ‘View Progress’ feature allows you to do just that. At a glance, you can see which skills/topic has not been understood by most of your students and focus on them. This could also be used to comment on your scheme of work for the following years.

Progress report

According to this, I clearly need to focus on CPU and Hardware & Software

It helps with report writing

After the mock exams, it will be ‘long’ report writing time for me (looking forward to that!). Of course I use the data from tests completed this term to comment on students’ performance, but I find it useful to have data from the students, to see how they perceive their learning, and use it for some of my reports. Each student gets their own checklist report, as well as a ‘Progress Bar’, so it is easy for me to compare whether students are performing as well as they think they are. So far, there hasn’t been too much discrepancy between their attainment grade and their perception of skills/knowledge attained but I think it is a valuable tool to have under your belt.

I think the developed has done a great job and some of the additions from the last iterations add value to the package (colours, progress bar). I’d like to see the following implemented in a future version:

Colours

It is now possible to pick from a choice of colours for each item. While it is a great addition, it is rather time consuming. A colour picker would be great, or at least using the same colour as the last previously added item would be a great time saver.

Labels

Optional items are great to categorise items, but show as ‘not done’ in the ‘All item’ progress bar, which bothers some students. Labels would be an efficient way of grouping items, and with the use of HTML editor pictures and the like could be inserted.

HTML tags support

At the moment, items only support text. Support for simple tags such as <strong> would be welcome, but that is nitpicking really.

I strongly encourage you to use the Checklist package as part of your formative assessment routine. Do feel free to comment to share your own practice and ideas.

Walking through the school corridors, I often overhear comments such as “I don’t like ——– (insert subject here) because it’s booooring” or “I love ——— (insert subject here) because it’s soooo fun, we play games all the time”. This post deals with making Moodle more interesting and engaging for students, especially the younger ones.

I recently conducted a student survey at my current school (High School only) and found out that “more games” is the most requested feature by the lower High School students.

The ‘Game‘ module for Moodle was first released in 2008 and has been actively maintained ever since. The idea behind it is to use some of the content already existing in your Moodle courses to create engaging activities. You’ll be able to make games in no time if you already have questions in your question bank, quizzes, or even better – glossaries. If you don’t, you’ll have to make create some first – I recommend glossaries as they are compatible with most types of games and quick to make. So far, teachers can create 8 different types of games:

  • Hangman
  • Crossword
  • Cryptex (word search)
  • Hidden picture
  • Millionaire (a barebones version of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?)
  • Sudoku
  • Snakes & Ladders

You can see full reviews, as well as training videos (in full HD!) for each type of games by clicking on the list above. (coming soon, promise)

From experience, only ‘Crossword’ and ‘Millionaire’ appeal to older students (16+) while ‘Snakes & Ladders’ and ‘Hangman’ are most suited to younger students (12-). Middle school students are a pretty easy crowd to please and will happily play any of the games mentioned above.

Some of the games have a more obvious educational benefit, for example ‘Crossword’ or ‘Millionaire’ while some seem a little ‘gimmicky’ (Hidden picture). I have however been able to use all types of games to help students with their learning and you can see some real life examples on the individual review pages (click on the list above).

Although there are a few (minor) bugs, the developer has done a great job at listening to users’ feedback to improve his module. I recommend you strongly to download it and give it a try.

Check out the individual reviews to get the most of this module.

What a start to my blog; For my first ‘Software review’ I’m actually going to look at an ‘add-in’, keep reading though as this might save you a bunch of time.

I don’t know about you, but most of my Moodle courses contain resources that I have designed from scratch, most of which were created using the Microsoft® Office suite.

Here is the workflow that most teachers I know (including yours truly) follow when posting an Office document onto Moodle:

Create document –> Upload to Moodle –> Make it available to student

That’s fine when I have just created a document, but what happens when it’s time to update it? Well, it becomes a pain to be honest, that’s what:

Download resource from Moodle –> Edit resource using MS Office –> Re-upload to Moodle –> Overwrite existing file

It’s not that it takes that long to do, but I asked myself “Surely there must be a better way to do this, as it is a rather confusing way to do things. Surely?”

After a quick Googling, I came across the Microsoft ® Office Add-in for Moodle. Anthony at MS obviously noticed the same issue as I did. Here is  my ‘new’ workflow to update existing resources – straight from Office, no need to open Moodle at all:

Open document (straight from MS Office) –> Edit it –> Save it

Since starting using this method, I have saved a LOT of time and headaches. Here is a demo of how it works:

And here is a video showing the ‘before and after’ teacher workflow:

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, it does if you tick the following boxes:

  • You use Moodle 1.x (doesn’t yet work for Moodle 2.x)
  • You work on Windows® computers (no Mac support)
  • You use Office 2003 or 2007 (no 2010 support – kinda)
  • You have the ‘My Courses’ block displayed in all of your Moodle courses
  • You only want to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint (no support for other software in suite)
  • You have someone in your organisation who can debug if necessary as quite a few users are reporting issues

Most users tick the above boxes, don’t they? This product has been created by the folks working for the Microsoft® Education Labs and to be fair they don’t seem to be the most well funded arm of the company. I do not know whether their approach to ‘suit most’ users will continue but there have been fewer than 10,000 downloads for this add-in so far (available since April 2010), so I can’t see this hitting the big time and support all platforms, though it would be great. Microsoft has the potential to reach over 1.1 million teachers here, so keep bugging them in their forums if you want your platform to be supported.

Overall, this is a great add-in and I thoroughly recommend you to get it for your Moodle install (after all it is free).

I’m off to send MS a message as my school has recently upgraded to Office 2010 and I cannot use this add-in anymore.

Please comment on this post, be gentle though as this is my first time 😉 It would be great if you could share your own experience as well.