I have just discovered how useful Moodle can be in fostering collaboration. Collaboration between teachers is always an issue. Let’s face it, we’re used to working alone, and it’s not easy to team-teach, or collaborate. Teachers tend to throw up walls that go further than the classroom walls we teach within. Especially in the senior school we hide behind our academic disciplines or our conflicting time-tables to avoid any collaboration. Even when we think it’s a good idea to foster collaboration, it is just so darn difficult to get around the logistics. That’s where Moodle proves useful!
This week I had to work together with two other teachers in designing a unit for our cognitive thinking programme. The unit is designed to teach grade 9s how to listen with understanding and empathy. All of the teachers involved are in different faculties, and we do not share any common time-tabled time to meet. But, by posting our thoughts onto the Moodle course page directly (kept hidden from students for the moment) and sharing the link, we were able to discuss what resources to use as a catalyst for the activities we had planned. We needed exactly the right video clip to engage the students, and this took several revisions. By posting each draft of the lesson directly on Moodle, teachers could easily view it and exchange emails about the suitability of each suggestion.
Moodle is not the most formidable platform for document management – it allows content to be downloaded and uploaded, sure, but it does not allow documents to be checked out or edited in real-time as SharePoint does, or Google Docs. But what makes it especially powerful is that any kind of document can be stored on the system and accessed by any user, or only selected users. For example, video clips can be embedded or loaded onto the platform. All of this takes some sophistication, but once teachers know how to do it, it is an empowering function. SharePoint seems limited in terms of sharing video files.
But the key advantage of Moodle is that it allows for seemless collaboration in preparing for a lesson unit, and its delivery within an e-learning or hybrid environment. Put simply, once you have posted the relevant files on the course page, and used this page to discuss and collaborate with other teachers in the course, you can simply uncheck the hide from view button to make it visible to students. You don’t need to collaborate on one interface and then port it to another platform. This is a bigger advantage than it sounds. In our case we were still debating which video clips to use for the lesson up until the day before the first lesson. But once we had decided on what to do, it was easy to take it live by simply clicking on the view button. Although our collaboration did involve two brief face-to-face meetings, the use of Moodle, together with email, allowed us to continue the discussion for several days.
Another key advantage is that it allows teachers to store invisible documents, such as lesson plans together with the course resources. As one who always loses anything emailed to me, this is an invaluable tool indeed. It also allows for instant teacher substitution in the event of illness.