Category Archives: INF532

Knowledge network for education

Affordances of Moodle – a multiplatform application

Moodle

Moodle HQ home page
Moodle HQ home page

It is always difficult as an educator to locate tools that are both simple to use as well as giving a teacher solid insight into student behaviors. As part of the online learning journey or even as part of a flipped classroom experience a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle ( Moodle.org, 2015) can become a critical piece of technology.

Bowen (2008) discusses the importance of identifying the affordances of a technology to assess its suitability for particular learning situations.

Moodle includes the below affordances with a short explanation as to why.

Functional affordances

Media affordances: read-ability – students have content loaded into html pages, book and lesson modules, write-ability – students can use wiki, forums, blog, journal tools, view-ability – students are able to see and interact with images and content (where applicable), listen and speak ability – students are able to use plugin integrations for voice shat, teachers are able to post up sound bites and podcasts watch-ability – students are able to watch any video content either loaded or hyperlinked into the LMS.

Spatial affordances: resize-ability –using a mobility option within the LMS configuration for theme setup you are able to set a mobile theme which will resize the LMS interface, move-ability – interactive and non-interactive (text) elements can be loaded into a Moodle course and placed according to the learning design.

Moodle page on desktop computer.
Moodle page on desktop computer.
Moodle course on mobile device
Moodle page on mobile device

Temporal affordances: accessibility – as long as the students have access to the internet then they can access the LMS anywhere/anytime, , synchronicity versus asynchronicity – this is predominately an asynchronous software, but also has the ability for some synchronous work such as through live chat or through a virtual conference software plugin.

Navigation affordances: browse-ability – the content, once loaded by the teacher remains constant so can be browsed, search-ability –students are able to search content within the LMS, data-manipulation – the teacher is able to manipulate sort and sequence content and results.

Emphasis affordances: highlight-ability – the teacher can highlight sections of the content using inbuilt tools and course layout tools, focus-ability – similar to highlight-ability the teacher can give a focus on specific tools using the block area to focus students to a new point.

Synthesis affordances: combine-ability – multiple tools can be embedded, uploaded or created in a Moodle course to create a mixed media learning environment, integration-ability – other tools and systems can be integrated into the Moodle course.

Access-control affordances: permission-ability – a Moodle course site has many levels of permissions from the high end Moodle Administrator (effectively the owner of the site, this role can add users, content modify course site and themes) down to guest access where the site is similar to a website and interactivity does not work. Authenticated users on a Moodle site means that all activity can be tracked and reported on about that user on the whole Moodle site, share-ability –within a Moodle space more than one teacher can be added to a course site, also students have the ability to share content through forums, blogs and wiki assignments.

Non-functional affordances

Technical affordances: this software is multi-platform; depending on the level of interactive content or video links it can use relatively low bandwidth and speed required. For organisations that do not have a LAN to be accessed by all students (such as a prison) Moodle can be loaded on a stand-alone computer that does not point to the internet. Backup of a course created can be reloaded into the system by visiting teachers. The course can be backed up upon leaving which can include users, results and coursework. This can then be re-installed on a LAN enabled system for storage.

Usability: Teachers need to learn to create, manage and teach in a Moodle course. It is a fairly simple tool to use with the edit interface being the same for every resource being added. Students will have access to the resources and activities which are intuitive to use, however, it is recommended that a simple step by step screen grab guide is used for students unfamiliar with the system.

Example Moodle site design
Example Moodle site design

Aesthetics: clean and simple user interface and design. Themes within Moodle give the Administrator and possibly teachers (depending on how the system has been setup for teacher permissions) the ability to contextualize and mimic a website look and feel that will make the experience intuitive for end users.

Reliability: The software itself is robust, however, as it is a web tool internet connection via Ethernet cable, 3/4G or WiFi is critical and if dropouts are experienced this could cause issues. Firewalls of organisations could also cause issues on the initial use if ICT has not opened the port to allow this software to be accessed.

Issues and key considerations

Accessibility – the Government of Australian requires that all websites and web material meet at least level A WCAG3 requirements. The Moodle software is currently rated at a level AA. With the accessibility options enabled it also means that support software , such as screen readers can be used by end users on this site

The outlined affordances demonstrate the possibilities of Moodle in a VET or corporate setting. It allows teacher and presenters to push content out, provide avenues for synchronous sessions and enables the teacher to assess students via a wide range of assessment methods. This is then stored within the Moodle course site and can form part of the backup of the course for archival purposes..

Through the use of plugins this too can be a simple ‘vanilla’ out of the box version or a complex system that fully reports against many key performance indicators.

As this is software can be used across multi-platform, it is an ideal option to use within a VET classroom context.

 

References

Bower, M. (2008). Affordance analysis – matching learning tasks with learning technologies. Educational Media International, 45(1), 3-15. doi: 10.1080/09523980701847115

Morgan, M., Butler, M., & Power, M. (2007). Evaluating ICT in education: A comparison of the affordances of the iPod, DS and Wii. Paper presented at the ASCILITE, Singapore.

Moodle.org,. (2015). Moodle – Open-source learning platform | Moodle.org. Retrieved 12 January 2015, from https://moodle.org/

TPACK framework

TPACK image
The TPACK framework and its knowledge components from www.tpack.org

As part of my delivery I present training sessions on both designing and facilitating vie digital technologies. Thanks to this I have heard and worked with TPACK for the past few years.

Harris, Mishra & Koehler (2009) stress the importance that all three domains technological, content, pedagogical should be viewed as interconnected and not in isolation as these interactions create the ‘sweet spot’ or the TPACK zone in the center of the three domains.

The heart of TPACK is meeting students needs so every class will look different even though you as the teacher is the common denominator as the PCK needs to be considered on an individual class by class basis. By being able to integrate knowledge from all three domains an expert teacher bring TPACK into play when ever and where ever they teach.

Due to the diverse nature of my work and that I am no longer just a classroom trainer I do sit more towards the middle (or the sweet spot).

The TPACK philosophy has been of great benefit to me in the development of my skills and expanding my lesson plans to a new level to ensure that the training sessions I present .

An interesting article that delves into TPACK in relation to the VET sector is:  Pipe dreams or digital dreams:  Technology, pedagogy and content knowledge in the vocational educational and training sector O’Brien, T. and Maor, D. (2013). This paper discusses the need for professional development programmes to develop the VET practitioners knowledge across all TPACK domains.

Another interesting journal article, though not directly linked to the VET sector, but does contain many lessons to learn from is: A framework for Web 2.0 learning design Bower, M., Hedberg, J.G., and Kuswara, A.. This article talks through the conceptualization of Web 2.0 enabled learning design, which can be then applied to the VET sector.

 

References

Bower, M., Hedberg, J., & Kuswara, A. (2010). A framework for Web 2.0 learning design.Educational Media International, 47(3), 177-198. doi:10.1080/09523987.2010.518811

Harris, J. & Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal on Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), pp. 393-416.

Mishra, P & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), pp. 1017-1054.

O’Brien, T & Maor, D. (2013).  Pipe dreams or digital dreams:  Technology, pedagogy and content knowledge in the vocational educational and training sector.  Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/sydney13/program/papers/O’Brien.pdf

Why we should use technology in the classroom?

As educators it is always important to understand what is happening outside the classroom in the ‘real world’ in terms of being able to contextualize lessons to reflect current attitudes and utilize contemporary tools to achieve our desired outcomes. In the Australian VET sector training packages are now on a continuous upgrade cycle to reflect current industry practices which means that students expect that technology will form part of their learning.

When you review the dramatic changes over the past 5 years that the VET sector has undergone it stands to reason that information and training methodologies that we once held close to our hearts are now outmoded.

Banning mobiles in the classroom sign from RTO in Perth.
Banning mobiles in the classroom sign from RTO in Perth.

The Industry Skills Councils and industry in general demand as part of the training packages that trainers have and maintain currency in chosen fields. This includes the use of current technologies within the industry space. Therefore not only do our students expect to use technology but the curriculum documents ensure that as trainers we must.

The Waldorf philosophy of not utilizing technology within the classroom or training environment it is not practicable for a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in Australia. For a training organisation to not to accept that they need to train students with current workplace skills using technology to fulfill some of that requirement would be a critical issue. Adult learners learn is different ways to school students and bringing in ‘life experiences’ including the use of technology is and always should be just another way to ensure that the students needs are being met.

All RTO’s do need to build skills and abilities in their staff and students with technology. Being aware of the E-Standards for Training is critical to ensure that digital literacy skills are addressed as part of the training that students receive from an RTO.

For me it is critical that we do establish solid digital literacy for our VET clients/students, with solid skills to evaluate, find use, share and create content using technologies and the internet. Without these digital literacy skills we are not equipping our VET students and practitioners with the ability to operate in the relevant industry areas.

E-standards.flexiblelearning.net.au,. (2014). E-standards for Training. Retrieved 12 January 2015, from http://e-standards.flexiblelearning.net.au/

Training.gov.au,. (2014). Skills: training.gov.au. Retrieved 12 January 2015, from http://training.gov.au/