Moodle at EGGS
For 10 years we have had an intranet initially crafted by a very talented “web chap” who created an exceedingly comprehensive and easy to use environment. Staff have only to drop files in a folder for them to be available to students both in and outside the school. Teachers embraced this functionality with the calendar, facilities booking, co-curricular environment, forums, daily notices, help desk, etc etc and the use of digital technology grew by leaps and bounds.
However Web 2.0 began to emerge and we could see that we needed more than the Web 1.0 intranet we had. Besides our web chap had left for greener pastures so we investigated the possibilities. A very useful website I found was http://www.edutools.info/static.jsp?pj=4&page=HOME which as well as reviewing different Course Management Systems, enables you to compare them and get an idea of the features available. We had a look at KEWL from South Africa and Blackboard through Unitec as well as LAMS from Australia. At the time Ultranet and Knowledgenet were emerging but we thought that in a small country like NZ the cost to the users of creating and maintaining such systems compared to the world-wide resources that Moodle had available for the cost of some technician time, made the decision easy.
It was after attending a Moodle Moot in 2007 that we decided that this was the solution for us. The greatest appeal was the open nature of the software and the huge world-wide uptake in preference to very expensive products like Blackboard and First Class which despite their cost had less functionality. It is interesting that at that time most of the conference delegates were from tertiary with very few schools represented. How the scene has changed in just 2 years! So we have embarked on the journey with the intention of adding to rather than replacing our intranet and Moodle is accessed as a link from there.
Uptake was slow initially as we already had a very useful intranet which was much easier for teachers to use and the idea of Web 2.0 needed PD to help teachers realise the benefits of using these tools for learning. We were helped by the NZC document which has made teachers realise that they need to change. This year had seen a marked increase in activity helped by the commitment of senior management in giving 6 management units to key staff (Moodle Movers) to work with groups of teachers. Of course there is huge variability amongst our staff in using Moodle but we think that the early adopters will persuade the rest that this is really cool stuff that they need to be part of. The students love the environment and especially the link to Mahara where they have more freedom.
Tied in with all of this is access and there is a school of thought amongst our staff that there is no point in putting resources in Moodle if it is then going to be problematical that their students will be able to access a computer. We are therefore in the process of providing a comprehensive wireless network for students so that next year we will encourage students to bring their own devices. Preferably this will be a netbook with a long battery life but we will accommodate any wifi capable device including eg Dad’s old laptop. It will be quite clear to students that their device is their responsibility not ours as we do not have the technical resources to manage 2000 netbooks. The intention is to provide wireless access to web-based resources such as our intranet, Moodle, Mahara, gmail, Google docs and the intranet through our proxy server. We are lucky that many of our parents will be able to provide this tool but we also recognise that some will not be able to and plan to address these needs with a leasing system. We have no idea how this will turn out but we are excited by the prospect, we expect to have lots of problems to solve and are determined to be positive and focused on the benefits that it will bring to student learning through Moodle.
Who knows where we will be in 2 more years time!