We’ve been using Moodle in our district for about 3 years now, but this year at BrainBlast we’re making a big push to get more teachers using it. We’re setting up enough Moodle classes so that every secondary teacher will have a chance to participate in professional development about Moodle.

I really like Moodle. It’s one of the most functionally-rich learning management systems out there today. It’s not a replacement for a web site, and it’s not a replacement for a blog. It’s a way to easily organize your classes and reduce the work you, as a teacher, are required to do.

Our approach has been to use Moodle as a classroom management system. We’ve made it clear to teachers that their job isn’t in jeopardy, and the physical classroom isn’t being replaced, but rather enhanced and extended by Moodle. Teachers can finally have paperless classrooms by putting all their material on Moodle for students to download (what teacher wouldn’t want to be free of papers?), and allowing them to submit their assignments online. Grading papers is easy — just go down the list of submitted assignments, write a few comments, assign a grade, and you’re done. No more shuffling through papers and scribbling notes, then handing them back to your students every day. Feedback is instantaneous. And unless your quizzes are complex and have essay parts, they actually auto-grade themselves, too.

What’s more, Moodle has its own built-in gradebook. Many districts have their own gradebook program, and with any districtwide deployment of Moodle, you should make sure it integrates with your existing grading software, if applicable. If it doesn’t integrate, it suddenly becomes extra work for the teacher to maintain grades both in Moodle and in their gradebook. You don’t want that. Moodle does contain a lot of export options, but not any that integrate with MyGrades, WSD’s grading program. Until now, this has probably been a major reason for slow adoption and resistance in our district. Fortunately, this school year Moodle will integrate directly with MyGrades through an extra “Link to Moodle” feature available from every gradebook.

We’ve found that a great use of Moodle is also the simplest — setting up an online forum for your students. It’s a closed, private, moderated space for your students to talk amongst each other. It’s amazing how much kids today love talking to each online, and what’s highly beneficial is how well it levels the playing field. Even the reserved, reticent, detached students who normally wouldn’t utter a peep in class, suddenly open up in the online forum, just spilling their guts. It’s a great way for shy students to finally have a voice and communicate with their peers in a way that’s less awkward for them. You can get your students talking about class-related topics, and you may find they log in late at night at home to continue the conversations.

I’m convinced that any resistance to Moodle is just a combination of uncertainty and ignorance. If teachers realize how much easier their jobs can be with Moodle, many will gladly and graciously adopt it. There’s certainly few, if any, reasons that it shouldn’t appeal to teachers.