Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Following blog was written by: Chris Kenniburg of Dearborn Public Schools

Top 3 Ways to Stop Blended Learning

Everything you need to know to put a halt to blended learning in your K-12 school

When it comes to making a decision on a learning management system we are often bombarded with all kinds of advice. The sales pitch for any new LMS is well done and very convincing with promises to make teaching and learning “easy”. A tool that will get used. Please continue reading because we have some incredibly bad advice for you to consider for your next LMS adventure.

Blame the Current LMS for Lack of Adoption with Staff

It isn’t a lack of training or poor implementation. It is the system and software you are using causing the problem. Training was never an issue. The school provided several hour long in-services throughout the year where you went over all the “button pushing” staff could handle. Instead of taking a step back and evaluate how staff is using the current LMS, you should charge ahead and find another LMS that will correct how they are using it so that the students are more engaged.

Technology Makes Teaching and Learning Easy

By believing your current system is flawed and not useful you are free to wrap your expectations and goals into a new LMS. This is the critical point at which you are free to imagine a better way of learning and what this new software will magically do for you. Nevermind putting these same expectations into your current LMS with a real plan to achieve them. The new LMS is so easy to use that it can’t possibly fail to meet your expectations! At each and every step of the way the new LMS will make life easier for teachers and students. The old LMS is holding your staff and students back. Go ahead, it is time to pick a new LMS.

Change... Because What You Have Isn’t Working

It is time to consider a change. Your current LMS is clunky and hard to use. What you need is the magical “easy” button that brings engaging online learning to life! After all, it cannot be staff isn’t interested in using the LMS for everything that they do. There is absolutely no way the majority of staff doesn’t know how to translate classroom learning to online learning! What we need is a change because the current LMS has let staff and students down. Let everyone know we are changing tools again! This new tool will surely fix things!

Bonus Tip: Let Each Teacher Decide What Tool To Use

If you finished reading all of this and you are still not convinced you can put a halt to good technology use in your school then we have the final and best advice: Let teachers pick their own tools. Let each teacher pick one of the hundred’s of tools out there. Parents and students will absolutely love having unique tools and passwords for each class. Figuring out how each tool works helps build character and perseverance. Just leave it up to the teacher to decide because you don’t really need a common platform to share success and best practices.

These tips and tricks can be used in any school to completely disrupt good learning and set back future technology adoption for years with staff.

On the other hand...

If you are serious about breaking this cycle of blame and change then continue reading. We think there is a better way to provide blended learning tools for K-12 teachers that is sustainable and puts your school in control of the learning tool. Moodle is an outstanding choice if you are serious about providing a tool for long term growth and development.

Keep it Simple

Learning one tool is simpler than trying to mix and match a variety of tools that somehow resembles a cohesive platform for online learning. Moodle is that “one tool” that provides the best features and allows schools to provide it long term for staff. Keeping it simple means teachers can share common assessments, build courses together, and collaborate because they are all using the same tool. Staff is also building common skills and know-how with one tool they can rely on long term. One tool that is fully capable of meeting the most basic needs but also provide highly engaging tools for advanced teachers. The long term investment and commitment should be in a tool you have control over. Open source tools require effort but the investment will last much longer and without financial commitment for something that you may never fully utilize.

Be Consistent

With so many LMS options out there the messaging and consistency of that messaging must be laser focused. If your LMS tool changes with the seasons then why would a dedicated teacher invest the time and energy to develop robust learning opportunities? They don’t. They know that whatever the tool is, it will be gone shortly. We’ve used Moodle for over 12 years. We’ve always had teachers use it to get the most out of the tool, but we also have many who are just scratching the surface. The very good news is we do not have to pay a yearly fee for those who are just scratching the surface. 

Do the work

You can invest in yourself or you can invest in someone else. You can operate your own LMS or you can invest in a pre-packaged product. Either way, you are always investing time, energy, and money. We prefer to invest in ourselves. We invest in staff to teach and learn skills that will help them do amazing things with students. We invest in ourselves so that we can control the learning tools that are vital to why we are here: educating kids.

Chris Kenniburg is the webmaster for Dearborn Public Schools.
Follow him on Twitter @kennibc

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

One Educator Making A Difference

Never doubt the power of one individual to make a difference. No matter one’s role, a single person can have a great impact. Nowhere is this impact needed more than in education. Educators all over our country strive to make a difference, one such educator is Ms. Carol Isakson.

In addition to serving as the Communications Director for SIG Online and Blended Learning, Carol Isakson is a technology aide and Moodle expert for Plymouth Canton Community Schools. She works with teachers interested in setting up online learning opportunities for their students.

If a teacher is interested in using Moodle to support their teaching, they are able to enroll in her MyClasses Moodle Workshop course. This course was designed to provide teachers with basic Moodle skills, give them answers to frequently asked questions, and get them started.

If they want to know more about blending, the teachers are directed to the districts team of Tech Integrationists, but for learning how to navigate the LMS, Carol is a great resource.

Carol recommends that any teacher interested in pursuing blended learning opportunities joins MACUL's SIG for Online and Blended Learning (SIG OBL). SIG OBL provides excellent resources and information for educators at all stages of blending and/or offering online courses. Attending MACUL and EdCamp conferences are also great ideas for building one’s capacity.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Engaging Comprehension Checks

Leave your favorite reading comprehension checks for online learners in the comments below. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Building Community In An Online Course

Picture of a student covering his face with a poster of hand-drawn sad face.It’s easy to feel alone in an online course, especially if you do not already have a personal relationship with the teacher or other students. Multiple studies have shown that online learners are at greater risk of feeling socially isolated (Lewis & Abdul-Hamid, 2006); thus it is important for teachers facilitating blended or online courses to consider ways to build relationships.Given the importance of feeling connected and valuing the role relationships play in learning, teachers of online courses must work to establish a community within their online classes.

What follows are 4 ways in which teachers can build community within their Moodle classrooms.

1. Get To Know One Another

Many online courses begin with an introductory activity wherein students describe themselves to the class. In most cases, generic biographies are posted by everyone, and these entries may or may not be read by others. Instead of this once and done method for introducing oneself, consider including a relationship-building activity during each week of instruction. Consider setting up a specific place, such as a dedicated Topic within your Moodle course, for these types of discussions. The bottom line is that meaningful opportunities for communication must be included within our online classrooms (Dixson, 2010).

These activities don’t need to be difficult or time consuming; they just need to encourage discussion and interaction between students. For added effectiveness, make connections between what you learn about a given student through these activities and what is being studied in the class.

2. Don’t ask questions that have a single correct answer.

It happens all of the time. The teacher asks a question that has a single answer. For example: What is the main idea of chapter 2? While there is nothing wrong with this type of question, it doesn’t necessarily spark conversation. Instead consider asking students to interact with the information in a different way.

How do the ideas presented within Chapter 2 affect you?
Select a single sentence or phrase from Chapter 2 that you feel expressed an important idea or theme and describe your rationale for selection.

The types of responses generated by these kind of open-ended questions make it easier for students to continue the conversation through follow-up responses.

3. Incorporate student voice… Literally.
There are multiple tools that allow students to be heard. Consider taking advantage of tools such as Flipgrid or Voxer that allow students to actually share responses orally. Hearing a classmate’s voice is just another way to build connections and reminds us that we are in fact real people with individual voices.

4. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback
Feedback is information provided by an individual regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Although feedback can come from a variety of sources, let’s focus on feedback obtained from peers, teachers, and students. As a teacher, it is critical that we provide effective, ongoing feedback to our students. We should also encourage students to provide feedback to their classmates. Keep in mind, however that providing quality feedback is a skill and our students will need guidance as they develop and grow this skill.

There is much evidence to prove the impact of targeted, timely feedback -especially as it relates to student learning, but teachers need to seek feedback, as well. Students have a unique perspective that an instructor (no matter how qualified) simply cannot have. Throughout the course, teachers should seek out student opinions and ideas for building community and improving the overall course experience.

Although establishing a true community of learners who value and support one another takes a lot of work, it is worth the time and energy. Creating opportunities for students to communicate and connect with one another can increase engagement and build a community, despite the lack of physical interaction (Dixson, 2015)


Dixson, Marcia D. “Creating Effective Student Engagement in Online Courses: What Do Students Find Engaging?” Journal of teh Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, vol. 10, no. 2, 2010.
Dixson, Marcia D. “Measuring Student Engagement in the Online Course: The Online Student Engagement Scale (OSE).” Online Learning, vol. 19, no. 4, 2015.
Hattie, John, and Helen Timperley. “The Power of Feedback.” Review of Educational Research, vol. 77, no. 1, 2007, pp. 81–112.
Lewis, C.C. and Abdul-Hamid, H. (2006). Implementing Effective Online Teaching Practices: Voices of Exemplary Faculty. Innovative Higher Education, 31, 2, 83-98..

Friday, December 22, 2017

Top Moodle Theme of 2017

In case you missed it, MoodleNews Year In Review: The Top Ten Themes Of 2017, the Fordson Theme was ranked as the #1 Moodle theme of 2017.  Fordson, created by our very own Chris Kenniburg form Dearborn Public Schools, gives Moodle a modern look and feel that is easy for users to navigate.  

Fordson is sleek and efficient and provides a simple, clean interface. Some of my favorite features included the following:
  • Course Management Panel is a well organized display of those links previously housed in the Course Administration block. Removing blocks helps reduce clutter and modernizes the overall experience.
  • Student Dashboard which provides students with quick access to course information including: course description, teacher contact information, current grade, the course completion status, and activity links.
  • The Custom Course Category Display allows users to change the way courses are displayed within course categories. Users can customize their Moodle site by choosing from four distinct layouts.

Screenshot of the moodle.resa.net homepage showcasing the Fordson theme
Fordson’s modern look coupled with its increased functionality make it an ideal choice for any Moodle instance. For these reasons, Wayne RESA encourages the use of the the Fordson theme.  We appreciate the efforts of Dearborn Public Schools and Chris Kenniberg for their creativity and ongoing support of all things Moodle.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Share Your Story

Image of a computer and book with the words "Share Your Story" and the modern moodle blog website (modernmoodle.blogspot.com)

This blog was designed to share innovative ways in which Moodle can be used to enhance instruction. Our goal is both to inform and inspire educators to rethink the way in which instruction in delivered. We believe that the best way to do this is to share real stories – your stories.  We would like to invite you to contribute to this blog; thus making it a product of the amazingly innovative and creative teachers of Wayne County.  If your students are benefitting from the power of Moodle, please email Michelle Wagner at wagnerm@resa.net. We would love to showcase your experiences on ModernMoodle.blogspot.com

We look forward to hearing, sharing, and learning from your stories!

Friday, October 27, 2017

H5P - Collage

Utilizing the H5P Interactive Content allows teachers to customize the appearance and layout of their posts/assignments. This type of customization is both visually appealing and functional.  This post will focus on the Collage feature, but we will delve into the other interactive components in the future.

Within your Moodle course, add a new activity.
Screenshot showing the user where to click
Next, select the H5P Interactive Content choice and select Add.
Screenshot showing the user where to click

At this point, you could select any of the amazing options included within H5P, but for now, we will focus on the Collage.

Click the Use button in order to specify exactly how you would like the Collage to appear within your Moodle course. You will be able to move the images around by dragging them. You can also select an image and then use the + or - keys on your keyboard to zoom or simply hold down the Z key while moving your mouse wheel. In other words, users have a great deal of control over the way in which images are displayed.  
Shows the user where the "Collage" option will appear.

Once you are satisfied with the settings, click Save and Display in order to view the Collage within your Moodle course.

Shows the user what the screen will look like (options available) when the collage functionality is chosen.

I like to select Save and Display because it instantly allows me to view activity and ensure that it appears exactly as I intended.
Shows the user how an empty collage will appear on their course page.

Once I turn editing off, I am able to see what the newly added activity truly looks like within my Moodle course. As you can see, it appears like a traditional assignment or post.
Shows an image of what the added content will look like on a course page (where the user will need to click in order to access the collage)
Clicking on this activity will bring up the collage created by the teacher. What the students do with the collage is completely up to you.  While the example shown asks students to consider why these images represent a specific concept, a teacher might simply use the functionality of the collage to share photographs of students engaged in a learning activity.

Screenshot showing a completed collage with images from the rain forest that represent the common theme of conservation.

The Following blog was written by: Chris Kenniburg of Dearborn Public Schools Top 3 Ways to Stop Blended Learning Everything you need t...