January 29th

Integration of a website or an educational content management system into teaching practices – my findings and opinions

The purpose of this particular article will be to present my findings and opinions about the integration of websites or educational content management systems (CMS) into my future teaching practices. Educational content management systems can take many different forms and have many different uses in a classroom. A CMS is a software program such as WebCT, Blackboard, or Moodle where student learning is delivered online.

The CMS I chose to test is Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment). Moodle is an enormously versatile system for course and learning management. I experimented with the demo as a teacher (you can choose if you want to do the demo as a teacher, a student or else). I found some advantages and some disadvantages for the use of Moodle in an ESL classroom.

The advantages

I find Moodle to be very useful. It is not only a course platform, where you provide learning resources like giving access documents from your class, but also a platform from which you can assess and evaluate your students by having them complete quizzes and see the results. You can also encourage collaboration by starting a forum or setting a workshop activity. Furthermore, you can communicate in many different ways. You can comment on the course page for students to see and send private messages to your fellow teachers, among others. Another beautiful thing about Moodle is that you can customize your page.  These are only a few examples of all the things you can do with Moodle.

As a future English teacher, I also focused on the pedagogical approach behind Moodle. Moodle is a system where the teacher AND the students are contributing to the learning experience. It’s like a small learning community of students with the teacher. I really like this concept of give and take from both the students and the teacher.

Moodle is also a great platform for maximizing the use of the target language (English in my case). As a future ESL teacher, I find interesting that students can participate in a forum and ask questions to the teacher or to other students (in English of course). The communicative aspect is nice for ESL classrooms.

What kept my attention too was the quizzes and grades system. I have not had the chance to built my own quiz since the demo version is only accessible for a short period of time, but what I have seen of this use of Moodle seems quite complete. Not only can you build your own tests (which your students complete on their computers), Moodle corrects it for you and shows you detailed grades on you teacher page. This is a great tool for an ESL teacher and teachers in general.

 The disadvantages

Even though Moodle seems awesome, there is a major problem with it. Many teachers that use Moodle have came with the same conclusion. Moodle works well, but only with small groups. Here’s an example from this blog: having a big group tacking the same quiz at the same time can cause bogs and troubles.

Reading this article written by a systems developer, I stepped on another disadvantage that I did not think about. We all assume that the new generation is well adapted to technologies and won’t have any difficulty using it, but what if you have students that are having a hard time with the CMS you are using?! That can be very demotivating for a student and even become a disadvantage for them , but also for the teacher. If your students are not able to find documents on the class Moodle or are not able to send a message in the forum because they are not familiar with the software program, everybody is back to square one.

In conclusion, there are great advantages to use Moodle, but also many disadvantages. In my opinion of future ESL teacher, the pedagogical approach behind Moodle is very appealing, but the technical aspect is scary for someone who is not that good with this type of technology.

 Anne-Marie Garneau-Beaudoin

Future ESL teacher