Book Review - Science Teaching with #Moodle 2.0

Note: These are my reflections  on Packt Publishing's Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0 by Vincent Lee Stocker.  In the interests of full disclosure, please be aware Packt Publishing has provided ample no-cost access to their ebook titles. That said, my reflections are my own and I share what I think about the books (as any blogger should).

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Goals of the Book

  1. "Being able to give students access to course materials 24/7 in a controlled environment, so that learning can take place anywhere."
  2. "Monitor the progress and keep records of your students learning."
  3. "Extending the classroom by providing online discussion, testing, activities, and...allowing collaboration and communication...."
  4. "Make use of exciting multimedia, 3D interactive molecules, and web-based content, allowing pupils with different learning styles to access the curriculum"
  5. "Helping science teachers collaborate, share, and store teaching resources...."

Overall Reflections:
If this book had been titled, "Teaching with Moodle 2.0," that would have been a more accurate description of the contents. In fact, How To Use Moodle 2.0 might have served even better. Stocker's book--Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0-- approaches introducing new teachers to their Moodle courses by doing a walkthrough of all the neat stuff (e.g. activities, modules, etc.).

As you might guess from my suggested adjustment to the book title, there is a lot to like in this book if you are a person in the "Teacher" role and new to using Moodle. Stocker spends a significant amount of time going through the Moodle how-to--which isn't too unexpected since this is, after all, a Moodle 2.0 focused book--and providing flashes of science and learning theory. Don't get this reviewer wrong; Stocker's book is eminently readable and worthy of finding a place on your bookshelf, whether it's a digital shelf or not.  I just don't think that one chapter focused on Science add-ons is enough to say this book is about science teaching with Moodle.

In his chapters dealing with quizzes and the gradebook, how to handle groups, wikis, Stocker does an expert job of helping the reader understand quizzes, gradebook settings. In his section on wikis, he provides some pointed ideas for how to best use them, such as the following:
  • Wiki activity sequencing jumbled up instructions for doing an experiment
  • Mix-and-match information, for example, results of chemical reagents to reactions
  • Have pupils watch a video and convert the information into a wiki
  • Build a wiki page about flame tests including embedded video.
He also makes a connection between wikis and glossaries, pointing out that if you want to control content in a wiki, then you need to be using a glossary. He points this out in the transition from wikis to glossaries section:
One thing about wikis is that any change goes live immediately. What if you want to approve something before everyone can view it? This is where glossaries come in useful.
Stocker's exploration of lesson activity planning, like his discussion of Workshops as activities that involve the use of rubrics in Moodle, will certainly help folks "get it" lesson planning in Moodle. This book is chock-full of how-to descriptions, illustrated with screenshots, etc. So, in the how-to department, Stocker's Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0 is a yotta-joule and enough to reach boiling point.
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Yet, if I may be blunt, I wanted to get a charge about using Moodle by "idea induction" and less hands-on with Moodle, as evidenced by screenshots and technical writing. That expectation was set by the title, and less so by the goals of the book.

Just as I was ready to split and invest my energy elsewhere at the detailed, illustrated explanations of setting quizzes, gradebooks, workshops, embedding images into labels, using tables to organize content so it's more appealing, Chapter 7: Using Mathematical Equations, Animated Molecules, and Creating 'Live' Graphs established an agostic interaction.

When you consider the power of this particular chapter alone, you realize everything else was just a pre-quel. I so wish we didn't have to cover the same ground time and again in Chapters 1-6, instead go straight to the meat of Chapter 7. Consider the objectives for Chapter 7:

  1. Embed 3D molecular structures using Jmol (a filter you can add to Moodle) that your users can zoom in on and rotate. How's that for interactive science?
  2. Create a page of equations using TeX notation.
  3. Build equations using the DragMath equation editor (the author, by the way, can be found on email list).
  4. Display "live" graphs that auto-update
Stocker goes on to provide some nifty suggestions and web sites that no online science teacher should be without.  This chapter, chapter 7, makes the book worth the price for science teachers interested in creating molecules, graphs and allowing student interaction. Tools like GeoGebra, GoogleDocs are discussed as well. My only critique--aside from the appearance of non-American idioms, which was fun--is I wanted more science teaching with Moodle. Instead, the book is more focused on how-to and covering all the great modules, blocks, etc. that can be embedded.

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So the question is, would I buy this book for science teachers? Yes. I'd buy it because it could double as a primer on Moodle and includes enough "science stuff" in Chapter 7 to get interesting.

A suggestion for the Packt Publishing - get a conclave of Moodle using educators together that have written these books and come up with the "killer" how-to book. Then, write (a) companion volume(s) that address(es) using Moodle in the classroom or within content areas. 

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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