Friday, October 15, 2010

Peeling the Layers - #Moodle vs Blogoliath

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 Donkey: I just know, before this is over, I'm gonna need a whole lot of serious therapy. Look at my eye twitchin'.
One of my favorite stories of the Bible isn't the David and Goliath story. It's the one when God is calling to David, and finally, David says, "Here I am, Lord." The person willing to say, "Here I am, command me. I am listening."

Isn't that how we like our technology? Don't we just love it when Moodle says--forgive the anthropomorphizing please--"Here I am. I can be what you need me to be, even though I'm imperfect" ? It's easy to imagine the LMS as Goliath, but in truth, Moodle is more nimble than the mighty blog.

On first reading David Truss' fascinating entry, entitled Moodle Schmoodle and no point to Sharepoint, you might be tempted--if you're a Moodler--to exclaim, "Hey, you got it all wrong! Instead of forcing your new initiative to wear knee pads and a helmet for protection, your letting them go all natural! Are you crazy?!?"

Riding a motorcycle without padding feels going swimming in the deep end when you're 5 years old and just want to hop in! You KNOW it's going to be alright in your heart, if not your head. But when the wheels slide out from under you, or you start to sink, a little panic slides into you gut. Fear.
A Donkey with Insight - Find out more

Now, I could spend a blog entry focusing in on the differences between using Moodle and blogs, how the former protects your children and teachers, but that's not really worthwhile discussion. Whatever gets used will have those fear problems.

Another way to consider this is from Harold Jarche's (among others but he's the one I read earlier this week) perspective:
The LMS framework is being challenged for its supremacy over organizational learning much as heliocentricity showed European civilization that we were not the centre of the galaxy. Jane Hart says that, “what is needed is an organisational system that SUPPORTS and ENABLES this informal approach to learning.” That system is one where the LMS is nothing more than a node in the network, which means that the LMS has to play nice with others (which most do not).
You could argue that LMS--like Moodle--just don't cut it anymore. You need more organic tools that don't try to centralize everything in one place, but rather, allow learning to happen everywhere. For example, social networking allows for sharing ideas (ad nauseum per Doug Johnson (Blue Skunk Blog)) but blogs are where real reflection takes place (as Alan Levine (CogDogBlog) points out).

Kids need to learn how to accomplish learning where it happens on third party, vendor systems, right? They need to go where the Internet is, wrestle with concepts mano a mano (hand to hand) rather than dwell in a well-structured environment where every burp is contained and used to fuel conversations in a closed community that lacks the diversity of the open web.

My understanding of David Truss' point is this: "Use the simplest technology to get the job done. Don't complicate things. Avoid letting the technology get in the way of the learning."
...what I actually decided to do was to remove an unnecessary layer of management, or rather, I decided to remove an unnecessary layer of tools needed to be learned before my teachers and students could start talking advantage of the power of being one-to-one.  (Read More)

So, blogs are what is going to work for David's 1 to 1 situation, right? The focus is sharing and documenting. And while those are worthwhile lessons to learn--fostering reflection about what we're experiencing in a 1 to 1 laptop situation--is that all that classroom will do?

When we launched blogs in a large urban district, one of the lessons learned wasn't that blogs weren't immediately successful. Rather, that they were so successful that people wanted those blogs to DO MORE. In addition to having students share their work, engage in conversations with notable visitors--as Karl Fisch as ably demonstrated with his students and the teachers he supports--eventually teachers will want to administer assessments, collect grades, have deeper discussions that those allowed in the comments of a blog.

You see, while using the simplest technology for the job IS effective, many people don't settle for that. If they did, we all would have been happy issuing eReaders (e.g. Nook, Kindle) to students for electronic textbooks instead of running out and buying iPads...Tim's (Assorted Stuff) vision of a computer lab comes to mind here.

The simplest technology is seldom enough...and, with a tool like Moodle, you can peel the onion as you need to...rather than peeling a layer off and finding there wasn't much there.

Either way, isn't it great to have a choice as to what to use and do? Lack of choice is an illusion.


Image References
Balaam and the Donkey -

David and Goliath -

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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


David Truss said...

An excellent post Miguel, and as per usual, in seeing things with a different perspective than me, we can continue a learning conversation.

I think I owe an apology for my post and the apology is for the title. It is more sensationalism than it is purposeful.

I am not against LMS's and I think the Moodle community has been amazing at responding to educational needs to make it a more friendly system for educators. That said, to a non-techie type I think Moodle, and many other tools for that matter, can seem overwhelming.

In my school, I'm introducing 3 young, but not necessarily tech savvy teachers to a blogging platform as a means to both share their work blogging and in a portfolio format. Yes "eventually teachers will want to.... [do more]" than what the blogs have to offer. I'm excited about that happening (soon?)! For now, blogging is what we agreed as a team to work on. Last year we had a school with no wireless, desktop computers for teachers, 4 floating/shared LCD projectors, and one (and a half) computer labs of which use was limited mostly to our robotics/ICT teacher. This year we have wireless, teacher netbooks, LCD projectors in every classroom, senior students bringing their own laptops to school and a full second computer lab (which is far more available since our seniors don't need to use it). As an aside, we also had to move our entire school to a new location with very short notice, consuming much of our pre-year professional development time.

As I say in my post, "There are often issues that we must face when dealing with technology… there can be layers of challenges on top of the challenges learning itself provides. This is why it is so important not to add unnecessary layers to what we do!" I think that adding a LMS now would be overwhelming. A lot of training and learning time for staff would be spent on learning the management system.

I think for a school just starting out with technology goals, and more specifically teachers just starting out with technology goals, we should limit the 'layers' they are initially exposed to.

So essentially you are right when you say,
My understanding of David Truss' point is this: "Use the simplest technology to get the job done. Don't complicate things. Avoid letting the technology get in the way of the learning." ... If we were to adopt a learning management tool now, it would be overwhelming for me, much less my teachers and students.

I wrote the post because I think like me, many people who are trying new things (and like me are not necessarily tech savvy) try to add too much at once.

You are right! Moodle can do more than a blogging platform such as Edublogs, and as a long term goal for the school, I would want to be thinking about a platform to offer teachers more choices... but as a starting point, I think a LMS is a layer that can wait.

Michelle Rogers said...

*pssst* Your post is great. I just wanted to say *whispers* "I think you meant Samuel is called by God, not David?"

Miguel Guhlin said...

@Michelle, wow, that's unbelievable. I remembered the story from childhood sunday school...wrong. And, I mixed the "Here I am" song in with it when it's actually based on Isaiah 6:8 (I looked it up).

Many thanks for the correction! No need to "Psst!!" That's what the comment section in a blog entry is for!

With appreciation,
Miguel Guhlin

Miguel Guhlin said...

@David, no apology needed! It's fun to consider a situation from a different perspective and your original blog post facilitated that for me.

Do what works for you and your teachers. I just had fun responding.

With appreciation,
Miguel Guhlin

Genuine Leadership #4: Gratitude