Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review: Moodle2 for Teaching 4-9 Year Olds


I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of Nicholas Freear's book "Moodle2 for Teaching 4-9 Year Olds" published by Packt Publishing. I was pretty excited upon reading the title as I have often grappled with the issue of how to make Moodle relevant for the younger years of K-12 education. Moodle is a LMS which has a deep history in third level education. It is a LMS designed by academics for academics making it pretty hard to customise Moodle so that it is suitable for K-12 teaching and learning.

So what's in the book? The book essentially looks at how different Moodle activities can be applied to educational contexts that are relevant to 4-9 year olds. For example using quiz to test basic maths and numeracy, the database activity for getting students searching and cataloging images on the web, using the lesson module for spot the difference games.  The book also looks at a selection of third party developed Moodle modules from the SIMILE timeline widget to range of simple word games to Scratch a programming language learning developed my MIT for teaching and learning. To aid the teacher the book also looks at how third party, opensource tools can be used for content creation such as Audacity for sound recording and Inkscape for  image editing.

The book takes step-by-step through the installation and usage of some of Moodle's greatest activities. It goes into great technical detail describing how to set up things like filters, how to add stylesheets and javascript using code and I suppose this is my first criticism of the book. I know plenty of teachers that are currently teaching kids between four and nine and this book is would be slighly beyond their technical skill level. There is an assumption in this book of a high level of technical competency, which I would question.

I did like the way the book gave examples of how to use Moodle activities for kids between four and nine but I thought they were, at times, forced. In some of the examples I felt like the author was taking the wrong approach trying to fit pedagogy around the technology affordances rather than moulding the technology around the pedagogy.

Finally, the author made no attempt to deal with the elephant in the room - Moodle's user interface. I can't see a child being motivated and engaged by Moodle's current user interface (no matter what the theme is). A complete rethink of the UI/UX needs to be done for this special user group to find Moodle as fun to use as something like mangahigh.com .

So in summary an interesting read but to be honest I was left a bit disappointed. Perhaps teaching four to nine year olds using Moodle is an issue that is too big for just one book.

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