For the record, I am an online teaching and learning advocate. I don’t wish to mislead you. So, this Friday afternoon, as I left for home, I witnessed a colleague leaving school struggling with a large, plastic box, overflowing with yellow exercise books. I left for the weekend, fleet of foot, bag over my shoulder, laptop inside. Not all benefit of online teaching can be best showcased during professional training sessions or events.
Using Moodle enables me to set students extended learning tasks or homework, providing a complete assignment brief (which I don’t have to photocopy or find spares copies), complete with the learning criteria and expected outcomes. In addition, there are additional support resources, signposted links, activities, forums and chats opportunities where students can choose collaborate with one another is simply lurk. Its a jump, but IMHO more effective learning, improves the quality of the submission. In turn, this makes marking more enjoyable less painful and with fewer re-submissions, more time for me and my family.
A few less obvious benefits, which do not require a leap of faith. Assignment reports provide essential student learning behaviour insights. When do students view, submit and re-submit their assignments or not as the case my be? The shared knowledge that submissions are ‘trackable’ can be sufficient influence in itself for students to get it done. Timely feedback is motivating for learners. Finally! I am confident that this information can only re-enforce my position where parent-guardian communication is required but particularly where parents are challenging a grade, report comment or an attitude to learning score.
‘Well Mr Smith, as you can see from the submission reports, your daughter typical hands her work in the night before a deadline, leaving her little time or no time for revisions.’
This year I have set 2 official online assignments or extended learning (EXLRN) tasks and 3 optional tasks / resources to English 10b1, (13-14). Our first task was a 149 character story or ‘Tweetory’ submitted as online text. When first introducing assignments it is my recommendation to keep the task very simple, the real assignment is getting familiar with the process of submitting online. I also permitted late submissions, but this is clearly at your discretion. At the start of each lesson I displayed the assignment class list, applauding those who had already submitted work, reminding those who still had time to do so. Despite this focus I was extremely pleased / surprised with 30/30 submissions and 17 re-submission following some mid week feedback. Clearly, there are no barriers to submitting assignments for this particular group. The quality of the work, ranged for 19/20 to 9/20.
The second assignment, a 400 words creative essay, saw 27/30 submissions. Two valid personal student requests for extensions were granted however one student did not submit his assignment, nor did he even view the assignment. Red Flag?! Surprisingly, of the 27 one essay was from a student absent from school for nearly 8 days following an unplanned operation. He is clearly on the mend.
Marking is simple and effective. Grades are collected and published. Data on submissions enables me to a) prioritise marking and b) provide feedback more readily. The result of a and b is that conscientious students get early feedback and can climb higher. I wonder how powerful this process will turn out to be?
This year I am focusing on feedback. Research has shown that feedback is more potent when students are directed to the comments, the qualitative feedback, rather than the grades, the quantitative feedback. I wanted the students to not only focus on the feedback, but also have to identify and correct errors. In the first instance I used the highlighting tool but this may prove a little too arduous for every day marking (I might use it for final assessments or exam coursework). So today I messaged the students a marking code. Will see how we go. You know the kind of thing…
! = great idea / suggestion
Sp = spelling
Finally, the more I utilise online platforms, the more I am conscious of their capacity. Like many teacher, all those numerous tabs, drop down boxes and options in Moodle cause me concern,. Unless I investigate all of them, I feel that I might be missing out something of value (I normally am). So remind yourself that there is a great Moodle community of educators out there, Moodle Docs, and finally, remind yourself that all those tabs, drop down boxes and options have been written into Moodle for educational purposes and when you are ready, they will still be there..
Today I added categories to my gradebook planning. It was nothing more than labelling groups / sets of activities and assignments together. Categories are then sectioned in the gradebook, Very neat and tidy and it means I can give interim grades for small collections of work and assignment as we move through the course.
I feel a more honourable teacher when I try to do, what I haven’t yet done and I often share these vulnerabilities with the students. We share in the successes and we nod agreeable at my mistakes, chalk it up to experience and go looking for the next potential opportunity.