Saturday, March 05, 2005

Classroom Activity: Using Moodle Forum

My students enjoyed class the other day. We used an activity we called "Who Is It?" Before a get into the details of what pre-class work this Moodle-based activity required, I think teachers need to know that this activity is based on National Standards.


In learning science, students need to understand that science reflects its history and is an ongoing, changing enterprise. The standards for the history and nature of science recommend the use of history in school science programs to clarify different aspects of scientific inquiry, the human aspects of science, and the role that science has played in the development of various cultures.

The activity motivates students to find the names of famous scientists using the Internet and their digital literacy skills.

Teacher Preparation

This activity is part of our Photography in Science course we offer here at our school. I have been using Moodle with them for only a week now, and this activity was popular. I picked a list of 8-9 scientists that will be included an up coming series of lessons. In the lessons that will follow, students will create videos of great historic scientific debates. This lesson introduces the names of the scientists and will be used to introduce their contributions to modern science. Also, I created some cleaver hints. I then Googled the list of scientists and located their images or portraits and the hints to make sure they were not too easy. I made a mistake on the first two images, and my students quickly hacked the images to find the answer.

Well, one of them did and the rest of the students copied his answer. I monitored the students while they worked on the first two images and discovered how the "hacker" accidentally uncovered the scientist's name. In hast to create the activity, I used the html code that embeds images from another web page on the Internet. When my student that respectfully call my "hacker" started the activity in our Moodle discussion forum, he copied the image and pasted it to his desktop (using OS X). As soon as he looked at the file icon on the desktop, he noticed the file's name had a name that looked like a person's name. I had pasted two images on Moodle Forums for the students to find. I had to quickly add a third image of one of our scientists to keep them working until the end to the class. To show the "hacker" that his little scheme had been uncovered. As a taunt, I renamed the third image file "somescientist.jpg". That frustrated the class. I did not make fun of the students; I thanked them for helping me learn how to use Moodle. I reemphasized that the Moodle is a learning community and all participants can benefit from the activities, even the teacher.

Students can ask the teacher questions about the person, but they can not ask his name or date of birth. Students spent most of their time searching the web for famous scientists look at their pictures. Hints are important, but trying to make them vague enough that they have to thinks is a challenge.

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