This morning, I woke up and set up my laptop to run Skype. I then logged into Webcast Academy to participate in their webcast. The Academy is a hands on, collaborative training center for people interested in learning how to produce and host live, interactive webcasts. Jeff Flynn hosted the 6 am to 9 am part of the weekend's massive three day Webcastathon to celebrate their 1 year anniversary! It was my first experience using Skype. I was fairly frustrated with the numerous dropped signals that we experienced using Skype. Jeff quickly reconnected our conference call. I found out during our chat that we have shared experiences. Jeff has served as a special educator and while in college during the 70's, we also took a class that used computer punch-cards. Our conversation touched on a some additional points- Moodle, Joomla, and 2nd Life.
Moodle is something that my students have experienced this year. My students that are reading below grade level struggle with just following the simplest directions in Moodle. Many lack computer skills on the level needed to find files, upload files, and are challenged to even use the keyboard. The sad part is my students are in high school. Moodle works well with average students and above, however, without spending hours and hours of prep time creating visual content for the students that do not have the pre-requisite skill set, I am not recommending it. Sure, call me lazy, but teachers have to use technology that is appropriate for the learning style of the learner. If they are verbal student, they are frustrated and shut down real fast. My students enjoy using Hot Potato to create their own quizzes. Moodle does not fix student's lack of computer skills and does not provide them with the self-motivation. I can create all the Flash animations and podcasts, but if they are high on drugs when they come to class, or stayed out all night with their fellow gang members, not that my students are in gangs (yeah right) they have given up on themselves long ago. I like what Jeff Flynn said this morning when he told me that he did not miss working with this aged students. Maybe I should think about going back to take some classes in elementary education. My wife is an elementary school media specialist. She tells me all the time about how 4th graders seem to quit reading and appear to be suffering from the same problems that high school senior have. I am concerned that greater emphase on testing will only make the problem more challenging.
Joomla, is something that I am learning how to use. Jeff asked what I liked about Joomla, and I could not think that fast in that early in the morning. However, the feature that I like in Joomla is the template feature. Sure, I can change the template on our Moodle site, but the deign community for Joomla seems to have some neat designs. Also, Joomla looks more like a commerical site. I am not sure why, but it just has this look.
2nd Life-- my thoughts on using Second Life in the classroom are still washing around in my head. I can see the attraction, but I am not sure how to sell this to my fellow teacher. I am in an interesting position that my school's principal actually came to me with the idea to check out how games could be used to address the learning issues of alternative school students. She has listened to Marc Prensky and asked me to check into how we might tap the critical thinking potential of the gaming environment. I am not a gamer, but hey, if I can interest my students in learning about the environmental issues, or energy transfer through the biosphere, I am all for it. My problem is not that I am too lazy to explore it, I just have issues with devoting hours of my personal time at home, outside the work day to learn about something that may be out of style or old school before I can find out how to use it without my wife leaving me because I am "playing with my laptop" all the time. Bottom line, my 1st life is more important to me than my 2nd Life-- In this morning's webcast, one of the participants, I think it was Jo McLeay http://theopenclassroom.blogspot.com/ questioned if we really need another "addiction"? Addiction is a good word for what I witness with my students that are avid gamers. Not that there is any thing wrong with them, lots of folks function in life with all sorts of issues. I just do not want to miss a chance to help my students learn in an interesting and engaging way. So, I plan to try to keep my eyes on sites like 2nd Life and the sort to see what happens.