Teacher Lee Briggs on technology in today's classroom. Brought to you by Weekly Reader.

Posts tagged ‘Moodle’

A Tale of Two Brothers

Even though I am the oldest child in my family, it has been clear to everyone that I would live in the shadow of my younger brother Steven.

I am a school teacher working in Central Wisconsin. I pass Amish buggies every morning, get mocked by kindergarteners every lunch period, and wave to the same old man on his scooter on my way home. I can entertain a troupe of children with nothing more than a cardboard box, duct tape, and glitter.

My brother majored in international business. He has been to more countries than nearly anyone I know. He runs 6–7 miles a day as a warm-up. We are very different people that somehow emerged from the same home.

Sure, he has been to South America, China, Egypt, Jordan, Rome, London, Japan, Canada. He has slept on the shores of the Red Sea and on a boat off the cost of the Galapagos. But I can make a whistle out of a drinking straw! It teaches about pitch! Who am I kidding …

Well, Steven has finally invaded my classroom as well. Stationed by his employer in Japan for six months, Steven has happily become a pen pal of sorts to my students. Every week, he posts a new letter to my students on our in-house social network, Moodle. My students respond the same way that they would to a Facebook posting. Despite his long work hours and the 15 hour time difference, he has managed to respond to many of their posts.

What strikes us as a class are the differences between Greenwood, Wisconsin, and Tokyo. In Greenwood, for instance, the gas station has a hitching post and a local wolf pack is becoming a bit too prosperous. In the Shibuya district of Tokyo, a single commuter train could fit our town’s entire population, wolves and all. To prove this, my brother sent us a train diagram showing just how small our little town is. For my students, many of whom have never seen a bus let alone a passenger train, life without pickup trucks and cars for every family seems completely alien.

This week we received a package from Tokyo filled with goodies sent by my brother. The contents—a reward for students who learned to count in Japanese—are snacks that defy western description and taste. The only familiar item: the (in)famous Green Tea Kit-Kat. As a result, my room is full of kids learning to count in Japanese to earn a piece of candy—much of it odd in flavor and texture. It’s a reminder that the Japanese have the edge in snack food technology.

Green tea Kit-Kats!

Steven sent a letter last week with details about a lunch he was having at a famous sushi restaurant, along with a link to the Japanese version of Yelp reviewing the place. This led to another discussion in my class: what sushi is. One thing led to another, and by the end of the week, I was making California rolls for my students.

California rolling

It met with … mixed results.

Delicious sushi?

Thanks again, Steve. Even from half a world away, via email, you manage to upstage me in my own classroom, but the result has been some of the most memorable learning of the year.

My Password Wish


My students have to juggle a lot of passwords. They have a password for logging onto the computer, another for their accelerated reader program, another for their online math program, another for a math help website, another for Moodle, and yet another for their typing website.

On a home computer, your browser would either save all of these to a cookie file, or save them in an automatic form feature, so you are spared the hassle of having to remember all those different passwords.

For schools, it is a million times more complicated, which is ironic because you would think educational websites geared for children would be made simpler. Every educational website out there has some sort of login for the students and the teacher. Every time I start a new program, I have to enter all my students and all my students have to learn another username and another randomly generated password. Nearly every site assumes that they have email and understand the jargon of the web. My students are like custodians, carrying around a massive ring of keys to a hundred different doors. Getting started on each site is time-consuming.

Here is what I want, Internet: I want an Open standard for education similar to Open ID, the open-source authentication system used by lots of people on the Internet. Can my kids have just one password, please? Just one, that they can enter to every educational website and gain access?

An Audio Conundrum

For quite some time I have used Moodle in my classrom. Moodle is a great free and open-source online classroom suite. It allows me to have a safe place for my students to share and interact with open another on the web and also hand in assignments.

One of the great tools attached to Moodle was a sound-recording plug-in called NanoGong. (Moodle? NanoGong? Who names these things?)

NanoGong let me record my students and greatly sped up the process of our thrice-yearly running records. In many ways, this was a great replacement for a stack of audiotapes.

Until the new version of Moodle axed NanoGong.

What do I do now? How do I record my students with the least amount of effort? There are a few options for recording audio in my classroom.

  1. Use Audacity, a free audio application, to record my students, then have them upload the audio via Moodle.
  2. Have the students use my iPad to record their audio on a handy app called DropVox, which not only records them, but also automatically uploads the file to the cloud.
  3. Invest in a digital audio recorder. Several options exist; most seem marketed to college students or reporters and are far too complicated for most of my students. In this case, features and lots of buttons are bad. Although I did find one that looks like an old-timey microphone and seems designed just for students.

I ended up using DropVox. Sure, it robs me of my precious tablet, but it has just one button, which is pretty student-proof. I also like not having to connect anything. The audio files are right there waiting for me.

Running Records Using Moodle

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