Bringing order to chaos
The Moodle virtual learning environment is in use in ever-increasing numbers of UK primary and infant schools, because it is so accessible.
It is open source software, which means there are no licence fees involved, and primary schools can try out the learning platform for themselves, even on the tightest of budgets.
More importantly, Moodle's underlying programs can be changed and added to freely, adapting to fit into contexts very different from the postgraduate courses for which it was originally created.
Moodle doesn't come with any content: it provides teachers with the tools to create their own interactive websites to support and extend work done in class, so the teacher ends up with an individually tailored resource, in line with the tradition of producing their own classroom aids.
Moodle courses are made up of resources and activities. Key stage 1 teachers particularly value Moodle's facility to provide a portal to all the online resources used with a class. They use Moodle to keep together a collection of hotlinks to websites, games, interactive whiteboard files, audio or video clips, worksheets and other resources that their class will use.
This way, the teacher, working at home or in school, builds up a collection, and children can then use these resources on the whiteboard, in the technology suite, or directly from home, where they can be shared with parents.
Moodle can be used in a more versatile manner. It is grounded in a pedagogy that we learn through making things and through conversations with each other. Moodle lets teachers create online activities, including interactive quizzes, simple opinion polls, collaborative "wiki" projects, or online discussions, all of which mirror activities found in a Year 1 or 2 classroom.
Discussion forums and wikis do require some keyboard skills, which might put off key stage 1 teachers (although Moodle now has a podcast module that lets teachers and children record their contributions rather than typing them).
However, some teachers have enlisted parents to help children with the typing. In one example, the sort of discussion that might start in circle time gets carried on at home, with each member of the class dictating their forum post to their mum or dad, keeping the conversation going over the evening, weekend or holiday.
Perhaps this is a more effective way of involving parents than just publishing attendance and assessment data
Miles Berry is headteacher at Alton Convent Prep School, Alton, Hampshire