Today in my coursework, I have been asked to consider the E-Learning Timeline above, and to choose two of these that I have used in my practice, and choose one I have not used, and to explain why. For the part about what technologies I have used, I will combine two into one, and describe how I’ve recently used the free learning management system Edmodo with students accessing it on their own mobile devices. So that covers Learning Management Systems (LMS), appearing on the timeline in 1995, and Mobile Devices, appearing on the timeline in 1998. (Let me preface this by saying I have never earned my bread as a teacher of children; my experience is only with teaching adults, which I understand is vastly different.)
Edmodo is a free, simple LMS which works really well on mobile devices. To use it, you must create an account (either as a teacher or a student), and then download the app if you want to use it on your phone or tablet. One can also use it in a browser, and there seems to be more functionality when you access it in a browser. I taught a few workshops this past year in which I created a group in Edmodo for the workshop. You can give out the access number of your group when you are in class, and students join right away. In the group in Edmodo, I posted ebooks and other workshop documents as well as the Powerpoint presentations I gave in the workshop, and I asked the group questions which they could answer. It is a simple and Facebook-like discussion interface, so it was easy to get used to. It was the simplest way I could think of, to create an online environment that everyone felt comfortable joining because it was private. One thing which worked really well was when I posted a quiz consisting of 7 multiple-choice questions. We went through the questions together in class and the students answered them on their own mobile devices.
On the projector at the front I displayed the Edmodo group in a browser, showing the responses to the quiz as they were coming in — this is what it looked like (above). So it was similar to using clickers for voting in class. I think that class had about 12 or 15 students in it; we had no problems with the wifi (using Eduroam at the university) but it would be good to try this with a greater number and see how it all works. The students enjoyed using Edmodo, joining the group, participating in the quiz, and seeing how their answers compared with those of their colleagues, and then discussing and arguing. From what I’ve read, many schools especially in the States are using Edmodo, and there are learning materials in the form of Edmodo apps, some free and some which must be purchased, which schools can take advantage of.
What is an E-learning tool I have not used? I have not used Massive Open Online Courses — MOOCs, either personally or as a teacher. I am interested in MOOCs and I have signed up for at least a dozen, but in the end I never even started a single one; I only checked them out in terms of the platform. Could a MOOC be used within a class situation? I can imagine doing a class or module in which one or two weeks of instruction take the form of participation in a MOOC. It makes sense because MOOCs are usually pretty attractively presented online, and often by world-leading experts. As a student, I would not think it strange or unfair if my teacher announced that, for example, two weeks of class will occur within a MOOC… but any more than two weeks, I might wonder why and might even speculate to question the teacher’s ability to teach the subject. An obvious exception would be if the teacher authored the MOOC. I saw a presentation by a medical instructor at University of Leeds, who both wrote and taught a MOOC on first-year anatomy, and encouraged all of his Leeds anatomy students to jump into the MOOC because his ‘proper’ class was running at the same time as the MOOC.
Now about that timeline at the top… have we had no technological innovations since 2008? Maybe that is for another blog post. Or maybe you know one?
Terese Bird, University of Leicester