A few years ago when I discovered Google Calendar, Docs, iGoogle, Reader and on and on and on I was really thrilled that I could have all my ‘stuff’ online and accessible from any internet ready device. I’m not sure that all of those apps have increased my workflow though. Ease of collaboration, yes! Ease of sharing, yes! Ease of access, yes! More work done in less time–well, not really.
I teach at a distributed learning school. I am responsible for Science 8 – 12 courses as well as Math 8 – 11. The math courses are all paper based and the science courses are all online. My students work from home, but they have access to face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials via Elluminate, as well as help as needed via phone, e-mail and face-to-face. The students work asynchronously at their own pace. This means that it is rare that I mark two of the same assignments in a row.
When Technology Makes Life Decidedly Better
Part 1: Moodle
This fall my district undertook to host Moodle on its own server. Prior to this our online course offerings were through WebCT (an oldish version). In our Moodle courses assignments can be submitted electronically within the course, with alerts being sent to the teacher to let them know when new material is ready to be marked.
Part 2: HP Tablet Laptop
Our school has had 2 HP Tablet laptops for the past couple of years. If you haven’t seen or used one of these, you have the ability to draw directly on the screen using a special pen. There is handwriting recognition software which can convert handwriting into typed text. Prior to this year I have used the tablets with a projector when teaching to write notes and instructions, just as you might use a felt pen and transparencies on an overhead projector.
Part 3: Putting It All Together
Here’s what happens when you combine Moodle with the HP tablet.
I receive an e-mail alert that a student has submitted an assignment. I click on the link and am taken to the assignment in Moodle. I select the student’s file which is downloaded on my computer and opened in word. Using the pen on the tablet I can easily mark and add comments to the assignment (marking with the pen tool is far easier than adding comment boxes). I then save the file with a new name. I go back to Moodle, input the grade, and upload the marked file. The student will now receive an e-mail alert to tell them that their work has been marked. Easy peasy!
Prior to using Moodle, when students e-mailed in their work I had to save it to a specific folder, mark it, go to my marks program to record the mark, save the marked file, attach it to an e-mail and send it to the student. Lots of clicks, lots of little pieces to remember to do.
Prior to using Moodle, most students did their work on paper and dropped it off at the school. There was a delay between the student finishing the work and me receiving it and then a delay between me marking the work and them picking it up. And then there are the (infrequent) times I’d forget to record the mark and the times that students claimed that they handed in their work but it disappeared or they claimed that the marked work never reached them. This doesn’t happen with the new system! In addition, it is far more convenient to carry home just a laptop as opposed to envelopes of student work. Students also tended to hand in a whole whack of work all at once, preventing timely feedback. In Moodle students are less likely to do this.
I’m finding it difficult to convey how smooth and seamless the Moodle/tablet combination is! Let me just say that I actually look forward to marking now (sick, I know).
How ‘Bout You?
Is there some system or technology that you use that actually helps your workflow to a significant degree? I’d love to hear about it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see about getting all of those math courses I teach into Moodle 😉