The aim of step 2.3 of the University of Leeds’ Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started (BLE) course is to introduce:
“a wide range of digital technologies available to support blended learning in formal and informal learning scenarios [and] the key principles to consider when embedding digital technologies into your practice”
This held particular appeal. With our Learning Zone – the branding of our Moodle virtual learning environment (VLE) – almost constructed and with a range of learning content ready to be unleashed on the Communities First workforce I am at the stage of wanting to push different elements of Moodle to see if they are useful for our content and the learning styles of our potential learners. What impressed me with Moodle during my initial training in its administration and use was the sheer versatility and flexibility of the platform; in fact, there was a danger of being overwhelmed and disorientated by the volume of features.
So what would the likes of Nearpod, Google Classrooms and DREAMS (the examples cited in the accompanying video) do that Moodle doesn’t? I wasn’t alone in querying this either with others posting similar comments in the accompanying forum.
Well I’m not clear they offer anything additional at all, though perhaps they may do some things better. All the case studies featured appear to use these platforms in a traditional FE setting and this is different to my context where workforce support and development is my focus. Thanks to the course I now realise learners from Communities First largely learn in a constructivist manner i.e., by constructing their own knowledge and meaning through experience for instance by engaging in ‘real world’ activities (on the job?) and building on their prior knowledge and experience. I am seldom an instructor but more usually facilitate people’s learning. As an aside, with budgets for workers to attend traditional ‘classroom’ training likely to decrease then this constructivist pedagogy.
Both Nearpod and Google Classrooms appear to be helpful in creating a collective identity among a class and have embedded within them the sociability that I increasingly recognise is de rigeur in many blended learning technologies. But Moodle’s group function can do similar. A sports lecturer in one of the case studies mentions that he has embedded Google Classrooms within his VLE and this is interesting. He seems particularly keen on how the classroom can be designed and be “more personal to a tutor which they can control”. Reading between the lines, is this a way of the tutor circumnavigating the restrictions in Moodle that its permissions ethos impose on course creators and teachers?
The convenience of Google Classrooms for those with Google accounts is certainly attractive; but I know people who resent the enveloping effect of Google over their online and social media activities (and with which I have more than a little sympathy). But the reality is that the fewer the (perceived) barriers to a new technology the more likely people are to try it and eventually adopt it and ‘mainstream’ it in their learning.
Nearpod appears to offer a seamlessness between use of Powerpoint for instruction and, for instance, formative assessment in a face-to-face context and is probably the one element that I can see myself adopting.
Lastly, having learned last night that Dropbox acquires ownership of anything you store with it (note to self: read the small print), I’m curious whether the likes of Nearpod and Google Classroom (or the previously-introduced Edmodo and Padlet for that matter) allow a tutor to retain ownership of materials he/she uploads. So far the BLE course hasn’t touched on the ethics of using such resources.
Still learning, still exploring, still reflecting….