Teachers and students are using social networking to help share lessons, foster better communications with parents and give students more opportunities to take ownership of their learning opportunities. But they’re not using Facebook or Twitter. Instead, they’re using the capabilities from Moodle, an open-source e-learning software platform (with 37 million users and counting).
Plenty of educators have figured out how to incorporate social networking sites into education already. But you can very quickly get into a gray area that makes some teachers and parents uncomfortable (Is it really appropriate for teachers to be messaging students on Twitter after school hours or on weekends? Where do you draw the line?).
Moodle allows teachers and students to use social networking capabilities within a password-protected “walled garden” for classes that is already geared specifically for educational purposes, without opening up faculty and pupils to weirdness over what’s appropriate.
One Moodle-using educational technology coach at Carmel Unified School District in California sums up the possibilities:
We use Moodle as our walled garden social network- kids can blog, add tags, message each other, etc. and so it draws them to the Moodle site (making it more likely that they will check out school/course information). We think of our Moodle like a virtual school – there are virtual classrooms and virtual hallways/playgrounds. The kids can hang out and talk in the virtual hallway space of our Moodle and we prefer that to them hanging out in the virtual city streets of the rest of the internet.
The first “social” aspect of Moodle 2.0 involves the Community Hubs. Anybody can set up a Community hub, which is a directory of courses for public use or for private communities. Basically, it’s a way to share course material and communicate. It’s actually not very Facebook-ish – but that’s sort of the point. Teachers, parents and students can get access to the information they need, not updates about what sandwich you’re having for lunch. It’s social, stripped down.
Moodle 2.0 also makes it easy to integrate internal and external blogs by importing and exporting content. Instead of having to visit blogs in WordPress, Blogspot or other content management systems, you can bring them all into the same system.
Moodle 2.0 takes the best social networking capabilities popular networks like Facebook or MySpace have to offer, but leaving out certain kinds of capabilities that might be counter-productive (ie. games and unrestricted instant messaging is out). It’s about making communicating and learning easier.