I've just completed a dip. ed. in adult education and was really excited about the ideas of social constructivism. I was overjoyed 5 months ago to find moodle... an open-source LMS grounded within a social-constructivist framework. Over the past 4 months I've been using Moodle primarily within a Web-Design classroom environment (at TAFE, for those in Australia).
I've just submitted a post to this same topic asking for feedback/examples of how people are using Moodle to nurture a social learning environment, but my second question is more personal.
Having just completed my dip. ed., I would like to continue learning/researching/trying different teaching strategies for social constructivism within the classroom. For this reason, i'm doing a bit of research to try and find out exactly where I want to focus my reading/practise etc, and thought that this would be an ideal place to get ideas!
Soo... do people have any suggestions for practical learning goals (or relevant links to articles or other resources) for a new teacher who is excited about social constructivism. Perhaps there is a really good practical text that is a favourite of yours? Or perhaps you've found, looking back on your own experience, that trialling certain strategies in class were very influential for your own development.
Any feedback appreciated, sorry if this post is a bit vague.. i'm a bit rushed right now!
Thank-you for posting this thread. This is a topic of great interest to me. I am currently doing a Ph.D. with a focus in Instructional Design for Distributed Settings.
I see real promise in distributed (online) learning to provide greater opportunities for learning activities that are more relevant to learners.
I have been involved with various local school districts in their initiatives (k-12) to move to online delivery. I am disappointed with most of what I see happening in these projects. Generally, teachers are assigned the task of developing online courses. Most teachers involved are experts in their given domain but have little (if any) experience with online learning. The smallest amount of the projects' budgets is directed toward professional development, training and professional collaboration. Teachers have been given as little as two days of inservice, dedicated to learning their particular LMS/VLS software tools. Development is ultimately carried out by each teacher in isolation before being handed over to the techie to mount on the server. I'm certain that you can envision the results
Questions I am generally asked (of greatest concern):
- Does the system allow uploading/coverting of all my wordprocessing worksheets and documents?
- Can I import all of my multiple choice tests?
- How can I be certain that it is my learners who are doing the tests (not cheating)?
- Will this system automatically grade quizzes & assignments?
- etc., etc...
I wonder how familiar this sound to others . Likewise, administrators' greatest concerns appear to lie in getting courses mounted quickly, so that they might attract the most learners and a return on their investiment.
In any case, I will not turn this post into a rant but I feel a little less hopeful than I did when I started my research. Fortunately, the communities of educators here at MOODLE seem to be focussed in continuing to improve their instructional practices, to learn from one another, and to exploit the tools to their potential rather than recreate their old practices with a new mode of delivery.
I recently came across an article by Marv Westrom from the University of British Columbia that eloquently argues for the adoption of constructivist practices in distributed learning (Constructivist strategies for e-learning). The paper presents many examples of constructivist learning practices and is in fact, promoting a constructionist view of constructivism through project based learning. ......
I found the article very useful and practical... from what I understood, the article makes the clarification that Constructivism is not defined by active learning etc., but rather, many active-learning strategies are very useful for a constructivist approach.
The categories of Project Based Learning, Authentic Learning and Cooperative Learning were also useful:
Project Based LearningProject Based Learning seems to be very tightly coupled with learner investigation. It's great using Moodle to teach a technology class (f2f), as we're all sitting in a computer lab and can do investigation right there and then, with the benefit of discussing the results of our findings afterwards. I find that a Single Topic Forum is very useful for this... I often use it as an introduction to a topic. I'll post some kind of motivating question or example of what we need to find out. Students then investigate and reply to the post with their results, after which we discuss them together. This is one example where I find Moodle invaluable in a face2face environment. As our classroom is self-paced, other groups of students can also 'join in' at a later date too.
Authentic LearningI found this a great reminder after an activity I used yesterday in class that was basically an abstract problem to learn some fundamental programming skills (for those techies out there we were learning all the ins-and-outs of concatenating strings together in PHP). Great reminder and i've already got ideas of how i can update the activity to use a real/worthwhile activity.
Cooperative LearningNot sure that I took in all the benefits of cooperative learning. We often do investigations in small groups, and that is very useful. As the course is a web-design course, each learner also constructs their own website as a portfolio of their learning throughout the course as a resource not just for themselves but for the rest of the class also. I think I need to think further about how our class can benefit more from cooperative learning.
Thanks for the article David.
Do you (or does anyone else) have examples from your own classroom/online experiences where either Project-Based Learning, Authentic Learning or Cooperative Learning has been a highlight of the experience?
> Does the system allow uploading/coverting of all my wordprocessing worksheets and documents?
I think that's a pretty common way of thinking, not just when you are talking about adoption of online learning, but online anything.
I suppose, if you had time, the best way to persuade would be to do it by example: make two versions of a course, one with uploaded office docs and the other using the medium to its best advantage.
But you know what is really sad? Some still might not get the difference, and in those cases you might as well give up. For those who get it, the effort mgiht be worthwhile.
Yes. I agree with your advice Amy. Thank-you. I've been doing this for a large number of lessons. Unfortunately, the instructor/developer's view is that I am able to do this because of my knowlege and skill, whereas, they do not have the time to learn or apply such methods. I believe that articles like I have cited above (Constructivist strategies for e-learning) can be used to persuade colleagues to reflect on their practices.
Over time I will come across those who have the will and interest to start to move toward more authentic-worthwhile learning activities. This sort of thing obviously doesn't happen over night. I believe this calls for a collegial effort. Many of the barriers I'm facing now are systemic. It needs to be broached from different points in the system before the tide can be changed.
- Universities need to better prepare pre-service teachers for a world that now extends well beyond their classroom walls.
- Administrators need to become more actively involved and aware of the challenges faced by their teachers, learners, etc., when teaching and learning in distributed environments.
- Ongoing professional development needs to be more fully integrated within everyone's practice. Currently, much of professional development time is geared toward carrying out admistrative tasks or social activities. These are important but in a virtual learning environment, professional development and collegial collaboration are crucial.
- More cooperative/collaborative effort is required among instructors in lesson & learning activity prepartion/development. This is new ground. We're all learning our way so why go it alone?
I'm certain that many of our growning pains will be overcome with time and experience; however, our current direction seems somewhat off the mark.
This is a really interesting thread and I do have some practical suggestions to make but first let me put myself in the position of one of the teachers David Le Blanc is trying to help (and I know from the sandbox web site that David has lots of useful ideas and strategies).
Ok, I (in this persona) am an experienced professionally trained teacher who has taken time out of my busy work schedule to learn various IT packages and I think alot about how I teach and have managed to make improvements over the years. Now I am being asked to use new software and change my pedagogy. This feels threatening and probably will involve me in a lot of work. It calls into question what I have done in the past. I don't want to be seen as a Luddite (after all I have used IT) but I am beginning to feel somehow inferior and that I am losing control of my teaching environment.
I think that learning technologists trying to encourage teachers to adopt IT can experience this sort of clash of experience and expertise (who has these?). It occurred to me that it could be worth looking at an approach that came from the Annenberg project that pre-dates moodle (so doesn't include this as a class of software). In the Worldware approach, viability is a key concept:
"Software is viable if it is used by enough people for a long enough period of time that all its investors (original developers, funders, publishers, institutional support staff, faculty, and students) can justly feel that they each have received an adequate return on their own investments in developing, acquiring, and/or learning to use the software. Rather than leaving anyone feeling burned out, cheated, or in any other sense a loser, viable software leaves the various players receptive to the next generation of software." http://www.learner.org/edtech/rscheval/vvs.html#order
So maybe a viable approach will be one that incorporates the teachers' skills in Word and Powerpoint (or whatever tools they use) as well as the possibilities offered by moodle.
I agree with you that it would be useful to be able to tap into teachers skills with Word and PPT, they shouldn't have to learn new tools for doing the same things that they can do with these bits of software. For example ppt files can be converted to flash streaming files using open office software
I found in training tutors about elearning that a face to face session with activities is very useful, e.g. get them to try and explain how they got to the venue to each other in pairs, one does it orally , one is made to do it in a simulated email situation - s/he has to write little notes to the other tutor. You then get them to compare their experiences and discuss how they feel about teaching in the new environment.
There isn't any easy way of countering the problem of tutors/teachers 'beginning to feel inferior' as you put it but this sort of thing helps.
I've tended to avoid reading about construcivism becasue of this experience:
I expected my 1st lesson in teacher training to be on something useful like writing on the board. Instead, the lecturer spent 5 minute saying that constructivism was about designing activities which allowed a learner to build on existing knowledge, and that we should simply bear that in mind at all times.
As the course was aimed at adults switching to teaching from other professions, that was exactly the appropriate amount of theory. However, when we learnt to plan lessons, schemes of work and activities, that was the benchmark - does the learning build on prior learning/experience?
I am as guilty as many others of moving materials from intranet website to moodle and telling students to read/print/study them. However, I'm increasingly thinking in terms of activity that the students would do face to face and translating it to moodle; or think of the disucssion / collaborative activities that work so well in moodle, translating them to the classroom.
I genuinely believe that there is no learning technique available in moodle that can't be translated into a classroom with appropriate printed materials, board, poster paper etc.etc. Obviously the electronic medium provides scope for different types of stimulation (I use a lot of software simualations in physics), but the underlying principles of moodle are educational NOT technological.
And I still can't write neatly on a board!
Great post Andy. I love that pragmatic definition of constructivism. If we extended it to social constructivism as "designing activities, sometimes in a social or group setting, which allowed a learner to build on existing knowledge" then I think we would find that this is what "good" teachers have always done, whether ot not they see themselves as applying a social constructivist pedagogy. I was interested in what you said about taking ideas from moodle and applying them in a face to face setting. Is that because you are fairly new to teaching, I wonder? You mentioned teacher training but didn't say when.
A teacher whose experience predates or excludes IT and moodle would do it the other way around - take ideas that worked in a f2f setting and see how they can be adapted in an online setting. Of course there are things that are best suited to f2f and others to online. The embodied learners (you, me, our students) live their lives on- and off-line (but mainly off-line) and what the teacher is interested in is the relationship between the designed activity and the learning that does or does not occur, sooner or later - does it work?
Teacher training was Post Grad Certificate of Education 1992-1994 (2 year part time, distance learning) following about 5 years of academic research. Aged 27, I was one of the youngest members of the group, so the tone of the course was quite pragmatic. Thinking back, Moodle would have been superb - we didn't have e-mail, lived all over the UK (one in the Outer Hebrides, the course was in Brunel University, West London) and were pretty isolated, as distance learning was then.
The aim was most certainly to get us away from the 'pouring knowledge into empty vessels' transmission mode, especially it had been a long time since we were in schools and a lot had changed. Yes, thinking about good learning is the heart of good teaching. I'm also aware that it's so easy to resort to lecturing, so moodle is making me think freshly about what I do in f2f cases.
Cheers, Andy D
A short example instead of a long SC explanantion, I like that idea,my 5 cents:
Most of us have spent many years in schools. Our idea about good education is developed in these years. According to SC we bring this experience to the design arena and with the best intentions we reconstruct our own memory of good education. During this process you bump against the forum of Moodle..
- The first hurdle you survive by changing the first forum into a teacher messageboard, no students allowed to comment
- The second time you wonder what to do with a forum.. and you choose resource, lesson or quizz instead of forum..
Now the story:
A little child looks around before it enters the schoolgate and has strong ideas about the world: it is very flat. Then the teacher tells the little child that the world is round. After a week of wondering the child has the solution: the world must be a pancake: it is round as the teacher says and also flat as I see it every day.
In the old constructivistic approach of the 80/90's you as coursedesigner must be aware of all these "idols of the mind" and deliver the right information (read some Bloom books) on the right time (so, read also some Piaget books) to that child to repair that artefact...
But how can you predict all these fantastic crazy ideas of these brilliant young thinkers?
Well, you could start a forum and aks the child to describe his/her theory of a round world... other children you teach (like it is prompted in the Moodle help) to formulate the right questions instead of killing that little child with true cold words.
Who can correct/refine this SC story for me?
RE: So maybe a viable approach will be one that incorporates the teachers' skills in Word and Powerpoint (or whatever tools they use) as well as the possibilities offered by moodle.
Yes. I agree that this could be a very good entry to online learning for my colleagues. I must also be mindful of the practices that I am trying to promote . A prime tenant of constructionist learning practices, as Andy mentions, is keying into prior learning experiences. Starting with familiar use of the technology may lead to feeling comfortable with a certain degree of ambiguity when trying new things.
Actually, the practices that I am most often trying to promote are pedagogically based rather than technological. Central to these are the use of discussion forums, and cross-cultural exchanges through participation in global collaborative projects. There are innumerable opportunities for participation in such activities. It is not difficult to find a a project or engage learners in discussions that tie directly with mandated learning outcomes. However, these require changes in teaching practice that demand a different sort of participation from the instructor. Instructors will likely seek their more familiar learning activities (ie. worksheets) from their classroom file cabinets with the knowledge that these are easily mountable into a VLE/LMS. It can be difficult to promote a different kind of practice when what is safe and familiar is the easiest (most manageable) option. This is particularly so when the (often unstated) goal of the eLearning initiative is to get it up and running quickly as to not lose potential learners (funding units ) to the competition.
The more I reflect on this, I realize that it requires more partipation from stakeholders at all levels. Certainly, this will come with time. I think many will be turned off by their eLearning and teaching experiences until this gains momentum.
I came across an interesting article by Sherry Turkle from MIT (How Computers Change the Way We Think) where she acknowledges how our tools can change the way we think (not always in positive ways). Here's an excerpt where she addresses PowerPoint:
From powerful ideas to PowerPoint. In the 1970s and early 1980s, some educators wanted to make programming part of the regular curriculum for K-12 education. They argued that because information technology carries ideas, it might as well carry the most powerful ideas that computer science has to offer. It is ironic that in most elementary schools today, the ideas being carried by information technology are not ideas from computer science like procedural thinking, but more likely to be those embedded in productivity tools like PowerPoint presentation software.
PowerPoint does more than provide a way of transmitting content. It carries its own way of thinking, its own aesthetic -- which not surprisingly shows up in the aesthetic of college freshmen. In that aesthetic, presentation becomes its own powerful idea.
To be sure, the software cannot be blamed for lower intellectual standards. Misuse of the former is as much a symptom as a cause of the latter. Indeed, the culture in which our children are raised is increasingly a culture of presentation, a corporate culture in which appearance is often more important than reality. In contemporary political discourse, the bar has also been lowered. Use of rhetorical devices at the expense of cogent argument regularly goes without notice. But it is precisely because standards of intellectual rigor outside the educational sphere have fallen that educators must attend to how we use, and when we introduce, software that has been designed to simplify the organization and processing of information.
In "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" (Graphics Press, 2003), Edward R. Tufte suggests that PowerPoint equates bulleting with clear thinking. It does not teach students to begin a discussion or construct a narrative. It encourages presentation, not conversation. Of course, in the hands of a master teacher, a PowerPoint presentation with few words and powerful images can serve as the jumping-off point for a brilliant lecture. But in the hands of elementary-school students, often introduced to PowerPoint in the third grade, and often infatuated with its swooshing sounds, animated icons, and flashing text, a slide show is more likely to close down debate than open it up.
Developed to serve the needs of the corporate boardroom, the software is designed to convey absolute authority. Teachers used to tell students that clear exposition depended on clear outlining, but presentation software has fetishized the outline at the expense of the content.
Narrative, the exposition of content, takes time. PowerPoint, like so much in the computer culture, speeds up the pace.
Actually, the practices that I am most often trying to promote are pedagogically based rather than technological .......
and .... The more I reflect on this, I realize that it requires more partipation from stakeholders at all levels. Certainly, this will come with time. I think many will be turned off by their eLearning and teaching experiences until this gains momentum.
I wonder if the heart of the matter is ownership. How difficult is it for you to enrol a teacher into your vision of practice that involves global collaboration? This interest me greatly as I am working on a Collaboration Across Borders project that is trying to build a network of HE tutors willing to engage in global collaboration. Our initial feedback indicates that tutors are very selective in their innovations because of the many demands on their time and enthusiasm.
I find myself wondering about the relationship between the innovator and the teacher who delivers the curriculum. What does each party gain from this? On our project the project partners have research interests in the collaborations but tutors without such research interests may be balancing the educational benefits of the collaboration against their personal costs of running the collaboration.
Ah well - gradual change has a lot to recommend it ! Plenty of time for reflective practice.
I have found that educators who gravitate toward moodle are the type of people who would not simply comtemplate recreating their old practices online. Certainly, a sound strategy works, whether face to face or online, but a new environment calls for new pedagogies. Those in management often assume that people with sound skills and extensive subject matter knowledge can make the transition easily from face to face to online. This is not so, it calls for preparation and development. Likewise for learners. They must become proficient at self motivation, self direction in their learning, critical thinking and collaborative exercises. This stuff doesn't just happen, it requires debate, reflection, knowledge sharing and a willingness to take risks.
Regards to all,
(sorry, bad joke )
I think that moodle's constructivist (or even constructionist) framework is socio-technical, as much in the moodle community and other resources as in the software. Obviously, the wonderful tools like glossary builder and discussion tools are very helpful but I don't think they determine the course built with it. They are (powerful) enablers rather than determinants.
Moodle could be used to build a didactic, instructivist course (though unlikely) just like WebCT could probably be used to build a socially constructive course.
In the current versions Moodle is not so much better then WebCT: in it's time WebCt was the best, but the old lady got a younger sister.
As long as the teacher is the only person who can set the pace, decide which activity must be done when, Moodle is missing a very important SC element: A student must get the chance to take an alternative road, to divide a project in self choosen steps etc..
Current Moodle works like a trap: It invites teachers to map their old classroom activities - one by one - to the best fitting Moodle-alternatives (yes, the modules), sometimes ending in a step by by step design with three-minutes-for-each-step
Of course, glossary is nice, of course can wiki become the local playgarden for the students, but there is no help "to stretch a SC idea all over a moodle course by a student's hand".
(The often made suggestion to make students teacher in a course of their own does not solve it.)
Where can the student past HIS activities in the sections?
How to setup your own webquest instead of "fill in the blanks in the template of your teacher.."
(By the way, nothing wrong with that template as temporary solution.)
Where are the online prompts and help-on-demand ques, to guide you during a process of evidence collection and sorting out in an inquiry like in WISE? (How should such a module-on-demand be constucted??)
Next time, I want to use the Moodle to enrich students' English communication via cross-cultural issues on the Moodle plateform. Can you give me your suggestion? I will appreciate your opinions.
Delin from Taiwan
I genuinely believe that there is no learning technique available in moodle that can't be translated into a classroom with appropriate printed materials, board, poster paper etc. etc.
Two thoughts on that:
1. How could you, sitting in Thailand, have made the above statement to me in the UK, and others all around the world, as part of a debate about a topic, in your classroom?
1b. You may argue that you do not teach people all around the world, so a more likely scenario is when you want to invite an expert to discuss something with your class. Yes, you could invite them to visit your school, but that is hugely expensive. Inviting them to interact with your class thorough Moodle is relatively cheap. The difference is enough to make one option feasible and the other infeasible.
2. Suppose you want your class to practice some basic skill (e.g. maths or languages) and get immediate feedback on how they are doing. You could run around trying to immediately grade each student's work, or have an army of teaching assistants, or you could create a Moodle quiz using the interactive behaviour.
Dear Tim, give someone a hammer and he sees everywhere nails. In your case the quiz is your hammer, even for social constructivism? If so, then I have a question for you: in good old moodle 1.9 we had question creation, a student activity where students, not teachers could create questions AND feedback for good/wrong answers. A really unique and rich SC tool!!
Is there a chance that we get this back in moodel 2.x?
The claim I was answering was "Anything you can do in Moodle, you can do in the classroom". The quiz is not very socially constructivist.
Last time this came up (presumably in the quiz forum) someone claimed to have done a 2.x-compatible version of question creation. However, my Googling skills are currently letting me down.
Constructing questions as a student.. (What WHy When Who.. ) is that not a nice step to SC?
(And I was hoping that you as quiz expert would.. )
Students constructing questions is SC. Students doing a teacher-created quiz is not very.
Those nice people at exabis did the work to upgrade the QCreate module for Moodle 2.0 and it can be seen at
I installed it to a copy of Moodle 2.5 yesterday and it seemed to work very nicely. I think this is a wonderful tool. I have used earlier versions with success and I intend to use this version when term starts next. Hmmm what really easy to use question types might my students understand.......
The [cat] sat on the [mat]
Hello fans of the Questions creation activity,
I have forked Exabis repository and made some changes (improvements, I hope ) to restore all functionalities of the 1.9 version, you can grab the actual state here: https://github.com/jmvedrine/qcreate/tree/workinprogress (for people unfamiliar wih Gihub, click on "Download ZIP" on the right side, unzip and rename the folder to qcreate. Install as any other plugin activity.
Be warned that backup/restore is not finished, hopefully I will find time to work on it in the upcoming weeks.
Having used the 1.9 version, a very interesting thing to notice is how a significant percentage of students hated this kind of activity: even when I promised huge bonus for those who would create questions, they didn't wanted to try !
I seems to me (at least in my country France) that all students are educated to "eat" knowledge rather than trying to construct it themselves, and this is one of the greatest obstacle to SC.
11 months later the "workinprogress" branch was deleted from my github repository and a new branch "local_27" is now available. See https://github.com/jmvedrine/qcreate/tree/local_27
This branch is the current state of my work to upgrade the Question Creation Moodle activity to Moodle 2.7
Backup/restore is now working (more on this later) and I have added some features :
- Groups and groupings (the code was already there just waiting to be activated, it seems to be working)
- Activity reports
- Activity completion with a rule on the number of questions created by the student. I choose to count all questions (graded or not) as that suits what I intend to do with this activity next year. Of course some users may object it would be better to only count questions graded by a teacher to avoid students creating silly questions just to have the activity completed. In fact it would be very easy to modify the code and it would be even easier to do that. But as I said I did what I need
- Course reset that remove questions created by students and grades
- New logging stuff introduced in Moodle 2.7 (that means that this version will not work with Moodle versions < 2.7)
- broken questions with only the main question record deleted but all other records orphaned (fortunately I had only used this activity with multichoice and numerical questions on my production website so I had only foreign keys violations in qtype_multichoice_options, question_answers, question_numerical and question_numerical_units tables, so it was easy to fix
- broken grades: during my tests I saw completely wrong grades assigned to some students when as a student I had deleted some created questions that were already graded. On my production website there is still hundreds of foreign keys violations in grade_items_history and grade_grades_history (but not really sure all were caused by qcreate !) and I am not really sure on how to fix the problem and how serious this is an issue
Last thing: this activity is specific in that questions are created by the students and are in fact part of "user data". This is quite different from quiz, offline quiz or question practice activities (in fact questions in a qcreate activity are more similar to question attempts in a quiz activity). I was unable to find a way to handle this in backup code so questions created by the students are always included in the backup even if you uncheck "User data" for a qcreate activity. A workaround is to go to the question bank after the activity is restored and to delete all questions from the default question category for this activity. I think that a solution to this problem would need a change in Moodle core code.
Thanks for taking on this module! Tim Hunt linked to this thread from another discussion but to save users the "click", here's what I wrote:
"Thanks Tim! That looks really interesting. From what I understand of the research, getting learners to write questions and tests for each other is a highly effective strategy for both learning and assessment: learners' writing questions is more detailed, revealing, and representative of learners' knowledge of a subject/topic/concept than answering teacher/examiner written questions. I've used it in face-to-face classes extensively and would love to see an online adaptation in Moodle.
if the teacher doesn't "correct/check" any of the learners' questions
and the course provides an avenue for feedback and discussion about
them, e.g. a forum, chat, or webinar, learners can then teach/inform
each other about what was "good" and "bad" about each others' questions,
e.g. answer didn't match the question, too easy, too difficult, off
topic, or incomprehensible language ("I didn't understand the
I attach a framework I put together for my Doc in ed.
My advice is to get your head around all constructivist theories first-then move on to the next layers of differing stances ...I named it shifting accounts because ultimately learners require more than one mode of learning and the teacher needs to recognise fitness for purpose in relation to this when adopting learning theory to inform teaching approaches and meet learner need.
This thread seems to have been resurrected. My Masters Dissertation was based on the use of Moodle to improve assessment for learning.
Black and Wiliam (note the spelling only one L) did some work in the UK which may be of interest to people reading this thread.
I hope these links are useful.