Our Moodle story began when a group of about 5 teachers decided that Moodle was a better platform than Blackboard (Which the county provided for free to any teacher). We setup Moodle and away we went.
I work for Dearborn Public Schools. We have about 20,000 students. Unlike most district's(due to budgets) they hired someone to help build the servers, operate them, and build platforms for people to use. That's my job. The district gave us A LOT of freedom to try stuff. Very progressive. I have a "we can do that" attitude. I love to learn new things. We have the infrastructure with VMWare and other stuff that I am like a kid in the candy store when it comes to using open source stuff. I was originally hired to help maintain websites for our schools. I did everything from going out to classrooms to train teachers, district professional development, maintain servers, step sheets, etc. I wanted to be part of the educational process and not just a techy.
My boss always says "You are either investing in yourself or investing in someone else".
"See, I’ve always proposed that you are investing in something. You are investing your time, your energy, your efforts, your thoughts, your money and more. The question for me has always been are you investing in yourself or in someone else. Now to be clear, it is necessary to invest in others. There is no way that you can do everything your self. However, for really important things, I generally prefer to invest in us. I consider lesson delivery pretty important. So I invested in us. " Troy Patterson blog post
We try to think long term. We like investing in skills and tools that we can control so that we can ensure long term use. No matter what LMS you use, it generally takes at least 3 years to scratch below the surface and get to the deeper level thinking we all seek. That only happens because teachers know you are not switching platforms when the contract expires and they invest in learning the tool. Many of the innovative things we do in our district come from just trying it out or from suggestions or feedback from teachers. There is no magical moment when we got started. It wasn't like a light bulb went off and everyone was on-board. It's been a slow and persistent effort. It also helps when a district invests in the tool and does stuff like:
- Integrate Moodle Gradebook with Student Info System so it saves teachers time in exporting grades for report cards.
- Integrate the logins with the district accounts such as LDAP
- Allow sharing across the platform with Quizzes and other assignments (we created a special role for this)
- Make the site look good and get students from the homepage to learning as fast as possible. We developed several themes along the way and are currently rocking Fordson and Easy Enrollment Plugin to make things super fast and easy on teachers.
Probably our guiding principal would be: Is this the right thing to do for students? And if it is then make it a priority.
I don't think there is one person or one vision but we have a common goal to help students learn. My current boss, Troy Patterson has a bunch of insight on what we are trying to accomplish and why. He's probably best at articulating a mission and goals for long term teacher and student success. Here are some links:
And new within the last couple of years we hired 2 tech coaches to provide classroom instruction and training for teachers. They service 25+ schools and have a laser-like focus on improving student learning using technology. If you read some of the links above you'd know how we feel about all these new tools popping up. Kids spend more time learning each new tool than they do with the process of learning. Here are some things from our tech coaches:
I would say in the last 5 years we've developed a pretty good team to make Moodle work for our district. We have a strong mix of people who step above and beyond the scope of work to complement, support, and push forward with tools that help students. There's our director who sets the charge and empowers us to do more. There's a new programmer we hired and myself who bang on the code and servers. And then the tech coaches are out spreading the news, teaching, and training. The tech coaches also provide valuable feedback to the technical people and we make stuff they need for class instruction.
On top of Moodle we are heavily invested in Wordpress with over 1800 classroom websites created by teachers: https://iblog.dearbornschools.org/ and for students we use: https://studentsites.dearbornschools.org/. Unlimited district-provided web authoring. Everything from classroom to sports and clubs is housed on Wordpress. We use many open source products. Even our helpdesk ticketing is open source.
When you stick with one tool things can begin to snowball. You can build common skills, common tools, and move away from learning tools and get to the business of real learning. We saw real value in the tools Moodle offered. We are committed to making it better for our staff and students. We also saw that Moodle wasn't tied to limited and often shrinking budgets. We are investing in ourselves for the success of our staff and students when it comes to on online learning tool.
Well, that was pretty long-winded but if you follow the links and see what we are doing I think you can see our principals and direction we want to take our district.