Monday, August 29, 2005

Is Moodle the Answer?

Tomorrow I officially start my new teaching job. I'm back in the district I taught in before heading to Kuala Lumpur to work as a computer specialist in an international school. My new job is as a grade five classroom teacher. I enjoy fifth graders and look forward to having my own homeroom again. However, I am dearly missing the technology opportunities from my overseas job, which is why instead of reading curriculum manuals, I'm thinking about how to use technology to give my students more voice and choice in the curriculum. (Or more likely, it is BECAUSE I've been reading manuals that I'm looking for other options.)

Towards that end, I listened to another great podcast from Bud the Teacher. As usual, he challenged me to think further outside the box. This time he discussed Moodle. I've been staring at the Moodle web site and thinking it would meet my needs. It is an object-oriented environment with great components, such discussion groups, places to share documents, Hot Potato quizzes and other Good Things. Now I need to figure out where to host it and how to install it.

To host it, I have a .Mac account, web space at my ISP (TIES), or possibly our school web server. I don't know if the data transfer limit on the .Mac account would be a problem, or if the ISP space or school space are true options. TIES hasn't replied to the questions I emailed to them, and I don't know enough about what is involved to ask intelligent questions of someone in the district tech department. Ideally, this would be something the building tech aide and I can do on our own, because the overworked district tech department doesn't have the time to help me with this.

Once I find a place to host it, I can't tell if this is something I can realistically do myself. From the Moodle website it looks like I need to install SQL, but I have so little knowledge I can't tell if I need an SQL server (is there such a best?) or if SQL installs onto a server with a different OS, such as Linux. And since I have no knowledge of SQL, I don't know if I can realistically install and manage the software. I'd love to learn SQL-- it is on my to-do list for next summer. Until then, I need to focus on new job and on unpacking more of the mountains of boxes in the garage and the basement etc..

I did spend time playing around in Nicenet again. It is still and option. I could make each student their own course within my Nicenet account. That would allow for private conferences between the students and myself. We could also have a class space where they could talk with each other. I haven't gotten my brain around that latter option, but I know it has potential. However, I suspect my new principal would rather I get back to reading manuals rather than indulging in this lovely mental field trip, so I must get back to work.