1- Include social interaction elements, and keep them alive: Moodle forums and chats, Google Hangouts, Twitter, Facebook… Remember that such social networks provide widgets embeddable in Moodle, but take in count you lose control of them as they aren’t tracked by Moodle.
2- Force your students to participate in constructive social activity:
- Interaction must be of value, as students helping other students.
- You can give them something in exchange, as points for each message in a forum.
3- Add personalization elements: avatars, groups… Students love to be integrated in groups but they also want to feel different and special. You can create funny groups based on many things: cartoon characters, personal preferences... Watch out not to let them use
4- other classifications, as IQ score, to create social division or negative effects.
5- Use Moodle workshops, where your students become teachers and can grade others.
6- If you are going to create groups remember these rules about group dynamics:
- Made of 4 people.
- The participants: one leader, one lazy student and two neutral ones.
- Use group dynamics to keep them alive, like brainstorming.
- It’s important for students to reflect about their group, analyze its functioning and see ways to improve it. Provide indicators (measurable variables) and surveys.
PHASE #3: INSERTION
During this stage students will work with new information, try to understand it, deal with exercises, etc.
They should actively start inserting the new information in their neural networks, but you have to help them, as they can: give up, get stuck, understand incorrectly, lose the pace, etc. During the insertion process new information:
- Makes sense, is well accepted and is easily absorbed.
- Doesn’t make sense, lacks detail, creates a cognitive conflict, is too complex, requires tossing away other previous knowledge, and so on. This is the hard work part of the process so you need to be as creative as possible and use different approaches to keep your course’s dynamic alive and interesting.
These tips will be helpful:
1- Mix routines and unpredictability: brain functions well with routines, but it also gets bored with them, so from time to time you have to something different.
2- Infuse emotionality: emotions are stronger than rational thoughts.
3- Create contrasts: if you explain something explain the contrary too. Speaking about sound propagation in air you can contrast it with whale singing or what happens in the outer space.
4- Use close to real life examples: the more familiar the cases are the more sense they’ll make.
5- Use meaningful contents.
6- Use usable contents that can be applied in real life situations: students need practical things, not only vane theory.
7- Use storytelling to wrap the information up (for Maths this technique is amazing).
8- Provoke intrigue.
9- Try to use a positive communication style:
- Change, “You won’t be able to pass the exam if you don’t…”
- For, “Your final grade will be awesome as you’ll do…”
10- Or use the classical advertising one: it worked for me; stronger, better, faster; be like me; and so on.
11- Hypotheses: use the “what if?” style to question ideas in your lessons. Create comical or impossible scenarios.
- What if gravity on Earth would be as it is in the moon? Imagine your daily life.
- What if we’d be silicon based beings?
12-Socratic style: make your students reflect giving them new questions instead of answers.
13- Keep in mind feedback (Moodle surveys will help):
- Bidirectional: ask your students about their opinion, but give them yours too.
- Detailed and measurable, this way you’ll be able to adjust your courses for improvement.
14- Make your students be the protagonists and center of the process.
15-Congratulate (reward) them when achieving things.
16- Give reflection and metacognition more weight.
18- Make students be teachers.
PHASE #4: INTERIORIZATION
This is about studying, learning, memorizing, creating new connections in the brain… but interiorization goes farther, as it seeks long-time information storage, application of the information to new scenarios, creativeness, excellence, pattern recognition...
Many factors take place in the process of interiorization, but some of them have more weight:
1- Survival: when it goes about being safe and sound your brain attention is sharp and you learn quickly. You might use this concept for your advance, in the end if you study more/are smarter/are better prepared you’ll have more chances for better opportunities, earn more money and have a more comfortable life (it’s just an idea, not necessarily true all the time). Sprinkle messages like that from time to time.
2-Interest: so far we’ve made a great effort to set on fire students’ interest.
3-Attention: keeping it for a long time can be a challenge, but retake some ideas we’ve talked about before.
- Favourable ambience.
- Tidy desktops.
- Physical conditions (glucose and water levels, comfortability…): remember this to students, as hunger or dehydration will make them focus less, etc.
4-Cognitive abilities: these depend on your genes, environment where you’ve grown up, social inputs, education, etc. You might have lost the battle in this field, but the brain is something fantastic and there’s always something to do with it. Speaking about hardware, it seems that a good synchronized brain works better. That happens when a task is executed involving both hemispheres. The following game is based in psychomotricity:
- Create a table and write the alphabet letters in each cell. Write an L or an R in each cell randomly (for left or right hand). It’ll look like: a L - b R - c R - d R - e L - ...
- Students have to read the alphabet out loud while they raise their left or right hand at the same time. They should do it faster and faster for some minutes. You can change letters for numbers or words, mix colors, etc.
- This exercise claims to activate the corpus callosum in your brain, and, thus, improve left-right brain coordination. You can use it as a warmup for students prior to start working. Give it a try.
5-Environment: if your mind’s wrapping is your body, your room might be your body’s wrapping. Appropriate temperature, air quality, light… is recommended.
6-Repetition: many things are learned by mere repetition. Take it in count.
7-Usage: theoretical contents are settled in your brain once they’ve been put into practice.
In addition, bear in mind your brain’s information acquisition stages:
1- Sensors and sensory memory: brain decides whether to pass messages or not (remember the visuals section to catch your sensors’ attention).
2-Encoding: sensory impulses must be translated to brain code. Codification occurs more effectively when there’s understanding, emotions, experience, repetition, engagement, exaggerations, humour, rhymes and songs, symbols… so far, that should ring a bell.
3-Long-term memory (consolidation): repetition, recall, emotions, meaning, neural network, usability or good sleep, among others.
4- Retrieval and forgetting:
- Usage, anchors, relatedness.
- Distractions, lack of detail, channel noise or lack of interest.
PHASE #5: PRACTICE
Practice is vital to settle information down in your brain. It takes place through exercises, projects, real work, etc. Performed in groups it increases its effectiveness.
PBL OR PROJECT BASED LEARNING:
Simple exercises can prove useful to start from scratch, but when things are in a more advanced stage then it’s time to try more complex things. PBLs are eclectic projects where to apply knowledge, abilities and tools to solve real life problems. This method usually requires more time, effort and resources:
- Moodle assignments as portfolios: set them up to upload multiple files as many times as needed, and open the feedback box.
- Promote the usage of other tools, as Visual.ly, Google sites, Prezi, etc.
- Make students evaluate one another using Moodle workshops.
- Use a competitive approach to improve quality (gamification’s leaderboards).
You have many ways to work in teams through Moodle:
1- Create groups inside your courses, and let students submit assignments in groups.
2- Facilitate tools for group communication (already mentioned).
3- Use collaborative tools for real-time work, as Google docs:
- Up to 50 people can work on the same document.
- Chat is built-in.
- Revisions are allowed.
- It can be integrated with other tools, as Sheets.
- It lets you work in offline mode using Chrome and specific extensions.
4- Moodle has other tools for collaboration: wikis, glossaries, databases...
REFLECTION AND METACOGNITION
There isn’t anything more powerful than thinking about thinking:
1- Make your students reflect on everything (products and processes):
- Content acquisition.
- Interiorization process.
- Tools and methods effectiveness.
- Team work.
2- Make them publish their conclusions with their own personal touch, i.e, let them express themselves. To do so establish a fixed set of rules to be followed, and let students build around it:
- Blogs: blogger.com
- Sites: sites.google.com
- Slides: drive.google.com
- Presentations: visual.ly, prezi, slideshare, issuu and so.
3- Make them evaluate others’ reflections.
4-Collect interesting facts about their work, including misconceptions, mistakes, etc. Those may be useful to readjust your courses.
CURATING PLE’S: PERSONAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
Everyone has ever done something like a PLE, in fact bookmarking interesting websites for any kind of personal growth is to curate, and that special folder you keep with several useful links for your work is a sort of a PLE. As PLEs deal with many different things (presentations, social networking, documentaries and videos, research, production, publication, citation, collaboration, storage, project management, coding, augmented reality, virtual worlds, gamification, gamecodization...) you can also curate different ones.
Give your students a first PLE to work with so they can find quality resources and information, and let them extend it in a personal way. It’s like placing useful tools on a desktop to improve performance.
There are plenty of resources to work with PLEs, like Delicious, but there’s one more visual than the rest: Symbaloo. Look at these: example #1, example #2, example #3. Feel free to use them for your own sake.
We’ve seen some strategies to deal with two excellent educational resources: Moodle and Google apps. They’re easy, powerful and effective. But the range of opportunities is very vast, so don’t hesitate to try new things (good ones). Anyway, bear in mind that:
- A good approach usually involves a combination of different tools, and the same goes for teaching methodologies.
- Social networks are invaluable tools for teachers to find out and publish new resources, so keep educating yourself and sharing knowledge with others.
- Track, measure, evaluate and rearrange your courses, tools and practice.
- Think of the learning process from a pedagogical perspective, and apply technology to improve it. Focus on students.