Summer School

I was doing some maintenance on our online learning system (Moodle) in July. I decided that it would be a good idea to remove teachers who aren’t using the system. We have a lot of people who express interest, play around with it for a while, and then decide it’s not for them. So I wanted to remove all of the staff accounts who hadn’t logged in for more than a year. I sorted the user list by last login date.

I was surprised at the results. “Last access: 8 miinutes ago.” That’s odd, it’s a student account. The first dozen or so entries had logged in within the last week. Sixty had logged in since school let out in June. Something was up.

Kids and ComputersChecking the logs, I found most of the activity in a sixth grade science class. I posted a message? What are you guys doing here?

“This is the only way i can talk 2 my buddies whos phone numba i dont have!”

“We love this site cuz its created just for us!”

“We use it all the time to talk to ppl… thank u for creating this!!”

And it’s not all social. They were talking about racism. They were discussing whether students should be allowed to have water bottles in school. They talked about the flooding that we had in the community in June. As the summer progress, thoughts turned to returning to school:

“I’m ready to go back to school… my backpack is even already packed!”

“i dont want to [go back to school] cuz i havent taken any notes on the [summer reading] books.”

Of course, the problem is that they’re doing this in a sixth grade science class. That sixth grade teachers is going to come back and want to put his new students in the class, and I’m not sure the seventh grade teachers are ready for this. So I created another course for them (without a teacher) so they can continue the conversation.

Moodle is a closed system. This lets the students interact online without opening them up to the dangers (real and perceived) of posting information on publically-accessible sites. They can still interact with their friends, and they know that this is a school setting, so there are defined boundaries for acceptible behavior. On the school’s side, we have access to the logs — they can’t be anonymous, and they’re more accountable for their actions. As they use the system, they learn about appropriate and inaapropriate things to post (“I’m not posting my phone number on here!” exclaimed one student). By the time they outgrow it, they’ll be ready for the real Internet.


Author: John Schinker

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