I've been using Moodle as a support site for my various classes since the beginning of April. For various reasons, I haven't been able to make this obligatory, so not all students have signed up. In addition, I'm not in a computer room for most of these classes, and cannot request at least one session in a computer lab for all of them either. I'm hoping that the students that can and do access their class's Moodle will be interested and enthused enough to persuade others of their classmates to do likewise.
Here're some reflections on using Moodle and blogs that occur to me now:
1) students have unexpected difficulties signing up for Moodle - they mis-type their email address when signing up, then complain to me that they haven't received the confirmation email. As long as enough information about them for me to identify them is in the Moodle system, I can manually register them.
2) Most students use their real names when registering, tho many of them use a nickname for their username. I hadn't realized that this would be something I should tell them about, until today when I got a message from Moodle saying someone who tried to sign up left an email address that was either wrong or somehow blocks messages from Moodle. It looks like a cell-phone address. That figures. 90% of Japanese students live by their cell-phones. If it's not accessible by cell-phone, it's suspect, it means "work" and they may never get around to it... This person used a pseudonym to sign up with, and I can't guess their real identity from the pseudonym. What should I do? One option is to tell all my classes that "someone using the pseudonym of xxxx tried to register at the class Moodle but failed, and I can't help unless I know who it is. If it's you, please contact me after class."
Another is to delete that participant, and tell everyone in class the same message, but insisting they all use their real names and NOT a cell-phone email address when registering.
3) Another potential problem is that students use the same username and password to register for the Moodle as for their university login. Many I suspect don't realize that the two are completely unrelated and they not only don't HAVE to use the same, but they SHOULD NOT use the same logins.
4) A further unanticipated difficulty has been the language issue. Many students quickly realize they can set their own language preferences in Moodle, and many do, setting it to their own language. This means that when I log in in English, I see goggledygook where their names and profiles should be.
To avoid this, I've decided to make the Moodle an English-only environment.
5) A more advanced "problem" or question I'm facing now, is whether or not to use blogs and / or an email list as a further adjunct to the course. My reasoning is this: I want students to reflect on their learning, but because they are EFL learners and most of them have a very low level of English, I want them to at least start reflecting in their native language. They can't do this on the Moodle, for the above reason, so the alternative is an email list. The advantage of an email list over Moodle is that students can, if they want, choose to be anonymous or at least to hide their identities from their fellow classmates and reveal themselves as and when they choose. They can also write in their native language or English, whichever they prefer.
They could also do the same on a blog, and a blog is cooler, and of greater potential benefit to them. Many (most?) of them seem to be equally ignorant of blogs and mailing list/discussion boards, so using either one would have educational benefits for them. Which to use? A discussion board (e.g. Yahoo! Groups) would be easier to explain and less problematic; their own blog would be more difficult, especially with those classes where I'm not in a computer lab and can't use one, but potentially more beneficial in the long run, I feel.
6) To get them into the habit of reflecting on their learning experience, I made them write their comments and a record of what they did each class and send it to me by email, at least until they got accustomed to either Moodle or blogging. I thought it would be easy to track them all using gmail labels. What I hadn't anticipated is that some of them would use different email addresses from which to send in their homework each time!
Here's a typical pattern: first email from the university system; 2nd email from their home computer (and using Mum's or Dad's email software and ID) because they suddenly realize the deadline is like, in 3 minutes and they're at home; 3rd email from their cell-phone, as it's too much hassle to go to the uni computer centre, or ask Mum or Dad (again) to borrow the computer, and how do you login again? 4th email from their own private email address (e.g. hotmail or Yahoo) as they now realize that if they use Mum or Dad's email address, their email gets mixed up with Mum's or Dad's and that's yucky....
I've been creating filters in Gmail, but by the 4th new email address I'm, howjasay, losing enthusiasm. It's time for them to get on an email list and manage this stuff themselves.
I'll need to do a little orientation on the benefits of not only WRITING their own commments but also READING the comments of OTHERS. This will be necessary to urge them NOT to use their cell-phones for posting comments. (Posting is ok from a cell-phone, but I can't imagine them READING 25+ comments on Yahoo via their cell-phone on a regular basis).
The bright side is I guess they're becoming more ICT literate...