Having spent time thinking about the principles and approaches I will be taking with my teaching in the new semester, now I must move to thinking about the tools that I will be using.
For the past 3 years, I have used a Moodle instance to support and communicate with students in preference to the University’s BlackBoard Learn. The main reason for this (there are several) is that Moodle is user-centric with features like search. Learn doesn’t have that, and is one of those systems that is designed for the designer, not the user.
Moodle has increasingly become more costly to sustain because of a series of ongoing bugs, most recently following the upgrade to 3.9, search has stopped working. Now, I’m a busy person and don’t have time to debug this right now, so I have decided that I need to use a more stable system of tools.
One of the single most important aspects of learning is the community you learn with. Former students have continued to access their Moodle course for a long time after the PGDE ends. I don’t want to abandon them, or break that community, so I have set up a Slack workspace for former PGDE Physics students, including those more senior who did not have the Moodle experience. So far, they have responded well to the idea. I will be using Slack to connect to the new cohort, outside of the official channels which they cannot join until they matriculate in September. This will give them a head start on building community.
There are a lot of people using Microsoft tools, and the university is no exception: we make increasingly consistent use of Sharepoint, Office365, OneDrive, OneNote, and the ever-present PowerPoint. Now, whilst there is a very good argument not to be suckered into the global brand domination of Microsoft, you can’t say that Bill Gates has kept all the money for himself, so there is a reason to go with the flow. The other, closer to home, reason is the perceived equity of the student cohort. Our students hate difference in experience, perceiving it to be somehow uneven or even discriminatory. It isn’t, and never has been. It’s good pedagogy to try to meet the particular needs of your learners, so teachers will always try to adapt and innovate to make things better for their own, very special, learners. That’s why I have operated a Moodle site outside of the mainstream experience for my Physics cohorts in the past 3 years.
I’m going to try to use the MS tools because the university has spent a lot of money providing them. Because it’s what the rest of the team are doing, and I might be able to offer support to my colleagues as we move forward into hybridised teaching together. Because the time cost of operating a maverick set is unnecessary, when I have the cost of conforming to bear also.
I need to skill up. So, I’m going to pick up an MIE, starting with the OneNote Teacher Academy course. I’m starting here because it’s where I need to begin in shifting content from the old VLE into something newer: not Learn, because it’s not fit for that particular purpose, but OneNote. Here we go.