Saturday, August 20, 2011

Moodle Implementation: A Sweet Success!

“If you wait until you are sure you will never take off the training wheels.”

Let me start by clarifying that I am NOT an IT person. I do not know HTML or PHP.  I do not speak any computer languages. I was the girl in the mid-eighties who couldn't get the darn turtle to make a square in DOS (if you remember this you are OLD!)

I can click.  I can also click and drag!  I also know how to right-click! Please don't ask me to know more than that about any new software or Web 2.0 tool (are they the same thing or different?)  And for the life of me my mind refuses to believe that a bunch of 1's and 0's create everything we see on a computer! Complete hogwash I say!

Despite this declaration, my co-school librarian (who is retiring this year) and I were charged with training the 100+ faculty members at my high school and junior high school in using Moodle (some who aren't quite as good at clicking and dragging).  Thus  it was and is my goal this year to teach Moodle in the most basic terms possible.  

I first started teaching myself Moodle mid way through the 2010-2011 school year.  I watched YouTube videos, visited sites like MoodleNews, MoodleMoot, and  To be honest, these sites did little to help me understand the bare bones basics of Moodle.  Most of these sites relay information that is on a administrative level and for which you must know more than clicking and dragging. The best assistance I have received onine is on Twitter using #moodle. Still, much of the information received via Twitter simply linked me to one of the sites mentioned above...
Here is a typical questions and response you will most likely get from one of the above mentioned Moodle "help" sites: 
Q: How do you mass upload enrolment keys for groups in Moodle? I already have groups created but not enrolment keys for each group.
A: One possibility is to export the MySQL table for groups, modify it in a dbase program (FMP) or spreadsheet (Excel) add the enrolment keys, then reimport into MySQL dbase for the Moodle. 
My response: ?????

We started implementation of  Moodle in early Spring of the last school year; piloting the program with one teacher from each discipline and of varying degrees of computer skill.   By doing this we would have a Moodle "expert" in each discipline as a go to person the following school year.  A "trainer" was brought in for a few hours and basically feed our group the book definitions of each item on a typical Moodle page.  When the "trainer" left none of us had a true functional understanding of how to use this new classroom management system that we were expected to fully implement in just a few short months.

I buckled down during summer vacation and learned via trial and error with a page that is now my main webpage for my library. (click on guest access)

Starting in July 2011 we began training our high school faculty by offering two 4 hour paid professional development days for teachers to learn Moodle and be ready to roll with when school began.  An assorted variety of bagels and coffee from Panera didn't hurt either!

Teachers are stretched beyond belief. They need to see a legitimate purpose for program implementation, see how it will benefit them, their students and the parents... and will be less work for them, not more. Oh.. it also must be easy to learn and  use.

One of the first question you must answer for teachers when implementing a new system is WHY...  For my school the questions were: Why are we doing this? We use Microsoft FrontPage. What's wrong with continuing to use that?  If we start using Moodle will we also have to keep doing FrontPage?  Will we have to do both?

My answers: Just like the 8 Track Tape so is Microsoft FrontPage...obsolete. Moodle will be our all in one public webpage and classroom management system.  We will be able to go paperless and take advantage of working in a school district where over 95% of our students have access to the Internet at home. Parents will be able to stay informed of classwork, homework, tests, etc. Best of all the old "dog ate my homework" excuse disappears!
Thus the training began using the "chunk and chew" PD method. I began the session by setting up a Bell Ringer activity to build background knowledge of Moodle, give teachers the chance to experience Moodle from a student perspective including self enrollment and give my co-librarian and I time to trouble shoot any technical issues that inevitably rear their ugly heads. (use guest log in and moodle as password).

After the Bell Ringer activity we:

  • Designed a public (guest access-no password) course page to replace the old Microsoft FrontPage. Mrs. Amy Robertson set up a great public course page:
  • Filled out our profile and added a picture to our profile.
  • Learned about Blocks
    • Calendar Block
    • HTML Block
  • Learned and applied "add a resource"
    • Specifically File, Folder, Label, and URL
    • When and why you would add each one to your Moodle page
  • Learned and applied "add an activity"
    • Here we focused strictly on "Assignments" and "Forums"
  • Learned about "buttons"
    • delete
    • move
    • edit
    • hide
  • Learned how to set our pages to allow or not allow guest access.
  • Learned how to enroll students either manually or self enroll.
  • Finished with an evaluation made in Survey Monkey and linked in our Moodle Training page. Thus informally demonstrating to teachers how other Web 2.0 tools can work with Moodle.
Teachers were obviously overwhelmed having their brains glutted in a small four hour time period with brand new information for which most had little or no background knowledge. Thus the most important part of any PD training especially when implementing a new program is follow up. Our follow up consists of the following services:
  • Have a question? Call or email us and we will come work with you right then if possible or during your next planning period.
  • Not sure how to set up your class assignments in Moodle? We will work with you on a collaborative activity designed in Moodle.  Then we will book a computer lab and co-teach the Moodle lesson with you. 
    • I have done this for the past two weeks.  I've had goosebumps and got misty eyed as I watched teachers go from insecure and hesitant about using Moodle to saying, "This isn't hard at all!" "Wow! The kids really like this and it is so easy!" and "I can't wait to put more of my lessons in Moodle!" We have even had teachers who were dead set against Moodle come around and say how much they like it now! Guess what? You CAN teach an old dog new tricks! 

  • Freebie Fridays: Once a month we offer PD sessions on Moodle.  Our first Freebie Friday will assist teachers in setting up groups among students enrolled and will help those who have not set up a student activity in Moodle to get one developed and ready to use in the next week or so.
  • Moodle Tips and Hints:  As we learn new details about Moodle we relay these to teachers via the PD page in the News Forum. We also disseminate the same information via Facebook and Twitter. 
    • By:
    • Like us on FaceBook
  • Lastly, I provide video tutorials via my collaboratively produced YouTube Channel:
    • My plan is to provide video tutorials beginning with the Bell Ringer activity all the way through to the Freebie Friday PD sessions.  Stay tuned!
*If you would like your classes to work on a collaborative project with some of our classes via Moodle let me know! That is the next big thing I am going to try to get our teachers to do via Moodle! We are a public AP/IB 10th -12th grade school.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tweaked Out on Twittter

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn
~ John Cotton Dana

I think that I am on the verge of being a Twitterholic....

Excuses for Tweeting:
  • I HAVE to tweet for my work!
    • This is true. In spreading the word about Twitter I must also be able to apply it to my work and professional organizations to which I belong. I mean would it look for a Twivangelist like myself to not walk the walk?  See @AHS_Now  @AHSLibraryTips  @aslatweets
    • @AHS_Now was designed as a way to keep the community informed of school announcements and upcoming school events.
    • @AHSLibraryTips was formed to cut down on the glut of teacher email and is used to distribute Moodle and other tips to faculty and staff.
    • @aslatweets (#aslachat) was created to propel my professional organization (Alabama School Library Association) into the 21st Century with the power of Twitter Chats. We discuss topics directly related to Alabama School Librarians, but many of our conversations apply to school librarians nationally and internationally.  Join the conversation on the 1st Tuesday of each month at 7 pm CT/8 pm ET. Be sure to use the hashtag #aslachat
    • I'm presenting a 3 hour hands on workshop at the Georgia Educational Technology Conference November 2nd-4th in Atlanta....Now is not a good time to stop!

  • I can stop any time I want to!
    • Maybe... Except that I have set up my Twitter account (@NikkiDRobertson) to text me whenever I get a mention or DM (which goes into my texting/iPhone addictions...)
    • But not on Tuesdays at noon and 7pm ET...I can't miss #edchat!  Of course I can't ever sleep after an evening of #edchat...I'm all tweaked out on great ideas! 
    • And it would be rude not to help support my PLN that has been so gracious and helpful.
    • I don't really need to stop...think about all the links to blogs, web 2.0 tools, articles, pictures, videos I would miss out on if I were to do something as crazy as STOP TWEETING!

While being playfully tongue and check I do believe in the power of Twitter to connect teachers with others from whom they can learn and grow professionally. The energy is contagious and spreads to both teachers and students.  Twitter is an avenue to an endless source of learning and I choose to be tweaked out on knowledge as often as possible...

Be sure to check out my collaborative YouTube Channel where you can find my Alabama Educational Technology Conference presentation about Twitter and much more!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wake Up!...with Polling, Surveying and Backchanneling

Newly submitted Professional Development session to the Alabama Ed Tech PD Channel on YouTube:

Part I & II:
Wake Up!..with Polling, Surveying & Backchanneling
A Professional Development session originally presented at the Alabama Educational Technology Conference 2011
Demonstrates how and why educators should use polling, surveying and backchanneling in the classroom.

Alabama Ed Tech PD YouTube Channel: New Videos Posted!

There is nothing quite as exciting as a shout out from someone as prominent as Shelly Terrell! I feel like Wayne & Garth! 

So what exactly is the Alabama Ed Tech PD YouTube Channel? What is it's purpose and why should I care?  

The purpose of the Alabama Ed Tech PD YouTube Channel is to provide Professional Development sessions that are presented in individual schools or district in Alabama to ALL educators in Alabama.  There are so many extraordinary professional development sessions going on through out the state of Alabama and only a few educators ever benefit from the knowledge being shared.  

Why can't an educator just publish their PowerPoint, SlideShare or Prezi? 

In the past I have posted my PowerPoints and Prezis to this blog.  I have also looked at SlideShares from other educators that have been shared via RSS  feed or Twitter.  There always seemed to be something missing and often times the slides contained pictures with very few words (which is best practice). Therefore I missed much of what the original presenter wished to convey in the PD session.  The truth is, a PD session without the "voice" of the presenter is just a bunch of pictures...a skeleton.  The heart and soul of a presentation is what the presenter brings to the PPT, SlideShare or Prezi.  The Alabama Ed Tech PD Channel provides educators the opportunity to go back and "flesh out" their presentation so that other educators can fully benefit from their expertise. 

Two new PD session have just been uploaded to the Alabama Ed Tech PD Channel:

Even if you are not an Alabama educator please consider submitting to our channel & pass this message along to your colleagues.

ATTENTION: All top educators who have presented Professional Development sessions at their school, district, state, professional organization, or via web. We want YOU!

Below is the letter we sent out to a few select Alabama educators to announce the unveiling of our new Alabama Educational Technology Professional Development YouTube Channel.

We welcome guest video submissions from educators outside of Alabama as well.  Please help spread the word to friends and colleagues as we venture forth to do our part in providing quality PD for all educators in an easy to use format.


Congratulations on being recognized as a top educational leader in Alabama.  Your contributions to the 2011 Alabama Educational Technology Conference provided valuable information to Alabama educators.  But what about those educators who were unable to attend your session?

This is the question Derrick Waddell (Cullman County Schools) and I (Nikki Robertson, Auburn High School) asked ourselves following the sessions we presented at AETC.  We discussed how sessions like those at AETC and other forms of Professional Development sessions that take place all year long throughout the state in individual schools could be captured so that educators throughout the state, country and world can benefit.

Our solution: The development of a YouTube Channel where Professional Development sessions by and for Alabama Educators can be uploaded and accessed.

As a top educational leader and presenter in Alabama Derrick and I  welcome you to be among the first educators to contribute to this valuable Professional Development resource.  Here is what you will need to do:

1.  Download free screen capture software to your computer.
    (Jing ( or Camstudio (

2.  Using your PowerPoint, SlideShare, Prezi, etc. record yourself as if you were presenting to
    an audience. This is so important because just providing the slides without presenter input
    only provides half the pertinent information of your professional development session.

3.  Compose a new email to

4.  Put the title of the video in the subject line.

5.  Put the description of the video in the message area. (Be sure to delete any signatures or    
    extra text).

6.  Attach the video in a valid format.

We are very excited about the possibilities for professional growth and enrichment this project will bring to Alabama Educators and other throughout the educational landscape. We look forward to your contributions.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ASLA Twitter Chat Session Recap: Aug. 2, 2011

One of the most powerful things you can do for students is create a culture of learning and collaboration with your teachers.

The topic of the ASLA Twitter Chat Session on August 2, 2011 was drawn from the Educate Alabama formative assessment continuum that is to be implemented Fall 2011. Specifically, the topic discussed drew from Alabama Quality Teaching Standard 1.1: Facilitates professional development for the learning community.

“Annual performance assessment” can be a nasty phrase for school librarians as most teacher assessment/evaluation systems do not acknowledge the differing role librarians fill within the learning community of schools. Librarians felt that a separate document that reflects the specialized practices of their profession was necessary to successfully assess a librarian’s current level of practice. Twenty school librarians, most members of the AASL-affiliated Alabama School Library Association, were invited by the State Department of Education to revise the Continuum. Meeting in both large and small breakout groups, the librarians restructured the Continuum over the course of two months, hammering out a document that reflects the intent of the Alabama Quality Teaching Standards and the principles of AASL’s Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs and Standards for the 21st Century Learner as well as Alabama’s School Library Media Handbook for the 21st Century Learner. EDUCATEAlabama Continuum of Practice for Librarians, a formative tool for guiding and supporting librarians in the use of reflection, self-assessment, and goal setting for professional learning and growth, is scheduled to be implemented in the fall of 2011. by Carolyn Jo Starkey (@carolynstarkey Buckhorn High School, New Market, AL)

The moderator started the ASLA Twitter Chat Session with an introduction of the top and a reminder to use the hashtag #aslachat to ensure your tweets are seen by others participating in the chat session. It was also noted for participants to please remember that Twitter accounts that are protected could cause the moderator and a majority of Twtchat participants to be unable to see or benefit from your contributions to the conversation.

ASLA Twitter Chat Sessions are the first Tuesday of each month at 7CT/8ET and focus on the concerns of Alabama School Librarians, but can benefit from our colleagues in other states and countries. All are welcome to attend.

Guests from outside Alabama participating in the ASLA Twitter Chat Session on August 2, 2011 included Melissa Techman (@mtechman a K-5 librarian just outside Charlottesville, VA), Mary J. Johnson (@johnsonmaryj retired teacher/librarian from Colorado Springs, CO), Donna Macdonald (@dsmacdonald teacher-librarian from South Burlington, Vermont), M.E. Steele-Pierce (@steelepierce an educator from Cincinnati, OH), Pam Moran (@pammoran an educator from Virginia),and Shawn Hinger (@cmslibrarylady School Librarian from Athens, Georgia). Even Kyle B. Pace (@kylepace Instructional Technology Specialist and Google Certified Teacher and Edcamp KC organizer from Kansas City, MO) stuck his head in briefly to say hello.

Both Grace Williams (@gracewilliamsal Media Specialist at Cordova Elementary Birmingham, AL) and Melissa Techman discussed the importance of differentiated instruction to provide PD personalized for the needs of individual teachers. Identifying teachers who have the same PD needs and grouping them together to support each other can be helpful and sets up a great collaborative environment. Tips for presenting PD sessions that will stimulate, not anesthetize your target audience can be found from the following sources:

Nikki Robertson (@NikkiDRobertson from Auburn High School, Auburn, AL) shared her PD plans for the 2011-2012 school year through a “commercial” and Google Doc:

Developing and presenting PD sessions on your own can be an overwhelming task, especially for those school librarians who are not fortunate enough to have two librarians and an aide. Additionally, time can also be an deterrent when planning PD sessions. However, school librarians can still provide access to PD opportunities by connecting faculty with online PD experiences. Melissa Techman culls sources for her teachers and found a plethora of webinar sessions for her teachers at Mary J. Johnson suggested using The Library of Congress’ Teaching with Primary Sources ( as another valuable PD resource.

Other online PD resources mentioned were:

Bookmarking sources including Diigo, Delicious, and Symbaloo as well as data gathering sites like and were also mentioned as a way to keep faculty abreast of Web 2.0 Tools, websites, and webinar opportunities. Cathy Manis (@Cathymgm Librarian at Vestavia Hills High School, Birmingham, AL) even brought up using the newest social network, Google+.

For complete transcripts (excluding protected tweets & RT) click here:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guest Post By Derrick Waddell

"It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed." - Napoleon Hill

This summer was another whirlwind of professional development activities.  I presented at conferences, schools, and systems, effectively drowning my summer in a wave of PD.  Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my summer for the same reason I started this blog, joined Twitter, and post resources on my website: I love to share.  As a teacher, my job is to share with others what I've learned that they may not have.  That job doesn't stop with students, though; I must also share with teachers, administrators, librarians, et. al. the things that I've learned that may help them.

I'm not the only one that feels this way.  A friend and fellow educator, Nikki Robertson, is beginning a string of professional development activities for the staff at Auburn High School.  When she posted the schedule on Twitter, I was interested in learning more about some of her chosen topics, so I asked if she was planning to do any recording or posting afterward.  It opened up a conversation that has led to an exciting opportunity for educators and ed tech professionals in Alabama.

This week we will launch a YouTube channel for Alabama educators to post and watch tutorials and how-to videos pertaining to ed tech.  You can find the videos at or contact me ( or @derrickwaddell) or Nikki ( @NikkiDRobertson) if you're interested in sharing one of your videos.  I'm excited about the opportunity to share and the possibilities this presents, so come help us create a community of sharing and learning.