A few years ago at a technology conference, I was introduced to the open-source classroom management system, Moodle. As I strive to create a paperless classroom, Moodle is one of the great tools I am planning to utilize. Read on to find out how Moodle has transformed journal writing in my classroom.
To use Moodle, you will need to download the software to a Web server for free. It's compatible with Macs and PCs, and you can customize Moodle with one of many themes. Below are the five reasons I use Moodle specifically for student journal writing.
Have you ever observed your students as they begin a writing assignment? When I first gave my class a journal assignment, I noticed that as they began to write, several students stopped, ripped out the piece of paper, crumpled it up, and started over. Over the next few class periods, I witnessed the same thing. I finally came to the conclusion that I was wasting paper and began to search for ways to journal digitally. The journaling option on Moodle saves paper and allows students to revise even after the teacher assesses the writing.
When I assign journal assignments, over one hundred students respond. In the past, I would take one hundred journals home with me and attempt to assess and respond to each of the students’ writings. This became nearly impossible to keep up with. I began exploring Moodle's journaling option and then tried it with one of my English classes. I was amazed at how much easier it was to read and type my response. It also saved me from lugging a hundred notebooks out to my car every Friday.
I was talking with a student one day about the journaling process. He expressed a concern that there wasn’t much time in class to journal and explained that he is much more creative out of the classroom than in it. It was my rule at the time that journaling had to take place in class because sometimes students wouldn’t bring their journals to class. When I started assigning journal entries on Moodle, students were excited that they had the opportunity to journal at any time, even at three o’clock in the morning.
Students are always concerned about who will see their work. When I assign a writing assignment, students will ask, “Who is going to see what we write?” By using Moodle, I can assure students that I will be the only one who sees their writing. I tell them that there will be times that we will analyze and critique their journal entries on Moodle, but I usually tell them in advance if I plan to read them in class.
Feedback is something I need to be better at as a teacher. In the past, students have written journal entries, and it would be three weeks before I would read and respond in their notebooks. When we started using Moodle, I would reply and grade their journal entries within a day or two of students' submitting their writing.
What technology tools have you used for student journaling?