Community Cookbook

the recipe

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/deqalb/1497728891/

It’s finally here … but with a great twist!

I have been meaning to write a cookbook of recipes for using Moodle in education for nearly two years now (just ask Julian “Moodleman” Ridden!) Last year, I suspended writing one with Packt Publishing about halfway through (personal reasons) but I remain eternally grateful to Packt’s Acquisition Editor and a ‘master of succinct’ David Barnes for his advice and insights along the way.

Why recipes? Because we can see ourselves cooking, serving and enjoying the product of our labour, usually with others too. And guided by a mouthwatering title, maybe a picture, short list of ingredients, description of the cooking process (where you can maybe always add a little of your own take on it), a tip or two, then a cool serving suggestion – we actually want to get off our butt and try to do it! Even if we stuff it up a little and the thing we make doesn’t look EXACTLY the way it looks or sounds in the recipe we are happy to have tried and made it (well, most of the time :-) )

And how many of you working in ed-tech field have muttered, exasperated: “If staff could only get off their butt and try to do it!” Well … let’s give them some recipes that they will understand and want to try and cook!

But this time, instead of going back to solo slavery of writing a recipe book (oh, I do admire those who persisted!) I thought “why not simply create a space and format for a community cookbook?” More heads know a lot more than one.

Today, such a community cookbook (Moodle Recipes for Educators) was launched at Moodle.org, in a brand new section called Teaching and Learning with Moodle, a space I maintain and moderate. Feel free to visit, you can enter as guest if you don’t have a login at Moodle.org (a good one to get anyway!).

How does this cookbook work?

Educators can add their own magic Moodle moments in a given, easy format (‘format sets you free’ as David would say).

Firstly and MOST importantly, they state the pedagogical purpose of the recipe (a simple ‘who’ did ‘what’ and ‘why’) in a single sentence. This gives us a title like “Students jointly build a list of useful websites to improve their understanding of water use” rather than “How to combine the use of Moodle Forum – Single Discussion and Moodle Wiki Page Splitting function”. Yeah, I know which one of these you or that reluctant colleague of yours would like better (or maybe I got it all wrong!?). This strategy is repeatedly reported as by far the best way to meaningful change. Why not use it?

Next comes a broad description of the task (does it help to collaborate, communicate, evaluate, compete, create or organise – can select more than one) and which Moodle tools they used. This helps the search process immensely later on. After that, educators are asked simply to describe what did the participants, and that includes the activity creator (usually teacher but not always) DO. Brief context, major settings, how did it all work, what happened, maybe a screenshot … all in teacher language. To finish off, we ask the educator for any tips, tricks or warnings, links to any external tools or resources (could be a goldmine that one!), select the educational setting this recipe would work best, area of learning and subjectively select the degree of difficulty of this recipe. Link to a tutorial document and even downloadable version of the activity is appreciated but entirely optional.

I have written a few of these recipes now to kick things off and each one of them took me about 20 minutes. I merely described, told a story of what happened with a few key pointers and clicked a few options. That’s it.

While the educators with more Moodle experience will probably contribute more (and more complex) ‘recipes’, it will be those perfectly simple, useful ideas that will make the most difference, particularly with new moodlers who are just starting out.

My brother is hardly a good cook but his simple jam recipe makes the best jam in the world. Same goes for teachers using Moodle.

When browsing the recipes later on, they are easy to search by whatever the parameter or perhaps keyword you choose. Just examples of collaboration? Sure. Primary school only? No problem. Natural sciences? OK. Uses of Moodle wikis? Here they are. Combine a few of these things? You got it.

Over and over again, I keep hearing phrases like ‘pedagogy before technology’, ‘people before technology’ yet we so often end up in these boring, counterproductive ‘correct clicking’ sessions where the focus inevitably shifts to the tools, their precision and functionality rather than the messy, imprecise, (counter)intuitive thing called humanity that will drive it. Clay Shirky once clevery observed that “revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools, it happens when it adopts new behaviours”.

Show them a travel destination they like and they will save for the fare to get there. Show them a mouthwatering recipe they can master today and they’ll step in the kitchen. Show them a desirable behaviour or goal enabled by technology and they will click and stumble their way to it.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need your recipes please (difficulty, size or setting don’t matter)! Thank you :-)

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Author: human on March 19, 2010
Category: 1. Moodle
Tags: ,
2 responses to “Community Cookbook”
  1. Looked great. I am a bit worried about how it will scale though.

    Looks like this database is where I’ll need to come back often. Absolutely golden for understanding education and the circumstances teachers can face.

    It also comes close to scenarios of user centered design people – direct input and constraints for future UI design, allowing it to become focused on what is important, making talk about abstract features much more concrete. Wish I had your quiz example while working on http://docs.moodle.org/en/Development:Quiz_UI_redesign , too.

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