Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest Blog: Scott Klepesch - The Use of Moodle at a High School

After 29 years of working as an educator I have come to work with and know scores of teachers. Without question, one of the most talented educators I have had the pleasure to work with and learn from is this week's guest blogger, Scott Klepesch. Scott  is the supervisor of instruction at Morristown High School where he has served as an administrator for the past two years.  Prior to joining the Morristown staff, Scott was a social studies teacher at Chatham High School and also at West Essex High School. Scott is a product of the New York City public school system where he taught at Manhattan Village Academy in Chelsea.  These diverse experiences have shaped Scott’s views as an educator and his belief that school is a place where all learners can succeed. Scott’s full time job is as the proud parent of three daughters; two second graders and preschooler.  Boys beware!!!

Scott Klepesch can be reached at the following:

Blog- A Teaching Life
Twitter- @shklepesch

How would you answer the following question:

  • What is the role of creativity in education?
I’m confident that a collection of responses to the above question would reveal a wide range of insights into the meaning of creativity and its role in education.  An open-ended question such as the one shared above is powerful in that it has the potential to stimulate critical reflection.  Before offering a response, one has to give considerable pause to confront their own beliefs, consider competing perspectives and prepare to be engaged in a complex debate.

The role of creativity in education came from an online forum discussion.  A teacher at Morristown High School developed the question and posted it in an online forum discussion for students to access.  Considering the demands of the 21st Century and the need for students to think critically and creatively and for teachers to be instructional innovators, dissecting what creativity means is a worthy intellectual pursuit.  However, how can this inquiry, with the potential to generate a heated debate, be contained within a single or even multiple instructional periods?  In short, it cannot. More time is needed and a space privileged to extend meaningful exchanges.  The forum in which the question about creativity was posted generated 80 individual responses from students enrolled in the class. One post by a student elicited 37 replies.  Weeks after the question was posted it still garnered attention from students.  

Students accessed the question through a teacher’s Moodle page.   Teachers at the high school where I am a supervisor of instruction have realized the importance of establishing online learning communities for students.   Numerous instructors have turned to Moodle as a platform to virtually extend teaching and learning.  The notion that learning is confined to a scheduled block of time is outdated.  Virtual learning communities such as Moodle ensures that learning can occur at any time and anywhere.

As one of the two educators who oversee our use of Moodle, I am afforded the chance to see how Moodle is being deployed across all academic disciplines.  At first, teachers used Moodle as a place to post assignments and links to resources on the internet.  This current school year, teachers are moving beyond a basic use of Moodle to explore collaborative activities integrated into the open source program.  Teachers have been developing chat sessions, surveys, choice lessons and forum discussions for students to support the delivery of curriculum.  

Collaboratively inspired spaces on Moodle have subtly transformed interactions between classroom stakeholders. By initiating an activity on Moodle, the teacher is no longer the sole purveyor of content. Learners are empowered to assume responsibility for leading class discussions and developing meaningful content.   Activities on Moodle rarely draw a distinction between classroom roles. Participants are viewed as equals and provided with an outlet to voice beliefs and share in the exchange of information.  Through spirited exchanges about creativity, a hero's journey through a work of literature, or the meaning one might make of abstract art—students are active in the development of scholarship.  When teachers engage students in these spaces, a team approach to learning transpires.

It is important to move beyond the hope that students are engaged and instead strive towards creating learning environments where students are empowered.  What students think matters. Providing a platform for students to publicly articulate personal insights is critical and necessary considering the demands of the 21st Century.  The work centered on virtual learning communities and in particular Moodle, has instigated changes to our learning environment. Traditional paradigms governing time, space and scholarship have been questioned and new models for the ways in which class is conducted are forming.


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