Category Archives: 21st Century Projects

Moodle Noodle

Well, this week I explored Moodle for the first time. I felt like a pro through the first part of the process, installation.

And then things got hairy…


I started getting error messages like these every time I tried to log into my site:

Oh, the frustration!!!



It seemed that no matter how many open programs I closed, how many different avenues I took to get into my Moodle system admin role, or how many times I restarted my computer, these blasted errors were here to stay. In my frustration, trying to balance life, work, home, parenting, grocery shopping, and play dates, I skimmed and scanned the forums and missed my instructor’s advice to contact my domain host tech support.

I tried and tried again, and yet I continued to fail… Meanwhile, my colleagues were posting all these really neat screenshots of their explorations of Moodle, learning about all these features, and really starting to make things happen.

Still, my life online looked like this:

The horror was, well, horrible.

Finally, after spending most of the day watching my 23-year-old sister who has autism and trying unsuccessfully for hours and hours to get into my site, I decided to give it one last go this evening. What do you know? I was in!

I had been lucky enough to get a couple of hours on Moodle before the server errors kicked me out earlier in the week, so I quickly set to building and exploring. I scrolled through some of my colleagues’ posts, checked out their screenshots, and tried to absorb as much as I possibly could in record time.

It may not look like much to you, but my ability to insert these four features into my Moodle Sandbox demo course this evening gave me the most spectacular array of nerdy emotions. I ran the gamut.

Mostly, I was humbled. Over these past few weeks, I had been feeling PRETTY SMUG about my ability to quickly build, customize, and polish my new online presence. I felt like a genius when I figured out how to edit code to change the colors on my website. I felt like a pro when I learned how to embed images and videos into my posts, and even to edit their dimensions to suit my ideal layout.


This server error business is still a mystery to me. One thing is certain: I will never, ever, ever assume that a totally unfamiliar technology is going to work perfectly for me just because I want it to. Never again.

But here’s the thing. I can’t forget the overreaching theme and mission of this site, even in a tech rant like this. We are here to LEARN. The awesome thing about technology is that I already know that within just a few days or weeks, or maybe months at most, I’ll have this Moodle thing down pat. I’ll be building an online classroom where we can connect and share our knowledge, and it will not only function, it will function elegantly.

That’s the beauty of open source, user manuals, and a philosophy on life that goes something like this:

Try. Try again.

And just in case you, too, have suffered through your first encounter with a powerful new technology anytime recently, here are a few resources to whet your whistle and rebuild your faith that technology can indeed be harnessed for the common good.


The World of Moodle

The Mohnkern Learning Center — Powered by Moodle

Transitioning to PolyLearn (Moodle)


Maximizing the Home-School Connection

Research clearly shows that students whose parents are actively involved with their children’s schools are more likely to stay in school, to exhibit better performance on standardized assessments of basic skills and knowledge, and to attend and graduate from college.

But striking a balance between the needs of students, teachers, and parents has been historically challenging, especially in public education.

The pendulum swings in all directions. For some teachers, it’s a struggle to get parents on board, to earn their trust, or to gain their interest in the education of their children. For others, the demands of uber-involved “helicopter parents” can be overwhelming at best, and overbearing at worst. Some students want their parents to be as active a part of their school lives as possible. Others cringe at the thought of mom or pop showing up to staple bulletin boards, stuff envelopes, deliver baked goods, or worse, attend the dreaded parent-teacher conference.

Still, we know that students learn best in a community that involves their families on a healthy level. Parents who understand the expectations in the school setting are more likely to reinforce those expectations at home. Overworked teachers, especially in today’s underfunded schools, legitimately need the support, and sometimes the elbow grease, of parents who are willing to volunteer their time, efforts, and money to help make projects, access to first rate materials, and a sense of school pride a reality.

Check out this video:

The bottom line is that “good communication between parents and teachers has many benefits. When parents and teachers share information, children learn more and parents and teachers feel more supported. Good communication can help create positive feelings between teachers and parents” (Kreider, Mayer, & Vaughan, 1999).

The good news is that today’s tools, specifically technology tools, can help make the home-school connection a reality, with less cost and effort for all involved, than ever before.

“Innovative technologies such as cell phones, e-mail, and websites provide schools with new tools for reaching middle school parents and keeping them informed about their children. Traditional methods of communication such as face-to-face meetings have been found to be effective (Decker & Decker, 2003); however, these methods require time that both working parents and teachers may lack” (Rogers & Wright).

The days of the class newsletter being sufficient are over. “Educators are often very good at mass communications via newsletters, calendars, letters, and handbooks, but mass communications are not effective in shaping or changing attitudes” (Rogers & Wright). What we need to see more of isn’t a folder stuffed with impersonal, though informative, letters home. What we need to see is communication from school to home and home to school moving at the speed of communication in most other areas of our lives.

When my friend in Rhode Island applied for a new job, I knew about it within minutes, thanks to social networking. When my boss needs something and I’m not in the office, well, an email gets the message to me and enables me to deliver the results the boss needs, on the fly. In fact, I can access documents on the major projects of most of my colleagues from anywhere in the world, thanks to Google Docs. So why, as a parent, shouldn’t I be able to access my child’s curriculum? Of course I should. And technology makes that possible.

The school website can be a key component of creating a legitimate, instantaneous home-school connection. “Electronic communication formats such as websites give families access to homework information and requires little time or effort to access” (Decker & Decker, 2003). Use of school websites to provide this type of information is on the rise. And in true Web 2.0 spirit, teachers and administrators aren’t the only ones generating content for school websites.

“Increasingly, school Web sites are used to convey a broad range of school information. Students often become involved with both the technology and the content of the Web site and may work together with teachers to create and maintain the site” (Graham-Clay).

At the end of the day, most educators and parents both have at least reasonable access to a wealth of tools which can help to support the development of a speedy, open dialogue and the rapid and broad sharing of important information.

With the amazing tools available today, the old-school notes home just aren’t cutting it anymore.

For some great ideas, check out these links on bringing the home-school connection into the 21st century:

21st Century Home-School Connection

Tips for Teachers: Using Technology to Connect with Parents



Connecting Home and (2010, August 29). Retrieved from YouTube:

Dwyer, L. (2010, March 19). Connecting the Schoolhouse to Your House. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Good Education:

Graham-Clay, S. (n.d.). Communicating with Parents: Strategies for Teachers. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from The School Community Journal:

Kreider, H., Mayer, E., & Vaughan, P. (1999, May). Helping Parents Communicate Better with Schools. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Harvard Family Research Project:

MED 7305. (2011, January). Using Technology to Communicate with Parents. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Parent Communication Project:

Rogers, R., & Wright, V. (n.d.). Assessing Technology’s Role in Communication between Parents and Middle Schools. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, Vol. 7: