Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching by Jeff Stanford is the latest instructional book on Moodle, the popular Course Management System (CMS) for creating educational websites and communities, to be published by Packt Publishing. It is not written for true beginners who have no experience with Moodle, as it does not explain how to install it, but it is a “how-to” book for teachers who are at least familiar with the basics of Moodle and who are looking for specific ideas on activities to create for their language classes.
The first two chapters explain why Moodle is a great resource for language teaching and the basics of the CMS. The following chapters provide, in detail, explanations on how to create activities for all language skills: vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing, speaking and listening. In fact, chapter 8 Listening Activities [PDF – 1.3 MB] is available as a free download so that you can see Stanford’s directions and screenshots of listening activities using a wide range of web 2.0 tools, such as Inwicast media player and the NanoGong recorder.
Several sample activities are provided for each skill within the framework of Communicative Language Teaching, using English as a Second Language as the target language. Obviously, these activities can be modified to use any language, and most of the recommended websites for finding materials such as sound effects or public domain images are language independent. Additionally, Stanford includes external programs that can be used with Moodle, such as Hot Potatoes for different types of quizzes, Audacity for audio resources, and Jing and Picasa for image capturing and editing to enhance the activities.
Chapters 9 & 10 offer assessment information and extended activities that go beyond Moodle (such as Webquests). Technically, that is where the book ends, after 494 pages. But Packt Publishing has already made available 2 more chapters, for free, on their website. Chapter 11 [PDF – 3.7 MB] explains how to improve navigation and materials, and chapter 12 [PDF -2.5 MB] explains how to help students get accustomed to using Moodle.
Personally, I do not have the chance to use Moodle in my language classes (not yet, at least) as we are only working with HTML and Hot Potatoes. But I have used the majority of the online resources Stanford mentions and found them all to be extremely helpful in designing and writing course materials. It is also possible to use a demo version of Moodle online or download a portable version that works directly from your Windows desktop. They are both free and allow you to test out the functions and get used to the Moodle interface before you actually install the CMS on your server.
As a strong supporter of Internet-based and Computer-assisted language learning, I love the idea behind Moodle’s community approach to online learning, whether it’s pure distance learning or blended courses that include some face-to-face contact. I believe that autonomous learning is a large part of language learning because humans do not all learn in the exact same way and they certainly don’t learn best by sitting in a classroom. I wish the internet had been more advanced when I was first learning French so that I would have had access to so many valuable audio-visual resources. If I could have taken an online French course instead of sitting through 4 nerve-wracking hours each week on campus, I’m sure I would have learned much faster. Moodle allows language learning in a significantly less stressful environment, where everyone has the opportunity to participate and can work at his or her own pace. Its overall intent is communication and collaboration among people not limited by geographic, or even linguistic, boundaries – and isn’t that precisely why we learn languages?
Other Moodle books from Packt can be found here and all are available as PDF eBooks for immediate download.