Last Saturday morning I was reminded of what a joy it is be involved with an international group of people who are intent on learning similar things together.
We’re packing to move from Virginia to North Carolina on Thursday, so taking “study” breaks has been a much needed, much appreciated form of punctuation for days filled with odd sized boxes and packing tape. For about 90 minutes Saturday my “study” break consisted of a welcome webinar for a Moodle training course for teachers of English for speakers of other languages from all over the world.
For six weeks now, I’ve been helping the incomparable Dr. Nellie Deutsch and her colleagues, Drs. Ludmilla Smirnova and Barbara Yaloff, and doctoral student/long-time teacher and fellow M4T (Moodle for Teachers) graduate, Judi Behrens facilitate a Moodle training course for TESOL folks in collaboration with the Electronic Village Online annual meet-up (EVO2013).
One of Nellie’s many projects in online education, IT4ALL stands for Integrating Technology for Active Lifelong Learning, to be found the website www.integrating-technology.org. IT4ALL provides courses primarily in training to use the open source online classroom delivery system, Moodle, an incredibly flexible learning management system that improves with every iteration.
IT4ALL also provides courses on teaching with the WizIQ social media/webinar teaching system (more on that later), on academic writing, vlogging, starting your own online business, learning English online and so on. This is not to mention the annual conferences that take on WizIQ twice a year: Nellie develops and facilitates Connecting Online Conferences offered every February and the Virtual Moodlemoot she coordinates every August. Past years are available for free viewing on WizIQ.
To give you a good idea of how unique WizIQ is in the webinar world — Nellie has a knack for finding some of the best resources for teachers out there — and how valuable it is as a platform for both teachers and learners (a significant number of the classes on the public stream are free), I’ve inserted one of WizIQ’s commercials for its system. It provides a great overview and guess who their example teacher is …
Nellie’s courses on IT4ALL are low cost or free (scholarships are available) and bring in students from all over the world, and they are always supported by materials lodged in various other online spaces, such Google documents, Mahara, YouTube, various blogs, and of course, the weekly webinar on WizIQ. (I’ll be blogging about Nellie’s activities as well as the various bits and bobs of technology she uses as I go along — one of my plans for this blog is to highlight the amazing projects of the people from whom I’ve been learning about online education.)
Like all of Nellie’s training courses we were from everywhere on the planet. In M4TEVO2013 there were over one hundred registrants from 43 countries, spread out across the globe, from Southeast Asia and Australia to Eastern, Central and Northern Europe from the UK to such North and South American countries as Canada and Paraguay and lots of countries in between. Folks were from elementary, middle and high schools, language schools for adults, colleges and universities, and online teaching businesses, big and small. We all came together with the same focus: learning how to use Moodle to enhance our face to face teaching and/or extend our teaching/learning skills online, or both.
M4TEVO2013 was comprised of six weeks of active learning: teachers who were learners were expected to explore the Moodle framework for themselves albeit with guidance from our little band of facilitators. There was a curriculum, of course, that was built around basic Moodle elements, resources and activities. The goal was — as it always is with Nellie — for students to become proficient not only in using the basic elements of Moodle but also in learning their new Moodle skills well enough to teach others.
Active learning can be frustrating at first but is oh-so-rewarding later. Learners need to be able to ask questions of each other. They have to enjoy mucking in, working “hands on” with others. It is important to want to own the process and to expect to and enjoy having fun while learning. And the payoff is not only proficiency that does not fade away, but new friends, new colleagues, potential collaborators, and an expanded understanding of how much we all have in common in our classrooms and in our daily lives.
The learners in M4TEVO2013 dove into the materials, learned, shared, set up lessons, filmed tutorials of their skills to teach others, helped each other along, and an intrepid subset of our group appeared every Saturday morning — well it was Saturday morning for me: folks logged on from yesterday and tomorrow when you consider the spread of time zones — for the WizIQ webinars, many letting themselves be seen on video, heard on audio, and in the last class, last Saturday morning, animatedly chatting in the break-out rooms WizIQ provides. In my breakout room, after all the questions and answers and testimonials were finished, that meant playing on the Whiteboard together, uploading clapping hands, drawing happy faces, trying to sign our names or wish each other good fortune in the future in freehand, just enjoying ourselves like the friends we had all become. Not so long ago Nellie admitted that she is creating peace one teacher at a time. For all of us who have learned from her and collaborated with her, it feels like that, absolutely.
If you’re interested in Moodle, or WizIQ, or teaching online I recommend that you head over to YouTube and subscribe to Nellie’s channel. Here’s the link. And then wander over to WizIQ to take a look at what’s on offer. Nellie’s teacher’s page is here. Mine is here (I’m only an “egg” as you can see). And finally, to IT4ALL to explore the opportunities for learning there. As for me, I’m headed back to the boxes and the packing tape! See you on the other side of the move.