Friday, February 20, 2015

HippoBytes HB260: All About Focus Activities

Our Student Information System (SIS) is called Focus, and Focus includes a Learning Management System (LMS) called Moodle, which lets you build online courses or put some of your class online (we call both the SIS and LMS "Focus" at AISB, so students know Moodle as "Focus"). When you put some of your activities and content online but still have a regular class, you've made what is called a blended learning environment.

In this session we learned about the ways that various activities in a blended learning environment can help you facilitate whole-class discussion, continue learning outside of the classroom, and have a permanent record of student participation. Additionally, we learned how using Moodle helps prepare students for college. Since millions of students take classes online now and more will in the future, being familiar with an online learning format opens students up to dozens of courses beyond what is offered at their school.

Here were the activities:


Forums create a place to hold online discussions. By using the "Single simple discussion" type you can have a class discussion about one issue where the quietest student may be feel more comfortable participating since one or two talkative participants can't monopolize the discussion. The "Each person posts one discussion" type is useful for having students share a piece of work and then having other students comment on it by responding to their post. The "Standard forum for general use" type could be used for a coffee bar where students can post questions about the course. Then, instead of the teacher being a chokepoint, other students can respond (teachers should consider awarding participation points to those who do).

There is no single way to assess forum participation, but a key question is whether you will assess quantity, quality, or both. The Simmons College rubrics in the Useful Links session can give you some ideas; another simple approach is to keep a student list and record a check minus, check, or checkplus based on the quality of each post.


Think of Moodle glossaries as collaborative dictionaries. All students in your course can add terms (including with pictures, links to webpages, etc). This is a good way to do group review efficiently. To reinforce the terms, there is a "Random Gallery Entry" block that you can add to your course so a different term is displayed each time you visit.


A wiki is a collection of collaboratively authored web documents. Basically, a wiki page is a web page everyone in your class can create together, right in the browser, without needing to know HTML. A wiki starts with one front page. Each author can add other pages to the wiki by simply creating a link to a page that doesn't exist yet. Students can create wikis to construct a group understanding about a particular topic. However, Google Docs may be a better option for collaboratively creating documents.


Think of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, but on the web. These do require significant work to make, but the results can be very engaging. I suggest viewing the sample lesson in the Useful Links below, then logging into the Moodle demo site as a teacher to see how it was made.

Useful Links

Forum discussion rubrics from Simmons College
Moodle Demo Site without data
Moodle Demo School with many classes. You can log in as a student or teacher to see how these activities might be implemented in other contexts; it's a great way to find new ideas for how to create online or blended learning environments.
AISB's Focus testing site. This may be buggy, but you can make changes without them affecting your real classes.
Sample Lesson about mountaineering so you can get an idea of how to use the Lesson activity

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