Sunday, 6 December 2009

Book Review:Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching

It is my pleasure to review Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching by Jeff Stanford, which has recently been published by www.packtpub.com. This review is based purely from my personal perspective. I hope it will give you some insight into the essence of the book, which is constructed on sound pedagogical principles.


Who is Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching for?
It is aimed at "teachers, trainers and course planners with little or no experience of Moodle who would like to create their own language learning activities". Someone exactly like me in fact! I will definitely be implementing some of the wealth of resources within this book on my next Moodle for Teachers course, which begins in January 2010.

How is the book written?
The book is written in an informative, insightful and knowledgeable manner and contains comprehensive step by step instructions for how to approach each of the activities within the 10 chapters of the e-book. Chapters 11 and 12 are currently freely available to be downloaded. Jeff Stanford is an expert and enthusiastic follower of ICT, a teacher trainer, web site designer and avid Moodle practitioner. His skill and expertise is inherently obvious throughout the book. You can go to this site to read more book reviews. Click for a demonstration of Moodle on this site @ www.moodleforlanguages.co.uk

What will you as a teacher learn from reading the book?
If you are a teacher who would like to implement the Moodle platform into your teaching schedule, Moodle 1.9 for Second LanguageTeaching will give you a comprehensive, in-depth guide into how to use Moodle. It covers all the basic ground work for you, all in one extensive tome! No need to search the net for various bits and pieces of information, no need to do investigative research into how to use the various plug-ins that Moodle supports. No need at all, because you will learn all this and much, much more. It is in fact a one-stop resource available at your fingertips. That is the simple, essential beauty of this book. The following mind map shows you some of the functions of Moodle that are fully explained and exploited.


Does Moodle 1.9 for Language Teachers deliver the goods?
Absolutely. Whether you are a newbie Moodler, or seasoned Moodle user, I am certain that you will be satisfied with the content of the book. The aims of the book are clearly outlined by the author from the outset and I feel that all his objectives are fully realised. You will not need to go elsewhere for your research as a lot of questions are already predicted and fully explained by the author in each chapter of the book. Click here for the comprehensive table of contents.

What did I like most about the book?
  • As a fairly newbie Moodler, I really, really appreciated Jeff Stanford's invaluable step by step guidance. The reliable and comforting "Here's how to do it" formula works wonders for someone who is maybe inexperienced and unsure about how to work things out in a totally new learning environment. This explanation is introduced after each activity is outlined.
  • As a newbie, you need something to hold onto for dear life when you venture into uncharted territory. The fear factor of failure to comprehend a totally new concept is huge. This book definitely demystifies the whole process of using Moodle and makes it more easily accessible to the lay person.
  • I liked the extensive use of screenshots to demonstrate how activities work. This is a fantastic feature and helped me to understand what was being explained.
  • From a learner's point of view, I liked the cyclical recycling of major points. This helps to make the ideas more "sticky" and memorable. In particular, the author constantly refers to Chapter 2, "Getting Started with Moodle", which contains pivotal information and a thorough overview of Moodle. This chapter is at the heart of the book and demonstrates the core functions of Moodle, such as how to manage modules, how to set up activities, how to download videos from YouTube and so on.
  • I liked the clarity of the language used to teach the various functions of Moodle. The author writes in a very engaging and knowledgeable manner. You feel compelled to read further and learn more.
  • I liked the use of a stars * grading system for ease/dificulty of introducing activities. One star (*) = easy, two stars (**) =intermediate level , three stars (***) =difficult. I have to confess, activities with *** I did find difficult to follow and I feel they would be of particular interest to more experienced Moodlers, who would find these more complex activities challenging.
  • I liked the fact that it is a true self-help book and it is flexible. You can go at your own speed. You can dip into it in any order that you want. If for example, your main interest is in learning about exploiting the communicative potential within Moodle, then turning to Chapter 4 "Speaking Activities", you will have a host of exciting and interesting projects to try out using the Forum, Quiz, Wiki and Chat modules. If you are keen to learn more about listening, then Chapter 8 has an array of useful and practical lesson ideas. For a free sample of the Listening section, please press here.
  • The author systematically goes through the different options offered by Moodle and he provides a practical analysis of the pros and cons of the numerous resources highlighted in each chapter. For example, in Chapter 10, the author mentions the components and the limitations to the Webquest module.
  • I am very keen on grammar in my own teaching environment and so for me Chapter 5 "Grammar Activities" was one that I naturally gravitated towards. Chapter 5 certainly did not disappoint. In fact, the myriad examples of how to make lively grammar activities on Moodle was amazing. The wide range included recording Podcast lectures to present grammar in a fun way, using polls, collaborative dictations, quizzes, gap fills, True or false activities and using chat session transcripts to provide error analysis. The list of exciting ways to transform a dull grammar activity into an interactive and entertaining experience was indeed formidable and certainly would attract and appease the most ardent grammarian amongst us!
  • The book provides us with a comprehensive bank of Internet resources, which can be adapted by the reader. For example, I learned about Avatars, Widgets and various video making programmes such as Mashable.
  • The clear and informative images really enhanced my learning journey!
Would I recommend Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teachers?
This is a very pertinent question. Had I not had the opportunity to do a book review, would I have been attracted by the blurb on the book cover and inset details? The honest and truthful answer is a resounding yes! The book has provided me with a greater insight and understanding of Moodle. From a language point of view, it has shown me how to incorporate innovative activities within the 4 key skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking. Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching has taught me how to integrate Audacity, Hot Potatoes, Images, Videos and a host of other external programmes and resources. In fact, a huge wealth of extras, which would satisfy even the most avid techie.

A bit of a coincidence?
Jeff Stanford and I share the same university! I studied at Leicester University for 4 years in the late 1970s and as I understand, Jeff Stanford is currently an associate tutor on the MA TEFL course at the same university. A coincidence indeed. A further coincidence is the fact that Dresden Technical University is a partner institution of the LOLIPOP project as referred to in Chapter 9 on Assessment. I taught at the TUD for a year in the 1980s! It is indeed a very small world, don't you think?

Click on the comic below to read what my final words are.



2 comments:

Jeff's blog said...

Many thanks for that, Janet!
Readers may like to know that there's a demo site at http://moodleforlanguages.co.uk

Jeff

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Jeff

Thanks for popping by to read my review. Appreciate it. Hope I have done your great book justice!!

I already had the link you suggested and have added it again on the posting.

Janet