witthaus writes "Jeff Stanford's Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching is described in the preface as 'a recipe book' for creating communicative language teaching activities in Moodle. True to its description, the book contains over 500 pages of detailed, descriptive information on how to squeeze every last drop out of Moodle for language teaching purposes." Keep reading for the rest of Gabi's review.In the first two chapters, the book gives an introduction to Moodle and advice on how to get started with the platform. It then goes on to consider vocabulary, speaking, grammar, reading, writing and listening activities in chapters three to eight. Chapter nine looks at assessment, giving many practical tips on the best and most efficient ways to exploit Moodle's powerful capacity to generate statistics. Chapter 10 gives suggestions on some extended activities you could use Moodle for (requiring more set-up time as well as more of students' time, but with correspondingly greater pay-off in terms of learning). The final chapter deals with formatting and enhancing the visual aspects of Moodle, and enabling stress-free navigation through the platform for your students.
Activity descriptions are framed in terms of language teaching goals rather than technical functionality, making it an easy read for language teachers who are new to online platforms. Detailed, step-by-step instructions are given, along with helpful screenshots, and a star system to differentiate the easier from the more technically advanced activities. A clear distinction is made between what the language teacher could reasonably be expected to do with Moodle and the issues that should be referred to a more experienced Moodle administrator. The book goes beyond basic Moodle features and functions, introducing the reader to many useful add-ons (such as the wonderfully named Nanogong, for incorporating audio files), and other Web tools such as Audacity for creating and editing podcasts, and Hot Potatoes for making quizzes.
The recipes are indeed delicious, ranging from simple rustic dishes – requiring little or no patience for the technical side of things; just a deep love of the classical ingredients needed for communicative language teaching, such as personalization and a focus on meaningful communication – to sophisticated gourmet platters that probably are best avoided by IT novices. There is even a section (in chapter 10 – my favorite) on creating a whole dinner menu by stringing together a sequence of activities in various ways.
My only lament about the book is that I would like to have seen some discussion on the difference between using Moodle to supplement your face-to-face teaching, as opposed to using it for wholly online courses. The most obvious difference is that students probably already know one another in a face-to-face environment, whereas in a purely online environment they come in 'cold', and this can have a significant impact on their confidence and their engagement levels. Some tips and guidelines on how to draw remote learners in, and then keep them engaged, would be really helpful, as would tips on how to find the balance between face-to-face interaction and online work for classroom-based students. But perhaps here I am talking about how to host the dinner party, which goes beyond the scope of a recipe book.
All things considered, Moodle 1.9 for Language Teaching will undoubtedly increase the language teacher's ability to cook up interesting and enjoyable activities for language students. Bon appétit!
Disclosure: The reviewer is a colleague of Jeff Stanford's at the University of Leicester, where they both tutor on the online MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL.
Gabi Witthaus has over 20 years' experience in EFL teaching and curriculum development. She is currently based at the University of Leicester, where she is involved in e-learning research and tutoring on the MA in TESOL and Applied Linguistics. (). This review was written in her personal capacity.
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