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Moodle 1.9 For Second Language Teaching

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Book Reviews 50

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.

You can purchase Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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I love moodle... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34309894)

I wish colleges would quit using blackboard.

Every class I've had that used blackboard would hide assignments and tests in ALL of the 5 places you can hide them.

Moodle's killer ap is the simplicity.

Another Slashvertisement (-1, Troll)

Tyler Eaves (344284) | more than 4 years ago | (#34309908)

Wow, another Packt book for an ultra-niche gets 9/10. Hope they're paying you guys well.

Re:Another Slashvertisement (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310034)

You can get paid to write things on Slashdot? Where do I sign up?

Re:Another Slashvertisement (0, Troll)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310180)

You go find a Publisher who does Tech Books, tell them you'll write a glowing 9/10 review on Slashdot for some kickback.

Re:Another Slashvertisement (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34310568)

Please subscribe me to your newsletter.

Re:Another Slashvertisement (3, Informative)

MichaelPenne (605299) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310178)

What is the ultra niche?

Second language teaching is pretty big, some estimates run to 1 billion learning English alone, and the UK alone estimates that generates 1.3 billion pounds/year in revenue. [britishcouncil.org]

Moodle, is by most estimates the most widely used online learning software with 49,000 registered sites [moodle.org] in 211 countries and is also an example of a successful open source project ecosystem with commercial support partners in many countries [moodle.com] .

Re:Another Slashvertisement (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#34311260)

Rosetta Stone sells for $500 a copy. How long would it take me to write the equivalent in Moodle?

Re:Another Slashvertisement (3, Informative)

MichaelPenne (605299) | more than 4 years ago | (#34311626)

Rosetta Stone (my kid is using it right now through her school:-)) is a pretty simple application with some very good content. If you had the content you could do it as a SCORM or even a Lesson module in Moodle, but the content (and the marketing;-)) is mostly what you are paying $500 for. The content, it would take some time to write/record and take/locate supporting images & audio, once you had that done, a few days to a few weeks to put it in Moodle (depending on how far you were taking the user in the second language).

Re:Another Slashvertisement (2, Informative)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#34314090)

The big problem with Rosetta Stone is that it doesn't really delve that deep into the language. I actually asked a Rosetta stone guy about this once, he referred me to the website which then referred me to an email address which said I should just pick up a regular textbook(the same kind of regular textbook that Rosetta Stone frequently decries), to finish learning the language. Well guess what, the 80-20 rule is a bitch and Rosetta Stone only covers the 20 part.(The 80-20 rule states that it takes you 20% of the total time to learn a language to learn the first 80% and the remaining 80% to learn the last 20). The reason Rosetta Stone can sell so much is that they rely on people being ignorant of that fact and the fact that with almost any textbook a reasonably smart learner can learn the basics of the language quickly. So it seems like Rosetta Stone is teaching you a lot, but thats just cognitive dissonance :P

WTF *is* it? Badly written Slashvertisement (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 4 years ago | (#34324090)

Look, I don't mind the occasional slashvertisement, but reading this one gives me ENTIRELY ZERO IDEA about what the product is or does.. It's got something to do with teaching and languages.

  • Human languages or computer languages?
  • Is it a computer program, an app for iphones, a set of flashcards, a teaching aid, a web server thing that students log in to?
  • Does it pronounce words or correct student pronunciation or drill grammar or vocabulary?
  • Is it something a teacher uses to run a classroom, or something an individual learner buys to learn a language on their own?
  • Talking about "simple rustic dishes" sounds tasty - is it a platform for robotic kitchen automation? Or is it a potentially nice metaphor that's lost on the audience because we don't have a bloody clue what subject you're talking about?

Journalism isn't the same as teaching, but both of them use models of what the listener knows, what the speaker wants to convey to them, and how to lay out the information in ways that the speaker can use to get the listener interested in listening, give them a framework to understand the new information or skills, and then give them the content. The usual badly written Slashvertisement says "Version 4.6.2 of Grobzinator is out!" and goes on to explain that it's three times faster because they fixed a display bug, plus they've added Graphical Skins so you can decorate it any way you want, without indicating whether it's a programming language, game software, or open-hardware cell phone. This doesn't even do that part well. If you're writing a review, you need to do some journalism. Maybe the original review was written for a readership other than Slashdot, some kind of academic Moodle users' website where it's trying to recommend a new book. In that context it might be fine, but simply reposting here, out of context, fails.

They make products for this already (2, Interesting)

insane_coder (1027926) | more than 4 years ago | (#34309974)

I don't know about a book. But there's products out there for using Moodle 1.9 integrated with online learning for live interactive classrooms. See Groopex Integrated Conferencing [groopex.com] for example, which integrates Moodle with WebEx. I've already seen some language schools using this. I think that supersedes just using Moodle by itself as a language learning solution as this book describes.

Re:They make products for this already (1)

DeFender1031 (1107097) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310074)

I learned hebrew from a teacher who uses a groopex integrated moodle site, and i found the live classes far better than simple downloads of static files that i'd tried in the past. I'm surprised how few people use these real-time tools.

Re:They make products for this already (1)

DeFender1031 (1107097) | more than 4 years ago | (#34314048)

Forgot to mention, my teacher uses live meeting... apparently groopex integrates live meeting as well as webex.

Why There's Only Positive Reviews (4, Insightful)

rakuen (1230808) | more than 4 years ago | (#34309986)

You know, I think I've finally figured out why there's never a negative review on /,, and no, it's not the "shilling." Reviews on this site are voluntary. It's not a job where you're actively employed and assigned to review something by your boss. When we're not required to do something, we usually only do things we like. So it stands to reason we only get positive reviews, because we only like to write about things we like. If the reviewer didn't like the book, he or she would probably not have the motivation to write out a full review. The trend can invert when you get into hatred territory, but let's face it, there aren't a lot of books terrible enough to write a ranty review about it.

Yes, this is not directly related to the actual review, but since there's already been one post harping on it being a /vertisement, likely the first of several, I figured I'd just post my thoughts on it.

Re:Why There's Only Positive Reviews (3, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310030)

You are incorrect that there are only positive reviews. I've read a few that were negative, I wrote one myself that was negative and got green lit for the front page. But most are positive and it is for the reason you mention. I don't tend to finish books that suck and I only write reviews of books I finish. So I agree with your reasoning, would just tweak the statement a bit - positive reviews outnumber negative reviews, but negative reviews do get posted.

Re:Why There's Only Positive Reviews (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310278)

Okay who paid you to say that?

Re:Why There's Only Positive Reviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34310090)

I see very few good reviews. Most reviews are mediocre.

Rating above 9: Excellent book. Run to the store and buy two copies of this book.
Rating equals 9: Average book. Only buy it if you are particularly interested in the subject.
Rating below 9: Terrible book. Avoid it like the plague.

Re:Why There's Only Positive Reviews (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34310124)

Also in order to write a review you have to read enough of the book to not make a fool of yourself. Thus if you hate the book you probably stopped reading before the critical point of being able to write an inteligble review.

Re:Why There's Only Positive Reviews (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34310244)

Plus reviewers wouldn't get paid by Packt if they gave negative reviews.

Re:Why There's Only Positive Reviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34310832)

but let's face it, there aren't a lot of books terrible enough to write a ranty review about it.

I believe you are forgetting about the Twilight series

Re:Why There's Only Positive Reviews (2, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#34314114)

That and slashdot doesn't exactly buy the book for the reviewers, they are all user generated. Which means that many of us read reviews of the book before diving in and avoid ones that have negative reputations.

Moodle lacks innovation. (2, Interesting)

cheesekun (1945450) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310134)

The sad thing is Moodle is SO VERY far behind real LMS innovation. The Web 2.0 world has left Moodle on the sidewalk.

Re:Moodle lacks innovation. (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310460)

So, what you are saying is that because Moodle runs solidly on the web server-client-pageview system, it doesn't work well? I'll take a simple, solid, easy-to-manage, easy-to-use course management system over some bullshit 2.0 ajax monstrosity.

I'll take Moodle over Blackboard ANY day.

Someone up there mentioned how assignments are hidden ALL over blackboard, and that's pretty much exactly right.

Web 2.0 offers NOTHING but a high-latency compatibility minefield that lags behind JAVA web applications from the late 90s.

Javascript annotation for Moodle (1)

Geof (153857) | more than 4 years ago | (#34311080)

Web 2.0 offers NOTHING but a high-latency compatibility minefield

I appreciate the sentiment. There's lots of poorly or foolishly applied Javascript out there. And I assume you are engaging in hyperbole when you say "NOTHING." But I am convinced of the potential of judiciously applied Javascript.

I created Marginalia [webmarginalia.net] , an annotation extension for Moodle. It allows users to highlight passages of text and write notes in the margin. It has won rave reviews from many instructors and students. This is simply not possible without Javascript: it's supplementing the display of structured text, maintaining the benefits of HTML (compared to the opacity of an embedded applet, Flash, or what have you).

Re:Moodle lacks innovation. (1)

cheesekun (1945450) | more than 4 years ago | (#34322476)

I'm not saying to overdo it, but Moodle needs to bring itself into the 21st Century. Secondary School students (in my client base) want Facebook/Myspace styled social learning platforms not Moodle.

Re:Moodle lacks innovation. (1)

trooper9 (1205868) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310474)

What would you recommend to replace it? Seriously, my company uses Moodle for our CE needs and I've about had it with it. There hasn't been singular event to make me feel this way. It's been more of a "death by a thousand cuts" type of affair. But the price is right...

Sigh (2, Insightful)

giuseppemag (1100721) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310238)

When will people learn? The important things about teaching are, in order:
the willingness of the student to put time and effort in learning
the intelligence of the student with respect to the particular subject
the interest and ability of the teacher
the tools used to teach

Blackboard and chalk have been fine for decades and replacing those is simply not as important.

Re:Sigh (1)

theun4gven (1024069) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310520)

The willingness of the student to put time and effort into learning is directly related to the interest and ability of the teacher and to a lesser extent the tools used to teach. A poor teacher using the wrong tools will severely tax the willingness of even the most interested student and may even make learning impossible. Any effort spent fighting the tools is effort not spent learning the material.

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34310614)

False. A student who is interested in the subject will study it no matter what.

If this weren't true, imagine how many would leave studying altogether thanks to piss-poor teachers in high schools all over the world...

Re:Sigh (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 4 years ago | (#34314314)

False. A student who is interested in the subject will study it no matter what.

Your argument does not invalidate the OP's statement which was that poor teachers and tools would hinder the willingness of a student to study not stop them from studying altogether.

Re:Sigh (1)

angus77 (1520151) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310994)

So what's your software solution to the first three?

Re:Sigh (1)

giuseppemag (1100721) | more than 4 years ago | (#34315186)

Neural implants? :)

I've been doing my own thing (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310254)

I find the Pimsleur courses the most helpful; although I've been designing my own sort. What I want to do is go directly to applications; the first 4-6 Pimsleur lessons seem to set up a codepage enough that I can learn the language easier by interpretation (i.e. they teach my brain the very basic foundation, but don't give me a viable structure; I need the whole course for that). From there I'm thinking going into philosophical proverbs (one-liners), poetry, songs, and then stories would be more helpful. Not a linear course, but rather a two-part construction branching in multiple directions: Exposure to new grammar, explanations, new vocabulary, etc; then just copies of the stuff. Mixed in with the course.

So you'd learn i.e. Morehei Ueshiba quotes and Japanese poetry like Sakura etc for Japanese; German drinking songs in German; and so on. Things that may interest you, that get mixed in with your own amusement. It'd be branched off the main courses, but it would offer more full exposure-- longer songs, eventually audiobooks for short stories. A book is going to be a huge bantering of continuous language, with repeated explanation of grammar and new vocabulary, slowly draining away until there's nothing left. And also, a copy of the story without any such annotation. And of course a book of the material for reference.

I'm learning multiple languages at once and there's a certain amount of naturalization that goes into it. If you don't have constant exposure to conversation, you start translating. You need something to force rapid recall. Pimsleur got that right; I'm not really sure any particular part of their course is misguided at all, though that doesn't mean there isn't room for a more advanced theory to supersede it.

Re:I've been doing my own thing (1)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 4 years ago | (#34311170)

I used Pimsleur to help me learn Croatian (lessons 1 through 10). While it was essential to for learning pronunciation and some basics, the vocabulary wasn't extensive.

In order to learn thousands of words, I used Mnemosyne [mnemosyne-proj.org] flash cards, which for that language someone put up several thousand cards (and I added my own).

While Mnemosyne might not appeal to kids because of its bare-bones appearance, its minimalism is exactly what I want. With it I've already learned most of the words, but I still use it daily so they get committed to long-term memory. Using hot keys I added (from one of the site's plugins, which I customized to use the ASDF keys instead of the mouse for scores 1234), I can review literally several hundred words in a daily 15 or 20 minute session with my first cup of morning coffee. Kind of addictive, actually - I look forward to it each morning.

Re:I've been doing my own thing (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#34316588)

Vocabulary isn't an issue. Rapid recognition of sentence structure and natural language flow is an issue. In my third year of spanish, people (including me) were STILL plodding along with "X == Y... wait de has to come first... ok rearrange these words..." With my Japanese and German, I quickly learned (by repeated exposure) to recognize the structure; although my vocabulary is minimal, expanding my vocabulary works just like English.

In short, I know the language, but don't have any vocabulary for it.

Re:I've been doing my own thing (1)

Doviende (13523) | more than 4 years ago | (#34311384)

The problem with Pimsleur is that it's a low amount of content per minute. It's good for an intro, but it doesn't really get you anywhere great overall. For a step-by-step course, I far prefer any of the Assimil courses, because they are actually packed quite full of material, and have excellent audio. Once you've bootstrapped yourself a little bit in the target language, I suggest going straight to real books in the language, in combination with the audiobook. I actually just wrote about getting started in a new language [wordpress.com] last week. The basic idea is that you need "comprehensible input", as the linguist Stephen Krashen would say. By trying to read a real book, you work with material that is interesting, and you can actually get a decent sense of the story even with only a minimal understanding of the language, as long as it's reasonably close to a language you already know. I did this with German, where I couldn't understand books or tv, and I couldn't have a conversation, but I kept on reading Harry Potter in German while listening to the German audiobook. In book 1, I was pretty lost, but I kept on going, and by book 5 I understood almost everything.

Re:I've been doing my own thing (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#34316602)

I bought The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant in German when I first started learning, but I didn't start reading it yet. I got through lesson 16 of Pimsleur's courses.

Teaching Languages (-1, Offtopic)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310296)

Languages are called Teaching Languages when no one will really want to use then in the real world. C is extremely straightforward and easy to teach, but it is never called a teaching language because it is actually useful. Teaching languages are created for the use and the benefit of the instructors, not the students or the industry at large. I'm glad that this article alerted me to a language that I should avoid.

Re:Teaching Languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34310548)

Too bad I've already posted in this thread and can't use my mod points, because you're obviously a tard.

Re:Teaching Languages (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 4 years ago | (#34310712)

You seem more interested in hiding behind the AC label and calling names than in making any counter argument of substance, although I realize that would be very difficult to do. It is such a shame that you allow someone simply expressing their own opinion (arrived at by watching "teachers" from an IT support position) to upset you so much that you would resort to acting as you did, or want to use mod points to silence a viewpoint that you apparently don't completely agree with.

Re:Teaching Languages (1)

angus77 (1520151) | more than 4 years ago | (#34311142)

It's not about disagreeing with you. It's about your inability to comprehend what you have read.

What has upset you so much that you felt the need to post a criticism of teaching languages when the topic's about (natural) language teaching?

Re:Teaching Languages (1)

angus77 (1520151) | more than 4 years ago | (#34311094)

"Language Teaching", buddy, not "Teaching Language".

You know, as in for learning French, Japanese, Arabic. Spoken language, not computer language.

Decent Review (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34310792)

As far as I can see, the review is missing only one thing:

What the @%&$! is Moodle?

Supposedly the book spends two chapters on "an introduction to Moodle and advice on how to get started with the platform," but the reviewer couldn't spare two sentences.

fuwc4? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#34311764)

u@sers. This is

Kudos, review author (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#34313338)

for setting a new *fundamental* benchmark for coherency in a Slashdot submission.

I believe that this submission achieves the smallest quantum of coherency observed to date -- possibly the smallest unit of information that might conceivably be called informative in any meaningful sense of the word. After reading over five hundred words reviewing this book, I determined that the book has something to do with language instruction, but remain uncertain as to whether the book describes hardware or software, a product or standard, an pedagogical method or, just possibly, a cookbook. I'm about 50% certain that the "languages" being discussed are natural languages and not computer languages; what is remarkable about this fact is that if I were any less certain, I couldn't reasonably be said to have learned anything at all from this article.

It's actually rather dumbfounding. I never imagined that I could be so little informed on any topic without being totally ignorant of it. Furthermore, I find that for once in my life I treasure my remaining ignorance of the topic discussed, although I do confess that I have conceived an intense curiosity about the review author's English as a Foreign Language students and how they fare putting the communication skills they've learned from him to practical use.

Moodle's glaring omission: spaced repetition (1)

Christian Marks (1932350) | more than 4 years ago | (#34314470)

The lack of a spaced repetition-algorithm in Moodle--or any other course management system, such as Blackboard or Sakai--is a such a glaring omission that I wonder why no one has done it. SuperMemo [supermemo.com] , a Windows program written in Delphi, remains the best spaced repetition system for memorization despite an idiosyncratic user interface. Piotr Wozniak, the developer of SuperMemo, used it to learn English; an article in Wired [wired.com] mentions that Wozniak speaks perfect English despite never having set foot in an English-speaking country. In addition to SuperMemo, there are two open source spaced-repetition systems: Anki [ankisrs.net] and Mnemosyne [mnemosyne-proj.org] . But the algorithms have yet to be incorporated into online learning systems.

An extensive literature [wikipedia.org] attests to the efficacy of spaced repetition algorithms, especially for learning language. I've used SuperMemo to make quick work of memorizing the FCC question pools for the General and Extra class amateur radio examinations. In fact, the program was so efficient that I was left with hardly any sense of accomplishment having used it to pass the exams.

The need for memorization algorithms is so obvious (I repeat myself) that I'm tempted to write a spaced-repetition plugin for Moodle myself.

Re:Moodle's glaring omission: spaced repetition (1)

Christian Marks (1932350) | more than 4 years ago | (#34314512)

I stand corrected: there is a Moodle activity called Memorycards [moodle.org] under development. Still, the original SuperMemo should be kept in mind for perspective on what is desirable (and for perspective on what to avoid).

Misread (1)

middlerun (1702904) | more than 4 years ago | (#34315506)

At first I read that as "Moodle for 1.9 Second Language Teaching". Now that would be impressive.
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