Sunday, September 30, 2012

Experiences With Moodle Reader for Extensive Reading

In this blog post I discuss some of my thoughts and experiences with using Moodle Reader, a module that provides quizzes for graded readers.

The creator of the site, Tom Robb, describes the purpose of the module to provide "support the Extensive Reading approach to language acquisition which advocates the reading of a large volume of material that is easier than the learner's language level, rapidly with little dictionary use, of material of the learner's own choice. Through this massive amount of reading the student can internalize the grammar and vocabulary that has already been studied."

My experience with trying to hold students accountable for their extensive reading both in and out of class led to a discussion with my schools' administrators about the implementation of Moodle Reader in order to encourage more participation in extensive reading. Prior to this term, students were asked to fill out a reading log on what they had read, and the majority of students were simply opening their books and commenting on a few lines from a particular page.

Struggles of Implementation

I assisted teachers in our school's IEP with getting accounts set up at the beginning of the school term, but ran into a number of setbacks during the initial set up period.

First, I found it difficult to set up the different courses and to have them categorized under my school name. After a number of attempts I had to contact the creator and have them set up for me.

Teachers also found that even after registering students for their courses their students still had difficulty accessing the class site. Random students had to enter a course enrollment key, while others could not log on with their password that the teacher had registered them with. I ended up having re-enter their password by using the "change password" command.

Another challenge we encountered was that teachers had to try and figure out the head word level of the books their students were choosing and see if they matched those provided by the publishers of the graded readers. For instance, in our library we have books organized by the levels of headwords from 1-6. However, a publisher might assign a book to be level 3 while in our library it falls under a level 4 or 5. For my own course, I ended up taking off the level restriction of the site. However, this meant that students had many more choices of books under the publisher to choose from in order to find their book for taking the quiz.

An addition complication is that when getting students used to taking these quizzes a number of them fail their quizzes and then are not able to retake them. This was useful in getting a dialogue going between myself and students about the appropriate level of book they were choosing from our graded reader library, but then I felt compelled to allow them to retake the quiz as it required information from the text that they perhaps had not focused on when reading it. So I had to go into the "view and delete attempts" and look up the student by name and then delete their quiz so they could retake it.

Benefits of Moodle Reader

Since I don't intend for this post to be a criticism of Moodle Reader, I must point out that there are some benefits to using it.

Most important, I think that using the module allows for more accountability for student's extensive reading. Teachers can easily view student's performance on quizzes and levels of books that they are reading and use this information to guide students in their extensive reading experiences.

Compared to my prior experiences of using reading logs to hold students accountable for their reading, I feel that Moodle Reader is a much better use of time. I don't have to think about grading reading log entries that I feel were written at the last minute and do not demonstrate that the student read the book. In short, this seems to be a much more meaningful way for students to demonstrate their extensive reading performance.

I think that on the student end, the instant feedback that they get can be valuable in letting them know how well they comprehended what they read. They will know instantly whether they passed or not and what grade they received.

The time limit feature also ensures that students can't just pick up a book they have barely read and answer all the questions by thumbing through the book. I tested this myself on a couple of books and find the 15 minutes were sufficient to answer the questions if I had read the book, but not if I was just skimming it to answer the quiz questions.

Is it Worth it?

I suppose the big question is whether I believe implementing Moodle Reader into an extensive reading program is worth the effort?

My answer is yes, but that it should be piloted first in one class before considering implementing it program wide. Many of the kinks of this interface make it rather cumbersome to get going. In addition to going through the videos and supporting materials provided to help teachers use Moodle Reader, I ended up corresponding extensively with the site's administrator in order to figure out some of the intricacies of the site.

Hopefully teachers will consider experimenting with Moodle Reader for encouraging accountability in their extensive reading programs,  but only after a trialing period first.

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