Opinion – Can Moodle replace social networks in educational settings?

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There are a few interesting articles recently, one from Tampa Bay’s local news channel 10 and the other from the Mundelein Review in Illinois: the local school districts are banning or discouraging communication between students and teachers via social networks and instead are leaning on Moodle and school website portals to provide all modes of communication between the community, teachers, parents and students.

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Read the articles here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/mostpop/story.aspx?storyid=141641 and http://www.pioneerlocal.com/mundelein/news/2593194,mundelein-communication-081910-s1.article

While the use of social network sites (such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace) in schools is a contentious issue, I’m curious what general opinion about student-teacher communication in schools looks like today (via Moodle or not).

Can and does Moodle provide an adequate communication venue for students, parents and teachers?  What Moodle tool works best?  What specifically might it be missing?¹

While banning communication through Facebook (or other social networks) may prevent otherwise positive and learning-focused communications, I can see where the school (and it’s legal team) might be coming from.

By strengthening the walled-garden that is their school’s website portal and LMS, its possible for a school to get the best of both worlds (i.e. that is, stem potentially dangerous communications before they happen and promote adequate, informal and formal educational discussions between students, parents and teachers)?

¹ Moodle 2.0 provides a much more robust communication tool for students and teachers (specifically enabling a inbox and message system).  I think that it will change how many schools view Moodle in terms of providing an adequate communication channel [http://docs.moodle.org/en/Moodle_2.0_release_notes#Messaging]

6 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not impressed with messaging in Moodle, since as a teacher I can’t see what kids are messaging each other.

    But restricting all school communications – students, teachers, parents – only to moodle. What a lot of overhead – Kids aren’t the only ones to “lose” their passwords. And I have never been a fan of parents being on a student moodle – they don’t have right to see postings/work of other students.

  2. Hi Fran. Actually there is a messaging report that can display all site messages which allows monitoring of student messages by staff.
    http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=110927
    We use Moodle as our walled garden social network- kids can blog, add tags, message each other, etc. and so it draws them to the Moodle site (making it more likely that they will check out school/course information). We think of our Moodle like a virtual school – there are virtual classrooms and virtual hallways/playgrounds. The kids can hang out and talk in the virtual hallway space of our Moodle and we prefer that to them hanging out in the virtual city streets of the rest of the internet.

  3. Hey Colin,

    Do you have a demo or some screenshots of your site? Sounds cool and getting students (or any type of user) to go to school-related/work stuff by having personal, social or entertainment stuff is a great idea.

  4. Hi Melissa,
    You can visit out site as a guest at
    http://moodle.carmelunified.org
    Our site is a fairly standard Moodle, so the idea of “different spaces” is just the idea of different tools not anything structural on the site. In terms of seeing the social side of things (blogs, tags, and messages) those are only available to our staff and students. However feel free to contact me directly for more info and/or a temporary account. @cytochromec is my twitter handle

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