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Book Reviews

Moodle 1.9 For Second Language Teaching 50

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
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.
Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching
author Jeff Stanford
pages 420
publisher Packt Publishing
rating 9/10
reviewer Gabi Witthaus
ISBN 1847196241
summary A descriptive how-to approach with enthusiastic insights into the rich potential of Moodle for creating engaging, useful language learning activities
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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Moodle 1.9 For Second Language Teaching

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  • I love moodle... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • 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.
    • 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.
      • Forgot to mention, my teacher uses live meeting... apparently groopex integrates live meeting as well as webex.
  • by rakuen (1230808) on Monday November 22, 2010 @04:29PM (#34309986) Homepage
    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.
    • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday November 22, 2010 @04:33PM (#34310030) Homepage Journal

      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: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by antifoidulus (807088)
      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.
  • The sad thing is Moodle is SO VERY far behind real LMS innovation. The Web 2.0 world has left Moodle on the sidewalk.
    • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

      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 l

      • 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 simpl

      • 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.
    • by trooper9 (1205868)
      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 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by giuseppemag (1100721)
    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.
    • 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.
    • by angus77 (1520151)
      So what's your software solution to the first three?
  • 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.

    • 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

      • 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.

    • by Doviende (13523)
      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 starte [wordpress.com]
      • 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.
  • 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 p

  • 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 Engli

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

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