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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Website brings NHS students, teachers closer together

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Keenan Wright completes a worksheet using the Moodle program in Jeff Gambill's English class.
A website called Moodle is allowing area high school teachers to reduce their amount of time lecturing and devote more time to working one on one with students.

The site provides a place for teachers to upload assignments, quizzes and interactive links to present the lesson.

Moodle is being used in Jeff Gambill's English classroom at Northview High School.

Initially, when the computers were installed in the classroom and teachers were putting the basic material on the site at the beginning of the year, Gambill found it difficult to learn all of Moodle's functions.

Now, three months into the school year, Gambill finds the program to be much easier to operate.

"You climb up the learning curve," Gambill said.

Gambill also said he was "learning as much from the students as they're learning from me."

Students are helping Gambill and each other trouble shoot through some of the "quirks" in Moodle.

Because of this, Gambill feels the students are learning English skills as well as technology skills.

The program is in its infancy so there is little feedback or evaluation available on the effectiveness of the program, but Gambill has seen positive results.

"I don't know if it's true or if I'm optimistic," he said.

The students just finished a unit on learning to write a five-paragraph essay.

"I'm really surprised at how well they've done," Gambill said about the students' first attempt at essays.

They will now move on to American Romanticism, which includes Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau and Edgar Allen Poe.

Through Moodle, Gambill was able to provide students a direct link to a website dedicated to Poe.

"There are some outstanding websites out there," Gambill said.

The site on Poe takes visitors on a tour of his home and the city of Baltimore, as well as giving interactive activities to learn about the poet's life and death.

Gambill said, along with students being able to use the program to complete their work in the classroom, the program gives students who are not able to be in class the opportunity to do their work from a home computer.

Originally, Gambill had worried the program would discourage students from interacting, but he has seen the exact opposite.

Students ask each other for help understanding vocabulary, and bounce essay ideas off of each other.

Because the class has moved from a lecture format to a computer format, Gambill gets to spend more time working one on one with students.

Another bonus for the teacher is putting lessons plans into the program.

Gambill will upload the lessons for this year onto the website, and it will remain there for him to use again next year.

This way, instead of uploading the same lesson year after year, Gambill will be able to add and edit his website to improve the educational experience.

Gambill is hoping next year to use all of Moodle's available functions, including chats and forums.

The school sent Gambill to a weeklong class in Indianapolis this summer to learn how to use the Moodle site.

"Without that preparation, it would've been a nightmare," he said.

Gambill also gives credit for the initial success of the program to district technology director Bill Milner, who got all of the classroom computers set up and operating over the summer.

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