Book Review: Moodle 2 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds

When I was first approached to review Mary Cooch’s latest PACKT publication: Moodle 2 for Teaching 7 – 14 Year Olds, I admit to being a little bemused: as an FE and HE practitioner, VLE Administrator and self-proclaimed Moodle expert I couldn’t immediately see what use this book would be to me.  I could not have been more wrong.

So what makes this book so good?  Mary Cooch’s writing style means that even the most tech-wary of readers will immediately feel at ease.  This is a book written by a teacher for teachers – there is no jargon or techno babble, and the writer’s caring, supportive voice can be heard clearly throughout. 

The author assumes no prior knowledge of Moodle, and ‘no particular experience on the web.’ Yet, despite its calming tone and crystal clear instructions, it never becomes patronising.  Colour screen shots help immensely and help to clarify the already clear instructions further. Users are clearly shown how to design a Moodle course that isn’t just another repository of Office documents and PDFs, but a fully interactive and absorbing experience for students.   Therefore, just because the author assumes that the reader is a beginner, she doesn’t go on to assume that it’s only the basics that need to be covered.  And it is at this point that I realised that even an arrogant Moodle ‘Know it All’ like me could learn a few new things. 

Once the basics have been covered the book goes on to look at concepts such as using the popular quiz and puzzle making website ‘Hot Potatoes’ (and ultimately providing a ‘how to’ within a ‘how to’!).  Another section looks at embedding Flash Games, including the infamous ‘Fling the Teacher’.

By chapter 6, the author merrily has her readers adding HTML coding to Moodle pages (thereby embedding Google Maps, Voki avatars, StoryBird essays, Wordles, YouTube films and more.  This is followed by an excellent chapter about accessibility and advice or teachers new to Moodle.  The author then foes on to explain file extensions clearly – something I found incredibly useful, as I’m often getting my ‘doc.’ and ‘docx’ confused and my ‘Jpegs’ and ‘Pngs’ mixed up!

The final chapter looks at more advanced Moodle operations such as lessons, surveys and conditional activities.  I will confidently bet my last cheese sandwich that by the time the typical reader reaches this chapter, their Moodle stage-fright will have vanished and they will feel more than able to tackle these more complex acts, such is the clear, focused and friendly text. 

As an addendum to this review, I noted with interest how parents are encouraged to look at Moodle for evidence of their children’s work and school experience.  In these days of ‘digital transparency’, it’s good to see more and more educational institutions opening their systems up to parents and carers.

So.   I heartily recommend this book for the intended audience…but also believe that this would be a fantastic introduction to using Moodle for any practitioner, be they in the compulsory on non-compulsory sector.  A superb publication all round!