This will be the first in a series of posts on the sessions I'm attending at the TIE Conference.
The first session I attended was on Moodle , an open source course management system that I've read a lot about on the web, but this was my first time to really get to play with it (a little). Moodle can be used to create a completely online course or - as we're likely to use it - to complement our face-to-face courses. Basically it contains what Infinite Campus Lesson Planner and/or the Viadesto website software should - modules that allow you to post assignment information, upload documents, link to websites, create writing prompts and journals, have threaded discussions, and it has a new blogging module (although the version I played with wasn't current enough for that). It also has a survey module and an assessment (quizzes and tests) module.
Overall, it looks very promising, but I still didn't really have the time to play enough to really get a great feel for it. I also have concerns about my ability to convince the tech folks at ESC to install this which - in order to have access via the web - would have to happen (I might be able to get away with installing it myself for just in-building use, but that wouldn't be a very good test of its capabilities).
I'm also not sure whether teachers would really take the time to use it effectively. It appears to be really easy to use and you only need to use the parts you want (so you can start slow and then build up), but I think to use it effectively a teacher would have to make a committment to really use it. It's one of those things that if you don't devote enough time to it it will end up being ineffective.
The presenter was from Boulder Valley where they've been piloting it for a little more than a year (and have been running it on a server that was doing something else, yet it still performed reasonably well). They are going to roll it out as a fully-supported application (along with a dedicated server) in the fall. I also was lucky enough to run into Bud Hunt and he showed me his Moodle site. He really likes it and thinks it's an excellent way to organize your classes - so that's enough to make me look at it further. He's hosting it outside of his district, which gets around the district issues but costs money and might not scale up if a lot of teachers ended up wanting to use it.
I'm planning on talking to the district tech folks to see if they would be willing to install it if I managed it. Then I could play around with it and maybe convince a couple of teachers to try it with their students on a limited basis to see how it goes.