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Moodle, iTEC, and Portuguese schools

Moodle is an Open Source Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It has become very popular among educators around the world as a tool for creating online dynamic web sites for their students. Moodle has been around for over a decade, and is well established in many countries in Europe. The iTEC project is now building on this platform to integrate new and innovative features to support personalized learning, creativity, collaboration and other transversal skills, which are recognized as being essential for young people entering the workplace in the 21st century.

There are many ways to use Moodle:

  • Moodle has features that allow it to scale to very large deployments and hundreds of thousands of students, yet it can also be used for a primary school.
  • Many institutions use it as their platform to conduct fully online courses, while some use it simply to enhance face-to-face courses.
  • Many users use the activity modules (such as forums, databases and wikis) to build collaborative communities of learning around their subject matter, while others prefer to use Moodle as a way to deliver content to students (such as standard SCORM packages) and assess learning using assignments or quizzes.

The iTEC project has used Moodle as one of its “shell” learning environments. These shells all connect to the iTEC Widget Store which contains a growing number of learning tools called widgets. Unlike traditional learning content which may be text based, the widgets are interactive learning, communication and collaboration tools.  The shells and widget store work very much like a Smart phone or tablet, allowing users to search for and add new tools to their learning environment.  In addition to this the widget store also allows users to easily create their own widgets.

Portugal is one of most active countries regarding Moodle usage in public schools in Europe, and also an iTEC partner. Since 2004 we can see an increasing interest from lower and upper secondary schools for this platform. This interest was bigger during 2007.

Some national initiatives catalyze this growing interest. In 2006, a joint effort between the CRIE team from General Directorate for Innovation, and Curricular Development (DGIDC), of Portuguese Ministry of Education and FCCN (Foundation for National Scientific Computing - Fundação para a Computação Científica Nacional) made it possible to access this platform by all national schools. With this strong partnership, the technical and pedagogical support was guaranteed. 

In 2008 the Portuguese Ministry of Education held a national study on the usage of this platform. In this study, they found out that 98.1% of schools use Moodle, only 1.9% use other platforms, like Joomla and Dokeos (both free software). 

Now in the middle of the piloting cycle 4 of iTEC project The Ministry of Education and Science (DGE-ERTE team) is making a great work involving teachers in the use and creation of widgets. For this they use their own Moodle platform where they have embedded the iTEC Widget Store.

All teachers that have been participating in the different iTEC piloting cycles register in ERTE’s Moodle platform collaborating in the forums sharing their own materials with other colleagues. And in their own schools they use Moodle with their iTEC students.

Their main goal is to involve a specific number of experienced teachers in the use of ICT and iTEC project, and include them in a widget specific group. The outcomes so far are a guide for teachers and a blog. The manual guide for the use and creation of widgets is in Portuguese and includes, information about several iTEC resources, and also the LRE and Travel Well widget, and is based in practical cases. 

Due to the LRE integration in the Schools Portal in the digital learning resources area, and the wide spread usage of Moodle in PT, both the LRE widget and Travel Well, were translated into Portuguese. These two widgets are available to all the piloting cycle 4 of iTEC project teachers and students.

According to the Country report included in Survey of Schools: ICT in education published in 2013 by the European Commission: "Students in Portuguese schools enjoy relatively high equipment levels, with fast broadband speeds, above EU average provision of desktop computers connected to the Internet, and almost universal ‘connectedness’. Use and ICT confidence levels at all grades are consistently high, both for teachers and students...”. 

These results illustrate that use of Moodle, when used in conjunction with the proper ICT infrastructure and trained and motivated teachers can have a significant impact within a national education system.

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