Mark Osborne, Deputy Principal at Albany Senior High School (ASHS) spoke at Aotea College today about how his high school uses Moodle and Mahara. Albany Senior High (near Auckland) is New Zealand’s first open source school that promotes using open source software but also engages in open education beyond the software aspects.

Since my arrival in New Zealand two months ago, I have been hearing about Mark’s promotion of open source and reading posts by him, particularly on the MLE Reference Group, and finally had the pleasure to meet him and learn more about how his school uses the learning management system Moodle and the e-portfolio system Mahara.

ASHS tries to place as many software tools as possible online so that differing operating systems can still access them without problems and students can also work with their own laptops connecting online through Wifi.

It is up to the teachers to use Moodle with their classes or teach without it. Thus, the knowledge about Moodle can be situated on a continuum. Mahara, however, they have to use for their appraisal process. At ASHS professional development is called professional inquiry because it is an exploration and reflection. Thus, teachers get acquainted with it even if their students happen to not be using it yet.

From next year on, all student portfolios will be e-portfolios. Currently, they can have a paper-based portfolio alternatively.

Mark showed us some of his favorite modules in Moodle, informed us how he uses them in his classes, and how easy it is to set them up. He uses a number of Moodle activities to get feedback from his students on his teacher which he then can also use for his appraisal documentation. For example, students fill in questionnaires about his classes. He also looks at the statistics of activities, e.g. Hot Potatoes quizzes, to find out where students may need some more time because they did not answer certain questions correctly or it took them a very long time to get the answers right.

In just two hours he gave a small group of interested teachers from the Porirua region a good overview of what can be done in Moodle and how Mahara can be used as e-portfolio by both students and teachers and answered questions.

I am looking forward to his talk at KohaCon on October 26, 2010, when he will present on his school’s use of Koha, the open source integrated library system.

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