Today is, I believe, my last DCS Moodle day.
It’s a bittersweet goodbye. Sad, because it marks the end of my formal connection with Damascus Community School, my colleagues and students. We’ve been through a lot together. But to be frank, I think I can say that we are all quite sick of on-line school.
Moodle, for the uninitiated, is the acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. It’s an open-source on-line learning platform, or Virtual Learning Environment. In plain English, Moodle is a free computer program that teachers use to communicate with students through the internet. You can use it to teach an entire course. Or even, as in our case, operate a whole school.
Damascus Community School had already been using Moodle to post assignments, but we instantly became a full-fledged on-line school when teachers evacuated on February 1st.
Almost all of the international students returned to their home countries around the world. Our Syrian students with dual passports enrolled at schools in Lebanon, Jordan, Canada, Italy and the US. Some enrolled in a couple of private schools (Pakastani and British) that remain open in Damascus. The handful of English-speaking students stuck without any other option enrolled in our virtual online school.
Andreas and I both taught on Moodle this semester. Andreas started with four classes, but enrollment dwindled to where he had only one drama performance theory student left in his roll book. I took over responsibility for two diligent 5th graders when their classroom teacher found a new full-time job in Indonesia.
As the DCS Moodle administrator, I continued to help my far-flung friends with their moodling issues. “Moodle Queen” had already been part of my librarian job description at DCS, but in practice I shared the duties with our indispensible tech guy, Yousef, now assisting from his new digs in Dubai.
When we left Syria, Alekka became one of those kids stuck with no other option. She continued her core classes on line as we bopped through five countries in February. Now she’s back in a real bricks-and-mortar school again, which is much better for her learning style. I would venture to say that on-line instruction works best for most students when combined with face-to-face, hands-on learning in a physical location, alongside some real live friends to play sports and eat lunch with. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and thanks to the creativity and flexibility of her DCS teachers, Alekka kept her scholastic chops in shape while we were afloat for month. It was interesting for me to see what the experience is like from the learner’s side (or the learner’s parent’s side, anyway). It gave me some insight into how to use Moodle with my 5th graders, Moufak and Joudi.
But now it’s over, and I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from DCS teachers and students around the world. I hope the next school year brings peace – and a real live classroom – for all of them.