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Book Review: Moodle 1.9 Top Extensions Cookbook

Disclaimer: I was one of the tech reviewers for this book (along with my sparring partner @thebenreynolds) I have to confess, however, that it was so well written that there was very little to review – it was a pleasure to read the first drafts. Moodle 1.9 Top Extensions is a “cookbook”, that is, not a book which teaches you Moodle on a progressive learning path, but a book to dip into when you need that little bit extra for your Moodle site. It is a book for admins familiar with Moodle who would like to offer their users more functionality in the form of the many many contributed modules available on the downloads tab of www.moodle.org. The author, Michael De Raadt, helps out with managing these modules. In his book he has chosen some of the most useful and grouped them together in chapters such as “Adding content”, “Getting around”, Encouraging student interaction” and even “Just for fun” . You can see the full table of contents here on the Packt site and you can also read a sample chapter “Assessing students” here.

For each module Michael has chosen,  he carefully lists its benefits, any downsides, how up to date and compliant it is, which languages it is available in and how good the documentation is. This is a really handy if you are flicking through  a chapter and want a quick overview of the module’s reliability. Obviously Michael has checked them in advance and selected the “Top Extensions”  – the main variations tend to be in languages and documentation. I’ve decided to use the “recipe” theme of this cookbook and pick out a module per chapter that particularly takes my fancy. You no doubt will find others -if you have server access to your own Moodle I do encourage you to buy the book and try some of these out:

1. Adding ContentLightbox gallery. Three years old, this is actively maintained and available in 12 languages. It’s a very simple flash image gallery which only requires you to upload a folder of photos  – the module does the rest. (We have this module on our school Moodle –here’s a recent example)

2. Connecting to the Outside WorldTwitter search block. Released this year and actively maintained, this is a good example of Moodle keeping bang up to date with the latest web 2.o developments. This block allows the results of a twitter search (using the hashtag # )  to be displayed in a block. You can decide how many tweets to show and how often to update the search.

3. Getting around in Moodle –My Courses 2 block (released in 2009, fairly well maintained.  A student in a course in Moodle normally only sees the courses they are enrolled  when looking at the My Courses block. If they are enrolled in many courses this list can get quite long. This block, designed to replace the standard My Courses block, organises a user’s courses hierarchically into categories – thus making the list a lot neater.

4. Effective use of Space – Tabs course format. This was released in 2008, is actively maintained and should work in any language. This is a course format which can be used instead of the weekly or topics format. It replaces those sections with tabs at the top – again, another neat way of displaying your work and another option worth considering in our ongoing quest to Avoid The Scroll  of Death.

5.  Assessing students – Peer Review assignment type. This is actually a module created by the author himself and has proved extremely popular in the few months it has been around. It is basically a simplifed version of the Workshop activity. The workshop activity is a fantastic way of allowing students to peer review but was very complex to use and in 1.9 had  become rather buggy. Michael’s contribution allows users of 1.9 to peer assess in a very straightforward way. (The workshop for Moodle 2.0 is much improved by the way).

6.Organising students – Group selection module. One year old and actively maintained, this is one module I wish we had on our school Moodle. It allows student (or any users ) to choose the group they want to enrol themselves into.  You can also set limits on the numbers in the group and a time limit for making your choice. Simple but effective.

7. Encouraging student interaction – Mindmap activity module (released  2008 with limited maintenance)  I’m really not a mind-mapping person – apparently they were invented in the 1970’s when I was  at high school so I probably missed their introduction. My children (21 and 19) both experienced them and used them all the time for revision. This module then uses a Flash-based tool allowing teachers to create mindmaps that students can contribute to and collaborate on.

8.Informing students – Countdown block . Released in 2007 and actively maintained, this is another one I wish we had on our school Moodle as it allows teachers to set a countdown to a certain event. I am often asked to find and display a countdown -to the exams for example, or to the start of a revision programme. This block would fit the bill perfectly.

9. Handy tools for teachersSharing cart. Actively maintained and with good online documentation, this block is a godsend if you have many  activities and resources that you want to copy. You can clone activities -even from one course to another- rather than having to start again from scratch.

10. Just for fun – Certificate. Released in 2007 and actively maintained with good documentation, this is a very popular module as it enables teachers to  provide students with printable pdf certificates once they have met certain criteria in a course. I end my “tasting session” with this module as it’s good one to segue into the final point about this book: how many of these will work in Moodle 2.o?   At the moment, probably none of them. The changes in Moodle 2.0 are so radical that all contributed modules will have to be rewritten. When depends very much on the time, motivation (and in some cases funding) of the module’s creator.  The most widely used modules are likely to be updated soonest – some are pretty much there already. I know the Certificate module will be usable in Moodle 2.0 because so many people love it. Others highlighted in this book are in the process of being updated too.

To summarise: this is a very readable and useful book to dip into. Admittedly it is written for 1.9 but as many establishments will be on 1.9 for a while yet, it is still valuable. And one day – let’s hope! The Top of the Top Extensions will work in Moodle 2.0 as well 🙂

Dieser Beitrag wurde am Friday, 03. December 2010 um 21:11 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Moodle abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen. Du hast die Möglichkeit einen Kommentar zu hinterlassen, oder einen Trackback von deinem Weblog zu senden.

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2 Comments »

  1. Just to note for anyone thinking of buying this book, you can find a 20% discount code for it (and other Moodle books published by Packt) in http://moodle.org/books

    Comment: Helen Foster – 05. December 2010 @ 11:50 am

  2. I knew I should have turned on my RSS feed earlier. Didn’t see this post until 1 month later 🙁
    Nice job, Mary.

    Comment: ben reynolds – 03. January 2011 @ 3:53 pm

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