I was a technical reviewer of this book, History Teaching with Moodle 2.0 by John Mannion, and it was a pleasure to receive and read the chapters. I also have to admire his tenacity as John began this book using 1.9 but then Moodle 2.0 came along when he had virtually completed it, so he chivalrously went back and rewrote it all to suit Moodle 2.0.
He has an easy, approachable style, helped, I suspect, by the fact that he is a teacher and is experienced in explaining concepts and breaking complex issues down to simplify the understanding of them – a skill that has stood him in good stead in his aim to get History teachers making the most of Moodle.
Chapter 1 begins by helping the reader set up a course appropriate to the age of their students . At first I was slightly concerned the terminology and history topics chosen had a particularly UK bias and I wondered how readers in the wider English speaking world would find this – but then I had a rethink: we have a LOT of history in England -so why shouldn’t we have a UK-based book for once? It’s enough to ensure all our spellings are international without having to give up our history too!!
So, bearing that in mind, I went happily onto Chapter 2 which shows us how to edit photos and then upload them into labels and how to make Word clouds to make our course attractive to our classes. All good stuff. Following on from this, Chapter 3 covers uploading files for the use of our students -new procedures in Moodle 2.0 but if you are new too Moodle 2.0 as well, then you won’t know any different and so will be innocently happy! A great block I like, the random glossary block, is dealt with by John here too as he explains the value of glossaries in displaying key terms in a topic. The quiz module has been much enhanced in Moodle 2.0 – and with even more changes in Moodle 2.1 – and during Chapter 4, John takes the reader nicely through the types of quiz questions available. The quiz gives us our first glimpse of Moodle’s markbook, which is covered in more depth in Chapter 5 along with essays, new scales and outcomes. This was my favourite chapter as I think judicious use of the markbook is so vital in achieving successful use of Moodle in your establishment. Confession: the gradebook and any sort of Maths filters are my weakest areas of Moodle – I’m a words not a numbers person. But John explains it clearly and efficiently.
Chapter 6 is about student collaboration – polls, databases and wikis, powerful tools that are worth going that extra (half) mile to learn. My absolute favourite activity, the Lesson module, is covered in Chapter 7 along with blogs which are somewhat improved in Moodle 2.0 – although still not quite as good as some of the externally available options. What you can now do, though, is attach blog entries to courses and allow people to comment, so in your history course you can see history blog entries while a science teacher could see science blog entries in their science course. John reminds us too that you can now bring in external blog entries -in a similar way to the RSS feeds he explained in Chapter 3. You can read Chapter 7 as a free sample by following this link here.
I enjoyed Chapter 8 because it taught me about Xerte, a SCORM creating package I have little experience of and which allows you to make multimedia -rich, attractive activities that work in Moodle’s gradebook. The chapter’s other topic, the sound-editing program Audacity, is also very useful for creating mp3s for your Moodle course. Finally, as our skills have developed throughout the book, we culminate in Chapter 9 with the Master of all Modules – the new, improved self and peer assessment feature: Workshop. John has his students reflecting on the impact of the Black Death and takes the reader sympathetically through the various stages of setting up, setting in action and managing the workshop. The final pages – almost as an afterthought but actually, a highly important one – show how a teacher can back up their course at the end of a year and then restore it at a later date.
I would recommend this book to Moodle-using teachers of History at any level and any nationality. It gives you all you need to set up and maintain interesting courses for your students while not drowning you in superfluous technical detail. Well done John!