Review of Moodle 2.0 Multimedia Cookbook

I’ve had the Moodle 2.0 Multimedia Cookbookby Silvina P Hillar for a while now, but what with going to Australia then going on holiday and working on various other projects, it is only now that I have the time to review it. First off – it’s not really a “Moodle” book, rather, a book about using various multimedia/Web 2.0 applications and how to upload them to Moodle. That’s not a criticism at all –just so that the reader is clear. In many ways it could be an advantage, as the skills learned could be applied to other VLEs/LMSs too. Only in the final paragraph of each “recipe” do we add the activities to Moodle.
So- assuming you are familiar with the workings of Moodle 2 and keen to enhance it with multimedia – here goes :)
Chapter 1 mainly features the Moodle quiz, Hotpotatoes quizzes (Hotpotatoes now being a contributed module in Moodle ) and Quandary – a great free maze activity (but only available on Windows) I haven’t used Quandary in Moodle but apparently you add it in the same way as HotPotatoes exercises. J-Clic is another quiz-making program I don’t have much experience of but we are taken through a new project with this too. The Great Classtools gets a mention too, with its Telescopic topic generator and the reader also learns how to link to external websites where students can do activities and then upload the results via a Moodle assignment.
Chapter 2 is all about maps – 2D, 3D, Fusioncharts maps, Bing maps, Google maps … The reader learns how to create maps in Google Earth, upload photos to them, add labels to places and save or embed into a Moodle page for students to discuss or edit. I discovered another site, 3dvia.com which has a free download of a 3D models for Bing maps – but again, sadly, Windows only. We’re not tied to Earth either, as Silvina suggests sites which will take the reader to Mars, the moon and around the universe!
Chapter 3 I struggled with, not in any way because of Silvina’s work, which was fine, but because I am just not a chart kind of person –give me a list of words any day! The emphasis, as with the previous chapter, is in learning the skills to make these charts in various programs – Open Office or Google Docs, zoho.com, editgrid.com for example, with subsequent ideas for using these within Moodle, such as in a database or forum. Silvina also shows how you can download the results of a feedback activity as an Excel spreadsheet and create a chart from them.

More my scene is Chapter 4.  We look at collaborative writing with Google Docs and using the Google Docs repository ( I felt the explanation of how to enable this by “switching your role to manager” was somewhat misleading by the way) Open Office was used to create a file with a weblink and a table that students were required to complete and re-upload. That’s fine but again I felt the explanation of how to do this was a little long –winded –uploading the document first as a resource and then creating an upload a single file assignment – why not just link to the file within the assignment? I also struggled with annotating the pdf we had created from Open Office but again, I think that is my fault for not finding the comment and mark up toolbar (any help?) Back on with collaborative writing, Silvina leads us to wikis – Moodle 2 has an upgraded wiki now but Silvina introduces the reader instead to the popular Wikispaces which she then embeds into an offline assignment for students to work on.

Another cool area in Chapter 5 – audio! Most of the chapter is taken up with step by step instructions on using Audacity, a fantastic free sound recording and editing program that enables both teacher to create podcasts and students to create and upload their own files. We also investigate  midi files and TuxGuitar, which I confess I know nothing about! Students need to install TuxGuitar in order to open these files uploaded by their teacher.

Moving on from audio to video, Chapter 6 covers creating, editing and embedding screencasts. You can download this chapter for free here. Silvina uses http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/ – another pleasant discovery for me. We also look at what youtube and dailymotion offer in terms of  uploading, annotating and embedding screencasts. (But again – the explanation “switch role to manager” in order to  enable the youtube repository is very misleading. If you are admin you don’t need to switch your role at all – if you are a teacher in a course – you can’t switch to a higher role anyway. )Several screencasts are combined to create a playlist in youtube that is then embedded into Moodle.

Images are the focus of Chapter 7 (bitmap) and also Chapter 8 (vector)There is a lot I learned here because (being a words not a visual person!)  I know hardly anything about lossy v lossless and the likes.  GIMP is the program of choice for this chapter, and a very worthy program too. The reader learns how to resize images before uploading to Moodle (thankyou Silvina! ) and how to add a photo with hotspots. Displaying this in Moodle involves a lot of code (presumably this is available on the Packt website) so being short of time I haven’t tried this yet but it seems a good, free way to achieve this. ( I know of some paid for ways but free is always good) Chapter 8 shows how to use Inkskape to convert vector graphics to bitmap, how to edit vector graphics and include them in Open Office documents and pdfs

Chapter 9 deals with Designing and Integrating E-portfolios. The author mentions that at the time of writing she was unable to use Mahara (possibly the most powerful option) Exabis and Mystuff but instead she covers the highly useful Google Docs and Box.net (which I am not familiar with –another one to explore!) Silvina shows how to export items such as forum posts or chat sessions from Moodle into a portfolio such as Google Docs. This is a great new feature in Moodle 2 and I feel it will be increasingly popular – particularly with Moodle working alongside its “sister” Mahara.

And that’s it! So –to recap and conclude: this is a book that introduces you to a wide variety of free applications that can be used by teachers and students in the learning process. Adding them to Moodle is secondary to creating activities with them, but that’s fine – the reader should be familiar with Moodle and simply looking for ideas – for recipes in fact, which this cookbook has a-plenty!