Moodle Blog

2 Flavours of Mahara at Our Lady’s Preston

Saturday, 01. October 2011 von admin

As a languages teacher, I will happily switch from English to French. Mais oui – pas de problème – j’y suis habituée! As Moodlefairy, I am used to working on  Moodle 1.9 in our primary schools one day and then training a university admin or commercial enterprise in Moodle  2.1 the next. This same mix of languges – versions- or “flavours” is now taking place with Mahara at my school, Our Lady’s High School Preston. We are into our second  year of using a Mahara provided by CLEO our broadband consortium. While bureaucratic dictats keep it at 1.2, it’s a highly customised 1.2 (thanks to the developers at LUNS) and in our first  year it gave us the opportunity for every child in the school to celebrate and share their achievements with classmates, teachers, governors and their parents. You can read about Our Lady’s Preston Mahara experiences with pupils here.

This year, with the support of pupils ensured, we introduced the concept to the teaching staff as a whole on an INSET day at the start of term. It was an instant hit. (In fact, one teacher came up straight after the session to ask “How quickly can I learn Mahara?” I replied: “How soon do you need to learn it for?” “Period 2 tomorrow” was the answer. We sat together for half an hour before school and sure enough, by period 2 she was biting the Mahara bullet with her Year 10 GCSE class. With different teaching approaches and different needs, teachers are developing different, creative ways of using it, from collaborative group views to IWB brain-storming. We”ll be posting some of their ideas  over the coming weeks, starting with Head of Vocational Education Kirsteen Murray who has got her class blogging after every lesson. “They’re loving it” she says. “Only one problem  – I’m finding it hard to keep up with them” Read about Kirsteen’s Mahara blogging here. – click the image to see full size

However -when I am on my training travels,  I use Mahara 1.4. I spent the whole of last weekend preparing  video tutorials for a prestigious northern university on using Mahara 1.4, and am off again shortly to show some other newbies the advantages of the latest flavour of Mahara. ( Yes I don’t just do Moodle 🙂 Get in touch via Ourlearning if you’re interested) At Our Lady’s we also run a Mahara 1.4 courtesy of  LUNS who are both core Mahara developers and Mahara Partners. It’s proving a great opportunity to compare and contrast -and make  plans for great things in the future 😉  Ellen-Marie Murphy’s  Mahara 1.4 Cookbook, reviewed here gave us some nice ideas and we’ve been testing out non-standard plugins such as the great Embed.ly. We’re constantly having to remind ourselves to talk about pages not views, and journals not blogs, but the extra functionality over our 1.2 is huge.  Since 1.3   manually linking views to make your own mini-site is out  -just  make a collection and share the collection. Collections have been appearing fast and furious   for coursework portfolios, parental information and recording Performance Management evidence. (More posts coming soon!)  Leading on this is Assistant Head Mark Greenwood @mgrtec who currently tops the  statisics bill on our 1.4 flavour, having more pages than anyone else!  “It’s more intuitive than Moodle” he says; ” I love Moodle’s interactivity and grading but for displaying resources for my classes I prefer Mahara collections which I will link to in my Moodle course.” One of Mark’s bugbears has been the inability to mix and match columns: your page can have between one and five of varying widths but you can’t have one row of one column and another of three for instance. It’s a requested feature herefor 1.5  if you want to add your voice but apparently isn’t a simple fix. You can add a banner to the description of a page (thanks Ellen-Marie) but  Mark tweeted his own workaround (I love workarounds!)  the other day – here is his demo page.

What’s next? Moodle and Mahara Meld: the new assignment type for Moodle 2.1 whereby a pupil can choose a Mahara page and submit it as a Moodle assignment. We’ve been doing this at Our Lady’s as a workaround ( yes I DO love workarounds!) simply having students paste in the URL of their page (or view for the older ones amongst us) into an online text assignment. This is fine, but relies on the pupil going to Mahara, finding and copying their page and then going back to Moodle to paste it in. With the assignment type they are presented with the list of their available pages and simply click the one they want to submit. Just like a course group submission in Mahara it’s then locked until the teacher has graded it in Moodle. Watch this space …

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