Tag Archives: moodle 2.0

Book review: Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0

I have in front of me a copy of Packt’s Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0 by Vinny Stocker (If you’d like a taster of the book, then you can download a free chapter, on monitoring your students’ progress, here)

But first, a disclaimer: Vinny very kindly asked me to write a Foreword to his book, which I was honoured to do. However, I did not expect to have the publishers splash across the front cover that I am a  Moodle trainer and consultant – I am not !!  Trademark rules state that only Moodle partners can call themselves Moodle trainers, so although every week I show people from schools, universities, businesses, charities, etc etc, how best to use Moodle,  I don’t have the privileges to use that term. (So please, Moodle HQ and Moodle partners, don’t blame me for that bit!)

The rest of the book is much more accurate and useful however; so let’s take a look. Kudos to Daniel Grycman, Julian Ridden and Ian Wild who did the technical reviewing, which would have been behyond the skills of an Arts student like myself.

Chapter 1 is a brief intro into basic course management, from uploading files using the new Moodle 2.0 file picker to adding pages (much better than uploading documents if you simply want to present information), from sending out announcements  to organising your students into groups and backing up your courses. So you are ready to go, so to speak, from chapter 1. Vinny approaches the book from the point of view of a teacher, rather than an admin, so certain settings will need to be enabled by your site admin. This approach is beneficial to the reader though, because it means Vinny can concentrate on the actual course creation rather than the technical admin settings.  In chapter 2 he covers the important element of making a course attractive to the user by changing themes (if enabled) and adding images  and video through the tinymce editor.  He mentions Wikimedia as a useful source of images, another Moodle 2.0 repository that admin can enable. Blocks down the side, especially the highly customisable HTML block are  explained too. Incidentally, while this is not a criticism, I feel sometimes that in his desire to keep the book moving at a motivating pace, the author doesn’t always explain settings thoroughly enough for the reader to achieve them if they are following the instructions step by step – searching for and displaying youtube videos, for example, or uploading and unzipping folders. On the other hand, the reader gets to achieve a good standard of “moodling” within the first two chapters, so that can’t be bad!

In Chapter 3, we are walked through forums, chat and messaging, all ways of learning through communicating, while in Chapter 4 we focus on assessment.  Vinny mentions allowing students to rate forum posts (although you would need to give them the relevant permission for this; they don’t have it by default) and how to set up a custom rating scale and then explains the 4 different types of assignment, all with their own individual advantages.  The rest of the chapter is taken up with the Quiz module, which has been significantly enhanced in Moodle 2 , and this leads us nicely onto Chapter 5 ,where the author discusses monitoring students’ progress. (This is the free chapter I mentioned at the start of the review, if you’d like to follow along!) We learn how to mark activities as “complete” which then allows us to set the conditions upon which a whole course can be marked “complete” – another new feature of Moodle 2.0 Again, while there is information here for the reader to get started with activity and course completion, I am uncertain  as to whether there is enough information for them fully to understand it – or is that just me? (For example, he says “if there are prerequisites for your course, you can set them  here” But what is a prerequisite? Do you need one?If so, how do you set it? (I do know the answers by the way, but I am not sure it is clear here though.) I liked the sections on quiz analysis and assignment feedback -isn’t Moodle so priceless for the average teacher, giving them such an array of useful statistics? Finally in this chapter, we get to learn about organising the gradebook, a powerful beast and one which I am still trying to get my head around. With Chapter 6 come wikis, glossaries and workshops, all tried and tested tools for collaborative knowledge building and peer assessment. From the point of view of my own “knowledge building”, I found Chapter 7 the most valuable, as it offers an insight into TeX and DragMath equation editors and ways to embed 3D molecular structures and displaying live graphs. As a linguist, I have little experience of such features and enjoyed learning about them. On the other hand, blogging is something I am familiar with -  and this is is one of the subjects of Chapter 8. The Moodle blog has been much improved in 2.0; it is now possible to attach a blog to a course – although – it is still visible in the site blogs AFAIK, so it’s not totally course-centred. As Vinny points out, you can now comment on blogs, a very long awaited enhancement. The other aspect of this chapter is an overview of the Lesson module, which Vinny explains is a perfect solution for providing personalised learning opportunities. Chapter 9 looks at ways our students can give feedback, from Google Docs or Survey Monkey to the actual Feedback module. This is disabled by default so admin needs to “open its eye” . (I think it’s disabled because it is a temporary measure as we await the all new bright and shiny super survey module that will rise from the ashes one of these days. ) Vinny also talks about how students can add content via glossaries, databases or role tweaking to allow them to create quiz questions. Chapter 10 is basically a housekeeping exercise, showing the reader how to reset their course ready for the start of a new academic year. The final chapter, Chapter 11, is a bit of a tease: we discover web 2.0 applications such as  Tagxedo, Animoto and Bubble.us that will add flair to our course and also find out about some non-standard modules we might want our admin to install. Rather brave on Vinny’s part I thought, as many modules are still not upgraded for 2.0 -although Positive Thinking can work wonders :) He introduces the reader to the Book and Games modules (which do have  2.0 versions) and Hot Potatoes, which has now become a contributed module and has a 2.0 download. Others he suggests, such as Nanogong, are a way off yet, but here is hoping!

In conclusion ,this is an easy to read, easy to follow book. In parts I think the explanations are a bit cursory but the payback for this is that a teacher reading the book won’t be overwhelmed by non-essential technical detail and can simply get on with their job. (The Foreword was quite nice, too!)

What I do (A week in the life…)

teaching pupilsWhat do I do? Well I teach children and I train adults. My rôle was changed a couple of years ago to allow more time for Moodle. I now have Much less money but Much more fun!

Every day is different. Here’s a typical week:

Monday

morning: 20 year 5s (9 year olds) bounce in to my classroom from one of our local primary schools to do some exploring on Google Earth and meet Moodle. Part of my job is aiding the transition from Primary to High school and an element of this involves getting them to use my school’s Moodle. Within five minutes of logging in for the first time ever, two of them have searched for and contacted their elder siblings via the messaging block. Should I be exasperated they are distracted or delighted they are digitally native?

afternoon: A new English teacher comes for her training session. Another part of my job is to ensure all new members of staff, teachers, admin or PGCE students get trained so they can comfortably contribute. Increasingly I  leave the “upload your powerpoints” to the end as a (deliberate) afterthought and instead, show them the benefits of forums, assignments and all things interactive.

Tuesday: Early start on the train to a Midlands school. ( I like the train because you don’t have to leave the internet to watch the road!) Much to  my colleagues’ amusement, my school  hires me out for £400  basically to do whatever you like!! OK, it has to be Moodle but that still leaves a lot of potential! Today I am visiting an 11-18 high school, working with the admin  in the morning and showing a group of “champions” some more advanced Moodle teaching ideas in the afternoon. Last week I had fun at an 8-13 Middle School, starting the whole staff on their first steps with Moodle. I go anywhere UK or Europe though I’ve not yet reached my ambition to Moodle en français…

Wednesday:

morning: Year 10 Spanish (14 year olds) are recording themselves to upload to a course they share with a Spanish school. I’m supporting their teacher and pleasantly surprised at how much – with basic  Latin and  French degree – I can understand of their enthusiastic efforts.  Then straight to Year 7 who are blogging and making “views” (webpages) in Mahara about their early days at High School. This is pleasant because, having met them in previous years when introducing them to Moodle, it’s nice to keep the relationship up.

afternoon:

teaching pupilsSomething a bit different – training a local Solicitors’ company who plan to use Moodle for their CPD. A change from the schools’ angle for me and an interesting insight into business needs.  They are very keen on the “Activity Locking/Conditional Activities” element of Moodle and although we work on a Moodle 1.9, a discussion ensues about whether to start straight with 2.0 or not.

Thursday:

morning: Out at a different Primary school to chivvy along their Y6 (10 year olds) who are aiming to have the Bronze INGOT  certificate completed before they get to High School and who again are using our Moodle to upload their work. We also have a practice with CrazyTalk which their class teacher has bought for them to use in Assembly – but we have to be quiet as the Head is  not meant to know!

afternoon:

Working on a redesign of the Staffroom course on our Moodle and then making help resources, which I love. I love breaking things down step by step.  I use Snagit for screencasts and Screensteps for helpsheets – although I am also liking using styles in (the much maligned) MS Word as this enables me to make little booklets with tables of contents (with the screenshots dropped in from Snagit). In between times I am emailing back and forth a network manager in Norfolk who has paid my school for email support. I ask you  – me? solving people’s Moodle queries? It’s like I’m a chocolate addict working in a chocolate factory:) :)

Friday: My day off (in theory) but it’s changed this week as 3 people from different parts of the UK have come to learn about Moodle 2.0. I don’t know many places doing training in this just yet as Moodle 2.0 is still a baby with bugs and I am learning more each day – but the Moodle doesn’t break, the sandwiches are good and they seem satisfied so that’s a relief! Two of the three are Moodle admins of 1.9 sites, while the third is Head of ICT looking at beginning Moodle. They requested  predominantly admin training and once more we have that discussion over when to move to 2.0 and whether to start with 2.0 or play safe with 1.9. But I can’t stay in geek mode for too long, because as soon as they leave I’m brought back to reality with 20  Google Earth assignments still not marked from Monday and nearly 20  newbie Moodlers messaging me a reminder!

Comments and Blogs in Moodle 2.0 – Having your Say!

Here’s a  screencast showing some uses of the new Comments block in Moodle 2.0 and the improvements made to the Blog (which include comments!) It’s now much easier to Have your Say in Moodle, in a lot of different places. If  like me you can’t access youtube at your establishment then  below the screencast  is a list of what it contains:

  • a comments block on the main course page so students can give feedback to the tutor
  • a comments block on an individual resource or activity
  • a comments block on a teacher-only page (the assignment marking screen) so teachers can moderate work together privately
  • adding a blog post to a specific course
  • commenting on a blog entry
  • importing an external blog into your Moodle blog