Moodle Blog

Review of Moodle 1.9 Extension Development

Saturday, 22. May 2010 von admin

I found Packt’s Moodle 1.9 Extension Development by Jonathan Moore and Michael Churchward a fascinating read.  Not as a teacher – and be warned: although I moodle from a teacher’s perspective this is not a book for those teaching with Moodle; rather, I found it fascinating from a linguist’s point of view. How come? Because this book clearly and methodically sets out the code  you need to develop your own Moodle plugins – and just as we learn a foreign language to communicate with people so do we use code to communicate with machines. The sense of achievement a  student gets after tentatively speaking some French on a school trip and being understood is matched, in my mind, by the satisfaction to be had when your correctly written code actually WORKS and does what you want it to do – both are examples of getting the right language for the job. And this book enlightened and inspired me to want to develop my own PHP “language” skills to customise my Moodles.

So what’s it all about? This is a book for those interested in creating new add ins for Moodle, be that basic blocks (which we start with in Chapter 2) filters (which we learn about in Chapter 3  -sampled here) or even modules (Chapter 4)   plugins such as assigment types (Chapter 7),reports (Chapter 8 ) authentication and enrolment plugins (Chapter 9) and more. You need an understanding of PHP to follow along with the coding activities and to be familiar with MySQL and HTML/CSS. I only have minimal knowledge of these but I thought I would give the book a go anyway, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get the hang of it. After an initial chapter which explains the “Moodle Architecture”, in true Learning by Doing style, we’re given tasks in each chapter which progress in difficulty and are encouraged to try these on our own Moodle install.  One feature I really appreciated is the opportunity to download the code for each chapter’s activities from the publisher’s website. This helped me a great deal as I could then compare and contrast with my own efforts (which didn’t always work!) I got to see why they didn’t work; got to fix them  and thus avoid the frustrations I’d have had if I had been left to my own devices. In addition to the chapters mentioned above, we  examine the Moodle database to help us better understand how to build our code, look at writing secure code and  investigate pagelib and formslib. The book ends with an overview of webservices, focusing on Remote Learner Web services, understandably as the authors work for Remote Learner, although Moodle networking (MNet) is also discussed.

I cannot pretend I understood all of the book because, unlike its target reader, I started with no PHP knowledge but a willingness to experiment. It was a  bit like a beginner French student picking up an Advanced Level French text book – it’s both daunting and awesome -those bits that made sense encourage you to figure out the other parts; when communication is successful and your code speaks to your Moodle and the block/module WORKS, it’s a great incentive to persevere. I would imagine then that any reader who’s already mastered the relevant codes (languages 🙂 ) will find this book a valuable resource, empowering them to create or customise plugins that -it’s to be  hoped – will benefit the global Moodle community. I don’t know how much of this will apply to Moodle 2.0 which has altered significantly in so many ways; however, I do know that Moodle 1.9 is still a popular, stable option, and so this book should help many technologists extend Moodle’s functionality for some time yet.

Review of Moodle 1.9 Math(s)!

Thursday, 10. December 2009 von admin

Ian Wild, author of Moodle Course Conversion, has written a book for Mathematics teachers called Moodle 1.9 Math(s) Well, actually he missed the “s” off for the American market but, try as I might, as a native English English speaker, I just can’t bring myself to do the same! I received my review copy yesterday and am  happy to pass on my thoughts today. A slight confession – this isn’t the first time I’ve seen it, as I was asked to be a tech reviewer for the book back in the New Year.  You can see an outline of the chapter content on the publisher’s website  and also a sample chapter here on Quizzes. What impresses me most is the step by step approach and measured progression throughout the book. While Ian assumes the reader has some experience of Moodle, he nonetheless starts at the very beginning with two simple but highly useful tasks: uploading a past exam paper and setting up a discussion forum. By the end of the book, the reader has learned how to include in a Moodle course complex mathematical notation,graphs, charts, interactive geometry and algebra, self-marking quizzes, multimedia screencasts.. and more! He also devotes some time to science teachers whose needs are often similar to those of math(s!) teachers,  explaining additonally how the scientists can represent chemical structures in their courses using Jmol.  Some of the activities dealt with in the book require Administrator rights; Ian always makes sure to include information for Moodle admins wherever required, and in a way that does not detract from the easy flow of the book and focus on teaching tools.  Also included are useful links to teaching resources. For myself, I particularly liked the more creative elements  of  Chapters 3 and 4, where we read how to enhance our teaching with multimedia presentations, screencasts, Flash games and even DIY Scorm. Would I recommend this book? Yes of course, with Ian’s own caveat that if you are a total newbie you might first  want  to read his own Moodle Course Conversion or my ownMoodle 1.9 For Teaching 7-14 Year Olds. After that -this book will add Magic to your Moodle Mathematics!

Moodle 1.9 For Second Language Teaching

Thursday, 29. October 2009 von admin

When I was approached, in the summer of 2008 by David Barnes of Packt to write Moodle 1.19 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds, we discussed subject matter, and I suggested basing it on Language teaching as I am an MFL teacher by qualification. David told me there was already a Moodle languages book in the pipeline, so we settled for some fun Geography instead, but since then I have been awaiting with eager anticipation the Moodle book on a subject dear to my heart. Well today it arrived – Moodle 1.9 For Second Language Teaching by Jeff Stanford – and what an admirable tome it is! Respect to that man for making it so comprehensive! It goes thoroughly through the four skills of language teaching – Speaking, Listening Reading and Writing, with a plethora of common sense and inspired suggestions for delivering learning via Moodle. There is a sample chapter on the Packt website here The first two chapters deal with why you should use Moodle and the mechanics of setting up Moodle for Language Teaching, while the subsequent chapters deal with language- specific issues such as vocabulary learning, grammar practice and assessment. As if he hadn’t given us enough in the printed book, there are also two further chapters available on the Packt website, covering the layout of your course (highly important to grab and keep your students) and introducing Moodle to your classes. While the book is based on teaching English to non-native speakers, all the suggestions transfer perfectly to modern foreign language teachers such as myself. As he says in Chapter one, the book is “firmly rooted in a communicative approach to language learning” and I appreciated the way Jeff set out the Key Features of CILT versus Moodle Features supporting CILT.

Some random thoughts and observations:

To get the most of this book’s suggestions you’d need either to be admin or have an admin with ftp access to your server to add non-standard modules. Jeff makes heavy use of Nanogong (which fortuitously has just been added as an assignment type this week) , Inwicast Mediacenter and modules such as Questionnaire, OU Blog/Wiki (more powerful than Moodle’s) and Webquest. However, if you don’t have access to these, there are plenty of activities using Moodle’s Glossary, Quiz or HotPotatoes which will serve you well. He also provides instructions and ideas for using the free software Audacity for making sound recordings.
The book’s strong point –its huge range of activities – could possibly be daunting at first to a complete Moodle novice. If you are at all frightened of Moodle I suggest you test the waters first with Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds (even if your students are older) as it assumes no knowledge whatsoever short of being able to turn on your computer. After that,or if you are already  relatively happy with Moodle and computer skills,  I would go straight to Chapter 3 and savour the delicious variety of “recipes” which Jeff serves up. For each task he provides an Aim (Help students identify grammar points) the Moodle module required (Lesson) any extra programs (Audacity/youtube) and a starred system for ease of use (***) I think this is very useful. It means the book can lend itself to teachers browsing for ideas – looking at different activities – checking their Moodle has those modules and they have the skill level required – and going for it!
Moodle 1.9 For Second Language Teaching is available from the Moodle books section of the Packt website. I could write a lot more but I suggest you read it for yourselves!

Control who sees a block on your Moodle front page

Saturday, 10. October 2009 von admin

..or “How to let teachers see a block but not students” – a request often asked over on the forums at moodle.orgIf you have Moodle 1.9 you can control whether guests (non-logged in users) can see blocks or not. It is also possible, with some role and permisson editing, to allow a certain group of people access to a block while preventing others. The video below shows how to do it – but if, like me, you can’t get youtube in your area – there are instructions beneath the video!

  1. Make your block!
  2. With the editing turned on, click on the “assign roles” icon and then click on “override permissions” You need to click guest and change the button to prevent (viewblock) When you have saved the changes, non-logged in users will not be able to see this block
  3. If you only want your teachers (or a certain group of users to see it) you need first to create a new role. (Just because your teachers are teachers in the Real World, Moodle won’t recognise them as such on your front page and so you need to specify who precisely is allowed to view this block.)
  4. In site admistration>users>permissions>define roles, go to the bottom of the screen and click “add a new role”
  5. Make a new , plain, basic role – call it what you like – teacher block viewer, for example.
  6. Save this role and then go back to your front page block and click the “assign roles” icon again
  7. You need to define who can view this block by assigning them the role of “teacher block viewer” in this block
  8. Click the blue words for your role (teacher block viewer) and select from the box on the right the people you want to allow to see the block. Move them with the arrow to the box on the left.
  9. Click the override permissions tab (as you did for the student) For the teacher block viewer, press the allow button and for the authenticated user press the prevent button.
  10. Some people have their default front page role as student – if this is you, then in override permissions, click prevent for the student role.
  11. Try it out!

Moodle Groupings: Hide resources from one class and show to another

Friday, 28. August 2009 von admin

I’ve noticed a trend, as the new term approaches in many Moodle-using countries, that questions are asked on the Moodle.org forums regarding installation, enrolment of students and the best way to “share” courses between several teachers with different classes without everyone getting in each others’ way. This latter query has appeared several  times in the last couple of weeks. Personally I don’t have a problem with everyone seeing everyone else’s activities. (The students will never see their classmates’ work anyway, and if teachers can view what their colleagues are doing, surely that’s a Good Thing in terms of collaboration and self-evaluation?) But there have been various workarounds suggested, from each teacher and class having their own Moodle course to  the setting up of  metcourses.  However, in Moodle 1.9 onwards, there is another way: Groupings. Groupings act a bit like the Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak and give you the power to make certain tasks invisible from some classes (groups) but available to others, all within a single Moodle course. So  if you don’t want Mr Jones’ class to see what Mrs Smith’s class is doing – or if you want your set 4 not to have access to your set 1 work -and you are absolutely sure that’s a good idea – then this video shows you how:

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