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Practical Moodle Tips for Technology Administrators


In Moodle-izing Your Education Enterprise, you read about how the Moodle course management system could be used to facilitate online professional learning, facilitate campus communications, and much more. How Moodle will be used also will depend on your expertise in setting up Moodle to allow for maximum educational use. This article seeks to share several practical tips for enhancing your Moodle for K-12 district use. Below are some of those tips:

  • Mapping Your Moodle Implementation
  • Installing and Expanding Moodle's Capabilities

MAPPING YOUR MOODLE IMPLEMENTATION

When I first implemented Moodle in my K-12 learning environment, I was exploring how I could use Moodle and encourage others to use it. That resulted in one Moodle installation with a multitude of courses. That can be problematic, especially if you plan to grow your Moodle implementation. With any technology program, especially one that is Web-based, remember that youll have to update it on a regular basis. Like a poorly planned city, you can end up with a series of Moodles that are running different versions and have various components -- and the whole enterprise quickly becomes confusing to maintain. To avoid that confusion, I urge you to map out what you hope to accomplish. Below is a sample concept map of a Moodle implementation.

Click here to view larger image.

As you can see from the diagram above, my school district's Moodle is organized into the following sites:

Professional Learning Center (PLC):
This is where adult learners can participate in either instructor-led or self-paced, 100 percent online courses, and earn Continuing Professional Education (CPE) and/or Gifted and Talented credit hours. The GT credit hours are done in collaboration with our district's Advanced Academic Services Office, and the partnership with them has been well worth the investment of getting their staff trained in online learning. We also are working with our Office for Professional Learning to consider what additional courses should be available to the entire district. District level teacher specialists are developing online courses for publication and use within the Professional Learning Center.

Some specific examples of how Moodle is being used to enhance professional learning opportunities for educators are:


More About Moodle

* Moodle
* Five Essential Tech Tools for Administrators
* Moodle in the Classroom

K-12 Open Campus:
The Open Campus facilitates teachers, and impacts students who are participating in online literature circles, classroom specific courses facilitated by teachers, and more. The focus of Open Campus is to enhance classroom teachers' ability to create online learning environments that complement their teaching. Some of the exciting ways that Moodle is being used in K-12 are exemplified in the links below:

iTech:
This is the Technology Center, a place where support areas and online communities for technology department initiatives are facilitated. There are many examples of Moodle being used as a "support area" where you can facilitate sharing frequently asked questions and ideas about a particular initiative. In my district, for example, information is shared about our district's electronic gradebook.

Mapping your Moodle implementation is an important step to take before you start creating Moodles on a server. Another point to consider is how you will enhance that Moodle installation. Many modules and enhancements are available to make Moodle even more versatile than it already is.

EXPANDING MOODLE'S CAPABILITIES

Expanding Moodle's capabilities can seem like a daunting task. To help accomplish that task, here are some Moodle tips organized into two categories: 1) Moodle Tips and 2) Moodle Modules, Blocks and Filters.

MOODLE TIPS
Note: Because these tips are too long to include in this article, links to more information are provided.

Administration These tips will help you better administer Moodle. You also might consider purchasing a book on Moodle, such as William Rice's Moodle 1.9 from Packt Publishing. I recently reviewed this book and found it accurate to the process you follow in setting up Moodle.

End-User These tips focus on enhancing the end-user's ability to accomplish more with Moodle.

  • Adding a Photo Gallery Walks through adding a photo gallery to your Moodle. Quite easy to use and an impressive tool.
  • Three Tips for RSS Feeds Want RSS feeds for your discussion forums? Want to remix Moodle feeds or pull in remote RSS feeds? This is the entry to read.
  • Free Themes for Moodle As soon as I installed Moodle, I started looking for ways to "liven" it up. I found a treasure trove of free themes.
  • Enabling Embedding of Video Playlists This tutorial shows users where to click to enable TeacherTube, YouTube videos, videos from various providers in your Moodle sidebar, and so on.
  • Embedding FLV and Other Media This tip documents how to enable the multimedia filter so FLVs can be embedded in Labels and HTML Resources.

MOODLE MODULES/BLOCKS/FILTERS
Moodle can be enhanced in variety of ways. Essentially, you can add what is known as a block, a module, or a filter to your Moodle installation. Below are some of my favorite ways to enhance Moodle.

Top Moodle Modules

  • Installing Third-Party Modules in Moodle A Youtube video on how to install modules.
  • Assignment Rubrics Allows users to grade assignments using a rubric.
  • Book A multi-page resource with a book-like format.
  • DimDim Dimdim is the friendly Open Source Web meeting. With Dimdim, a user can show presentations, applications, and desktops to any other person over the Internet. They can chat, show their webcam, and talk with others in the meeting. All that is possible without meeting attendees installing anything.
  • Exabis ePortfolio This module enables both professional and student Moodles as a repository for users to store top projects and, more importantly, to allow file-sharing among classmates/teacher for review, collaboration, or comments. Check it out for broader use across courses. The module also allows for collection of files, notes, hyperlinks, and so on, and exports to SCORM. Items can be shared to all site users, to only those in a common course, or to individuals.
  • Feedback "The Feedback module allows users to create and conduct surveys to collect feedback from students. Its smaller in scope and easier to use than the Questionnaire module, and unlike the Survey module, allows users to write their own questions, rather than choose from a list of pre-written survey instruments." (Source: Kineo).
  • Group Selection Allows students to select the group they want to be members of.
  • Lightbox Gallery This resource allows users to create 'Lightbox' enabled image galleries within their Moodle course.
  • OU Blog Provides user and course blogs with comments.
  • OU Wiki Simple, easy-to-use alternative to a standard Moodle wiki.

Another one that looks interesting, although I have yet to try it, is OpenShare.

Top Moodle Blocks

  • Analog Clock Displays an analog clock.
  • Birthday Displays today's birthdays for Moodle users.
  • Course Management Block used to schedule backup and restores and to delete multiple courses.
  • Course Size Report List of courses with disk usage.
  • iTunes University Access iTunesU podcasts from Moodle. Allows for direct links to podcasts stored in an iTunes University space to be accessed from Moodle in a block using a configured iTunesU login.
  • Login/Logout Block to login and exit Moodle.

Top Filters

  • MultiMovie Filter This filter allows users to display inline videos from YouTube, Google, and TeacherTube using one easy wiki-like syntax inside every Moodle content. (See README.txt for information about the syntax).
  • Topic Tabs Display courses in tabular links, also group all blocks and administration into one tab.
  • VoiceThread Embedding for Moodle This plugin provides a simple, clean way to embed VoiceThread content in Moodle resources, pages, and so on. It has full support for VoiceThread sub-sites (i.e. the users school site).

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Often, technology administrators ask questions about Moodle. The questions below are the most common; possible responses also are included.

Is Moodle a district-subscription type site or can one teacher subscribe?
Moodle isn't a district-subscription type site, although you can certainly go through a third-party hosting provider that will set up the Moodle for you and help you get going. You can find some of those online at Moodle Tips -- Hosting Providers . Please be aware that there are usually costs for doing that. I would encourage you to work through channels in your District and set up a server and get it installed. It's definitely worthwhile to have your own server. In my situation, we have active Moodle running on servers that also do other things. The servers we buy are about $6-7K each. You also can take advantage of a Moodle hosting solution.

What does free, open source mean in regards to Moodle?
The word "free" does not mean "no cost" but refers to the ethic of free software. The distinction to keep in mind is that while this is Free, Open Source Software (FOSS), costs are involved in implementing the solution as measured by capital outlay (e.g. server(s) to host it), technical support personnel, and so on.

Would you share your favorite place for getting free content/curriculum in Moodle format?
One of the daunting tasks of using Moodle is course development. Whether you are designing for educators or students, knowing how to start and where to start is important. Yes, and here are a few of them:

How can Moodle be used to prevent FERPA issues and ensure overall security problems are taken care of?
Moodle can be used to teach teachers about FERPA. We do it by hosting a video that shares key FERPA information and then have people register for the course, view the video, and complete a quiz that is graded. If they do well enough, they pass. If they don't, back to the video. Moodle also can be set up to minimize the risk of security problems. Frequent updates to Moodle are shared and discussed online.

Can I transfer all that Ive done in Blackboard to Moodle?
Yes, you definitely can transfer content from Blackboard to Moodle. For starters, I encourage you to read this paper on the subject. Not having had to endure that transfer, I have no more to offer on the subject.

CONCLUSION

Moodle can be used in a variety of ways to enhance teaching, learning, and leading environments in K-12 education. I encourage you to explore this solution and embrace Moodle as a one-stop-shopping way to introduce yourself, your colleagues, and your students to engaging learning in a safe online learning environment.

About the Author

As director of instructional technology for a large urban district in Texas, past president of the state-wide Technology Education Coordinators group in one of the largest U.S. technology educator organizations (TCEA), Miguel Guhlin continues to model the use of emerging technologies in schools. You can read his published writing or engage him in conversation via his blog at Around the Corner.

Article by Miguel Guhlin
Education World®
Copyright © Education World

Updated 7/22/12


 

 

 

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