Moodle 2 Course Conversion Review

Posted on May 3rd, 2012 in Books, Moodle 2.0, Resources | No Comments »

If you’re a beginner to online learning and Moodle and want to have a course up and running quickly, Moodle 2 Course Conversion, by Ian Wild,  is the book for you. This book is aimed for Moodle 2.0 Course Conversionnewbies to Moodle but I also found it useful being a Moodle 1.9 user. It stepped me through the basics of Moode, which I already knew, however it covered Moodle 2. I found it useful for myself because I’m currently getting materials and documents together to help our user’s move from 1.9 to 2.0. I documented some crucial differences between the versions that I know my users will be used to doing one way in 1.9 but may be done a different way in 2.

The author really starts from step 1 and brings you along to create a robust Moodle course. I would recommend reading the book and actually following along with your own Moodle course – you will get much more out of it. The cover does say Beginner’s guide, which is right on.

The author does not cover every single tool but all of the important ones, in my opinion. He even gives the reader real-life examples and tools to use (like a Voki and other multimedia). I noticed the book also covers some small, yet crucial tips along the way. For example, using separate enrollment keys to easily put students into groups. He hit on a few common and useful tasks in Moodle that my Moodle users use all the time.

I highly recommend this book to any new Moodle user or a Moodle user who is beginning to use Moodle 2. Sure, there are many pages you could skip but in my case it helped me tremendously to prepare documentation and help for next Fall when we transition. As always, this Packt Publishing book came with easy to understand instructions and screenshots.

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Book Review: Moodle JavaScript Cookbook @packtpub

Posted on November 21st, 2011 in Books, Development, Information | No Comments »

I recently read and reviewed the book “Moodle JavaScript Cookbook” by Alastair Hole. The book’s cover promises to give the reader “over 50 recipes for making your Moodle system more dynamic and responsive with JavaScript” and it definitely opened my eyes to what’s possible with Javascript and really what very common dynamic features and enhancements are created by Moodle JavaScript CookbookJavaScript and it’s libraries.

A quick note on my background with Javascript is that I’m a newbie. I know HTML/CSS and some PHP. I can sort of manipulate other code but in no means can do much harm from scratch. This book is my first attempt of learning/understanding JavaScript concepts.

The book says it’s “aimed at developers and admins, familiar with customizing moodle with themes, modules and patches.” Which is pretty right on. It also says “no previous javascript knowledge is needed”. I didn’t have any previous knowledge and some parts were over my head and frustrating, especially when the code wouldn’t work for me but I’m betting that if a person who has intermediate knowledge of JavaScript read this book they’d fly through it. It was just annoying when the code was over my head or didn’t work, it was hard troubleshooting. I’d say the audience would be admins who have some understanding of coding but doesn’t necessarily have to know JavaScript, which the book says.

The author describes the book.. “The Moodle JavaScript Cookbook will take you through the basics of combining Moodle with JavaScript and its various libraries and explain how JavaScript can be used along with Moodle.” Which really sums it up well. If you read more of the description it continues to be accurate with what the book covers. A book’s summary should usually be accurate yes, but as far as I can think back I think this Moodle book compared with other books does a great job of preparing the reader on what they will learn.

The format of the book was a lot like other Packt Pub Moodle recipe books. It would give you a recipe and describe it, then show you how to do it and then explain what’s going on. It was pretty easy to follow with the exception of some of the code examples. I had a lot of issues with Chapter 4 and trying to get a few of the examples to work. It could have been an error on my part but it was a bit confusing looking at the code in the book and the code that was given. It didn’t always match up and since I didn’t have any prior JavaScript knowledge it was frustrating. It seemed to be just Chapter 4 for some reason — maybe I was tired that night : )

The book did have a lot of illustrations and like I said you were able to download the code. In my opinion it is crucial to be at a computer and download this code to test it out for yourself. You will get a lot more out of it.

The first few chapters of the book went over the basics. Chapter 1 talked about integrating JavaScript with Moodle 2.0 and best practices. It was a good warm up to see how JavaScript works and how it runs. Chapter 2 introduces us to the YUI which we use quite a bit in the rest of the book. It introduced us to the idea of what a library is in regards to JavaScript. Chapters 3 and 4 continued to talk about more advanced concepts and gets more into coding.

Web DesignChapter 5 and 6 things started getting cool. In these chapters we actually got into using Libraries and how using those libraries really enable you to make your page dynamic and enhance simple elements like text, tables and menus. Chapter 7 was even better with menus. The author shows us how to take simple list elements and use libraries to make them into good looking drop down and fly out menus. I never knew that using JavaScript and these libraries had sort of “pre-made” code. If you wanted you could then further customize the elements with CSS. Chapter 8 continued to show us more things you can do like animation.

The last Chapter covered using other libraries and shows the reader more potential of using JavaScript and Libraries. It’s good to know the other popular libraries and how they work with JavaScript and YUI. I’ve always wondered how all of these JavaScript codes and libraries work together and this chapter sort of gave me a general knowledge of at least how it works and that you need to connect with other libraries and have a file to use those libraries. It also gave me knowledge of a few frameworks that are popular and what they’re used for. It was neat seeing the Lightbox library because I’ve seen this before all over and I never realized it was JavaScript or how it was done.

Being totally new to JavaScript it opened my eyes to what actually is JavaScript on web sites and what are the capabilities. Whether it was auto complete when I’m typing a tag for my blog or clicking on a cell and having an edit box come up. Since I really didn’t know much of anything regarding JavaScript I definitely learned a lot. Some things were over my head but the good thing about the book and code is that I can go back later and re-visit it.

I always like more web development or admin focused Moodle books and this one makes me excited about the possibilities of enhancing elements in Moodle and really to any web site I’m working with. I wish there was more real life examples on how JavaScript can enhance real Moodle elements but it definitely got me thinking myself about how I can make current Moodle elements on the page better with the examples shown. It was a good read!

Related Links

 

Moodle 2.0 for Business & Moodle Javascript Cookbook @packtpub

Posted on June 21st, 2011 in Books, Information | No Comments »

Some exciting new titles have come to Packt Publishing.

I’m very excited to get reading these books. Along with using Moodle in a k-12 school district I’m also an admin for a small business. I’m hoping to get some tips to make that site work even better with Moodle 2.0. Hopefully by the time I’m done reading I’ll be itching to upgrade. The Javascript book looks interesting to me to see what I can learn to make our Moodle site more customized and dynamic.

I’ll be writing a review on each of the books. Hopefully I can get started soon, while I’m getting back into testing 2.0! Stay tuned.


Moodle Javascript Cookbook Moodle 2.0 for Business

“Moodle 2.0 First Look” book by @moodlefairy

Posted on October 22nd, 2010 in Moodle 2.0, Resources | No Comments »

Moodle 2.0 First LookHi Moodlers! Who’s excited for Moodle 2.0? I sure am..that’s why I’m happy to say that I will very shortly begin reading “Moodle 2.0 First Look“, by Mary Cooch, and doing a review on it. Check out a a review on the book, by the author! : )

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Two book reviews coming! @packtpub

Posted on May 18th, 2010 in Resources, Themes | No Comments »

I’m very excited to read and review two books from Packt Publishing.

Moodle 1.9 Theme Design: Beginner’s Guide

  • Create your own Moodle theme from the graphic design stage right through to the finished complete Moodle theme
  • Offers design examples and ways to create appropriate themes for different student age groups and styles
  • Effective planning for creating and modifying new themes, customizing existing themes, and enhancing them further
  • Clear focus on beginners with ample screenshots and clear explanations to facilitate learning

Moodle 1.9 Extension Development

  • Develop your own blocks, activities, filters, and organize your content with secure code
  • Thoroughly covers key libraries of Moodle and best practices to use them
  • Explore the Moodle architectural concepts, how it is structured, and how it works
  • Detailed examples and screenshots for easy learning

These two books are probably the most exciting to me to begin reading out of all the Packt Publishing books I’ve read. I’m currently into the 3rd chapter of the Theme Design book, which I will be reviewing on MoodleNews.com. It should be posted on Moodle News within a few weeks and the Extension book I will be reviewing on this blog.

Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques – Book Review @packtpub

Posted on March 23rd, 2010 in Features, Ideas, Resources | 2 Comments »

Moodle 1.9 Teaching TechniquesI recently read the book, Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques by William Rice and Susan Smith Nash which was published by Packt Publishing. This book discussed creative ways to build powerful and effective online courses.

When I began reading this book I was expecting to learn a bunch of “real-life” classroom applicable examples of using specific Moodle features. While it did list many of those examples, it really focused on learning theory and creating a positive learning experience and community. The book mentioned many educational psychologists and philosophies of teaching and learning. Each time the authors explained a feature or gave an example of classroom use of a Moodle feature they also reminded the reader to make sure the activity was tied with the course outcomes and the learning objectives.

I thought the discussion about learning styles and effective teaching practices was interesting as my education has been in technology and not k-12 education. One thing I liked about the book is that for each feature example the authors gave a variety of ways to accomplish the same thing, giving the reader an option if they prefer one way or the other. Another thing that the authors provided were tips or recommendations on using each feature. For example, effectively running a chat and chat etiquette, taking the fear out of assessments, how to create and maintain exciting and engaging forums, etc. I guess you can call it “best practices” of the Moodle features.
Paths

As I mentioned before there were some awesome ideas on using Moodle features – without going into detail here are a few:

  • Using the Chat module with a guest speaker
  • A self-assessment practice quiz using the Lesson module
  • Creating a flash card activity with the Lesson module
  • Guided note-taking with the Wiki module
  • Using the Glossary module for student submitted quiz questions

One note to mention is if you’re expecting to come away with created activities as you follow this book you should have some basic Moodle experience.  This book does not go into step-by-step, detailed instructions for most of the modules. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to know Moodle already in my opinion. This book did a good job of convincing the user that Moodle can create a learning community that is easily adaptable to different learning styles and offers some great teaching strategies to accomplish this.

Drawbacks

As with all of the other Packt Publishing Moodle books I’ve read I wish the screenshot images were in color. Another thing I noticed is a difference in our district’s Moodle (v 1.9.7) settings page for some modules and the screenshot images in the book (I believe the Choice activity looked a *bit* different). I was also made aware that the Gradebook is out of date. As always, take into consideration the frequent updates.

Wrap Up

In the end, I enjoyed the book and learned the most about having an “effective” course and what that even means. As I mentioned earlier, I am a techy person not a teacher, so I am at a point where I need to understand more about theory and teaching and learning strategies. This book had me nodding a lot and just “made sense” (if that makes sense!). It put things in perspective as each and every activity was tied with the course outcomes and made me aware of some of the things that are needed to create an effective learning community such as student confidence, fear of assessment, feeling comfortable with their peers, etc. And don’t get me wrong I am talking about the “theory” stuff becasue that is what interested in but there are many cool ideas and tips to using the modules. I only listed a few above. Visit Packt Publishing for more details on the contents of Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques.

Book Review – Moodle Course Conversion: Beginner’s Guide

Posted on August 21st, 2009 in Information, Resources | 2 Comments »

It took awhile for me to finish reading “Moodle Course Conversion: Beginner’s Guide” by Ian Wild but definitely not because I did not enjoy it, I have simply been very busy! I recently read and reviewed “Moodle Administration”, which is also from Packt Publishing, and like that book I was impressed with this one as well. I was actually a little more impressed with the Course Conversion book!

One reason why I enjoyed reading this book so much is because it did a good job of covering a lot of topics without overloading your brain. It guided the reader from start to finish – creating a new course to backing that course up and everything in the middle. Of course the book could not explain every single feature in depth but I thought it did a great job of covering the main, important topics.

Another reason why I enjoyed this book is because it put the reader in the teacher role where I am used to being in the administrator role. The author told you his own experiences and it was good to know that he’s been in that teaching position so he knows what it’s like. The book even gives the reader web sites and resources to use within Moodle like Voki, Odeo and Slide.com.

A big reason why I think this book would be so useful for Moodle users is that it shows the reader real classroom applications. It goes through many common tasks that teachers will more than likely run into like working with PowerPoints, taking images from a Word document, how to zip files so you can upload multiple files at once to Moodle, using video in Moodle and more. Instead of focusing only on the “how tos” and explaining the actual Moodle features it showed how to use the features by using real examples such as embedding a YouTube video with “compose a web page” or transforming a project into Moodle assignments.

It would get very boring and probably overwhelm a reader if it were to give you step by step directions on “how to” use a Moodle resource or activity, so by giving the reader an example on when and how a feature could be used is much more engaging and memorable. It may also spark some ideas for the reader or they could even use that very example in their own Moodle course.

Moodle Course Conversion: Beginner's Guide

To sum it up, I would highly recommend this book for any teacher that is planning to start using Moodle with their class. This book gives you the knowledge and power to create an engaging Moodle course from start to finish by taking you along his own journey of converting his course into Moodle. If a reader were to read this book and follow along by creating their own course I would be confident that it would be a success. Being a Moodle admin/trainer/support I can greatly appreciate this book for showing me the “teacher side” of a Moodle course. What I’m also taking from this book is the knowledge of other resources to use in a Moodle course, some great ideas and information about Moodle feature settings I never knew (wikis, gradebook, scales, lessons). Finally, it has helped me and will continue to help me form and structure our district’s Moodle help page. I have always struggled with how to display and give Moodle help and support to users in an online format because there is just so much information. This book has given me a few ideas on how to structure online Moodle help.

I could go on and on about the specifics in this book and the interesting things I found but I would really recommend buying it so you can read for yourself and refer back to it in the future – I know I will! Now, I must get back to all of the post-its I stuck in the book to try out and explore on my own Moodle site!

Related Links:

Moodle Administration: Complete Book Review

Posted on June 25th, 2009 in Information, Resources | 1 Comment »

I’ve finished the book, Moodle Administration, by Alex Büchner! It was a very easy book to read and I read it surprisingly fast considering how busy I have been lately.

Moodle Administration Book

Overview & Thoughts

This book started off giving an overview, a rationale for using Moodle and it explained the uses of Moodle. From there, it took you all the way through the installation of Moodle to more advanced features like Moodle Networking and Third-Party Add-ons. You can view the complete table of contents here.

What I liked about this book, which I have already mentioned, is that it’s easy to read. It does not overload your brain with so much text and information that you forget it two seconds later. Also, the chapters and topics covered were very well organized. Already being in the position of a Moodle administrator for our district for a year, I was impressed with the topics covered because during my first year working with Moodle those topics and issues were exactly what I had encountered. The book did a good job of explaining how to do things on different platforms. I found the instructions and explanations easy to follow and very concise. However, I had already done a lot of the processes before, so I may have been more aware than a user learning about it for the first time.

After the main chapters there is a nifty little “Moodle Health Check” and “Configuration Settings Reference” section. I am going through the Health Check now with our site. The Configuration Settings Reference section is great! It describes the different settings in the config.php file that can change the look and functionality of Moodle. Now I just need to get read/write permissions on the config.php file!

Overall, this book did a great job of explaining a lot of different topics and issues that I know from personal experience you will run into while implementing Moodle. Being a nerd, I do wish it was slightly more technical and talked more about the code and manipulation of code. The book also failed to have have a “themes” section, which I think would been beneficial to users.

Who is this book for?

Well, like the book title says.. I would say it’s for Moodle administrators : ) You don’t have to be a techy nerd to understand most concepts in this book. You don’t need to know all about networking and servers. This book is perfect for the person who will be maintaining your Moodle site and who will be taking questions about Moodle’s functionality and customization.

I would also suggest this book for your networking person (if they are willing to read it!). The reason being, just like any other software, there are settings and ways of doing things that are specific to Moodle. If your network admin can understand how Moodle operates I think it can really help you and your network admin to get things done. For example, I do not know much about networking so there are some things in Moodle I am unsure about. When I ask our network admin he is not familiar with Moodle so it’s hard to get on the same page. If your network department has a basic understanding of Moodle (which this book gives) I think it would help a lot.

In Conclusion

After reading this book I would highly recommend it. I really wish I would have read this book before we implemented Moodle. The topics covered in the book were exactly the topics we ran into and spent hours researching about. I think this book would have helped me out tremendously. However, even reading it after working with Moodle for a year was beneficial in that it really reinforced the important concepts and confirmed to myself that the correct settings were set (or not set!). Towards the end of the book the topics got a little more advanced. I learned a lot about the Moodle Networking piece and I’m excited to try it out. I’m also excited to try the Mahara/Moodle integration. I didn’t realize that the integration was so popular. So, in conclusion.. I would recommend this book to any type of future or present Moodle administrator.

Moodle Course Conversion

What’s coming next!

I will be reviewing the book, Moodle Course Conversion: Beginner’s Guide, written by Ian Wild. I’m eager to read this book because it looks like it will cover more “teacher” stuff. I love the technical part of Moodle but I need to learn more about the teacher side of things. If I don’t know the teacher perspective of things it would be pretty hard for me to make Moodle the best it can be for the teachers. Keep an eye out for my review.

Related Links:
Buy Moodle Administration
Packt Publishing Moodle Books