Moodle Heaven…. but how to make everyone see it that way?

So its been in the works for awhile but over the last week we (school ICT manager and myself) backed up all the courses from our school’s Moodle 1.9 instance and restored manually one at a time into new Moodle 2.4 instance… 160 plus courses!!! It’s been a tedious and at times very frustrating process as we configured not only Moodle 2.4 but Mahara 1.7 and our authentication process through Google apps and LDAP. ¬†I don’t completely understand all of the authentication stuff but I’ve been handling a lot of the other stuff and it does your head in but the fruits of our labour are now showing… and it’s Moodle Heaven to me ūüôā

So what have we got?  Moodle 2.4 with a theme that we will be changing very shortly to be a consistent theme across both Moodle and Mahara, making a Mahoodle configuration complete.  Our Moodle instance also has about 8 different course formats and I am a huge fan of Collapsed topics, OneTopic and Tab Topics format.  We have also eagerly added in many new blocks and modules including:

These are only are percentage of what we have added but I am very excited from the little play I’ve had with them. ¬†However, this does pose the question… how to we train teachers bit by bit and not have them overwhelmed? ¬†How much is a good number to cater for all faculties and experience levels, without being too much? ¬†It’s a hard balancing act but in the past I’ve seen watered down Moodle instances that simply do not engage or motivate staff to take it up so I want to go the opposite way and see if this effects the uptake and motivation to learn more and use more than files and URLs.

Some of my plans so far to tackle the staff training and initial familiarisation with 2.4 is to post a set of times when I have lessons off and they can come to the library and have training with me on Moodle. ¬†I will use the wonderful activity module called Booking, which I’ve had a bit of a play with and it will be perfect for them. ¬†Why would I use a booking system and not just the usual channels of email etc? ¬†Well, I think the benefits of using this booking system will be the email notifications and reminders and ability t add to¬†calendar¬†etc. ¬†Another thing I will be doing instantly is starting an FAQ database that will be in the Learning Technologies courses but also in the staff Moodle page. ¬†I will also keep creating instructional guides as I have and also creating screencast videos and putting them on YouTube for them to learn about Moodle 2.4.

I’m optimistic that it will all work out well and that staff will be very happy by the end of term 2 with the changes and be more confident with Moodle but we will have to see. ¬†It will be a big learning curve for all but I believe that is a good thing… a great thing!!! I also believe that if I put the training for Moodle into the context of learning about something else that they will learn Moodle skills without focusing on Moodle so much that they are overwhelmed. ¬†More to ponder and plan ūüôā ¬†No staff need to worry too much about Mahara at this stage as I will be taking every year 9 class through this myself and training them to use it and staff will take it up a lot more slowly.


PBL with Moodle and Mahara


Over the last two days I have been involved in professional development at school on project-based learning (PBL).  I have done PBL training before when I did the Intel Teach Essentials Online Master Trainer Course a few years ago.  That experience for me was one of the most valuable in my entire career thus far.  In that course, I learned to program units of work for PBL in a way that transformed my teaching completely.  Whilst the PBL I designed did not get successfully implemented, I still maintain that it was an extremely valuable course.

Throughout the last few days as I went through the PBL inservice at school, unlike other colleagues, I was not working on a particular unit of work but was observing and planning, designing and developing a Moodle course on PBL that uses technology.  It was great to hear the ideas my colleagues came up with and the fantastic progress they made as well as the two days continued to shape their ideas into products.

Each step of the process and each element of the PBL plan and resources sparked in me many ideas about how Moodle and Mahara could be utilise for the purpose of supporting the management and development of the project.  Below are some of the aspects of the PBL and how they might translate into Moodle, Mahara and other online technology:

PDF iconENTRY DOCUMENT РThe entry document need not be an actual document such as a letter but could be a stimulus such as a video embedded within a Moodle page that has text but focuses on the video element.  You could also use a podcast as a stimulus and with audio files so easily embedded within Moodle now.

google-buzzTEAM CONTRACT РThe team contract could be designed as a document template or form in Google Drive and accessed by students there to discuss and fill in with details needed.  Students could share it with their teacher but they could also download a copy of the document and submit it as an assignment or into a database set up with groups in MaharaMoodle.  It would also be a great idea to maybe instead set up a template in Mahara with a team contract and get students to complete the portfolio page with their details and write a statement of agreement in the comments section before submitting to a group or sharing with their teacher.  This contract is then readily accessible at all stages throughout the PBL and added to a collection of pages developed throughout the project.

table_headerRUBRICS РThe rubric for the PBL task could be produced in the wonderful new assignment rubric creator in Moodle.  I love the rubric grading tool inbuilt into the Moodle assignment!! It is one of the best plugins in Moodle ever! It is easy to use and flexible.  Other tools that could be utilised from online include; RubiStar, iRubric and teAchnology.

briefcasePROJECT BRIEFCASE – The database in Moodle!! I love the database activity in Moodle and I’m constantly trying to use it in different ways and come up with new templates/presets to explore how it might be used. ¬†The database is the prefect way to provide students with a project briefcase of resources throughout their PBL journey. ¬†You could also create a briefcase in Mahara if you wanted to in a portfolio page shared with the class. ¬†I would probably go with the database in Moodle as most of the learning is probably best kept in Moodle and the process, product planning and mapping etc could be in Mahara.

project-planPROJECT PLANNING AND MAPPING – Mahara ūüôā Mahara ūüôā Mahara ūüôā ¬†I’m a big fan of what tools are provided in Mahara and the simplicity of them as well. ¬†They are user-friendly and easy to set up and use. ¬†With the use of the Mahara journal, plans and notes sections, students could keep very detailed records of their project and planning. ¬†They can also produce periodic portfolio pages to summarise their progress and show work samples of where they are up to. ¬†I think that the integration on Mahara and Moodle in PBL is a great asset to all involved.

I have all but finished the course in Moodle that I have been working on during the last two days but it certainly won’t end here. ¬†I will continue to work on further resources for supporting the intentional integration of technology into PBL.

Model Reflection for Students

In my new role as Leader of Learning Technologies at a Catholic College in Western Sydney, I am in the process of planning for and implementing Mahara with Moodle 2.4 to facilitate increased reflective practice across the college.  Reflection is already an embedded practice within the college, however, our goals across the whole college are to increase this and in the process, continue to assist students in developing lifelong learning skills and sophisticated writing techniques.

In preparation for the implementation of Mahara, an eportfolio system, with all students in years 8, 9 and 10 to begin with, I have been reading up on and researching into models for reflection and different activities that could be used within the portfolio to scaffold and facilitate greater reflection. ¬†I have come across some very interesting models, which have already formed the basis for some Mahara templates I have developed to be institute wide pages available to all students. ¬†Templates that facilitate the active developmenet of SMART goals and reflection of learning activities using the Peter Pappa’s A Taxonomy of Reflection, based on Bloom’s taxonomy.

I have written up a draft program for implementing activities for reflection and study skills within classes at school that will be using Mahara, and I have found a lot of value in Pappa’s taxonomy for reflection and also in these other models: Gibbs Model of Reflection, North Carolina Teacher Reflection Model, Kolb’s Learning Cycle, Atkins and Murphy‚Äôs model of reflection, and John’s model for reflection.¬† I particularly liked the Gibb’s Model of Reflection as it addressed the aspects of an experience that are truly individual, the feelings.¬† I think sometimes reflection is too superficial and on the surface and getting students to think more critically about their learning styles and experiences is important.¬† Kolb’s model is also very similar to Gibb’s model.

My favourite model for reflection though is the Peter Pappas model.  I want to help my students develop skills for life that will allow them to become independent lifelong learners, and it may just be that I learn well through activities that are structured around a solid scaffold, but I believe that facilitating reflection in my students in a way that is structured around a taxonomy or scaffold may make it easier for them to independently continue to utilise in their own future study and reflection.

Will reflect on this more as it is implemented in classes at school.

META e-Learning: e-Portfolios

‚ÄúE-portfolios are supposed to serve three purposes: assessment, showcase, and learning‚ÄĚ (Greenburg, 2004, p. 1). E-portfolios are also designed to facilitate the collection of learning evidence, create a learner-centric experience and help students develop lifelong learning skills like critical thinking and problem solving (Jones, 2010; Tosh & Werdmuller, 2004; Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005). E-portfolios facilitate a learning experience beyond knowledge and skill acquisition, in that they assist students in ‚Äúcareer planning and CV building‚ÄĚ (Tosh & Werdmuller, 2004, p. 1) and provide opportunities for students to conduct their own learning assessments. The integration of e-portfolios allows educational institutions to capture information about students that can be utilised in accreditation and assessment processes and procedures (Reese and Levy, 2009). E-portfolios also provide increased opportunity for reflection on learning, thus facilitating greater learner reflection on personal achievement.

Figure 1: Balancing the two faces of e-porfolios by Helen Barrett

Figure 1: Balancing the two faces of e-porfolios by Helen Barrett

Gray (2008) extends on the potential of e-portfolios even further by defining e-portfolio-based learning as a complex process of planning, synthesising, sharing, discussing, reflecting, giving, receiving and responding to feedback‚ÄĚ (p. 8). E-portfolio-based learning makes learners active participants in the construction of new knowledge and skills and facilitates the application of these in higher order ways that can continue to transform future e-learning experiences. Assessment of learning should not ask students to recount and recall facts, but should get students to demonstrate critical thinking skills, which can be facilitated through the integration of an e-portfolio (Haken, 2006). Providing evidence of learning is a form of assessment and a valuable way to provide future employers with more details of background knowledge and skills.

Figure 2: e-Portfolios by Beefy Basses Some rights reserved

Figure 2: e-Portfolios by Beefy Basses Some rights reserved

The instructional support and career planning opportunities that exist for learners to extend and evidence their learning through such a system as e-portfolios has been harnessed by PLANE in all e-learning experiences. PLANE has taken advantage of the integration being utilised by many institutions, which enables Mahara e-portfolios to be linked directly with Moodle courses. PLANE makes extensive use of this integration by making it a mandatory requirement that teachers completing learning experiences within PLANE populate and reflect on an evidence page, which is a Mahara e-portfolio page. The purpose of this evidence page is to evaluate their learning outcomes against teaching standards to gain accredited hours of professional development. New Scheme Teachers with the NSW Institute of Teachers must complete 50 hours of accredited professional learning in the five years following their accreditation at professional competence (NSW IT, 2005) and PLANE has become the only Australian provider of broadly endorsed professional learning (PLANE, 2012), facilitated by the use of e-portfolios. This is a significant extension on e-learning.