Muddling through Moodle books

I’ve spent more than a few hours this week plumbing the depths of Moodle books as a means of presenting online content in a course. In the end I think I finished with a suitable solution for the first course in which  I’ve tried it but that involved some tinkering that seems worth recording with some brief history for context.

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It’s time to MELLO

For one thing I’m about to go on annual leave for 3 weeks and plan to mellow out a little after I’ve dealt with a couple of tasks that just didn’t make it to the top this week despite my plans.

For another, and the real point of this post, we are beginning our publicity push to recruit participants in our MOOC for Enhancing Laboratory Learning Outcomes (MELLO). We is Alexander Kist, Andrew Maxwell, Victoria TerryLindy Orwin, Ananda Maiti, Hannah Jolly and me at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). Toward the end of 2015 we secured an extension grant from the Office of Learning and Teaching to develop a MOOC that would extend on a previous project about planning for laboratory learning. The project also has support from the Global Online Laboratory Consortium (GOLC).

MELLO is designed to assist educators at all levels, from school to university, to improve the quality of laboratory experiences in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Experienced educators seeking to review and revise current practices or beginning educators are all welcome to participate. Everybody can benefit from reflecting on practice and there is much to be learned from other practitioners at all stages and levels.

MELLO is designed in six modules, each of which can be completed in a couple of hours or less for a total of 10 hours of activity. Information about the modules, which address all phases of laboratory classes from planning through implementation and review, can be found on the MELLO website. Registration is through that site and the MOOC itself has been developed on

The MOOC is being offered in 2 modes. It can be taken in a self-paced mode by those who prefer to work independently at their own pace with occasional asynchronous exchanges with other participants. For those seeking a more structured experience there is an action learning option that will include small group interaction to support work on a personal laboratory learning project informed by the MOOC content.

MELLO is scheduled to begin on Monday 16 January 2017 and run for 6 weeks. Further information and registration is via the MELLO site.

Open Education Resources & Practice

I’m working on a project with a colleague from UQ and two others here at USQ to explore how we can open up practice and resources within and across institutions. We are each working on courses that address the Australian Curriculum: Technologies alone or in concert with The Arts.

I’m feeling just a bit guilty that I’m once again late to the party. I had good intentions yesterday but … In no particular order here are some thoughts from our discussions on Wednesday and Thursday that might have some bearing on our project and writing. Institutional takeup of OER/OEP Despite rhetoric and some action […]

via Bringing up the rear — OEP @ UQ & USQ

SITE 2016 – Savannah, Georgia, 21–25 March

I attended SITE 2016 with financial support from the Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts. I’m grateful for that support and for the patience of students in my classes who experienced slower than usual responses to queries via email and the LMS. While at SITE I was involved in four presentations and a couple of organisational meetings as well as informal interactions with colleagues from around the world.

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Coding & photos – vacation rumination

Coding has become a hot topic in educational circles. In a previous post – The second coming of coding: Will it bring rapture or rejection? – I responded to some comments posted by Bron Stuckey and concluded that a key challenge would be the limited experience that most teachers, and students preparing to be teachers, have of coding in any form. In my view it will not be sufficient to provide teachers with some basic instruction in coding and resources for teaching it. They will need to have experiences that make the usefulness of coding in daily life apparent if they are to embed it authentically in their teaching.

Since that time the Queensland Government has launched Advancing Education, an action plan for education in Queensland, with coding featured as a key component marked by its own hashtag – #codingcounts. The website notes the highlights as fast-tracking of the new Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies subject from 2016, creation of a coding academy, and incubation of future entrepreneurs. Robotics is proposed as a key component and professional development is to be provided for teachers.

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Teachers, design and technology

David Jones (@djplaner) posted a piece, Teachers as designers of technology enhanced learning?, earlier today. Although he didn’t identify us, I am one of the colleagues he referred to in his introduction and I was tagged in his tweet about the post. I’ve been doing some reading of my own, intending to write with David and elsewhere, and felt a need to comment as I read his piece. Eventually the somewhat random thoughts I had amounted to more than a simple comment or two so here I am.

David commented on Kirschner’s (2015) observation that Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is not new because teachers have been using technologies since the invention of the printing press. The truth is it started earlier than that and probably before Socrates famously railed against the invention of writing. At least some of the marks made on cave walls probably had an instructional function. As David notes, the question then is whether digital technologies are sufficiently different to break that historical line.

He refers to Kay’s identification of the computer as metamedium and has previously written about the protean nature of digital technologies. The implication is that digital technologies are shape shifters and the ground we are standing on may move beneath our feet.

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The second coming of coding: Will it bring rapture or rejection?

Coding, aka computer programming, made it into the headlines earlier this year when Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, asked Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, whether he would “support coding being taught in every primary and secondary school.” The Prime Minister initially derided the idea with a comment about kids going to work as coders at age 11 but later confirmed that the Government was already supporting the concept in the national curriculum.

Those of us who have been around schools for long enough will recognise this as at least the second coming of coding in the classroom. It was there when computing first began to appear in the mathematics curricula of the mid-1970s but the first big push was when Logo became available for Apple Computers in the early 1980s. Read More

Down and up the greasy pole

It seems there is no constant but change. I was feeling pleased with myself over my success with a Greasemonkey script to produce simple statistics for comparing results from multiple markers in the Moodle assignment system. My infrequent forays into coding had made that process a bit like climbing a greasy pole but I’d eventually succeeded in reaching the top and a working script.

It was during that process of development or shortly after that I noticed that more complex pages in the assignment module were failing to build and display correctly. Initially that was visible for my first assignment which had marks and attached feedback files for about 170 students. That page was taking a long time to appear and, when it did, it had just the table of results without any of the regular styling or page navigation. Pages without results or with fewer students per page continued to load correctly but it was no longer possible to generate statistics across the whole set of markers and results for a larger course.

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Greasing the wheels of progress

For the past eight years we have been dealing with assignments submitted online through a locally developed system, EASE (Electronic Assignment Submission Environment), which was originally planned in response to perceived deficiencies in WebCT Vista, our LMS from 2003 until around 2008. By the time EASE was ready we were in transition to Moodle as our LMS but EASE offered enough that most classes used it in preference to the native Moodle submission system, which was available to those who wanted it.

This semester, as part of the Grand Unification Theory of Everything that decreed consistency via a single interface, EASE was suddenly deprecated in favour of a revamped and slightly adapted Moodle module that was expected to offer facilities equivalent to EASE. The new system actually includes some facilities that are better than anything EASE offered. Most notable is the facility to zip up a set of files with feedback to students, upload the archive and have the files distributed to students. That is vastly preferable to selecting and uploading a file for each of up to several hundred students.

Unfortunately those responsible for promoting the change inexplicably chose not to publicise such benefits and instead simply told people that the familiar system, EASE, would no longer be used. There was no real training offered and very limited documentation. The response from staff required to make the transition was less than universally positive and is probably intensifying now that we are near mid-semester and most courses are dealing with assignment submissions.

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SITE 2015 – Las Vegas

I spent the first week of March (1 – 6) attending the 26th annual conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) in Las Vegas. That was also the first week of semester so, when I was not at the conference, I was kept busy responding to students in the course discussion forums. I’m grateful for the support of my School and Faculty to attend, including partial financial support. I’ve attended SITE each year since I first attended in 1998 and have always found that it is the most useful conference for me in terms of interest in the papers presented and connections with colleagues. This year was no exception.

I had booked my travel in mid-2014 and expected to arrive in Las Vegas on the morning of Saturday, 28 February, before we left Brisbane according to the clock and calendar. As it happened there was freezing weather in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and our 9:20 am flight from LAX to Las Vegas finally departed at 5:30 pm after the plane was thawed and able to depart DFW. I had hoped to use the time on Saturday to arrange an excursion to the Grand Canyon on Sunday but that didn’t happen. Instead we spent Sunday exploring The Strip and I eventually booked for a conference excursion to Red Rock Canyon on Monday. That trip did yield some interesting landscape photos to complement some from Las Vegas itself.

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