Muddling in Moodle

Those of us involved with developing and teaching courses hear a lot about the desirability of consistency which sometimes seems to be interpreted as just short of uniformity. Historically that is based on student responses to a survey conducted a few years ago which was interpreted as students wanting to see the same features in the same locations in different courses. An alternative interpretation of the data I saw might be that students wanted more consistency in the availability of staff in courses. At times it has seemed as though having courses appear too similar has confused students about where they are leading to questions being directed to the wrong staff. Nevertheless, there is probably value in looking for consistency at a high level such as exists among different web browsers or word processors in respect of essential features.

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Creating digital solutions in EDP4130

It’s late January. I started writing this earlier in the month, soon after I was back in my office and thinking about first semester courses. After a couple of years working with the most recent iteration of assessment in EDP4130, a project-based design challenge, it was time to consider a change. In 2015 and 2016 students created teaching resources for the two Australian Curriculum: Technologies subjects, Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies. With more than 150 students each year that’s in excess of 500 teaching resources, many of which were very good quality. Having so many examples from past years out there means that there may be as many as are needed, it will be more difficult for students in 2017 to innovate in those areas, and it may be tempting for some to ‘borrow’ work that has been done in previous years. Read More

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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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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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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Refreshing & rebooting this blog

This blog has long been in need of refreshing. The earliest posts date from 2004. For a while, especially around 2005, I was mostly posting comments about material I found on the web and occasional reports of conferences or comments on other happenings. More recently it has been mostly a series of auto-posted daily records of links bookmarked in Diigo with occasional other pieces of more substance. To make that work I had a ‘links’ category set up as the default so that the auto-posts from Diigo landed in a logical category.

Over the years I’ve experimented with various themes. for a good while I used Beautiful Sunrise and more recently (mid-2014) I moved to Dazzling but I was never really happy with the way it insisted on displaying just summaries and compacted the link posts into a blob of undifferentiated text. My problem was that most other themes that I looked at were too bland, too fussy, or spread things out too much and used overly large text. Any satisfactory solution was going to involve some work and time to do that along with (re)learning what I needed to know to make it work.

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