How to Gamify your #Moodle course by @TeachWithMoodle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3794YBja6Q

This video explains how to ‘gamify’ your Moodle course even if you don’t have Moodle 2.5 or above.  It not only talks about the technical process, but also explains the benefits from a practical and real-life teaching perspective.

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Instructional video of Hotspots activity creation #edtech #elearning

This short video shows how easy it is to create rich, interactive diagram labelling exercises with my free software.  They are SCORM compatible and will send results back to Moodle and other VLEs.

Download the software here.

Posted in Flash and eLearning, Rapid eLearning | 1 Comment

Powerpoint Slide Presentation Timer #edtech

A colleague recently asked if it was possible to have a timer running across an entire Powerpoint Presentation.  I had tried before with a Flash timer, but it always reset when you went to a different slide.  After a bit of research I discovered that you can play a video across all the slides in a presentation and it keeps time correctly.  I decided to take a 10 minute video of a timer and embed it in the presentation, and set it to run across all of the slides.

Although you can ‘trim’ the video when in Powerpoint, it is a little complicated as each time you trim the start of the video, you have to compress it and save it as a new file (that way you always have a 10 minute timer to modify).  Use the following Youtube video to learn how to set the timer to any time less than 10 minutes.

Download this Powerpoint file using the button below.

Download79 downloads

You can also find Powerpoint activity timers here.

Posted in Utilities | Leave a comment

The Twitter Personal Learning Network and Biodiversity #edtech

It has taken what seems like an awfully long time, and one major extended break, but I finally feel that I have a good grasp of using twitter for a range of different purposes  Living through interesting times at the moment and twitter has certainly been helping me to look outside of my situation and into a wide variety of others.  I also really feel that I have been learning extensively in and around my main interests of eLearning and education in general, factors around organisations but also about myself.

I woke up early this morning and started thinking of the Amazon jungle and what many people feel about the biodiversity there.  It starts from the proposition that there is so much biodiversity that there may be plants that have the potential to cure cancer.  A recent read of a basic primer on Complexity Science and Management brought up the idea that evolution is more than just random variability within genes bringing changes that cause natural selection.  The supposition was that the range of plants and animals that organisms come into contact with increases these tiny random variations, accelerating the process.  Hence the Amazon may not just have the solution to problems, but it is the most likely source of future natural solutions to problems.  I’m not saying whether this is true, but it is an interesting metaphor for using Twitter as a Personal Learning Network.

Obviously one of the first things you notice when you start using Twitter is the sheer deluge of content that fills your timeline and this can rapidly turn people off, and may also be a reason why many feel that it is purely a waste of time.  I too have had occasions when, using Twitter successfully, I have hardly ever looked at my home timeline.  The inspirational quotes, edtech marketing, what someone’s listening too all seemed too much.

However, having been forced into a strange dimension where normal behaviour has been put on hold, it has all started to come together in a totally new way and the combination of randomly accessing the tweets of hundreds of randomly tweeting people is showing the connectedness and interdependence of organisations.  The chaos and babbling of twitter is like the structured chaos of a large organisation taken to its extreme.  It is also the perfect vehicle for showing the beauty of humanity and the natural world, although I’m not pretending a dark side doesn’t exist!

So what am I saying?  The randomness of Twitter is beautiful, inspiring yet strangely efficient and effective.  I would not have been exposed to the range of ideas and topics associated with education and communication without it, or the factors that will hopefully influence my future.

Posted in Pedagogy, Web 2.0 | Leave a comment

One reality of Digital Leaders, The eMentor project. #edtech

Back in 2007, when I was managed by a very disruptive innovator, I ran a large scale digital leader program.  The project had the full support of a new principal and was written into my performance related pay targets (so with a new mortgage I was quite engaged!)  We also had one very motivated and engaged student to start us off.

The end target was nothing if not ambitious, every full time class to have a digital leader!

So far so good, but then came the hard sell of ‘volunteer’ work to the students. We also had to sell the concept of students advising staff, to the staff themselves.  In FE this was one of the first problems.  Working from entry level up to foundation degree, there seemed little commonality with which to first recruit (UCAS references worked well with A Levels), and then to train (beyond the basic interactive board training).

In the first year I managed to recruit 47 digital leaders from the full range of courses and managed to run several meetings and training sessions.  Due to the range of skills and the needs of classes the digital leaders helped with the following

  • Basic IT troubleshooting (PCs, printers etc)
  • Introductory (and some advanced) interactive white board use
  • Mentoring new students into existing classes
  • The use of basic Office applications
  • Attending training to learn to use Moodle
  • And finally, one student had his own college Moodle install that ran alongside the official course site

In the second year the college had successfully bid for a mobile phone project so we had 20 pairs of quite clunky windows mobile phones for 20 teacher/digital leader pairs.  In addition our very motivated student joined the team as part of his course work placement. This raised the profile of the whole digital leader project and, together with vouchers to pay for attendance at meetings, we managed to recruit over 140 students.

Although most of the students continued with the activities described above there were media sharing and forum feedback expected from the students with the phones.  Despite loading apps that made this very easy there were issues with the video quality and limited use of this feature, even in the most practical subjects.  We did however manage to run student led interactive whiteboard sessions on an inset day.

At the end of the second year our original student left, but we did gain a new leader who was well supported by the director of his curriculum area.  He was very motivated and confident, to the point that he went into classes outside his area and presented to other students in an attempt to set up student run forum classes on Moodle.

This worked well in the first year, but it was becoming clearer that many students used the digital leader project as a distraction from their BTEC course work.  Teachers of some of the best digital leaders started to mention the fact that they were getting behind.  The student we had been relying on was too busy with course work and his part time job in the second year to work on projects or inspire new students to join the project.

So, I quietly let the project phase out.  No natural successor to the 2nd student leader, no longer a champion for the project in the Senior Leadership Team, and no clamour from teaching staff meant that there really seemed to be little return on a considerable investment of time and effort.  However, that doesn’t mean that I believe the whole concept is without merit, just that I couldn’t run it alone.

So what is the message?  Here are the key takeaways

  • Find a small core of highly motivated students with a clear view of what they would like to do
  • Decide if you want to take the difficult route of getting students involved in pedagogical change, not just simplistic proxies of that
  • Ensure that you have support at all levels in the college
  • Use quality mechanisms to put targets in place
  • Work to ensure that everyone involved has clear motivation (this might involve a bit of ‘hard selling’ from you)
Posted in eLearning Strategy | Leave a comment

What do I want from #FELTAG #UKFECHAT

I have to say that when I first came across FELTAG, I was really excited.  Working for years in UK Further Education I was waiting patiently, like many in eLearning, for a structure that would enable us to really explore the efficiency and quality gains that good, well designed eLearning should afford.

FE has had an interesting history with eLearning but I came in shortly after the NLN materials, and then the heady days of new build and rotating project funding for MoLeNet, the Technology Exemplar Network etc.  Then the crash came, and for a short while we looked seriously at eLearning for efficiency, not just for fun (AKA student experience).  And then, nothing.  Competing and conflicting demands from OFSTED, awarding and funding bodies have made it too complex to work out what a “guided learning” hour could be, so we take the safe route and say it is a teacher in front of a class in a room on our campus.

Some people involved in FELTAG seem to think that FE is responsible for the sector’s lack of progress with eLearning, and in some colleges this may be true.  However, a quick look at the JISC case studies shows that this isn’t the case everywhere.  There are many innovations across colleges and in all curriculum areas on display, but regulation prevents many curriculum innovations from having their full potential realised.

So, after this, what do I think FE needs from FELTAG?

  • Freedom for teachers to work together and develop models that work for our students
  • An understanding that the majority of 16-19 FE students have a very different experience of learning than HE and different motivations to adult learners
  • Honesty about the fact that, although we need to focus on a “digital future”, the government is likely to further cut FE funding and long term eLearning will be more cost effective
  • Time to work on recommendations ourselves before making the sector more open to the private sector
  • An understanding that content based eLearning probably will not create good learning experiences in terms of ROI, but activity, community and collaboration could
  • A sensible but sophisticated framework to guide the best possible development of eLearning activity, but based around evidencing learning progress and personalisation
  • Provision of cross sector support from organisations such as Jisc
  • An understanding that nobody can currently predict exactly what real eLearning in FE will look like and a new regime of regulation will only stifle innovation again
  • And the biggest thing we need is the time to prepare for this effectively

Read about the response on the West Suffolk College Academic Technologies Blog.

Posted in eLearning Strategy | 1 Comment

#CSS3 transforms to improve the #moodle feedback activity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcoJnQ0gNfI

The Moodle feedback activity is useful in so many ways and we use it both in academic and business areas inside the college.  Unfortunately since Moodle 2 they made it very difficult to allow anonymous guest users to complete them, so we still use our old 1.9 install for public surveys.

We recently started using it across a whole faculty, so several hundred students had to use it.  When I showed a colleague she instantly commented on how unattractive it was so I decided to improve it slightly by modernising the CSS.  I added an animated background colour and glow on the text boxes, with subtle rounded corners.

Here is the CSS:-

.feedback_items input, .feedback_items textarea{
outline:none;
transition: all 0.25s ease-in-out;
-webkit-transition: all 0.25s ease-in-out;
-moz-transition: all 0.25s ease-in-out;
border: 1px solid #b7bbbd;
-webkit-border-radius: 5px;
-moz-border-radius: 5px;
border-radius: 5px;
padding: 4px;}


.feedback_items input:focus, .feedback_items textarea:focus {
background-color: #EFF;
box-shadow: 0 0 5px rgba(0, 0, 255, 1);
-webkit-box-shadow: 0 0 5px rgba(0, 0, 255, 1);
-moz-box-shadow: 0 0 5px rgba(0, 0, 255, 1);
}

You will probably like my post on using CSS3 to improve the appearance of the quiz here.

Posted in Code, Moodle | 1 Comment

#CSS3 Transforms to improve the #moodle quiz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv2EG9KLXKk

The basic styling of Moodle has definitely moved on since the days of 1.9, with SVG icons and some CSS rollovers on course page resources. However, the individual activities still lag behind considerably with quizzes, WIKIs and forums still looking pretty much the same as they always have. With quizzes being used much more frequently now I decided to have a look to see if I could make them look slightly more appealing, without having to add images to individual questions.
Looking at how Smartphone apps behave now and the ease of implementing some CSS3 transitions I decided to add an animated glow and increase in text size on rollover and selection of multiple choice answers. At the same time I added very small rounded corners to various elements.

This is the code I have so far (it needs Opera specific transforms etc to work everywhere, but hardly any of our students use it):-

.que input, .que textarea, .que .answer div{
transition: all 0.25s ease-in-out;
-webkit-transition: all 0.25s ease-in-out;
-moz-transition: all 0.25s ease-in-out;
border: 1px solid #b7bbbd;
-webkit-border-radius: 5px;
-moz-border-radius: 5px;
border-radius: 5px;
padding: 4px;}

.que .content input:focus, .que .content textarea:focus+label, .que .content input label:focus {
outline:none;
background-color: #EFF;
box-shadow: 0 0 5px rgba(0, 0, 255, 1);
-webkit-box-shadow: 0 0 5px rgba(0, 0, 255, 1);
-moz-box-shadow: 0 0 5px rgba(0, 0, 255, 1);
}

.que .content .answer div:hover{box-shadow: 0 0 5px rgba(0, 0, 255, 1);
-webkit-box-shadow: 0 0 5px rgba(0, 0, 255, 1);
-moz-box-shadow: 0 0 5px rgba(0, 0, 255, 1);
font-weight: bold; }
.que .content .answer div{
margin-bottom: 6px;
}

.que .formulation{
padding: 10px;
-webkit-border-radius: 10px;
-moz-border-radius: 10px;
border-radius: 10px;
}

Posted in Code, Moodle | 2 Comments

How to add custom #CSS to #Moodle

One of the underused aspects of Moodle is the ability to add custom CSS to themes without having to edit the theme files on the server.  On our site I have completely reskinned “formal white” to reflect the main corporate website without having to touch the server (although I do manually back up the CSS into a text file).  Another advantage of this is that it allows you to test CSS changes quickly and without switching on theme designer mode.

I recently gave a colleague some of my CSS, and it was only after a while that I realised they were unaware of this capability, so this is just a quick walk through.

All of the custom CSS is applied on a theme by theme basis, so firstly you need to find which theme you are currently using.  To find this find the theme selector page under:-

Site administration > Appearance > Themes > Theme selector

Once you know your default theme you need to find it in the list of themes in the site admin menu and click on it.  At the bottom of all of the theme options there is a large text box where you can paste or hand code your CSS.  As soon as you hit the save button your CSS changes will be active!

Posted in Moodle | 1 Comment

OFSTED reports and #edtech innovation in FE. #ukfechat

This is going to be a very short post, partly in response to the recent FELTAG report that makes many suggestions about improving the uptake of edtech led curriculum innovation in UK further and adult education.  The FELTAG report has been authored by organisations and individuals across all facets of the sector, including OFSTED.

The report makes a pretty clear point that OFSTED, along with the other regulatory mechanisms, has prevented FE from properly investigating efficiency improvements.  I would suggest that they may even have caused organisations to go backwards.

Here are three colleges which have all experimented with the replacement of a certain percentage of face-to-face delivery, and links to OFSTED reports that make no explicit mention of this fact!

Thanet College (Now East Kent College) OFSTED Report

Kingston College OFSTED Report (Here is a related link to their Curriculum KUBE strategy resources)

Worcester College OFSTED Report (Here is Peter Kilcoyne talking about their approach at a Moodlemoot on Youtube)

Posted in eLearning Strategy | Leave a comment