I don’t have that much to do with iPads. I think that they are pretty transformative as themselves, and don’t need much exploration by ‘experts’. However, I occasionally come across some aspects of them that I find totally bizarre. The case in point is the complete lack of built in options for controlling the quality of video capture. A teacher captured a range of short clips, without a great deal of action, but some still were a quarter of a gigabyte for less than 2 minutes! A few minutes research showed that there was no way to do anything about this without an app!
OK, so Apps are often free and easy to install, and Apple like to keep their interfaces clutter free, but a High, Medium and Low slider wouldn’t take much space.
Anyway, to end the very small rant, I found this app, Video Compressor, for free. We got it downloaded and tested, and were really pleasantly surprised by both the speed and the reduction in size. So, if you want to do anything much with video off the iPad (and you’re missing out if you don’t), it really is an essential app!
You can download my scorm compatible Picture Dictionary authoring tool for free here. Parapal Hotspots allows you to take any jpeg image and add interactive regions so students can learn new terms and then test themselves.
I missed this Plugin for a long time, mainly because for many years it was difficult getting any teachers involved in the systematic use of quizzes which is where this works best. Now we have a few areas that totally understand that for their vocational students, studying for multiple choice tests, practice is one of the best ways of learning.
The progress bar provides an incredibly simple graphic view to students of what they have achieved and what they still need to do. Each block represents an activity (SCORM, Assignments etc also work) and it turns green when students have completed them.
I have used this with some very busy teachers who are only just getting into Moodle and needed to make it totally foolproof. I opened up the progress bar report and sorted it by progress, so the highest performing students appeared at the top. I then copied the URL and added it directly onto the main section of the course, clearly labelled but hidden to students. With a single click the teachers were able to see exactly who was ready to take the exam, and those who needed a little more support. The link should be similar to that below.
We are trying to encourage more staff to start using Badges in their Moodle courses to motivate students and provide some friendly competition. Although I love any opportunity to use Photoshop to make something interesting, I know that it’s not really very sustainable. Luckily there are lots of free services for making attractive badges easily and quickly.
The first is very simple, from webestools. It allows you to choose from some simple templates such as stars and shields in different colours. Then you simply choose the font, text content and angle. Then you just click “Preview”, adjust if needed and then click on the download link to save it.
The obvious difference with the second one, 3d Badge Maker, is the significantly larger size (although you can resize it) and the ability to upload an image to be incorporated into the badge. You have to go through several stages to make the badge, but it does have proper layers so you can drag your text and images into the right place. Although it initially seems that you have to use Facebook or Google to login and get the image, with obvious privacy issues, it is possible to click on a direct download link to get your image.
If you found this post interesting, you should also look at my post on using badges.
In UK FE Music Depts do seem to have an above interest in the use of eLearning but we have had trouble allowing them to use more sophisticated methods of interaction. Recent, and necessary, changes to Moodle means that it is no longer easily possible to give students access to embed media, particularly the popular Soundcloud service.
Looking for a solution, I found the Soundcloud filter plugin, designed to turn soundcloud links into embedded players, and installed it on our test server. It simply did nothing. Checked all the settings and searched the forums and still nothing:-(
As filters are quite simple I looked into the core code and saw that “http” was hardcoded as the filter, but now Soundcloud is using “https”. Having changed that, it started to do something. Unfortunately the something was an oauth2 error, asking for a consumer secret and key. Again checked moodle.org, the settings and the read me file but couldn’t find anywhere to put a them. Looked at Google oauth2 etc etc, anyway you get the idea, I couldn’t find the answer!
Eventually tried to install the associated Soundcloud Repository plugin and enabled it, and it does prompt you for a Soundcloud key and secret. To get these I signed up for a free Soundcloud account and then used Google to search for how to set up the Soundcloud oauth2 keys. To get these you have to set up a new App on Soundcloud to get the keys, which you put into Moodle and save. Then Moodle gives you a callback url that you paste back into Soundcloud to complete the circuit.
So now it all works! Students can simply paste the URL of their Soundcloud file into a Moodle forum and it will embed the file AND the interactive timeline comments that I really want without having to leave the system. Fingers crossed it will get students doing more than just uploading their assignments!
When we upgraded to Moodle 2.5 last Summer we decided to give the site a more corporate theme, very similar to the college website and also stop teachers having access to course themes. Rather than developing a new theme from one of the simpler, standard themes I worked out that the new “Additional CSS” theme options it would be possible to easily modify the “Formal White” theme (using this method it is essential to keep a copy of the CSS in a separate document as a backup).
As I started working with the theme I noticed the wide range of body classes, but particularly the category-1, category-2 etc classes. I thought that I could easily personalise each curriculum area and give it its own identity. We have a nice prospectus with clear, bold colours for each curriculum area and silhouettes so that made it easy to choose colours and styles. To completely change the appearance of each category required just 2 lines of css for each one, plus an extra line for a category motif. The simplest way to give a slight 3d gradient on the menu bars was to create a semi transparent png as an overlay.
We have had a Turnitin subscription for several years now and after a very slow beginning it is now quite well embedded in several curriculum areas and stats show a massive increase in online marking over the past 2 years, However, we had a few instances where there were service outages and teachers were understandably confused. The best place to find out about issues appeared to be the Turnitin Status twitter feed. I thought about it a little bit and realised that it would be very easy to embed the twitter feed on the Turnitin Direct submission page. It takes up a bit of the page, but it’s a nice bit of security to know that staff and students will know if there are any issues.
About a year ago I was developing a website for my children’s school, setting up the look and feel whilst waiting for some content, when the school contacted me to say it had been hacked. The html index page had been replaced and it was impossible to log in to wordpress. Initially I thought that they had got in through ftp, particularly as there was no link to the wordpress site. I soon realised that they had must have just scanned school websites for wp-admin, and then cracked the password (despite it being strong).
The first and simplest thing I found was to replace the default admin user with a new one. The username needs to be difficult to guess, and not used to post so does not appear on the site. This would mean that both the admin username and password would need to be cracked in order for the site to be hacked. I also installed the recommended, free in basic form, Wordfence security plugin. http://www.wordfence.com/.
To give an idea of the importance of changing the default admin username, this is the Wordfence report on how many failed admin logins there were over a short period.
Maybe you don’t have access to Moodle, or maybe your students are too cool to use it, so you think that Twitter might work. If so, here are 2 tools that can help.
Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.cpm) is the best to start with as it allows you to share resources easily, taking you above the 140 character limit of Twitter and basic web links. The main reason it is so useful is its ow.ly link shortener with click tracking, When you add a web link to a tweet it is automatically shortened and then any clicks are sent to a report. Obviously you can’t see who clicked, but you will have an idea of usage. You can also use Hootsuite to send documents to your students with a couple of clicks.
Hootsuite’s scheduler is also great for ‘course’ management as you can set up a whole set of dates and automatic reminders at the beginning of term and not have to remember to send them again.
If you have a large course, or if your students don’t want to follow each other you can use a second service to target your tweets. You can connect your Twitter account to Roundteam (https://roundteam.co/examples) and it will automatically retweet specified messages. In the case of a class all members would only have to follow the account connected to Roundteam. Roundteam then retweets any tweets that are specifically addressed to it, to all of the students who are followers. This way you can help students easily separate their academic and social use of Twitter and simplify communication between them.