Saturday, 27 March 2010

Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques: Book Review

It is my pleasure to review another e-book from Packt Publishing called Moodle 1.9, Teaching Techniques by William Rice and Susan Smith Nash. This review is based entirely on my personal point of view. I am not an expert in Moodle. I undertook this project in order to learn more and improve my knowledge of the subject, both from an active learning perspective and from a future teaching perspective.

Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques was first published in January 2010. There are 11 chapters and at 216 pages, it makes for fairly compact reading. Who is the book aimed at? Well, the overview states that it is suitable for university and professional teachers. There is an assumption that you have knowledge of the Moodle platform's basic features, and that you have "some proficiency" with Moodle. This book is not intended to be used as a guide on how to use Moodle per se, but as the title suggests, it is a comprehensive guide on how to adapt the many and varied features of Moodle to customise and personalise your course design. One of the facets I liked about the book is that it guides you from the teacher's point of view and also gives you an insight into how the modules are viewed from a learner's point of view. Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques aims to show you how to get the best from Moodle and at the same time, shows you how to construct high-quality, durable and relevant courses, which will perfectly suit your students' needs.

The building blocks which permit you to shape and form your highly individualised courses are outlined clearly within the introductory chapter. The authors use excellent screenshots and diagrams to guide the reader through the process of the key tools within Moodle and provide an abundance of useful tips and advice. In particular, Chapter 2's focus on using the Forum as a key tool for organising all the instructional content, was very useful reading for me. Click on the link and you can download a free preview of Chapter 2, called "Instructional Material".

Chapter 4 on Assessment was enlightening. Students might be fearful of the terminology, but in Moodle, Assessment is much more than simply checking up on how you are getting on. This feature can boost a student's self confidence and can create independent learners. For example, Moodle provides ample opportunities for creating quizzes, which can be taken by students in short spells or specific timed slots in order to assess how they are doing. Good screenshots provide a useful guide to how to utilise Asessment to its maximum potential.

I enjoyed reading about the Wiki feature in Chapter 6. The authors outline the reasons why the Wiki is useful to achieve learning objectives. The ability to create individual student wikis is a welcome capability within the Moodle platform. I got a bit lost in some of the sections, however, and this is where some Moodle proficiency is assumed by the authors.

Useful tips and guidelines were given in Chapter 7 Glossary Solutions. I was particularly interested in the "schema" building involved in the Glossary function. Each course can only have a main glossary, but with many secondary glossaries. When a Glossary is created, a Database of individual entries is automatically created. Clear screenshots are provided to facilitate understanding and tips about including memory aids for the Glossary proved to be of a very helpful nature. One of the main advantages of including the Glossary in a course design is its constant presence on the sidebar. It can be made into an interactive activity and the "Random Glossary Block" feature is also useful. New information is updated every time students log on. As a student of Moodle learning myself, I find this constant update to be particularly beneficial as a means to keeping an eye on the "flow" of new information.

Great tips are given for how to maximise the Choice activity function. Polls and debates can be easily created to make a lively teaching aid. This function also makes choosing teams for activities much easier and also allows for feedback polls to ascertain whether the pace of a course is good for students.

The final chapter of Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques highlights the Portfolio Gallery solution. I really liked the notion of "dialogical imagination", which can ensue from "reaction videos" found in Youtube and often posted on FaceBook. Moodle now has an inbuilt facility to integrate social networking sites such as FaceBook and Twitter. RSS feeds can also be easily implemented as well. This all makes for a very powerful, engaging and highly interactive teaching and learning platform. Indeed, the terminology used is "ubiquitous learning"This chapter contains some excellent tips on how to engage students in creating exciting writing projects for an e-portfolio. A sample assignment on "My Hometown" is highlighted by the authors. I found the notion of a "capstone" experience or final project to be of great interest. The theme of collaboration plays a big role in motivating students to do their best.

At 216 pages, Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques makes for an easily managed read and offers some invaluable tips and insights into how to design a unique and personalised Moodle course to maximum effect. As a platform for teaching and learning, Moodle certainly satisfies the growing need for "ubiquitous learning", which comprises of e-learning, mobile learning and hybrid delivery, both synchronous and asynchronous. I certainly learned a lot from a fairly inexperienced Moodler's perspective, but I found some of the explanations were a bit too complex for my limited knowledge. This book should satisfy the more experienced Moodle user's quest for how to implement a successful and dynamic course design and indeed provides invaluable tips that can be applied immediately.

I have been given a free e-copy of the book for reviewing purposes. I do not receive any other compensation apart from this free e-copy of the book. I also view this as an excellent opportunity for me to gain more experience in writing book reviews, which I enjoy doing very much.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Harrogate Online IATEFL 2010

Harrogate Online

The following is an extract kindly reproduced from the IATEFL Harrogate Online website.

The British Council and IATEFL have launched the Harrogate Online website which offers live web coverage of this year's IATEFL Conference in Harrogate. The 2010 Conference takes place between 7 and 11 April, and online activity has already started.

The Harrogate Online website allows remote participants to take part in one of the world's biggest ELT conferences through a variety of resources including:

- Video recordings of selected sessions
- Live interviews and streamed plenaries
- Moderated special interest discussion forums
- Text reports and photo albums

To visit the Harrogate Online website, go to:
We look forward to bringing you all the action as it happens from Harrogate!

Gavin Dudeney (Honorary Secretary, IATEFL) Julian Wing (British Council Harrogate Online Project Manager) Nik Peachey (IATEFL Online Editor)

A Virtual Presence
I won't be attending the Conference in person, but I will be in Harrogate "virtually". I am currently co-moderating the Learning Technologies Forum, so please do pop in and join in the lively discussions! I look forward to seeing you there.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

News Flash! Chicks Run Amok!

Yes, this past week I admit has been a bit of a learning curve while I've been "Home Alone" again. Nobody but dogs, cats, chickens, a kestrel, my computer and fantastic PLN for company. Last time I lost a chicken, this time, I'm running around like a headless chicken! Why? Well the following newspaper article has just appeared in the local news. It contains some rather disturbing details.

It is even being reported on the Abruzzo Channel 5 Live news as I am writing!

As you can see, Norris is getting rather rotund. The plus side is that she has been dutifully laying an egg a day in my plant pot, would you believe. She is providing the necessary main ingredients for fresh omelettes, pancakes, fresh pasta and tonight, a very fine cake, so I shouldn't really complain. With Easter coming up soon, I certainly won't go short of easter eggs!

Lesson Ideas is a great resource for using with students of any age. In this post, I have demonstrated 3 of the different features available on The Newspaper Generator, Create a Newscast picture and the Ninja Text. I certainly had a lot of fun playing around with them! I am sure students would enjoy exploring them, too. These features could be easily embedded in a class blog for projects and assignments.
What do you reckon? If you have used in any projects with your students, I would love to hear from you.

Eggstra Lesson Ideas
Sean Banville from Breaking News English has an excellent idiomatic lesson on Chickens.
Sue Lyon-Jones from Esol Courses has a whole selection of lovely lessons to do with Easter eggs and the theme of Easter
Ana Maria Menezes from Life Feast blog has some great Easter projects using web 2.0 tools for you to try out.
No need for me to "egg" you on! Have a look through these fabulous ideas and be eggceptionally inspired!

Post ScriptumPlease do excuse my eggstraordinary use of one word in particular.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Power of Images - a Powerpoint Presentation

I would like to present my most recent Powerpoint presentation tutorial via Slideshare on the theme of images. I am still learning the basics, so I decided that "simple" works best as Seth Dickens points out in his excellent "How to Make a Good PowerPoint". I have also read Jeremy Harmer's article called "10 things I hate about Powerpoint" just to inspire me, and I found it very useful. As an addendum, I have just been tweeted this link to a Powerpoint tutorial via @ Seth Dickens. Have a look at this. "Visual Design Basics" from sumeet.moghe. It is very good and its message is cristal clear.

My tutorial shows creative ways to use images and includes a few Web 2.0 tools that I particularly like. I hope you enjoy the show. Click on the "Full" icon for a better view.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

PLN -My Top Word of 2010

Last year I told groups of teachers I was teaching that there were 3 little letters emerging for me in 2009 that meant a massive amount to a lot of people. In my classes, I predicted that these letters would go beyond 2009, become even more powerful, and indeed would surely become embedded as the " Top Word" of the year in 2010. I tried to impress on them how useful this short abbreviation would become for them. My PLN (Personal Learning Network) is an incredibly vital element of my daily life and I don't know where I would be without it now. Right at this very precise second, possibly feeling rather isolated, uninspired, unfulfilled and a bit bored, I reckon!! However, I hasten to add, that before I even knew the meaning of PLN, I was extemely happy with what I had around me.

My Sidebar Gurus
Many educators are spreading the word around that to be a 21st century teacher, we need to connect with other educators in our chosen fields. "Learning and sharing" has become a vital part of an emerging educational theory and practice. There is an abundance of materials that people are willing to share and you only have to click on the sidebar, to see members of my PLN who are constantly imparting their fabulous ideas. Sadly, there are too many fantastic sites and blogs to include all of them there. My sincere apologies to anyone not included. My "Sidebar Gurus" as I call them, enrich my life on a daily basis. I learn from them and I try to participate in their blogs by adding comments, whenever I feel I can add something. There are a multitude of reasons why people need and want to nurture their PLN by whatever means possible. I am very grateful to all the members of my PLN for the tremendous help and encouragement I receive and it is a great pleasure to be included in your fabulous and amazing networks.

Why Do We Connect?
Shelly Terrell, from Teacher Reboot Camp has recently undertaken a huge, global video project to help empower and to encourage people from all walks of life to connect and expand their PLN. I was thrilled to take part in this evolving video project along with many others, and you can catch me fleetingly at the very end of the brilliant and highly effective video below. You can find out more about participating in this exemplary mission from Shelly's "Why Do We Connect?" Wiki.

I recommend that you also have a look at this very interesting and insightful video post from Darren Elliot's "The Lives of Teachers" blog. The post is called " Personal Learning Networks, the what, why and how". I have learned a lot from it, and so will you, I am sure.

I would love to hear about your experience of how you are developing your very own persnalised learning network or environment. How is it enriching your life? Can you imagine a life without it? What is the alternative? Please do share your views :)

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mirror Posts Galore!

Beautiful Venetian Mirror image found on
It's been my great pleasure to be a guest blogger on the Bits'n'Bobs Blog, which has recently set up an excellent series called "Mirror Posts". I was the first guest to kick off this fascinating series on 12th March with the title "Through the Looking Glass 1". In it I "mirrored" Chris' blog posts by picking up on a word or title he had used in his previous posts. Victoria below is mentioned as a very elusive and indeed "Spooky" look-a-like cat to Chris' cat of the same name.

One of my all time favourite books is "Brave New World" and here is another "Mirror Post" reference which uses this title. Chris also wrote a post called "The Breach of Berlin's Wall" which was similar in theme to my post "1989 - The Berlin Wall". All these are coincidental items published at varying times over the past year or so.
You can read all the posts in the unique series here.

Alice in Wonderland Theme

Press here for Photo source acknowledgement

Anne Hodgson from "The Island Weekly" blog recently invited her readers to "come and play a game". This game consisted of a group collaborative story expanding the title "Alice in Wonderland". You can see how this fabulous and fun idea evolved by clicking here. Many bloggers from around the world immediately jumped to the challenge, including myself. If you missed out on the first game, then you can have more fun and more focused practice by clicking on this latest activity called "Altering Alice".

Sue Lyon-Jones from "" has written a brilliant spoof parody poem called Alice in Wonderland 2.0 - Twitterwocky". She has very cleverly used Web 2.0 terms within the rewritten poem. I recommend you have a look as it is an inspiring read!

A Magical Mystery Tour
Recently I have been busy trying to locate a birthday parcel from my best friend Marion sent to me from Dresden on 18th January. We finally had to go to Pescara to collect it on March 8th, almost 2 months later. The parcel had travelled over 2,000 kilometres and had gone back to Germany, before we tracked it down. The courier responsible for delivering the parcel sincerely believed that I lived in this thoroughly picturesque albeit abandoned, wreck of a "house" below.

You can read all about it via moto-abruzzo's post entitled "Return to Sender" or "How to make a parcel disappear". It's a cracking read! Eeerily atmospheric and original photo courtesy of KRB.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

How to live before you die

Earlier today I came across this talk below given by Steve Jobs via TED's Best of the Web videos. I confess I didn't really know a lot about his background. It didn't matter who he was, however. The point was that in the 15 minutes that he had to address new graduates from Stanford University, USA, in 2005, Steve Jobs had me gripped right from the very start. I was totally engaged by what he was saying and the strong messages that he conveyed, taken directly from his very own tumultuous life. I urge you to watch the video if you have never seen it and prepare to be inspired.

Generating Conversation
The following are quotes that I liked from his talk. They are quotes that I want to remember. They are quotes which have a meaning. They have a forceful potency. You could use these quotes in a conversation class to encourage debate and speaking practice.

Choose one of the following quotes from Steve Jobs and give your opinion about it. Which one do you like best?
  • "Keep looking for what truly inspires you. Don't settle".
  • "You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart".
  • "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition".
  • "Don't lose faith!"
  • "Stay happy. Stay foolish".
  • "The only way to do great work is to love what you do."
Phrasal Verbs

The video contains some great examples of Phrasal Verbs. This is how I would exploit them.
Make a wordle as a preteach for the video content as above. Students find out the meaning of the phrasal verbs and then think of example sentences in which the verbs could be used in a meaningful way. Students predict what the video is about.
Students watch the video and take down notes as if they are attending a "live" lecture. While they watch, they listen out for the context in which the phrasals above are used. Discuss answers as a class and compare their original predictions.

Gut Feeling

There is a fabulous 3rd conditional sentence which Steve Jobs uses during his talk. "None of this would have happened, if I hadn't been fired by Apple." Imagine how his life would have turned out if he hadn't been fired by the company he had originally co-founded? Would he still be where he is today? What an interesting thought. My gut feeling is that he would definitely have got where he is today by following his heart and intuition. So the underlying principle of his talk is the following. Believe in yourself and do not lose faith. These are indeed inspiring words of wisdom.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Using PowerPoint to Liberate Myself!

One of my New Year Resolutions was to free myself from the stigma of not ever having produced a Power Point Presentation (PPT) in my whole life. I can now safely say that I have lifted this personal inhibition and well, maybe, there is no stopping me now!! I feel that I must be the last teacher on this planet to have created her own PPT. Why is this? Why did I have such a fear of this particular tool? Was it because all the PPTs I have seen from colleagues and in my PLN look so wonderful and professional? The inexplicable fear of falling flat on my face with my own creations was preventing me from unleashing my creativity? Who knows?

Create your own Animation

Credit Due
Reading motivational posts such as Karenne Sylvester's "Powerpointing Grammar" or recently, Shelly Terrell's post on "Conquer your Fear" , and also watching this excellent tutorial from TeacherTraining videos by Russell Stannard, have definitely all played a part in my determination to "beat the fear and do it anyway". I have already published "Images4Education" and "Digital Story" on Slideshare. I now have the courage to post my very first attempt at a PPT, tentatively begun in a sandbox area in November 2009.

Learning and Sharing
Other projects I am working on at the moment that I would like to share involve using more images, and phrasal verbs, my favourite teaching subject. I am currently developing a PPT on Google Docs, which I have recently been using with my fellow coursemates from my Moodle4Teachers course, Radney from Canada and Elyse from the Canary Islands. The exciting world of creating PPTs via Google Docs and editing them simultaneously is something the three of us have been doing for quite a while now during our eagerly anticipated weekly meetings via Skype and Googlewave. Up until last week, I had only ever edited existing Google Docs PPTs for our course work, but we had an impromptu teaching tutorial (at 11pm my time!) and I actually learned all about creating a new document, changing the background, the design and other key features. It was a great "learning and sharing" evening! This is what 2010 is all about for me personally so far, and it is truly the most fantastic feeling in the whole world. In fact, "Learning and Sharing" is happening 24/7 right now at this very minute, via Twitter for example.

Sites about PowerPoint Presentations
Pete's Power Point Station - a fantastic collection of free Presentations in PPT format for teachers and students, which includes free interactive activities for kids (found via my Twitter PLN)and on Free Technology for Teachers.
How to Create a PowerPoint Presentation from
View the following video "How to make a good PowerPoint" by Seth Dickens.

As you can see after watching the excellent tutorial above, I have got a huge amount to learn!!!

You can also view Seth Dickens' excellent blog post and lesson ideas on "Death by PowerPoint".

As an addendum, I have just been tweeted this link to a Powerpoint tutorial via @ Seth Dickens. Have a look at this. "Visual Design Basics" from Sumeet.moghe.
It is very good and its message is cristal clear.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


I found out about FotoBabble just now via my PLN's Twitter stream. I read about it on TeflTeacher Blog via the amazing Shelly Terrell from Teacher Reboot Camp. I couldn't resist giving FotoBabble a twirl, so to speak, and here is the result! It's a site which allows you to simply record your voice onto a photo that you can upload from your computer. You need to register (it's free), choose a photo, record your voice, press save and then add to your blog, or email it to your friends. It is that easy! I think the tutorial on TeflTeacher Blog is really helpful and I was able to follow the steps very easily. Next project will be to see if I can embed a talking photo onto a Wallwisher!! Why don't you give it a go yourself? Here is my embedded Fotobabble in a previous Wallwisher that I created.

NB Can you guess what Joey is thinking as Chikita walks past him?