Moodle @ Northbrook District 28

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Free Quiz Questions for your Moodle

Check out this cool resource where you can find free questions to import to your Moodle:
http://www.slcedtech.net/e3/moodlequizzes.html
There are also some tutorials that show you how to do it.

Moodle's 4 different assignment types:

  1. offline activity (handy for logging those non-Moodle assignments into the grade book)
  2. online text (students type or paste their entries right on the assignment page)
  3. upload a single file (collect final drafts, powerpoints, images, etc...think of it as your assignment drop box)
  4. advanced uploading of files (students can submit several drafts or several assignments in one place)
Watch a presentation here.

Working a Custom Google Search into your Moodle

Google is the world's leading search engine and is hands-down the go to search tool for students doing research. However, that's not to say that unleashing students to research is always the best use of class research time. If you've ever thought, "why can't I give them a search box that only gives results for certain sites?" then this is for you! Below guides you through the process to create your own search engine and then show you how to embed it into your Moodle classroom.
The service is provided freely through Google Accounts (so if you use Google Docs, Gmail or iGoogle you can simply click this link to get started (otherwise you'll need to register). Fill out the relevant fields for your search and choose whether or not you want all of the web to be included in results (but preference given to your sites' results) or just your sites.Next paste any of the sites you want to provide your students as the base. For example, here is a Moogle search (a search engine powered by Google to provide the best Moodle info) and used the following sites:

As teachers you can choose to have your results show without Ads so be sure to check that box. Finally, click next and give your search a try!
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To show in your Moodle classroom use embedding skills (which consist of copying and pasting). Click finish and go directly to the custom search "control
panel"

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The control panel gives all sorts of customizations and nifty tricks for collaborating, upgrading and making a custom search better. Check them out (especially fun is the fact that you can change the link, text and results color for a personal search engine). Play around with the settings and then, look for
the link to "code"

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Go to a Moodle classroom and add a label, web page or html block. On the editing page, toggle the text editor to the plain text view using the <> button and paste your code. Save your changes. You should see something like this.

:external image customsearch.jpg

Making Over Your Moodle

Let's change the look of a Moodle course. Specifically, we will use resources within Moodle to make topics more visually appealing. We will include an animated character as well as take a good look at different tips and tricks to make courses more interesting for students.
What we will do, is:
  • Do more than make each topic a long list of resources. Use the label resource and Moodle's indenting tool to change this:
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To this:
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  • Find out where we can get lots of free images for our courses.
  • Explore different ways to use HTML to make our courses even more engaging.
  • Include a talking character—an animated avatar—using Voki.com:
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Arrange Your Resources

Why is it important to spend a little time arranging resources in a topic? Isn't it all eye candy? Let's take a look:
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There's a nice colorful title, some text to introduce the topic, and then a long list of resources—which looks just like a list of files. What if the topic looked like this:
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This is much more the effective. Reorder resources and included some labels, it is much easier for students. In this section, we're going to learn how to bring some order into our topics.

Putting Your Resources in Order

In Moodle, resources can be put in any order, not the order the computer insists on (usually, numerical/alphabetical). However, in Moodle, any new resources you add are simply added on to the end of the topic. This has meant that resources in "Getting Things Flying" aren't exactly ordered in a sensible way—just the way added. Let's remedy that now...

Time for Action – Arrange Your Resources

  1. Remember that you need editing turned on before you start.
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  1. Choose the resource to move. To start the process, click on the Move icon.
  2. This causes two things to happen. First, the resource disappears. Don't worry—imagine you have it in your hand and you are ready to place it back into your course. Second, the boxes that have now appeared represent all the places to which you can move the resource that you are holding:
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  1. Choose where to move the resource to. The boxes disappear and my resources have been shuffled:
external image moodlecc-article-image8.png

What Just Happened?

A list of resources in Moodle isn't simply a list of files. One obvious difference is that in Moodle, you can arrange your resources to be listed in the order you want, and it is easy to achieve this.

Resources would be much easier to use if introduced with a short piece of text:
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Introducing a resource with a short introduction is a great way of improving the visual appeal of your course. The tool to achieve this is called a Label resource, and here's how to use it...

Time for Action – Insert a Label

Start the process of arranging resource by having a short piece of text introducing the links resource.
  1. Make sure editing is turned on, click on Add a resource, and choose Insert a label.
  2. In the Editing Label page, enter your label text. When you are done, press the Save and return to course button.
  3. The new label is added to the end of the list of resources—which is obviously the wrong place for it. Click on the Move icon, next to the label you have just added:
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  1. The page is re-displayed. Your new label disappears and lots of boxes have appeared. These boxes represent the places where the new label can go:
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  1. Click on the relevant box to place the label.
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What Just Happened?

Creative use of labels means course topics don't have to be simply a long list of resources. Remember to treat labels as a way of leading the student towards and into a resource. Labels are not designed for content, so try to keep labels short—perhaps two or three sentences at the most.

You can indent your resources by clicking on the Move right icon next to the resource:
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Below is how things now look with a little indenting:
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Seeing the course from a student's point of view
As a teacher, you will see a lot of options on the screen that your students won't. To get a clear idea of how a student will see the course, use the Switch role to… option at the top right of the screen. Choose Student from this list, and you will see the course as students see it.
When you're done, click Return to my normal role and you'll get your normal view back. You will also need to Turn editing on to get the edit controls back.


Hypnotic HTML—Finessing to Your Web Pages and Descriptions

Where to get graphics from and what's the best way of including them?

Finding Decorative Images

The Internet has some fantastic resources for free images to include in our courses. Here are just a few of the more popular ones...

Google Image Search

...is great for finding a picture on just about anything. Be careful about copyright. The pictures are of mixed quality and you have to be prepared to hunt around. But they are good fun and wonderful for livening up an otherwise dry course.
Visit http://images.google.com/ for the Google Image Search main page.

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Next, go to the web page containing the full sized version. Then, right click on the image to save it (if you're happy with the thumbnail then you can save that instead).
Once you've saved the image on your computer, then you need to upload it to, and include it in, your course.
Of course, other image search websites are available. AltaVista (www.altavista.com/image/) is another good search tool for images because it also allows you to search for images that are a specific size.

Flickr

...holds quality original photography, and you can restrict the search to creative commons so you don't have to worry about copyright issues. You're relying on someone else posting a picture of something you are interested in. Once you've found your image, then you can right-click on it to save it.

General Clipart Libraries

Line drawings, stick figures, and more. Usually, good quality but often find unimaginative images before you find a good one. A free and frequently used clip art resource is from Discovery Education (http://school.discoveryeducation.com). The discovery education site contains a comprehensive clipart gallery, all from the pen of illustrator Mark A. Hicks.
www.alamy.com is another huge resource of 'royalty free' images that is well worth a visit.

Copyright Caution

Let's take a look at the copyright issues.
Because we are working in the education sector, and as long as we aren't planning on making money out of someone else's pictures, copyright shouldn't be that much of a problem. If it isn't obvious what you can and can't copy off a website then all you have to do is ask the copyright holder. In my experience, asking for images from the larger corporations often prompts them to send you even more images. If you still aren't sure, ask a librarian. They should be aware of what you can and can't copy and how it can be used.

Another issue to think about is that of including photographs of staff and students (or just people generally). Will you need their permission to include their likeness in your course?

HTML Editor Tips and Tricks—Smilies and Other Gimmicks

If you really want to set a course apart from the crowd and are looking for the right tool to do it, then look no further than the HTML Editor we have been using all along. The Editor does a good job of making it very easy for us to improve the look and feel of our courses, and in helping us to create engaging Moodle pages. Let's explore some new ideas.

Smilies

Check out the Insert Smiley button. It's a really simple way of putting a little bit of expression into text. Want to be sarcastic but don't want students to get the wrong idea? Add a:
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Want to show happy? Insert a:
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Just the inclusion of a few little graphics like this helps to give courses a much more friendly face, because, let's face it, often students are put off by seeing too many words. Here's one way of remedying that problem...

Create Imaginary Dialog

Turn a course into a story and have a dialog between the characters. Imagine that there's an emergency in space...
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Arranging Your HTML

Give thought to how text and pictures are arranged on a page. Arrange pictures side-by-side using borderless tables:
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Time for Action—Displaying Things Side by Side

  1. After creating a new web page, insert a table. Click on the Insert Table button to display the Insert Table dialog:
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  1. Specify the number of columns and rows your table will have. When a table is first inserted, the border has a thickness of 1. If you want a borderless table, then you must set the border to be 0.
  2. Insert an image into each of the two cells in the top row of the new table:
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  1. To get full view of the page to position the images, click on the Enlarge Editor button to open the Fullscreen view.
  2. The Fullscreen editor window opens. These are specifically for configuring tables.
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  1. Those additional buttons help to configure the table so that the images are positioned.
  2. Enter some text into the cells underneath each picture.
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What Just Happened?

By using borderless tables to arrange our HTML, the visual appeal of a web page can be vastly improved . Rather than having text, then a picture, then text, then a picture repeated down the page, arrange items in cells in a table. It's easy to reconfigure the table later on, if content needs to change.

Remember: when you first insert a table, the border has a thickness of 1. If you want a borderless table, then you must set the border to be 0.

Getting Animated—Add a Talking Character

Multimedia these days isn't just limited to audio and video. How about having a custom designed animated character included in a course? Not for everyone but a good deal of fun is the free online service Voki.
Voki characters are animated, on-screen avatars that can talk—either using computer generated speech, or from a recording or uploaded file. Check out http://www.voki.com for more information.
Visit Voki.com to start creating an animated character. Voki provides a fragment of web page code. Embed that code into any HTML of a course.

In the following screenshot, a Voki is giving out an important safety warning:
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HTML Blocks—A Bit on the Side

Let's use an HTML block to create a welcome message for our students.

Time for Action – Add a Welcome Message

  1. Turn editing on, scroll down the course main page and look for the Blocks Add... block, usually under the last block on the right-hand side of the page:
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  1. Click on Add... and select HTML from the list. Moodle will add a new HTML block to the page:
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  1. To configure the new HTML block, click on the Configuration icon:
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  1. Give the new block a title and then add content. When you're done, press the Save changes button. Here's a welcome message.
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  1. A welcome message is no good hiding down in the bottom right-hand corner of a course main page. Move it to the top left using the Move left and Move up icons:
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  1. Click on the move icons to get the message positioned:
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What Just Happened?

A new HTML block has been added block to the course main page to provide a welcome message to students. Any HTML can be added in there. Add many HTML blocks to a course front page.

Summary

We have covered:
  • Arranging resources within topics to make topics look more visually appealing. The Label resource to hold resources together.
  • Tips and tricks to make courses more engaging for students.
  • Including an animated character using Voki.com. Other free, animated characters are available (e.g. http://gizmoz.com).
  • An HTML block to provide a welcome message to students.