Tuesday, October 24, 2006

First steps to Moodling in Second Life

Sooooo... last night was the first meeting of the Sloodle community in Second Life (SL). There are lots of other descriptions on the Sloodle.com web site of what this is all about, but here's my take on it and what it might (and might not) mean... by the way, there were a lot of people there:Essentially, code is available which allows the layout of a Moodle course to be replicated (or "rezzed" = rendered) within the SL environment. Here are three Moodle courses rendered in last night's meeting:
The names above the yellow and blue cylinders reflect the "online users" status of SL and the particular Moodle course respectively. The ability to render Moodle blocks means that if your Moodle course is displaying a calendar with upcoming events, you get a whopping great big calendar with events on it which your avatar in SL can walk (or fly) up to and interact with. Here's the calendar in the background (that's a fully functioning interactive whiteboard in the background displaying a sloodle.com page, by the way. Eat that Promethean / Smart / etc....):
Here's my avatar (hey, what do you mean "that's not you, it's got hair..."?) interacting with an upcoming event on the calendar - note the prompt at top-right asking if I'd like to open the web page in question: So, as blocks are added or moved in the Moodle course, this is reflected in the SL environment. Activities and other Moodle objects are also represented. Here are two assignments which are due in soon - the red glowing one's imminent, the yellow one less so (note the flag's higher up the pole). The radio on the table is the SL representation of the news forum.There was some discussion last night (aka: "typing") about how different objects and activities would be represented. How would you represent how an assignment might be handed in? A drop box? A computer? Sending a postcard (an SL method of communicating)? Here's some interaction between SL and Moodle - the SL chat is being replicated (and hence recorded and logged) in a Moodle Chat activity which is part of the course being rendered. The cube in the middle of the group of people in the first image in this post is the 'chat bot' - which records the chat in SL (and may be the mechanism by which it's piped through into Moodle, but I might be wrong...)
So what is this good for? Well, it's obviously more immersive and hits lots of the issues which we covered in our Nesta FutureLab Design Challenge entry (see previous post):

  • some level of anonymity and role playing within the Moodle environment;
  • interactions with 3D objects which represent Moodle blocks or activities
  • interaction with other learners;
  • hopefully, the ability to take a course in either environment, or a combination of both;

I'm sure there's lots, lots more, but it's late and I was up late last night in some virtual world, so it's time to fly to my real bed...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Moodle & Second Life

OK. Hands up anyone who takes part in Second Life a lot? No, I didn't see any hands... you all moved your mouse or entered a keyboard command, didn't you?

Here's a growing team of people attempting some integration between Moodle and Second Life (here's the Wikipedia entry if Second Life seems a bit hover boots and rocket cars for you - actually, it still might after you read it, but there you go...).
This all seems like a very real version of what a group of us (well, a pair of us) cooked up for the Nesta FutureLab Design Challenge and presented at MoodleMoot 2005.
Want to get involved? Sign up and meet in SL on October 23rd at 8pm GMT... this will no doubt provide more ammunition for those who say that Virtual Learning Environments are virtual enough...
See you there? Maybe...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Naace AMAC 2006 Presentation

After much faffing other important work I've published my presentation from the Naace All Members Annual Conference from the end of September. If you were there, or even if you weren't, it's available online via the BucksGfL Breeze server (warning! this means it's narrated, so it's useful if you're currently suffering from insomnia). If there are any questions arising from the presentation then please post them as comments to this post. Apologies to those who asked me about it for the delay. Thanks!

VLEs: Pedagogy & Implementation Online Conference 1

One of the best things (no, possibly the best thing) about my current position is that I've the flexibility to decide what would be the best way to work. This week is a case in point - from today (Monday) until Thursday I'm a delegate at VLEs: pedagogy & implementation which is hosted by DirectLearn. There are lots of interesting presentations - this morning's keynote is by M Dougiamas ("Moodle - a toolbox for creating learning communities") and there are what look to be a number of other useful topics in the programme.
The first thing that strikes me is the system the conference is using - it's hosted on a WebCrossing server - normally a discussion board-based environment and there's no upfront synchronous aspect to the conference. There is a live Java-based chatroom somewhere (I came across it while doing the pre-course reading last week, and of course now I want it... it's gone!) but it appears that most of the interaction is via discussion board after reading or watching a pre-prepared presentation. This seems a shame - it's not too difficult to do this, I'm resisting the urge to post the URL of one of our Breeze meeting rooms and inviting everyone in to share ideas and resources there, as what's offered seems a very Web 1.0 way of doing a conference. The introduction says that there are no live presentations due to technology and that the asynchronous nature "leads to a better experience..." - I would counter that just as a combination of face to face and online learning is essential for a good blended learning experience, a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous interaction would be essential for a good online conference experience, wouldn't it? Otherwise it's like attending a physical conference somewhere and sending messages to presenters and other delegates only by scribbling notes on index cards. A case in point - Val Brooks (Moodler from Stockton CLC) has just "live messaged" me and asked "what do we do now?". I'm sure it'll get better, but so far it's reminiscent of a Naace seminar on blended learning I attended which used Plone (very nice for making web sites, not much use for blended learning on its own) as the environment - and then didn't model blending things at all...
Anyway, Martin's presentation covers many things which his MoodleMoot presentation covered, with one or two notable additions (or at least the things which I've picked up on...)

  • Role-playing and scenario situations - this was something that Drew Buddie (here he is playing a role) and I surmised would be a wonderful facility for Moodle as part of some of the work we did for our Nesta FutureLab Design Challenge entry. Essentially this would involve people being assigned roles in online scenarios - or even interacting anonymously in sensitive situations, such as when discussing something in PSHE.
  • The introduction the Repository API makes things a little clearer about how I could see all sorts of learning objects being stored on (in our case) a County-wide basis - and some interesting ideas about how schools might work together on this (or how they might not)

Well, that's about it so far... as I look at the conference front page now, there are approaching 25 people logged on to the site, most of them are probably far more expert than me in this area, but so far it feels like everyone's milling around in the lobby unsure of what to do. Hmm. More later... maybe.

Edit: 6.30pm - well, it all got going once people started posting messages (yes, I probably should have just waded in, but I kind of felt that if I asked Martin D a question it could turn into an internal Moodle-fest, which wasn't really the point. There were some interesting posts, but maybe I was expecting too much. The MoodleMoot model (if that's what it is) of live presentation accompanied by synchronous chatroom discussion (an excellent way of getting relevant questioning going) followed by asynchronous reflection later on in forums is a very efficient and interactive way of working... this is... different, but not ultimately bad. Tomorrow is the same day (or at least assigned to the same subjects), we'll be moving in the direction of Personalised Learning Environments et al on Wednesday and Thursday.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

16? 18? 21? Coming Of Age...

Coming of age version 1.2Over last weekend and into the start of this week I put the finishing touches to wrote all of my contribution to Terry Freedman's new version of Coming of Age: An introduction to the new world wide web. The first edition had contributions from such luminaries as Alan November, Peter Ford and Ewan McIntosh - the second version is considerably larger with many, many contributions covering as wide a spectrum of the even-newer worldwide web as you could hope for. There are a few chapters in the on Moodle, one of them on (ahem) Implementing Moodle in an LEA or School District which was written in a bit of a hurry, so I'm looking forward to re-reading it in a day or two and shocking myself with my grammatical errors... it should cover factors to consider if you are (or someone else is) thinking of creating a medium- or even large-scale Moodle implementation in a School District (US) or LEA (UK) - things about usernames, infrastructure, hosting, training and development, etc. I hope it's useful, otherwise it's 2,000 words of wasted electrons!
As it was a book (largely) concerned with Web 2.0 and all that, it didn't feel quite right writing the chapter in Word, emailing it off for comments, etc., so I used my Google account to create and edit it in Writely, the first time I've ever used this for some serious document creation, and it was great. Terry F and Josie Fraser were able to look at it in preparation (don't know if they did though...) and it's easy to save the document in lots of formats (including PDF) and even publish it to a blog. Couple this with the ability to email Word, RTF and other documents direct to Writely where they're converted into online editable documents, and I think I'm done! The first version of COA is available from Terry Freedman's site or by clicking on the image above, the second should be available (I guess) from the blog.
BucksArt image from FlickrNeedless to say, a useful tool such as Writely is blocked by the new "improved" web access policy at my place of work - as are Google Spreadsheets, Flickr and even this blog... the first two are down to data protection policy - understandable, but a bit like saying "we don't want you taking important information out of the building, so we're attaching everything you can write on to the building with a (short) piece of string" - surely a well-wrtitten acceptable use policy should cope with this for most organisations? I've got to make a "business case" to get certain things unblocked - we shall see how this pans out - but with some of the work being done using Flickr by Dan China, the County Adviser for Art, I'm willing to bet on Flickr getting back in...
Enough grrrrs - it's the first thing I've written in a while since a little piece for the Association of Learning Technology Newsletter, and I enjoyed it. I hope it'll be useful in some way somewhere.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I do like to be beside the Seaside

Mike Evans at VarndeanToday I'm at Varndean School in Brighton & Hove for a Moodle Training day - I was here earlier in the year for the Learning Platforms Beauty Contest and today there are about 30 SMT, ICT staff and consultants here. As of yet Brighton and Hove haven't decided on a definite strategy - they're using Moodle as an experiment to challenge, stretch and develop competencies of teachers, and then will be seeing what's offered by SEGfL and mandated by Becta.
Since January Brighton & Hove have started their own central Moodle, the wonderfully monickered Seaside - and are using it to develop primary resources & do some professional development. Today we will mostly be developing resources on/at the Seaside as well as working with some secondary schools to devleop resources for their own Moodles. Some people here won't be staying for the three hands-on support sessions that we'll be having later this morning and this afternoon.
This morning Mike Evans from the National Strategy is talking about the Pedagogy of VLEs - a really interesting presentation and one I'd love to have Mike do for headteachers in Buckinghamshire. The "c" word - constructivism - has just come up as part of of teaching models & theories of learning and now there's a video extract from Gilly Salmon who's talking about Constructivism - interesting quote "it's really difficult to capture and slap online" (I think she means put online) but she's advocating a socially based collaborative approach.
The afternoon was tiring but great fun - many people there had Moodle sites - including the wonderfully named EGMOO from Elm Grove in Hove - and we did some basic work on adding resources, creating quizzes, choices and setting up courses. David Cooper and Rose Carter have a small group of schools who look like they could work really effectively together - I'd love to start working with them and sharing resources / courses / quizzes / glossaries etc. - perhaps between Brighton and Hove, Buckinghamshire and West Sussex. Having grown up in Shoreham-by-Sea just down the road it was a great excuse to see family, take in the howling wind on a bright sunny day on the seafront, and generally reflect on the question Why on earth don't I live near the seaside any more?