Monday, 27 February 2012

Packtpub:Moodle 2.0 Book Reviews

I have the great pleasure of reviewing two books on Moodle published very recently by Packtpub. I will outline my thoughts briefly on each book individually as set out below. I would like to stress that I term myself as a lay person with regards dealing with Moodle, and therefore my opinions are purely personal and based on ease of understanding of the content within each book reviewed. With an ever increasing demand by "Moodlers" for more information about this versatile Virtual Learning Platform / Environment, Packtpub offers an array of books specifically geared to enlighten would be users / seasoned Moodlers alike.

Book Review One:Moodle 2.0 Course Conversion Beginners' Guide

Written by Ian Wild and published by Packtpub as a second edition in November 2011, Moodle 2.0 Course Conversion Beginners' Guide provides a valuable and insightful guide to converting your teaching materials to the latest edition of Moodle 2.0. At 368 pages long, with nine clearly defined chapters, divided in two parts, the information showcased is comprehensive and easily managed.

Moodle 2.0 Course Conversion Beginners' Guide is primarily aimed, but not exclusively, at teachers / educators who are beginners in dealing with Moodle. The e book demonstrates in a very comprehensible manner how easy it is to create a course entirely online using the teacher's own worksheets and materials. My opinion is that this is a very practical and useful guide to have for any teacher contemplating shifting their work from a paper based / non digital format to a highly sophisticated and modern online medium.

The introduction quotes the notion of a "fast" learning curve for readers of this book, and this caught my eye. Although the book is packed full with useful information, it is indeed condensed in a very efficient way and therefore easy to read in manageable chunks with clearly defined headings to lead the way. My feeling is that objectives can be achieved in a short space of time by following the considerable amount of tutorials, screenshots and clear explanations included in the book..

What I liked...

The step by step approach with ample screenshots was greatly appreciated, and made the information much more easily accessible.

I particularly liked the Pop Quiz to recycle information digested, and there were many examples of this feature in each of the chapters. I found myself keen to see if I could answer the questions quickly to prove to myself that I had taken in the information.

In addition, the "Have a go hero" feature is a great touch, which sets practical challenges. It also gives you ideas for further experimentation of materials covered, as viewed in the screenshot below.

I also liked the practical "Word of caution" sections, and I learned some useful tips for things to avoid doing, such as not logging on to Moodle as two different users.

The frequent "What just happened?" question was useful in breaking up chunks of information, and served as a useful review of the content. The "Time for action" heading also served a useful purpose for running through procedures.

Would I recommend it?
Moodle 2.0 Course Conversion Beginners' Guide seems to do what it says on the blurb and cover and as a result, I would recommend this book to any teacher / administrator / tutor embarking on adding files and materials to Moodle.

I would love to own a hard copy of this book as well, and that for me is a very high recommendation!!

You can download Chapter 5, a free bonus chapter for you to view the contents. Have fun!

Book Review Two:Moodle 2 for Teaching 4-9 Year Olds Beginner's Guide

My second Packtpub book for review is Moodle 2 for Teaching 4-9 Year Olds Beginner's Guide. It is written by Nicholas Freear and it was published in October 2011. It consists of 332 pages divided into ten main chapters.

The title Moodle 2 for Teaching 4-9 Year Olds Beginner's Guide intrigued me straightaway, as the idea of using Moodle with such young learners seems to be very 21st century indeed. This reflects a sign of the times, which is increasingly geared towards blended learning.

Who is this book for?
According to the official blurb, "This book is aimed at teachers of children aged 4 to 9 who wish to integrate the Moodle open source virtual learning environment into their teaching. It assumes a basic knowledge of the Web but no prior knowledge of Moodle, although it is expected that you will either have Moodle already set up in your school, or a friendly IT technician who can do it for you."

My Opinion
This book contains a comprehensive and useful amount of information, which is geared for teachers of this particular age group. It was a little bit technical in some parts for me, but I am sure this would be appreciated by most teachers dealing with Moodle. The author mentions throughout the book to ask for in-house technical support if a teacher doesn't feel confident enough to download relevant plug-ins and so on.

Moodle 2 for Teaching 4-9 Year Olds Beginner's Guide contains insightful sections on creating games and quizzes and these activities are what most children find enjoyable. The step by step instructions and references are very clear, and can be followed easily with the ample amount of excellent screenshots provided.

I particularly liked Chapter 3, Telling Stories, which outlines various creative writing projects, which young learners would find entertaining. Specific chapters are devoted to Fun Games, Spot the Difference and Interactive Puzzles, thereby resulting in a huge bank of diverse activities for the keen teacher to develop and enhance any Moodle course for young to very young learners.

Would I recommend it?
I feel that Moodle 2 for Teaching 4-9 Year Olds Beginner's Guide does what it sets out to do very well. If I were teaching this age group, I would certainly want to read through it in order to take advantage of all the exciting features Moodle 2.o offers as a learning platform.

You can find out more information about it on Nicholas Freear's unique Facebook page.

You can also listen to the author outlining what his book is about on the video on his Facebook page. Link
You can download a free sample chapter - Chapter 4, Spot The Difference, from the Packtpub page link here.

Moodle 2 Administration
Packt has recently published another Moodle book as well, titled "Moodle 2 Administration". You can read more about it on their website.

Please note:I have received a free e-copy of each of the two books reviewed in exchange for writing the reviews in my own time. The reviews are based purely on my honest and personal perspective. I hope the reviews will give you some insight into the essence of the books.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Guest Blog Post on Ken Wilson's Blog!

I have had the huge honour recently to write a guest post for Ken Wilson's blog. I wrote about my experiences in the former German Democratic Republic, where I lived and taught for a year from 1981-82. It was a character building year for me and one which taught me a lot about what life was really like beyond the "Iron Curtain." Below you can see the opening lines from the blog post and the interesting connection that Ken and I share.

LinkPlease do hop across to Ken Wilson's blog in order to find out more about Living and working behind the Iron Curtain. Some clues are hidden in the Wordle below.

I can assure you that you will learn a few interesting facts about what life was like there 30 years ago!! You can see some of the many books I own connected to learning German in 1982, and some books on life in the GDR.

You can also find out what it is like to learn German in the modern era of 2012, written from Ken's unique perspective as a language student!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

EVO 2012 Podcasting Course Feedback

What an amazing five weeks I spent on the fantastic Electronic Village Online Podcasting 2012 course! I feel as if I worked very hard during the session and I learned so much about Podcasting. I enjoyed all the activities, which were fun and challenging at the same time. Everything was set out very clearly. The moderators Evelyn Web, Miguel Mendoza and Teadira Perez were outstanding, and looked after the participants very skillfully. Readings such as The 4 Types of Podcasts were chosen carefully, and tutorials provided step by step guidance.

I wrote about the first two weeks in EVO Podcasting 2012:Opening The Door To New Horizons.

I have created a short story using Storybird.

This story is an almost faithful rendition of what happened during the fourth week of my course. I had fun creating it!! I will embed the Storybird as soon as the embed code becomes available. Please click on the link to view My EVO Podcasting Adventures!

A podcast was recorded specially for Fluffy's Blog. You can hear my young niece reading the nursery rhyme of Three Little Kittens. She had great fun reading this rhyme aloud and was very interested in how the podcast was created, using Audacity and then transfered to Podbean.

I was thrilled to be using my newly acquired podcasting skills in an activity aimed at primary school children.

Below you can view the Slideshare presentation, which I created for the final Week 5 Podcasting Fair webinar. I'm so glad I was able to attend this live webinar, as it was a fantastic finale to the whole session. Thanks to everyone for making it so enjoyable. I feel full of enthusiasm for creating podcasts now!
Podcast Presentation for EVO Podcasting 2012

One of the tasks I enjoyed the most was to interview a fellow podcaster, and I asked Natasa. She then interviewed me. We had great fun finding out more about each other.

We communicated via Skype and used the MP3 Skype Recorder to record the interviews.

So I'd finally like to welcome you to my new podcasting blog, which is still in its infancy. It is simply called Janet's Podcasting Blog.

Miguel Mendoza has written a fab feedback blog post with his Reflections / Overview from the course, which you can read here. It is full of useful insights, and serves as a fantastic summary of what was covered during the action-packed five weeks.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Connecting Online 2012 - A Missed Connection

Abruzzo Under Snow!!
Sadly I was not able to attend my own webinar presentation for Connecting Online 2012 due to unforeseen circumstances, namely the terrible weather that hit the Abruzzo area the day before. I had been very excited indeed about presenting and I wrote about it in this post here.

A very big apology to Dr Nellie Deutsch and all the attendees who came to my session on Teaching Idioms with Web 2.0 Tools. I had recorded my Powerpoint presentation to send to Dr Nellie in case I encountered problems with the weather, but unfortunately we got cut off before I could send it.

I made a very big effort to get to an Internet point to do my webinar, but the odds were against me. Mother Nature, in fact.

This is my story below.

A huge amount of snow fell overnight in our area of Abruzzo, and I woke up to this view:

The situation was about to get even worse. Our phone and Internet connection went down and mobile phone reception was poor to non-existent, due to the severity of the weather. I decided we had to try to get to our neighbours, who hopefully would have a connection for me to deliver my webinar at 2pm. So we started walking up our road (over one kilometre long), which was just a mass of deep snow. Karl very kindly carried my laptop on his back.

I got stuck many times as the snow level was very high!

At this stage, I was hopeful that it was just us without connection, so I was hoping that our neighbours would be able to save the day.

While we struggled to make our way along the snow-covered road, I tried to ring my sister on my mobile phone to get her to contact Dr Nellie to let her know about my difficulties. Sadly, that message didn't reach its destination.

As you can see, I was dressed suitably for the arctic conditions. I wore my motorbike waterproof leggings and jacket, and Russian-style hat to keep me warm.

When we eventaully got to our neighbour's house after one and a half hours of walking through quite treacherous and dangerous conditions, we found out to my huge disappointment, that they too were cut off!!! No phone line and no Internet connection. This was so upsetting, because I had really hoped that I would be able to deliver my session, especially after having gone through all that struggle up the road. It was not meant to be.

I would like to thank Dr Nellie for valiantly holding the session together with 39 attendees from around the world. I take my hat off to her!! She conducted the session, despite her presenter (me)not showing up, in an amazingly calm and professional manner. I will observe and learn from her and this will be a role model for me. This is definitely something positive, which has come out of the negative. I think she did a brilliant job, coping with the situation. Thank you once again!!!

I have viewed the video, and it is an excellent example of how to remain calm and deal with an unforeseen situation. Thank you for holding the fort, Dr Nellie. Kudos to you.

JanetAbruzzo Unplugged!
To while away the days while we were cut off from the outside world, I created a series of podcasts, called JanetAbruzzo Unplugged, using Audacity. You don't need the Internet to record audio, so that was great. All I had to do next was upload the mp3 file from Audacity to Podbean or Podomatic for me to be able to publish the posts on my blog, which is what I have done now whilst in England.

How I got to England whilst being snowbound, is another story, and one which I will post in my Project 366 blog. This blog stopped abruptly due to the snow and Internet disruption, on Day 33:The Big Freeze is Looming.

Below the image is my Episode One: Dash Through the Snow, on Podomatic. You may need to turn up the volume, as I am still a newbie regarding recording with Audacity, and I am still feeling my way around this new tool.

Our road on 12th February after more snowstorms had hit our area. Karl has been without connection with the outside world for 10 days. Thank goodness he was able to ring me today and the Internet and phone line is finally back up!!!

Thanks very much to Marco, a local farmer and neighbour, who had cleared some of the snow from the road before this picture was taken.

The terrible weather has caused over ten million Euros of damage in the Abruzzo area alone, according to Il Centro, the local Pescara newspaper. The last time it was so bad was in 1956, before I was born.

You can view a video and more pictures from Abruzzo in the Snow here.