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Nick Ford's discussion posts

  • Nick Ford 13 Aug 2013 2:47pm () in Moodle 2.3

    The drag and drop feature for publishing files is great but note that it is not supported by all web browser versions. For example drag and drop is not supported in versions of Internet Explorer before IE9. 

  • Nick Ford 06 Jun 2012 4:20pm () in How can I assess student engagement in online discussion forums?

    SNAPP (Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice) is an interesting and free application which allows teacher to vizualise the network of social interactions occurring in online discussion forums.

    The SNAPP visualisations of forum interactions provide an opportunity to rapidly identify patterns of student online forum behaviour. It could be a useful tool learning analytics tool.

    SNAPP is a java plugin and is compatible with a range of web broswers, Macs and PC's and supports Moodle, Blackboard discussion forums. The screenshot below is the product of a Moodle 2.1 discussion forum.

    SNAPP Moodle

    Has/does anyone else use visualization aids in their inquiries into student engagement with online discussion forums and if "yes" what are these?

  • Nick Ford 04 May 2012 10:39am () in Moodle Networking MNet

    MNet is the mechanism in Moodle for connecting to other Moodle (or Mahara) sites. MNet is short for "Moodle networking. 

    MNet is an excellent way for schools using Moodle to connect and share resources with one another. 

    From the users perspective connecting via MNet is transparent. Users only need to log in once to their schools Moodle and from there are able to browse Moodle courses located on different schools Moodles.

    Very cool. 

    For more on Moodle Networking visit  http://docs.moodle.org/22/en/MNet and http://moodle.org/mod/forum/view.php?id=6976

    Is any one using MNet functionality?

  • Nick Ford 04 May 2012 10:10am () in How you might use a blog to share learning

    This post from Anne Davis of Edublog Insights is probably one of the most commented post on the subject of the use of blogging in education with 215 comments at the time of writing ( how's that's for engagement with an audience ).


    I quote from her page:


    "Blogging is educationally sound for teaching students because:

    • Blogs provide a space for sharing opinions and learning in order to grow communities of discourse and knowledge — a space where students and teachers can learn from each other.
    • Blogs help learners to see knowledge as interconnected as opposed to a set of discrete facts.
    • Blogs can give students a totally new perspective on the meaning of voice. As students explore their own learning and thinking and their distinctive voices emerge. Student voices are essential to the conversations we need to have about learning.
    • Blogs foster ownership and choice. They help lead us away from students trying to find what the teacher wants in terms of an answer.
    • The worldwide audience provides recognition for students that can be quite profound. Students feel more compelled to write when they believe many others may read and respond. It gives them motivation to excel. Students need to be taught skills to foster a contributing audience on their blog.
    • The archive feature of blogging records ongoing learning. It facilitates reflection and evaluation. One student told me that he could easily find his thoughts on a matter and he could see how his thinking had changed and why.
    • The opportunity for collective and collaborative learning is enormous. Students have the opportunity to read their classmates blogs and those of others. This is not possible in a regular classroom setting.
    • Blogging provides the possibility of connecting with experts on the topic students are writing.
    • The interactive nature of blogging creates enthusiasm for writing and communication.
    • Blogging engages students in conversation and learning.
    • Blogging encourages global conversations about learning–conversations not previously possible in our classrooms.
    • Blogging provides the opportunity for our students to learn to write for life-long learning.
    • Blogging affords us the opportunity to teach responsible public writing. Students can learn about the power of the published word and the responsibilities involved with public writing."
  • Nick Ford 04 May 2012 9:44am () in Google search tips

    Wolfram| Alpha is an interesting search alternative to Google.

    Wolfram|Alpha introduces a fundamentally new way to get knowledge and answers— not by searching the web, but by doing dynamic computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms, and methods.

    Check it out at http://www.wolframalpha.com/


  • Nick Ford 04 May 2012 9:24am () in Google search tips

    Simons link is working for me. Let me know if access to this document remains an issue.

  • Nick Ford 30 Mar 2012 11:40am () in Google search tips

    Almost everything we need is out there, somewhere, on the Internet but how do we find what we want quickly and easily?

    Using Google Search

    For the “good oil” on Google searching visit http://support.google.com/websearch/?hl=en#topic=1221265  and http://www.google.com/help/features.html

    Some tips using Google search

    Phrase search ("")

    By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change. Google already uses the order and the fact that the words are together as a very strong signal and will stray from it only for a good reason, so quotes are usually unnecessary. By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally. For example, a search for [ "Alexander Bell" ] (with quotes) will miss the pages that refer to Alexander G. Bell.

    Search within a specific website (site:)

    Google allows you to specify that your search results must come from a given website. For example, the query [ iraq site:nytimes.com ] will return pages about Iraq but only from nytimes.com. The simpler queries [ iraq nytimes.com ] or [ iraq New York Times ] will usually be just as good, though they might return results from other sites that mention the New York Times. You can also specify a whole class of sites, for example [ iraq site:.gov ] will return results only from a .gov domain and [ iraq site:.iq ] will return results only from Iraqi sites.

    Terms you want to exclude (-)

    Attaching a minus sign immediately before a word indicates that you do not want pages that contain this word to appear in your results. The minus sign should appear immediately before the word and should be preceded with a space. For example, in the query [ anti-virus software ], the minus sign is used as a hyphen and will not be interpreted as an exclusion symbol; whereas the query [ anti-virus -software ] will search for the words 'anti-virus' but exclude references to software. You can exclude as many words as you want by using the - sign in front of all of them, for example [ jaguar -cars -football -os ]. The - sign can be used to exclude more than just words. For example, place a hyphen before the 'site:' operator (without a space) to exclude a specific site from your search results.

    Advanced search

    To access the advanced search features enter your search word(s) into the search field and click search. Look for the “Advanced search” link at the bottom of the results page

    Advanced Google search can also be accessed by going to http://www.google.co.nz/advanced_search?hl=en

    Here is a video on using Google advanced searching

    What Google search tips do you have to share with the VLN community?

  • Nick Ford 29 Mar 2012 12:00pm () in Choosing a suitable MLE

    Hello and thanks for the challenge Darren Cool

    Re the need for an LMS.

    Personally I agree with you here. My only assumptions are in the context of Monika's question.

    Re the provision of LMS shared services. 

    A fine collaborative model and yes it makes sense to spread the cost between schools. Does one specific school in the “cluster” manage the Moodle server or is this an outsourced service? How is the LMS integration with the different SMS's the various schools have managed or do all these schools have the same SMS and/or is there no LMS/SMS integration?

  • Nick Ford 29 Mar 2012 10:50am () in Choosing a suitable MLE

    Yes folk in your position have an important role to play in schools in researching, trialing and evaluating emerging technologies and then in working with fellow teachers, IT staff and management in creating a business case for implementation.

    The business case would address all domains i.e. pedagogy, IT infrastructure, resourcing etc. This needs to be a whole school team effort led by the schools e-Learning lead or e-Learning unit.

    For me an important aspect of the e-Learning lead role is to function as a translator and “glue” in the school, unifying the various stakeholders and ensuring that everyone is talking about the same “thing”.

    Part of this role also involves managing expectations. You are correct in pointing out the shortcomings of an uncoordinated approach based on the preferences of individual teachers. Experience shows that teachers are busy folk and often do not have a full picture of the resource implications of the implementation of new technology.

    Having said that teachers know the business of teaching and learning and improving learner success is the goal. As such it is important that teachers have the freedom to “play” and explore with technology. A bottom up (bubble up from early adopter teachers and learners) and top down (formalized support and processes from management) approach works well. 

    Free stuff
    Technology usually involves a range of dependencies of which teachers are largely oblivious e.g. will the LMS integrate with the student management system, what are the impacts upon other systems in the schools MLE, what are the training, support and administration implications?

    Dependencies usually have resource implications and in the ICT game nothing is completely free. Even the free “stuff” costs when you want to implement on a larger scale or if tighter integration with other systems is required.

    For example, Moodle LMS is a free open source LMS application but if implemented school wide resourcing would be required for a server, staff to administer the system, training for teachers, support for students, integration with other systems e.g. SMS, timetabling system and what about backing the data up … etc.

    Detailed worked needs to be done in identifying requirements and associated resourcing across all domains. If this is not done the danger is that a school could end up painting itself into an expensive technological corner the only way out of which incurs further expense. This work also needs to consider the scalability and sustainability of any solution.

    Google Apps, Moodle, UltraNet, KnowledgeNet, LAMS et al.
    With respect to your summary Google Apps is free however there are other costs that need to be considered depending on the scale of implementation and degree of systems integration.

    The KnowledgeNet, UltraNet and Moodle solutions mentioned on the Ministry of Educations web pages (http://www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducation/EducationPolicies/Schools/Initiatives/ManagedLearningEnvironments/LearningMgmtSys.aspx) are hosted services i.e. the infrastructure, support, training and administration is undertaken by a commercial company on behalf of the school. The cost pertains to the provision of these services.

    Some schools may have resourcing to manage solutions in-house while (many) others will not and a hosted service may be more appropriate. Requirements, scale and available resource will ultimately inform any decisions.

    As an aside I do not advocate for any specific LMS solution. Upon evaluation I have found many of the LMS choices to be similar in form and function.

    Each and every school is a unique community and as such schools need to identify their own requirements and solutions.

    One of the aims of the VLN is to provide support for schools engaged in such processes through the sharing of information and resources.

    I do advocate for a systematic, coordinated and collaborative approach to the identification of needs and the implementation and on-going management and support of any solution. I also advocate that solutions need to be scalable and sustainable in the context in which they are deployed.

  • Nick Ford 28 Mar 2012 12:30pm () in Choosing a suitable MLE

    For me decisions such as the one you pose require the consideration of a couple of separate but related domains before specific choices can be made.

    The domains are:


    How will the use of this technology support and or extend learner success and/or your professional practice.

    From the information you have shared in this forum I have the sense that you already have contemplated this and have a vision of what it is that you wish to achieve.

    Technology form and function

    In order to make an informed choice an understanding of the form and function of the technologies under consideration is required.

    The only real way to do this is to get your “hands dirty” with each potential solution. This has resourcing implications for yourself and your school.

    Once one has a sense of technology form and function this can be mapped to the pedagogical goals.

    Having a sense form and function also enable’s direct comparison between the possible solutions. However care is needed here to compare “apples with apples”. As such a direct comparison between Google Apps and an LMS like Moodle can begin to get tricky without having a clear sense of what it is that you wish to achieve and at what scale (as an individual teacher or school wide).

    As an aside in you post you refer to Moodle, KnowledgeNet and UltraNet as MLE’s. These systems are not MLE’s. They are LMS’s. 

    Google Apps is not a LMS (it could be used as one with the implementation of Google CloudCourse http://code.google.com/p/cloudcourse/) whereas Moodle, KnowledgeNet and UltraNet are.

    An MLE is defined as “a collection of software tools and digital content that supports learning” and as such LMS’s and other apps/services such as Google Apps can be considered to be components of a schools MLE but in them-selves are not a MLE.

    I know it may sound pedantic however the language is important when these types of choices are being made as solutions should be sustainable and scaleable.

    For more on MLE’s check out http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Ministry-initiatives/Software2#software_schools