Monday, January 09, 2006

Moodling Around

My Moodle is finally ready to use. I decided to get my feet wet by having student journals in Moodle. In years gone by, one way I would get to know my students while also getting them to write was to journal with them. They each had a notebook and we'd write back and forth. It worked really well except that I had to lug around a class set of journals each night and then write in them by hand. Being able to type my responses motivated me enough to get going on this project.

I'd installed the Moodle software a few months ago on my web space. It had been quite easy since my web provider has Fantastico which did most of the work for me. After installing it, I'd gotten bogged down at the thought of creating an email account for each of my students. Our district does not provide them. I have the ability to create thousands of addresses as part of account with, but I REALLY didn't want to go through all that work since we weren't going to use the address-- the program just insisted that they have addresses.

Fortunately, I decided to see how smart the software was. I gave all the students my Gmail address and it worked. The program now realizes that more than one user has the same address and it has grumbled at bit about that, but the user accounts are working just fine.

To set up my journaling Moodle, I first needed to import my student data. I already have an Excel spreadsheet containing class data. I was able to duplicate and revise it to fit my needs. Once I saved it as a comma-separated text file with the extension .cvs it imported cleanly. The biggest problem I had with this step was that I couldn't figure out where I needed to be to import the data. I finally figured out that I needed to not be logged into any particular course. There is an administration link in the first window that allowed me to upload the data.

I wanted these journals to be private, meaning that no child can read any other child's journal. To set up that level of privacy, I gave each child a unique password and username, and then I made each child there own separate group. Then I created a forum and started creating one discussion per child. Luckily I decided to test if this was working correcting. It wasn't. The children could see and read all of the messages. After lots of muttering and referring to the manual, I tried forcing the groups which is a command in the settings pane. That did the trick. This is an extreme setting, since part of the power of Moodle is collaboration. However, I have plenty of plans for other courses that will have them collaborate.

One unknown at this point is browser and OS compatibility. In our old computer lab at school, some of the machines are still running Mac OS 8.0 which means they can't run Flash. No where on the Moodle web site could I find any minimum browser requirements, so here's hoping it works. There's a chance it won't even work in the newer lab which is running 9.2. We can't view the parent blog there because Blogger doesn't play well with Internet Explorer 5. It makes the words display as one letter per line -- that makes for a really long web page.