Archive for March, 2014

Good Moodle 2.5 manual

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Let me say upfront I’m not a fan of Moodle docs.   I don’t think the platform works, and they need to hire a technical writer and instructional designer to make the site usable for the average punter.

The best Moodle resources are from third parties who, through necessity have created their own manuals.

Moodle Manual

This free one from the Moodle training company HowToMoodle is my current favourite.  You have to provide your email and they will send you the link.

Weekend Writing – 29 ways to stay creative

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

29 ways to stay creative

Has the Groups link dissappeared from your Moodle Settings block?

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

group gone

Have a look in the Settings Block >Unit Administration >Edit Settings.  Scroll down to the Groups.

If you select No groups and Force Group Mode to Yes the Groups link will vanish.


More about Brains (and exercise and learning)

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Netorama isn’t the first place I go for medical info but this article reporting on paper from the Journal of Neuroscience was interesting.

“We all know that being overweight is bad for your health, but results from a new study show that it can also be bad for your brain.   In fact, it can make you stupider.  From past experiments, scientists know that obese lab animals have poor memory and lower learning skills as compared to their normal-weight peer.”

“When the researchers put the obese mice on a daily treadmill regimen, they noticed that after 12 weeks, these mice have lost significant amount of belly fat and did better on cognitive tests as compared to sedentary mice.”

If you like your science to sound a bit more sciencey you can have a look at this also from the Journal of Neuroscience.

“Aging causes changes in the hippocampus that may lead to cognitive decline in older adults. In young animals, exercise increases hippocampal neurogenesis and improves learning. We investigated whether voluntary wheel running would benefit mice that were sedentary until 19 months of age.  Specifically, young and aged mice were housed with or without a running wheel..”

“After 1 month, learning was tested in the Morris water maze. Aged runners showed faster acquisition and better retention of the maze than age-matched controls. The decline in neurogenesis in aged mice was reversed to 50% of young control levels by running. Moreover, fine morphology of new neurons did not differ between young and aged runners, indicating that the initial maturation of newborn neurons was not affected by aging. Thus, voluntary exercise ameliorates some of the deleterious morphological and behavioral consequences of aging.”

Re-purposing old lecture content – good idea if you have the time (and money, and skill, and talent, and willingness, did I mention money)

Monday, March 24th, 2014

While this only deals with a presentation, it is also an object lesson on what not to do when developing online course material.

Basically, it’ s two people standing on stage conducting a scripted debate with a predetermined outcome.  Listening to it reminded me of those lame scripted role plays from high school that used to have me squirming in my seat with embarrassment for all involved.  To be honest the format is ill considered, and while the presenters are experts in their fields, they don’t have the acting or presentation skills to pull it off.

Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein explored how reason shaped human history at TED2012. While the talk fell flat in person, we've animated it to bring new life to this important idea. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

But someone involved decided the content was worthwhile and they decided to save it, so they brought in an animation company to dress it up.

They did a great job, adding in all the things that were missing – movement, colour, humour and clarity of message.   Unfortunately, the biggest draw back is still the original delivery.

In today's talk, "The Long Reach of Reason," Steven Pinker and Rebecca TK Goldstein have been animated by RSA.

Ten people are listed in the production credits and it must have taken months.  This must have cost a bomb.

It would have been far cheaper and just as effective to scrap it and start again.

In my experience developing  online courses, only about 10% of your pre-existing material is worth reusing (and before you start, everyone thinks their course is the exception).

Unless you can come up with a TED talk budget, or a pocket of fairy dust, no one is going to do this for your lectures.

I found this via Presentation Zen

Weekend Funny – Hairstyles from the 70’s

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

A quick call out to all students – one day this will be you, and the cooler you are now the worse it will be later (but don’t let that stop you).

Hair styles from the 70's

(Of course the 80’s were the exception.  Big hair and Mullets could never go out of style).

Brains and learning

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Edutopia is great site full of evidence based resources to help teachers.  It’s mainly K12 but well worth a look for anyone involved in teaching. They occasionally do focused resources roundups – here is their Brain Based Learning roundup

Edutopia’s list of resources, articles, videos, and links for exploring the connection between education and neuroscience

Zombie Brains wall poster from Think Geek

Tips for passing at university

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

University is not school.   We expect students to change in the blink of an eye and become adults.  They are not.  We know they’re not

15 Ways of the Successful Self-Directed Learner

E-Learning: Tips for Student Success

Annie Murphy Paul’s blog – trawl through the old articles  here for a range of  excellent tips.

Controlling Exam and Test Nerves

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Mindfulness sounds a bit hippy, new age, vegan but research is showing it to be an effective way to improve exam performance.  I think this is particularly important in our “always on”, attention hopping digital age.  Our new technologies distract us into a state of being that is constantly outwardly focused.

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

blairgowrie grass

Here’s a report from the the journal Psychological Science on how it can effect academic performance.

Better yet, have a look at Annie Murphy Paul’s summary of it.

If you are a Monash person you are in luck.  Check out the programs we offer to staff and students.

Weekend Funny – This what we used to call cutting edge gaming

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Computer Text games were to us (in the old days) what Bioshock or Morrowind are to the current crop of gamers.

The BBC have provided a way for you young whipper snappers to sample the simple joys of yesteryear*


*Although this is light years ahead of the stuff we played.  For starters you don’t have to wait 20 minutes for the cassette tape to play into the memory.