Category: Online education

Moodle: The Unsung Hero of LMS Options

moodleA Learning Management System (what is often called an LMS) has become foundational to blending technology into education experiences. Without its one-stop curation of class management activities such as attendance, homework, grading, discussions, resources, and more, each with their own separate website, login, and password, technology use in education would be defined by chaos. There are many LMSs to choose from, but none as flexible, scalable, feature-rich, and affordable as the open source ecosystem of Moodle.

Moodle got its start years ago as a method to organize blended learning and online classes. Now, it provides over 90 million educators, administrators, and learners in over 200 countries with a single robust, secure and integrated system to create personalized learning environments. Besides thousands of K-12 schools, users include the State University of New York, Microsoft and the Open University, and the London School of Economics. Because it’s Open Source and platform-agnostic, it has few limitations, but this flexibility and scalability comes with a price. Setup and use are reputed to be more challenging than other LMSs. In fact, I can attest to that from experience.

There is help, though. Following “How to get started” (the next section), I’ll share an easy way to unpack Moodle in your school.

How to get started

With a reminder that Moodle is Open Source, which means the basic framework can be augmented with just about any addition conceivable (as you’ll see in the section, “23 Ways to use Moodle”), here’s how to start:



Need to Learn Moodle? Start With VerveEd

verveedMoodle is an open source free cloud-based learning platform used by over 96 million people to create over 11 million courses. These can be a simple activity or a fully-featured course. The platform offers a plethora of tools to customize courses as pretty much whatever teachers need, including:

  • Upload video, audio, and links
  • Engage students in a discussion forum or a survey
  • Create, conduct and grade quizzes
  • Assign, collect, review and grade assignments

The problem with Moodle and what stops many educators from using it has nothing to do with its flexible and scalable platform. It’s just not intuitive enough. Australia-based VerveEd’s goal is to fix that. Using an experiential, self-paced environment, VerveEd walks teachers through all the steps needed to create and use the Moodle platform in a clear, organized fashion and then provides nine hands-on ‘challenges’ that users complete to assess their knowledge in a real-world (albeit sandbox) Moodle environment.  Challenges include topics such as:


nepris virtual meeting

Bring Experts to Your Class Easily with Nepris

nepris logoStatistically, almost half of school dropouts do so because they don’t see the relevance. Teachers have long-known the positive effect industry experts have on students, but the complications of finding the speaker, arranging the event, and preparing the class have made this a daunting task. Nepris, a cloud-based platform that connects STEAM subject experts (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) with teachers and classes, wants to turn that around. Its intuitive options, step-by-step guidance, and commitment to making the experience positive for both teachers and students helps to not only bridge the gap between classroom and career as students meet those who have applied school knowledge authentically to their jobs, it levels the education playing field across rural and urban landscapes, between schools with vast resource budgets and those who struggle to stay out of the red year-to-year.

Here’s how it works:


Learn to Blend Tech into Your Class; Get College Credit

hour of codeStarting January 18th, I’ll be teaching a class on blending technology into your classroom:

Click the link and scroll down to MTI 562 to sign up.

Here are the basics:

Course Description

The 21st Century lesson blends technology with teaching to build a collaborative, differentiated, and shared learning environment. In this course, teachers will use a suite of digital tools to make that possible while addressing overarching concepts like digital citizenship, internet search and research, authentic assessment, critical thinking, and immersive keyboarding. Teachers will actively collaborate, share knowledge, provide constructive feedback to classmates, and publish digitally. Classmates will become the core of the teacher’s ongoing Personal Learning Network. Assessment is project-based so participants should be prepared to be fully-involved and eager risk-takers.

Course Objectives

At the completion of this course, the teacher will be able to:

  1. Use blogs, wikis, Twitter, and Google Hangouts to collaborate and share.
  2. Guide students to safely and effectively search and research on the internet.
  3. Use technology to support teaching and achieve Common Core Standards.
  4. Blend keyboarding skills into classroom activities and prepare for yearly assessments.
  5. Assess student technology use organically.
  6. Use digital portfolios to store, share, and curate classwork.
  7. Rely on a Personal Learning Network.
  8. Solve common tech problems that arise in the classroom.993311 a studying female student with approved

What do students say?

At the beginning of the class, I had to contact Jacqui several times because I was so confused. I had no idea what a digital portfolio was, or how I was expected to create one. Throughout the course of the five weeks, I was able to take the knowledge that she instilled in me, and begin importing different assignment on my own into my digital portfolio using widgets (I did not even know what these were before this class!) and links.   I was able to participate in the “tweet-up” with my classmates and several Google Hang Outs with Jacqui. I completed daily and weekly goals by reading the assigned articles and lesson plans, as well as watching the videos that accompanied each topic. Reading all of the valuable information, creating a blog and a wiki, exploring different websites, creating projects, and creating a digital portfolio, will greatly benefit my students this year and in the years that follow.

LOVING all I’m learning!!

 To say I have learned a lot in the past five weeks of my online class is an understatement. I have attended Google Hangouts, learned about wikis, back channels, created a blog, and even tweeted!

I would like to close by saying how much I enjoyed this class. I truly learned so much. As a technology teacher I was not sure what to expect from this course. I found that much of what I currently do in the classroom has been validated. However and more importantly, I learned many new instruction and assessment strategies (along with some new tech tools) that I can now use and apply to improve the learning in my classroom. Thanks everyone!

As a technology teacher I wasn’t sure what to expect from this course. While this course validated much of what I already do in the classroom the The 21st Century Digitally-infused Teacher course also showed me ways in which I can improve and modify my instruction. I enjoyed the course format and feel the instructor was not only very knowledgeable but provided great resources as well. Thank you!

I loved this class! Jacqui was very knowledgeable and helpful whenever I was stuck.

“MTI 562 really opened my eyes and made me think about how to put technology into my lessons. Jacqui Murray encouraged me to be a tech-infused teacher! I can not wait to try these newly learned skills in August”

Click here for 15 take-aways from the last class.

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summer pd

17 Take-aways from Summer PD

summer pdSummer PD 2015 just ended. A couple dozen of us–teachers, library media specialists, tech integrationists, lab teachers–gathered virtually for three weeks to experiment with some of the hottest tech tools available for the classroom–Google Apps, differentiation tools, digital storytelling, visual learning, Twitter, blogs, Common Core and tech, backchannels, digital citizenship, assessment, and more (12 topics in all). It was run like a flipped classroom where class members picked 60% of daily topics, then they read, tested and experimented. Failed and tried again. Asked questions. They shared with colleagues on discussion boards, blogs, Tweets.  Once a week we got together virtually (via Google Hangout or a TweetUp) to share ideas, answer questions,  and discuss nuances.

The class awarded a Certificate based on effort, not end product. Here are my takeaways as moderator of this amazing group:

  • They are risk takers. They kept trying long beyond the recommended hour a day in some cases.
  • They were curious. They wanted to get it right, see how it worked.
  • They are life long learners. Some had been teaching for thirty years and still enthusiastically embraced everything from twitter to the gamification of education.
  • They were problem solvers. I often heard, ‘if I tweak it here, I can solve this problem’.



15 Take-aways from Online Grad School Classes

edtechMTI 562 (the Tech-infused Teacher) and MTI 563 (the Differentiated Teacher) just ended. More than a dozen of us–teachers, library media specialists, tech integrationists, lab teachers–gathered virtually for five weeks to experiment with some of the hottest tech tools available for the classroom–Google Apps, differentiation options, digital storytelling, visual learning, Twitter, blogs, backchannels, digital citizenship, assessment, and more. Sessions were run like a flipped classroom where attendees accessed daily topics, read/watched materials, tested their knowledge, and experimented with projects. In some cases, they failed and tried again–and shared with classmates what went wrong and how it was fixed–or how they attempted to fix it. They chatted with colleagues on discussion boards, blogs, and Twitter. They asked the class mentor (aka, guide or teacher) questions on class topics or any tech ed issue they needed help on.  Once a week, we got together virtually (Google Hangout or TweetUp) to share ideas, answer questions, and discuss nuances.

Some of the problems students faced down:

  • How to use twitter
  • How to use GHO
  • How to make a tagxedo interactive
  • How to work tech tools into their unique student groups
  • How to create screencasts and screenshots
  • How to create professional blogs
  • How to embed materials into digital portfolios
  • How to create a vibrant, healthy Personal Learning Network

Now as I wave goodbye to these students I’ve only known five weeks but feel quite close to, here are my takeaways:


22 Tips on How to Work Remotely

remote workI first considered this topic at a presentation I attended through WordCamp Orange County 2014. I had several trips coming up and decided to see how I addressed issues of being away from my writing hub. Usually, that’s when I realize I can’t do/find something and say, “If only…”

I am finally back from three conferences and a busy visit from my son–all of which challenged me to take care of business on the road and on the fly.

Truth is, life often interferes with work. Vacations, conferences, PD–all these take us away from our primary functions and the environment where we are most comfortable delivering our best work. I first thought about this when I read an article by a technical subject teacher(math, I think)  pulled away from his class for a conference. Often in science/math/IT/foreign languages, subs aren’t as capable (not their fault; I’d capitulate if you stuck me in a Latin language class). He set up a video with links for classwork and a realtime feed where he could be available and check in on the class. As a result, students–and the sub–barely missed him. Another example of teaching remotely dealt with schools this past winter struggling with the unusually high number of snow days. So many, in fact, that they were either going to have to extend the school year or lose funding. Their solution: Have teachers deliver content from their homes to student homes via a set-up like Google Hangouts (but one that takes more than 10-15 participants at a time).

All it took to get these systems in place was a problem that required a solution and flexible risk-taking stakeholders who came up with answers.

Why can’t I work from the road? In fact, I watched a fascinating presentation from Wandering Jon at the Word Camp Orange County 2014 where he shared how he does exactly that. John designs websites and solves IT problems from wherever he happens to be that day–a beach in Thailand, the mountains in Tibet or his own backyard. Where he is no longer impacts the way he delivers on workplace promises.

Here’s what I came up with that I either currently use or am going to arrange:


Technology and Online Education Give Students Magical Possibilities

Sara Stringer has a great post that mixes the miracle of technologic tools–straight out of StarTrek (or Harry Potter) with the current trend toward online education. I took my first online class when I got my teaching credential–and now I’m teaching them. Sara brings up a few benefits I hadn’t even considered.

My students are from the Harry Potter generation; the kids who grew up with Harry and his adventures are now adults, after all. I like to tease them about how many of the items that seemed magical in Harry’s world now exist, thanks to technology.

Take the animated GIF. When “moving photographs” first appeared in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world, they seemed magic. Now, they’re one of the most common forms of digital media, and every one of my students knows how to make them.

Or, if you prefer, the Marauder’s Map. Why did we think that a map showing us the real-time location of our family and friends was something that could only exist at Hogwarts?

We are in an unprecedented age of technology, when nearly anything we want to create can come true. Though none of my students are old enough to have seen Star Trek when it first aired, I like to tease them about how cell phones were originally designed to replicate Star Trek communicators. Now, we have phones that will let us video chat with people anywhere in the world. We have 3D printers that are replicating human liver cells. Anything is possible.


9 Reasons For Online Training and 5 Against

online classesA few weeks ago, I polled you-all about your interest in online training. The results were mixed. Setting aside the obvious reason that online classes are much more affordable for both offeror and offeree, here are some of the comments I got (I’ve summarized):


  • students can attend class from a car, their home, a library, while they’re waiting for their sister to finish ballet.
  • classes are flexible–adaptable to student schedules
  • online classes allow non-verbal students to participate fully with writing, drawing, and other non-audio approaches. This is a huge plus if the student is shy, easily intimidated and/or distracted by others
  • class members in online classes are highly diversified, offering an opportunity for students to learn about different cultures, attitudes, and approaches to learning
  • classes are self-paced–students move exactly as quickly or slowly as they want (with the fast forward and rewind)
  • no distractions–students sit down and go to work without the chatter that usually starts a class, the goofing off that often distracts a lesson, and then interference from other students who don’t or won’t get whatever is included in the lesson
  • no commuting, which means no traffic jams, no school house parking lots, less money spent on cars/gas/maintenance
  • prepares students for future education in high schools and colleges
  • content is managed through the online course framework, which means students can go back to review