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Comment Re:This is dumb, but I remember Ovshinsky... (Score 3, Interesting) 38

I show the "Hydrogen Hopes" episode of Alan Alda's Scientific American Fronteirs (PBS) every year in my high school Chemistry class. Mr. Ovshinsky is a prominent figure in the program, showing off his solar cells, hydrogen storage media, and other inventions. The guy was truly remarkable and seemingly always thinking. We need more like him, people who are thinking of ways to improve the world (not just make money).


Submission + - Book Review: Moodle 1.9 Top Extensions Cookbook (packtpub.com)

KWay writes: Book Review: Moodle 1.9 Top Extensions Cookbook
Author: Michael de Raadt

Michael de Raadt has written a book (published by PacktPub) that can assist in identifying the most appropriate Moodle modules for your need, along with directions for installing and configuring the modules. As well, there are instructions for uninstalling modules in case they’re not what you want. This can be of great value since there are hundreds of modules available for various versions of Moodle. In addition, given the transition period from Moodle 1.9 to Moodle 2.0, it’s wise to give consideration to whether that module will be upgraded for Moodle 2.0.

This book is for anyone wanting to install and configure particular Moodle modules and plug-ins for their Moodle site or course, particularly a non-tech person like me. The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow and progress in an easy to implement pattern. The material covered in this book is very empowering, particularly for someone new to tech issues in Moodle. The extensions suggested by the author are certainly useful in creating dynamic differentiated learning environments. As well, course design tips and tricks are included so you can get the most out of your online classroom environment.

Chapter 1: Getting Modular with Moodle begins with the installation of Moodle on a test server to provide a place to play in your own Moodle. This allows you to add whatever modules, plug-ins, and courses with which you choose to experiment. Be sure to check that the modules and plug-ins that you want to install are compatible with your version of Moodle.

Chapter 2: Adding Content describes using the modules and plug-ins that have been installed. This is the longest chapter in the book and is well-packed with solid step-by-step instructions in the use of each activity or block module discussed. The use of some of these modules, such as emboodle and Flash video, allow for the embedding of rich media into a course. After explaining how to add content to each type of module, the author also provides a short list of practical purposes for each module.

Chapter 3: Connecting to the Outside World explains how to use particular modules to create experiences for your students outside of your online course with links inside your course. Links to web services, such as Google Translator and Search, Wikipedia, and Twitter, are covered. The advantages and disadvantages of the outside resources are addressed in the chapter.

Chapter 4: Getting Around in Moodle is a very important chapter and based on the chapter’s title I wondered why this information wasn’t presented at the very beginning of the book. Navigating one’s way around a Moodle site and in a course can potentially be a frustrating experience for someone new to Moodle. This chapter is not about navigating one’s way around Moodle, it’s about using extensions to create effective navigation functions, especially to assist the newbie and every day user. In addition, the author provides information on block modules that will ease navigation on a Moodle home page and in a course.

Chapter 5: Effective Use of Space continues to provide information on extensions that assist in creating a course design that provides for efficient navigation while also drawing students’ attention to important content. The author explains the use of blocks for links to content that is helpful to access throughout the course. He also discusses the benefit of nesting content using the Topics Tree format so that instead of Topics appearing in order when scrolling down the screen, the content is collapsed. Likewise, the use of Topics or Weekly Tabs can create an uncluttered look upon entering a course. For courses with a lengthy duration the use of monthly sections can be used.

Chapter 6: Assessing Students begins with the standard and conventional modules of assessment but with engaging exercises, such as a drag-and-drop matching quiz. The chapter details use of the Peer Review module which is a simpler version of the Workshop module, written by the author himself. This activity requires students to use higher order thinking skills, such as critical thinking, to evaluate their peers’ work. The teacher maintains the final say in the grade in case conflicts in peer reviews occur. To broaden the application of assessment, the author describes the audio assessment tool NanoGong.

Chapter 7: Organizing Students is about how to use modules for effective and efficient engagement. Modules discussed include those that allow students, and others involved in a Moodle site, to be placed into groups, such as a peer group for students working collaboratively, and using the My Peers block module. Another great module for organizing students is the Progress Bar block module that can assist them in developing time management skills. The author created this module and amply discusses how it functions.

Chapter 8: Encouraging Student Interaction through collaboration explains the use of the following block modules for Moodle: (1) Mindmap; (2) Social bookmarking; (3) Shoutout box; (4) Chat users; (5) Active Forums; and (6) Latest Blog Entries. Each of the modules has unique features and, if used appropriately, can create meaningful communication and engaging interaction.

Chapter 9: Informing Students is devoted to creating an online classroom community of learners to avoid feelings of isolation due to lack of face-to-face contact. My preferences for the modules explained for general communication in the Moodle online environment include FN-Announcements block and Online Users Google Map block, and I’m looking to add the Rate a Course block in the future.

Chapter 10: Handy Tools for Teachers is a thoughtful discussion about making a teacher’s work easier. Some of the terrific modules mentioned to make that happen include the Sharing Cart block for cloning activities and resources, Quickfind User List, and other blocks that provide data on user usage. Thanks!

Chapter 11: Just for Fun is just that – modules that are just for fun! If your students don’t mind, you can announce birthdays with the Birthday block. There is always fun to be found while using emoticons which is one of my favorite ways to communicate and lends credence to the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Using a theme other than the standard Moodle theme can allow for the site to reflect you and brand your site. Certificates for completion of a course (or a project) are an excellent reward for diligent work in a course. Finally, having the Game module can allow students to just have fun!

In summary, this is a good book if you’re looking to create an effective and engaging homepage or course in Moodle, particularly if you’re new to Moodle or are stuck in the same old patterns of design. The author provides thorough instructions with screenshots that present ideas about how to use Moodle extensions effectively. I would recommend this book as a resource for course design if you are a site Administrator or a teacher.

~ The End ~

The book is available for purchase at the following sites:
www.amazon.com – take a look inside!

Comment Re:Interesting... (Score 3, Informative) 242

There is a mechanism for this kind of inheritance and it is part of a growing field called epigenetics. Whether genes are present are not as important as how they are expressed. Are they switched on or off? Experiments show that gene expression can be altered by environment and that epigentic information can be passed down to the next generation. There was a great Nova episode about it.


I'm not sure if this is the exact mechanism involved in this study, but it is a possibility.

The Courts

Gov't Database Errors Leading To Unconstitutional Searches? 272

Wired is running a story about a case the Supreme Court will be hearing on Tuesday that relates to searches based on erroneous information in government databases. In the case of Herring vs. US 07-513, the defendant was followed and pulled over based on a records indicating he had a warrant out for his arrest. Upon further review, the local county clerk found the records were in error, and the warrant notification should have been removed months prior. Unfortunately for Herring, he had already been arrested and his car searched. Police found a small amount of drugs and a firearm, for which Herring was subsequently prosecuted. Several friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed to argue this case, some calling for "an accuracy obligation on law enforcement agents [PDF] who rely on criminal justice information systems," and others defending such searches as good-faith exceptions [PDF].

Submission + - A New Perspective on Evolution and Creationism

dunelin writes: Creationists have been trying to present intelligent design as science for the last few years. A new 5 minute digitally animated movie online tries a new tact: present the creationism story with God as a very scientific engineer and evolution using religious symbolism. It's a bit like a Monty Python movie. The side to side mash-up presentation is thought-provoking. This makes a great artistic follow-up to Nova's story last month of Intelligent Design on Trial.

Submission + - Texas & Florida to Revise Evolution Textbooks (wired.com)

eldavojohn writes: "Texas, the second biggest textbook market among the states, & Florida plan to revise their textbooks & education standards to make room for creationism. The bulk of this article looks at whether or not this is a cunning move by The Discovery Institute (Creationism's proponent in the scientific realm) to eventually move these ideas to a national level. From a letter from the National Center for Science Education, "The DI has a long history of involvement with the Texas standards process and with textbook adoption in Texas.... Because of the size of the Texas textbook market, and because many other states follow their lead, publishers generally follow whatever direction Texas points them in." This could be a step back to teaching evolution as merely a 'theory' and thereby allowing teachers to expound upon other possibilities like intelligent design, Beelzebub, Zoroaster or even The Flying Spaghetti Monster's Noodly appendage."

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