Troy Patterson

Educator, Thinker, Consultant

Category: Moodle (Page 1 of 4)

Student Presentation Feedback

I was asked by a teacher if Moodle would allow students to grade other students presentations. That is, the teacher has assigned students to give a classroom presentations. This teacher wanted the students in the class to grade the presentations in a simple, easy way.

I’ve previously written up how a teacher can grade oral presentations in Moodle quickly and efficiently. I thought that was absolutely brilliant. This teacher is asking for something similar, but, yet, very different. Instead of just the teacher doing the grading, every student would provide feedback.

I believe that this is good pedagogy. Having students involved in the assessment of their work is important. By assessing the work of their peers, each student also gets a good opportunity to deal with the criteria and learn the expectations.

So, how to do this in Moodle? Well, this seems like a great opportunity for the Workshop Module. The Workshop Module is designed to be student assessment based. In its most popular use case, the Workshop Module is peer editing.

Now, let’s take a look back at what I was asked. Each student will get up in front of the class and present on a topic. The teacher has already developed and shared a rubric with the class. The teacher would like each student to complete a rubric for each presentation.

Although the Workshop Module is not specifically designed for this, it will do a wonderful job. The students will need to “submit” their presentation prior to the starting of the delivery of those presentations. (Workshop module must have all the students at the same point in the process). Thus, I would have the students enter the title of their presentation and a short synopsis (a slightly tricky way to get them to write more and practice writing). Then, the other students will have a rubric and can provide feedback.

First of all, each student will receive feedback from many students. This will give them a good overall picture of how the presentation went. The students will also receive a grade for how closely they graded to the rest of the class. So the students who are listening to the presentation will also receive a grade for how they graded that presentation.

The teacher will get a wealth of data. Knowing how each student graded the presentation (and this is presented in a simple view) can give the teacher a nice broad overview of the class.

The teacher can then grade the same presentation and release this back to the students.

I’m working on a full write up to post over on Master Moodle. If you are interested in how to do this, please let me know.


Moodle Lesson Plans

I’ve been meaning to develop and post some Moodle Lesson Plans for a while now. I’ve decided that it is time to stop meaning and start posting. So, I’ve posted a couple (Say “Hi” in Moodle and Picture to Story. Say “Hi” in Moodle is a way for students to introduce themselves to the class. Picture to Story is a creative writing assignment.

I would really appreciate feedback on the posts, the Master Moodle Site, and the concept. If you find it useful, please let me know. Have an idea to make it better, let me know. A particular lesson that you would like to see implemented in Moodle, let me know.

Invest in…

“I wasn’t always a fan, but I’m a convert now.”

That was a quote from one of our county people about Moodle. See, this person was big on BlackBoard. After all, BlackBoard was offering great prices. The county was comparing BlackBoard to Moodle and BlackBoard was “prettier” at the time. (And I would agree, BlackBoard was a bit prettier then, but I had some other usability issues with it at that time.) So the county pushed local districts to adopt BlackBoard.

Anyway, the county always thought that we were the odd balls. We liked Moodle. We worked to make it more user friendly. (In fact, I was able to do some contract work to make another Moodle more user friendly. Those teachers were blown away by the changes that I thought were pretty simple and obvious.)

See, I’ve always proposed that you are investing in something. You are investing your time, your energy, your efforts, your thoughts, your money and more. The question for me has always been are you investing in yourself or in someone else. Now to be clear, it is necessary to invest in others. There is no way that you can do everything your self. However, for really important things, I generally prefer to invest in us. I consider lesson delivery pretty important. So I invested in us.

A few years later, at least one of our county people agrees. BlackBoard pulled the great funding rates and suddenly districts were faced with significant costs if they wanted to continue using BlackBoard. Most districts couldn’t take on that kind of cost. We stayed the course with Moodle and have continued to develop our skills. Chris Kenniburg has grown from being an excellent Moodle Administrator to developing Moodle plugins. Great things can be done if you are an excellent Moodle Administrator, but even more control can be had by developing your own plugins and themes. (Seriously, check out the Fordson Theme and Easy Enrolment, these focus Moodle on the K-12 environment).

Teachers face a similar situation with the various tech tools out there. Many teachers follow the “fun, shiny” of a wide variety of apps, sites and more. Much time is spent learning how to certain things, training students, etc. This is an investment in someone else. Some teachers will invest in themselves by learning a great tool and becoming an expert at that. Moodle provides such a vast range of tools and learning opportunities. It is open source. And if you fortunate enough to have(or persistent enough to demand) a Moodle Administrator that cares and will put the effort into making Moodle work for your environment, you can count on a fantastic learning environment for your students.

You are always making an investment. Be sure to know who you are investing in and why.

Moodle Update

Well, I just upgraded to Moodle 3.3. I’ve played around with it a bit (we have it installed at work, so I get to experience it there). There is always just a bit of trepidation when doing the upgrade. However, I’ve got the process down pretty much now:

  • Download the latest version of Moodle.
  • Log into CPanel on the web site.
  • Change the name of the current installation to something else.
  • Upload the .zip file that was downloaded in step 1.
  • Extract the .zip file.
  • Move the config.php file to the new folder.
  • upgrade PHP (it really is supposed to be at the latest version, but I always end up updating PHP).
  • Log into the moodle course and complete the upgrade.
  • Change all the settings. I’ve also installed the Fordson Theme developed by the wonderful Chris Kenniburg.

Chris has done some great work with developing a them that is user friendly and makes commonly used selections much more “discoverable”. Here is a quick video on the previous version of Fordson. The newer version is even better for users.

This has been one of the smoothest upgrades yet. I’m not sure if that is because I’m becoming more experienced, or if the process is getting better.

However, I’m excited about what the newest version brings. This version brings some user centered features that can help students and teachers. (I think that the Fordson Theme really helps that tremendously. Without the Fordson Theme, some of the settings seemed a bit hidden for me. I’m guessing that that is a because I previously knew where to find everything, but some things seem like there was still a click or two too many. With the Fordson Theme, everything is “right there” for both the student and the teacher.

Anyway, now I need to spend some time adding some pizzazz to the courses – things like Header images (or maybe animated GIF’s), course images and more.

Finding your work

Whenever we do work, we never know what or where it will impact people. I was reminded of this once again when I discovered that some work that I did for ATEP was featured on Moodle News. Since the title of the post is “Download This Course on Using Moodle”, I’m going to go ahead and presume that there is some support there (it is even referred to as a “quality walk through”).

This is a course that I developed specifically for the ATEP program (which was funded by a National Science Foundation Grant).

It’s these odd times when you realize that the work that you do can go beyond what you know. I know that I worked with some wonderful teachers who developed the material for the ATEP site. I know that positive feedback that I received when working directly with them. The lead investigators were very positive about my contributions. They provided some wonderful feedback.

But I thought that was pretty much the end. Once more, though, I’ve been presented with an opportunity to remember that you don’t always know how, why or with whom that you make a difference.

But sometimes, you are lucky enough to find out.

Moodle and Wiris

We have been using Wiris in our Moodle installation to help teachers and students deal with math and science equations. In a perfect world, everyone would use LaTeX (which is the standard for math notation in writing). (Actually, in a perfect world, math and science notation would be easily integrated into writing and page layout). However, LaTeX is complex and involves a fair bit of a learning curve. Most teachers aren’t going to learn the ins and outs of LaTeX, and certainly, students aren’t going to master LaTeX as they are learning math. Neither one of them should have to do so.

Enter Wiris. Wiris allows the user to use visual buttons and prompts to easily create math and science notations and equations. Wiris essentially adds a visual way to easily create math formulas. It looks like this:

*Note that Wiris uses LaTeX for the actual formatting.

We’ve created a variety of sample math problems for students to practice their math skills. These math problems are presented in a random order. Additionally, the students can check their answers immediately. The goal is not for summative evaluation; rather, the goal is for students to practice and hone their math skills. As part of checking their answer, the students get specific feedback on what is correct or not. The teachers used Wiris to provide some of that specific feedback. That turned into a problem. Some of the questions didn’t use the Wiris editor in the question, just in the feedback. That would cause some programming issues with Moodle.

So, we reached out the Wiris people. We provided feedback. The feedback included screenshots and detailed descriptions of the conditions where we were seeing problems. I’m happy to report the Wiris people have issued an update which fixes the issues that we saw.

Lesson learned? Reach out to the developers of tools that are useful. Provide them with specific, detailed descriptions of the issue. The good developers will be responsive. Who knows, you may even help solve a problem so that the next user never even knows that the problem used to exist. They will just find joy in a tool that works wonderfully well for them.


As a principal, I used to meet with students and parents regularly. Frequently, those meetings were held because a student wasn’t doing as well as was possible. The subject of studying would inevitably be discussed. Generally, the student would study by reading and then reading some more. While this may work for some students, much more is generally needed.

Research shows us that students need to do much more to study. There are some really nice posters that communicate this over at The Learning Scientists Poster page.

These posters specify six different strategies:

These are strategies that all students should know and have be able to use. Not all of these strategies will be used all of the time, but students should know them and know how to use them.

I’ve shared this with others. One of my wonderful Tech Coaches, did a write up on how he used Moodle while in the classroom to provide students with retrieval practice. He is an excellent teacher. His write up is titled “Practice is Best”. Do yourself a favor and go read it.

He discusses how Moodle can provide teachers with a wonderful way to help guide students and provide them retrieval practice.

My experiment produced extremely favorable results. Test averages jumped. Anxiety levels on the day of the test seemed to plunge. And the two probably had an effect on each other.

Sometimes, it is necessary to review what we do as teachers. It’s also important to look at how we do. Take a look at the studying strategies. Maybe you’ll want to invest a bit in yourself and learn how Moodle can help your students study more effectively.

  • Bonus hint: what if students created the quizzes (along with why an answer was wrong)?

Biology Materials

I’ve been fortunate to work with some really excellent educators. These fine teachers have developed materials that were piloted with students this last year. The materials are now being made available for free to any teacher who wants to use them.

The first materials available are the Biology modules. These are high quality biology resources that a teacher could use, or adapt for use, in their very own classroom. The materials are all being made available through a Moodle site.

ATEP (Articulated Technological Educational Pathways) Project was the result of a National Science Foundation Grant. The group put together resources for Biology, ICT (Information and Communication Technology), and MMT (Modeling and Manufacturing Technology).

(In case you are interested, my part of the project was to upgrade the “look and feel” of the Moodle site that ATEP was using. I also did some training on using Moodle. That training included developing resources to help instructors use Moodle as well as providing guidance on how to structure material within Moodle. However, the implementation presented for public use and consumption is decidedly “plain vanilla”. This was intentionally done to make sure that users didn’t need to have special themes or plug-ins installed).

Please head over to the ATEP site and check out the resources. All of the courses are available for download and installation into your very own Moodle instance.

Start with the Biology Course. Biology has two modules (A & B). Module A includes the following sections:

  • An Introduction
  • The Design Process
  • What is Biotechnology
  • Biology Review
  • Biomanufacturing: The Story of Insulin
  • The Effects of Insulin
  • Biomanufacturing
  • Protein Purification
  • Solving the Insulin Problem
  • Bioreactor Training
  • Product Redesign and Maximizing Product Production

There are exclusive teacher resources in each of the sections.

You can register for the site with an email. (This is done solely to provide a way to download the materials. Emails are not being collected for use in any other way).

There is a “Download Course” which has links to the files to download so that you can install the courses on your own Moodle site.)

Frayer Model

Well, the wonderful people that I work with have done it again. This time, they’ve rolled out the Frayer Model in Moodle. Once again, the Database activity forms the base for this work. ┬áThe students can then enter relevant information (Concept, Definition, Image, Example, and Non-Example) to create a Frayer model.

Here are the fields for the student to complete:


Students enter all of the required fields (those with a * ). Once they do, a Frayer Model will be created for them.


When the student places a mouse over one of the fields, the information is brought forward.



Since this is a Database activity, the work that students do can be shared with the entire class (or not). If you want all students to share, simply leave Approval set to “No” (in the Entries section). Conversely, if you want each student to only see their own work, set “Approval required” to “Yes” (and don’t approve anything).


Here is Mr. Chris Kenniburg explaining the process.

5 Ways for your students to say “Hi” in Moodle

Having your students introduce themselves can be a powerful and useful activities. Whether your class meets in person or just online, Moodle can help your students introduce themselves to you or to the entire class.

Teachers can use any to the modules below to find out more about their students. Which module you pick is dependent upon what you want and how you want to know that. Some questions to consider:

  1. Do you want all of the students to see the information?
  2. Do you want to guide students by having a form or do you want them to follow directions?
  3. Do you have a comfort level with using a specific module?


This one is probably my favorite way for students to introduce themselves. Set up a Glossary, and then let the students add in information. Each student would enter their own name as the “term” and then whatever information that you want as the definition.

Important Notes:
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy for students to enter their information
  • Can be used with the Random Glossary Block to display a student name for other students in the “side bar”
  • No automatic grading (but can be graded)
  • All students can include pictures
  • Entries can be approved by the teacher before the other students can see them


This allows the teacher to set up a “form” for the students to fill out. The database is viewable by all students.

Important Notes:
  • Allows for multiple types of information (such as checkboxes, pictures) to be collected.
  • Checkboxes means that specific information can be gathered. May be especially useful for lower grades.
  • Easy for students to enter their information
  • A bit more work for the teacher to set up
  • No automatic grading (but can be graded)
  • All students can include pictures
  • Entries can be approved by the teacher before the other students can see them


The Forum module allows the teacher to set up a forum in which each student would create a post. The post can have a variety of information in it. However, it is more limited than the Glossary or Database.

Important Notes:
  • Easy to set up
  • Each student can reply specifically to other students
  • Can be graded
  • Each student gets a separate line


Many teachers are comfortable with the Assignment module. Unlike the Glossary and Database modules, the Assignment module will only be viewable by the teacher.

Important Notes:
  • Easy to set up
  • Limited to teacher viewing the information
  • Private between each student and the teacher


Like the Assignment module above, the Quiz module would be limited to collection of information about students. Only the teacher will see all of the responses. The advantage of the Quiz module is that the teacher can create a template for the student to complete.

Important Notes:
  • Many teachers are comfortable with creating a Quiz
  • Limited to teacher viewing the information
  • Private between each student and the teacher

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