LWMN006 Week of September 4-10, 2017 – Coding for Teachers, VR Revolution on Hold and Citizen Science

The last week in moodlenews 04 SEP 17

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Hey there – welcome to the Last Week in MoodleNews, I’m Stephen Ladek from

In this episode I’ll be talking about the most important stories from the Moodleverse for the week of September 4, 2017.

This week I’ll be covering coding for teachersputting the virtual reality revolution on hold, citizen science and much more.

And, thank you again to everyone who is sending us feedback on the show! Please do keep it coming – your suggestions are fantastic. If you have a comment about something we’re doing or a wish for something you’d like to hear on the show, just take 30 seconds out of your day and give me a shout at the Moodlenews website, on our facebook page or twitter, or just by emailing me at [email protected]

Ok one final bit before we get started… a quick shout out to our sponsor:

eThink LogoThis podcast is sponsored by eThink Education: a high-touch, high quality Certified Moodle Partner that has a passion for the transformative powers of technology for the learning process. Visit them today at


In this section, I summarize the three most popular posts from the last 7 days on

  • Can Moodle revolutionize the workplace?
    • More and more organizations are realizing the potential of having an internal LMS to deliver instructional content to their staff: from basic training updates, to more ambitious interventions driven by analytics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
    • At the high end of the spectrum, companies are adding Chief Learning Officers to the leadership team, as they connect and adapt learning programs with an eye to improvements in performance that directly affect the bottom line.
    • Check out this very popular story, that includes the recording of the webinar “Moodle for the Workplace.”
  • Also, if you use an SIS on top of your LMS, you might want a “Connector”
    • Nothing like a bit of alphabet soup to start your day! For those who aren’t familiar, an SIS or Student Information System helps organizations handle the more administrative parts of their operation: things like admissions, paperwork, and academic histories.
    • One of the most popular SIS is Colleague. Last week, Remote-Learner, a Moodle provider and consultant based in Denver, announced a partnership with LingkSync, a tool that connects Colleague and Moodle, and makes sure the information is up-to-date in both sides.
    • But, as you’ll read – LingkSync is not the only way to link as SIS and an LMS. Check the story to find out if LingkSync’s premium features make sense for your organization.
  • Finally, Moodlepreneurs: check out the guides that show you how to make your EdTech product compliant with the Experience API, or xAPI
    • For EdTech, the ExperienceAPI holds the promise of creating a learning ecosystem where data from every student learning interaction, from any app can be saved and used interchangeably.
    • This vision will require adoption by content, tools, services and platforms across the EdTech landscape, which is happening rapidly.
    • If you want your product or site to be compliant, first you need to conform to the xAPI test suite; and second, to Certify with ADL, the US government organization in charge of setting the standards for the Experience API.
    • Read our story for more details, and visit the test suite by ADL at


In this section, I discuss interesting information that affects everyone in #edtech.

  • Is there a rift between Higher Education and Silicon Valley?
    • A recent story from Inside Higher Ed discusses the recent debut of “Higher Education and Silicon Valley”, a book written by W. Richard Scott and Michael W. Kirst.
    • The book details the many ways in which the San Francisco Bay area exemplifies the deep connections, as well as the profound conflicts, between the technology business and the education systems.
    • A key discussion is how tech giants are positioning themselves regarding the modernization of programs and services offered by colleges and universities. On one hand, they stand to benefit from more flexible programs that allow older students to pick up important technological skills, but at the same time “leveling the playing field” with this flexibility also potentially erodes their competitive advantages.
  • In other news, the 2017 Teaching with Technology Survey by Campus Technology is out
    • The survey collects perceptions about the role of technology in teaching and general faculty duties.
    • Understandably, some 73% of respondents say technology has made their job “easier” or “much easier.” These respondents have an upbeat or optimistic view of the future integration of tech in the classroom.
    • But perhaps more interesting is the fact that 17% claimed that technology has made their jobs more difficult. One Texas-based faculty member captures the frustration with EdTech by saying, “Technology is rampant, but the actual impact on learning is unknown.”
  • Finally, the virtual reality revolution might have to wait another year
    • Over the past week, I found many news outlets covering contrasting stories about VR in the classroom, from single teacher initiatives to district-level programs. The impact of pilots by the likes of Google and Facebook, on which we have reported earlier this year, seem to remain limited.
    • A survey taken last quarter by Project Tomorrow reveals that at best, only 11% of high school students have been involved with virtual or augmented reality teaching, and, that’s only if they are enrolled in computer science or technology classes.
    • These results contrast with the excitement exuded by students, teachers and district administrators about these technologies. We’ll have to continue to wait to see if the conversation ultimately becomes… um… reality.

This section of LWMN is sponsored by WizIQ, a ready-to-use, integrated delivery platform for instructors and institutions. Get everything you need to teach and train online at


In this section, I dive in-depth into one of the most interesting topics happening in the Moodle community over the past week.

  • If you are a Moodle teacher, do you need to know how to code?
    • Now, this question shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. The amount of programs, organizations and articles promoting coding skills continues to grow.
    • And, the number of job openings in programming is estimated to have reached the tens of millions globally, and the number is only expected to grow. What’s more, about half of them are in fields other than technology, including education.
    • Just take a look at our Moodle Jobs category, where at least some experience with JavaScript, PHP or CSS consistently gives candidates high marks.
  • But jumping into the world of coding can be daunting – especially for those of us who aren’t exactly spring chickens. So, if you want to get started with coding, here’s a proposition: why don’t you bring your students along?
  • But before I close here, I don’t want to send the wrong message. While it is true that programming skills are in high demand across professions, this should not mean that everyone should turn into a programmer, or that any coding-related skill is equally valuable.
    • Instead of jumping right into commands and syntax, you might enjoy taking a step back and looking into computational thinking, which revolves around the process of thinking about problems in a way a computer could solve them.
    • Maybe computational thinking skills should be the real focus of broad advocacy programs, as they let students frame real-life problems as phenomena taking place into a structured systems with agents and rules.
    • In fact, some authors believe tasks like pattern recognition, resource allocation or basic, step-by-step algorithm development should become part of curricula as early as K-5.



In this section, I focus on a practical way to help you up your Moodle game.

  • This week, I want to talk to you about the possibilities of Citizen Science in Moodle
    • Citizen Science considers how the general public can participate in the way scientific knowledge is produced.
    • Unlike science communication, where complex, cutting-edge topics are brought down to simpler language, with citizen science participants helps build knowledge as well.
    • But while most citizen science initiatives involve the public in the data gathering process of science, it could also serve an important purpose in giving a more hands-on approach to the real process of science making for students.
  • This means, among other things, that you don’t have to start with a high-stakes project with a top university to take advantage of citizen science as a practical way to get students engaged in the process of making scientific discoveries. For example, here are three possible stages of citizen science that you can try in the classroom, depending on your case:
    • #1: Exploration and game-based. This first stage could be seen partly as science communication. Students learn new facts but also get to experience the scientific process.
    • #2: Model building and formulation of hypothesis. Given a scientific question, students have the task to answer a question or make a prediction. This stage should include open discussions about the sources, methods and logic students used in building their models and answers.
    • #3: Advanced methods and broader engagement with the scientific community. This is an entirely open field, with some of the innovators being NASA with their Citizen Scientist program, and the Citizen Science: Theory and Practice journal.
  • Now, if you think about Moodle, it’s easy to see the many ways readily available activities can be immediately adapted for citizen science projects
    • The Moodle Database is definitely the most straightforward example. A well-defined series of fields and requirements guarantee that groups of students add quality information that are valid observations for answering research questions.
    • For peer-reviewing, look no further than the Moodle Workshop. It allows for several stages, one of which is students grading each other, using criteria that is as simple or as complex as the teacher allows.
    • Finally, for projects where students go out in the field and collect information, and even add pictures, Moodle Mobile has made these and other activities available without requiring an internet connection.


In this section, I discuss what we’re excited about publishing this week at

  • This week, you’ll get to know Lian Loke, who is the keynote presenter for MoodleMoot Australia next month.
    • Senior Lecturer, Researcher and Artist, Lian is the Director of the Master of Interaction Design and Electronic Arts program at the University of Sydney.
    • For those interested in virtual reality, you can bet on her talking about her projects involving wearables and what is called, “movement-based interaction design.”
    • If this gets you excited about her talk, you’ll be glad to know registrations for MoodleMoot Australia are still open. Visit for more information.
  • Stay tuned for the hottest Moodle jobs!
    • As I suggested before, programming skills are always in high demand. Fortunately for Moodlers, the skills to maintain sites or develop plugins are the same used in modern applications everywhere.
    • Perhaps the most interesting current opening is from Moodle HQ itself, with an open call for several roles in Sydney and Barcelona.
    • There are also several options from the US, Europe and Australia, full-time or contract based. In contract based, some of them allow for telecommuting from anywhere in the world.
  • And: Is Moodle scalable? Of course it is!
    • For years, the claim in forums and blog posts about Moodle not being able to handle lots of users at the same time continues to show up every now and then.
    • I’m not sure why this is the case, especially since the technologies for managing large volumes of data or hundreds of concurrent servers are, for the most part, open source.
    • This week, we’ll explain how the existing large Moodle sites not only support hundreds of thousands of users or can distribute tasks across several processors, but excel at helping manage and automate massive installations.

Ok – that’s it for this week. Thanks for listening to The Last Week in MoodleNews Podcast! If you like what you’re hearing please take just a few seconds to give us a review on iTunes or whatever podcast app you happen to be using… And, of course, join me next week for all the most important news about Moodle.

Subscribe to Last Week in MoodleNews Podcast via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher, Android, YouTube or listen to it at

LWMN is hosted and produced by Stephen Ladek, with writing, research, and editing by Cristian Duque and Joseph Thibault.

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