how to play any region code DVD using VLC

at my job, I get a lot of people asking how they can play Dvds from different parts of the world like Australia or Japan. Most try using Windows Media Player and get that annoying pop up stating that they have to change the region code and they can only do so a maximum of five times. There is an easy way around this. Download the VLC Media Player. This free media player plays just about everything and totally ignores the region code on DVDs. If you have a video/tv out graphics card you can even watch on your tv. as a general rule, I would try playing all media files with this player first before any other. http://www.videolan.org/vlc/


stellarium-coolest opensource ever

everyone must check this out. stellarium is open source, that means free, software that can turn your computer, and therefore your classroom into a full-fledged planetarium showing real time star and planet movement from the location you choose. you may also plot constellations, overlay with constellation art, zoom in and out to get close-ups of things like the pleaides nebula, moon, and mars, toggle atmosphere, and a whole lot more. obviously this software can be extremely helpful in an astronomy class but its applications for teaching are endless. connect your computer to a projector, turn the lights off, pick a star, or constellation, or some other heavenly body, and look it up on wikipedia, or another online encyclopedia, and suddenly you have a way for students to travel the universe, learning ancient folklore, etymology, culture, language, history, technology, you name it. trust me your students will be captivated by a lesson that starts out this way. best of all, the program is lightweight, downloads quickly, installs easily on most common platforms, and is super easy to use. you mostly move around your mouse to navigate the known universe. install on your laptop and you have a real-time star map to use studying the night sky. coolest thing since google earth. here is the link:



moodle polling

here is a quick one for all you moodlers out there. there is a module called poll block that allows teachers to poll their students. this is perfect for getting opinions on issues that come up without having to wait for institutionalized surveys. accreditors will also appreciate the data gathering.

here it is



Google Maps API

This may come as something of a surprise to many people, but Google Maps can but put on your website and fully customized with makers and descriptions, links, even video. The applications of this to those of us in education are profound. Imagine making placing a map on Moodle or some other class website and then having student click on a marker and have a video of location pop up. The kids are gonna love this one, its better than a video game and its free. Go to google and look it up. I will be writing how to on this as soon as i get a grip myself.


Moodle vs. Elgg - Can't we all get along

First of all what is one and what is the other. Well Moodle is a class management system, think class websites. You can give grades in Moodle, and for the most part only the instructor can see student work. Structured and organized by topics or weeks, Moodle allows instructors to guide students through the learning process and evaluate their performance. When the class ends, the user data is customarily wiped out, and everyone gets a sense of closure. It's basically a conventional class minus the paper.

Now Elgg on the other hand, is a much more social, equal, democratic, student-centered (or person centered) system. Everyone has a voice, and your files, and presentations live beyond the classes they originate from. This is a place to evaluate your own performance, allow others to comment, and be part of a dynamic community. The creators of Elgg call it a "learning landscape", a free exchange of ideas tailored to the individual. (It's also great for file storage and backup.)

So which one is better? Anyone who tries to argue one or the other should prpbably take a step back and look at the big picture. Co-existence is the key here, we need structure, and (by "we" I mean the students) and Moodle provides that by breaking the class into topics or weeks, plugging in resources and assignments, and ultimately giving grades. Elgg is for the students to shine, publish their work, express themselves, and over time reflect on what they've learned. Used together, with each being tied to the different approaches tolearning they are designed for, our students get a sense of freedom and individulaism rooted in a structured foundation.


How to put YouTube Videos on Moodle - Vodcasting

You can easily put youtube or google videos on Moodle either in one of the boxes on the left, right, or center by doing a simple copy and paste.

1. Turn editing on and then hit the edit icon(the pencil) in the box you want to add the video.

2. Next hit the "toggle html source" button located next to the spell checker. Looks like this - <>.

3. Now copy and paste the embed code for the video. In youtube this is located below the url.

4. You may want to change the dimensions of the video. In the code you will see the same numbers appear twice. I recommend changing them to 195 for width and 170 for height. Remember to change them twice for the two times they appear in code.

And there you have it, takes no time and you can post your assignments via video, record lectures, even give video based tests(we'll get into that one later using HOT POTATO)


How to podcast - a practical introduction in 2 steps

Step 1. Record your audio or video. There are many ways to do this. Most windows machines come with an audio recorder that saves files in .wav format. I recommend downloading Audacity plus the Lame MP3 encoder to record audio. There also many ways to record video. Most formats can be uploaded to Youtube and accessed that way.

Step 2 - Find a way to broadcast your audio or video. You can use Moodle or Elgg to post videos as well as your own website. Basically all you must do is put your recorded files somewhere people can see it and there you go. You have a podcast. Fancy word, simple concept.


How to display random members and recent blog posts in Elgg

Hey all of you new to Elgg-this is an awesome tool and the ultimate e-portfolio solution for schools. Follow this link for documentation on how to spice up the front page.


You can add random user's icons and most recent blog posts, and much much more. If you want any of these options you can do the editing or just ask your system admin.


How to post a Youtube video on Elgg

Posting a YouTube or Google Video is a snap on Elgg.

1. Go to your personal blog and add a new post.

2. Click on external video and paste the embed html form YouTube. Save.

That's it. Elgg is awesome.


How to podcast with Audacity and Elgg

Have your students keep oral journals. Post your lectures online. Hate writing, like talking, then tell them. In just 5 minutes you can be set up to podcast with Audacity and Elgg.

1. Download Audacity and install the open source audio editor.

2. Download the Lame library necessary for exporting Audacity files as MP3s. (Ask your system admin for help with steps 1 and 2.)

3. Record your lecture, music, or whatever by pressing the record button in Audacity.

4. Go to File and export as MP3.

5. Add your mp3 file to "your files in Elgg.

6. Add a new post to a blog and add the MP3 file and there you have it.

By making the post public you will also be able to create an RSS feed so that the public can subscribe to your podcasts!

Unbelievable how easy and fast this is!!!


How to add a reading passage to a quiz in Moodle

Adding a reading passage to a quiz in Moodle is pretty easy.

1. Add a new "descriptive" type question.

2. Add the text you want students to read and save. Voila!

Remember shuffling the order of questions will move around the passage (descriptive question).


Elgg and the Eportfolio

Elgg is the open source(free) social networking system you can host. It is ideal for eportfolios and has many advantages over other such systems. Number 1 it's free and fully customizable. You can choose themes, design themes, and give it your own branding. It is also extremely easy to use. Have students start by filling out their profile. Then they can add files, pictures, videos, audio, or whatever. They can also keep a personal blog, add friends, start and join communities, and even keep and view their own RSS feeds. It's pretty much MySpace for education.

A lot of work is being done presently to have full integration with Moodle so that students can send their Moodle activities over to their portfolio with one click. Together Elgg and the more traditional LMS (Learning Management System) will provide students with structured and guided activities as well as the freedom to experiment and create in their own virtual space. Now we will no longer have to choose betwenn traditional evaluation and assessment and the more holistic kind. We can have both working together, supplementing each other, and in harmony.


Item Analysis in LMS(Moodle)

Ever wonder which questions students are getting wrong over and over again? Sure you can grade your quizzes by hand and count everything out or you can just have your students take the quiz online and instantly get a report. Moodle and perhaps other LMSs lets you see a breakdown of all the questions.

How does this make your teaching better? Well for one, you may have writtena bad questions which isn't very fair to your students. For two, at least you know what your students don't know. All of this instantaneously.


Wiki and Collaborative Learning

How's this for using the Wiki. First I broke my Moodle class into groups, easily done in Moodle. Then I added a Wiki activity and separated groups so that each group could work on their own. Then in class I had them make study guides based on questions in the text. It went so well I found myself suddenly and eerily obsolete.

Students were able to collaborate and share information so effectively using this system there was little room for my boring lectures and even for helping with questions. Teaching an ESL Geography and World History class, one would think an instructor would be needed but simply dividing the class into groups electronically, giving them study questions, and having them work on creating a study guide together, one that was editable online, that saved all drafts, that would always be there for reference, put me into the facilitator's role and of course, I was there for tech support.

Try having your class make a Wiki, with Moodle, Wikipedia, or any other flavors of WIki. You will be amazed at the ease and effectiveness of the digital collaborative approach.


Create your own RSS Feed with Wordpress

RSS feeds are headlines that update themselves every so often. These headlines can be posted on websites, Moodle, or wherever. They can also be subscribed too so readers always get the latest news. If you are are running a blog for your class, using Wordpress, or Blogger for example, feeds are automatically created and you can find the links in the menu are at the bottom of the site. With these links you can post anywhere you want.

Just to give you an idea I am running a Wordpress blog about the best place to eat breakfast in Honolulu. Students post to this blog once a week. I wanted to make a feed with these postings. This was in fact automatically done with Wordpress under the meta options. I then added this feed to the front page of our Moodle site. Now my student are making their own headline news. Not bad for an ESL-College Prep class. You can also follow RSS Feeds for comments to blogs.


How to import Hot Potato Questions to Moodle

This how to explains how to import Hot Potato Questions to Moodle for adding to Moodle quizzes.
(Not to be confused with simply importing the Hot Potato Quiz, which also may serve your purpose).

1. Log in, go to your course, turn editing on, and add quiz.

2. Fill out all the fields for your new quiz and hit save.

3. Go to the Category tab and add category.(This step is optional but makes it easier for you later on-trust me)

4. Next hit the import tab and choose the category you want to import the questions into. Be sure to click the box marked "from file" and be sure the file format is "HOT Potato". You should see your questions appear on screen.

5. Finally, under the quiz edit choose your category, or the default if you didn't make one and move the questions over from the right to left to make your quiz.

I know it was quick and dirty. Let me know if you have any problems. Usually simply importing a Hot Potato Quiz will do, but if you want questions in the bank for reusing(in my case I will use questions for midterms and finals) then importing the questions is ideal.


Moodle and the Glossary

Yet another great block to add to courses is the Glossary block. You can add terms to the glossary and set it to display random, or most recent, plus some other options. Basically, every time a student goes to the Moodle course they will see the glossary term or key concept. It's like setting them up to learn by osmosis.

Obviously ESL and language courses can benefit tremendously form this feature, but anyone that ha key concepts can apply. I like it because students can get fresh content every time the page loads and they can effortlessly learn vocabulary, jargon, and the like. They may of course, also go into the glossary and look up the other words, perhaps to study for a quiz.

RSS and Moodle (or your website, blog, etc.)

Another great option for Moodle and anything web-based is RSS. Using RSS, you can basically post headlines in Moodle courses or on your website, blog, whatever, that update themselves.

In a Geography course for international students I posted the National Geographic RSS and my students really got excited. The headline took them to a photo of a crocodile with a man's hand in its mouth. Talk about a conversation topic. I am also using it to post the daily local news.

If you are really ambitious you can create your own RSS, google it, and go for it. All I know is that this is an amazing technology that let's us stay up-to-date on virtually any topic (I use the surf report). For Moodlers, it's easy, just add an RSS block in your courses.

Hot Potato and Moodle, a pefect match

Hot Potato and Moodle work great together. You can quickly make quizzes in Hot Potato and import them to Moodle, check it out. You can also import the questions from Hot Potato to Moodle and add them to Moodle quizzes from there. Either way, these two pieces of software make quizzes easy as pie. Oh yeah and Moodle grades them for you too.

Audacity- the free, high-tech mp3 recorder

Just what the title says. You can have your students prepare presentations, practice pronunciation, record your own lectures, and make podcasts (assuming you have a place to post) all with the free, wonderful open source software Audacity. Whoever is behind this, thank you.


In my case, our ESL department is toying with speaking homework and recorded pronunciation practice. I've heard others speak of a spoken journal. Now there is a free, and easy way to give students speaking homework. Look's like spoken word and oral histories are back.


Show off student work with Wordpress

One of my latest and greatest projects involves using Wordpress, the open source blogware, for featuring student work. Wordpress is extremely easy to use and set up, has beautiful templates, and will even host your blog for free if you don't have the resources to get it going. As an excuse to regularly take my class for breakfast, I created a blog called Honolulu Breakfast and Malasada so international students could post their reviews of local breakfast spots in English.

A link was put on the school's homepage, and just like that, a schoolwide blog, open to the public was born discussing breakfast, and who doesn't like breakfast. Wordpress opens up all kinds of possibilities, as does all blogware including Blogger, google's free one.


The Opposition

Not soon after I started introducing technology, namely Moodle, to the school, did small parties of opposition begin their uprising. There were many arguments against the implementation of the LMS (Learning Management System). Some argued that security would be an issue. I call that argument the "myspace syndrome". Others admitted they had techno-philia(something like that, you know the fear of computers), others said they preferred paper and that computers would make the students eyes tired (not like video games). Still others claimed it would be bad for accrediation (yeah the accreditation people hate when schools try to create standards) Naysayers the whole lot of them.

But the number 1 opposing viewpoint was that face to face communication would suffer and that people were more important than computers. It is this argumnet that struck me the hardest. Computers, Moodle, or whatever are tools. Since the Stone Age humans have been using tools. The techno revolution is nothing new people. Now if a teacher is just going to give a bunch of assignments and not show up and talk to her students then obviously that would be a problem. But if a teacher is going to give their students 24 hour access to grades, assignments, syllabi, and what not and even proudly display student work online, then that is efficiency and progress.

I'll admit that it does take a while to get used to and I know that everyone is not computer savvy, but it is not like you are being asked to learn programming or code. Within a term, an instructor can master Moodle and save their courses and reuse them over and over. They can have grades automatically computed, they can have central storage for all their papers. They can connect and collaborate with students in ways they could not during The Stone AGe.

At one point it seemed the only ones for the Moodle were the guys on top, the admins. For them anything that was free, and provided a way to oversee the school was totally kosher. While we have it up and running and the instructors in my department have been stellar about dedicating themselves to learning, the challenge is getting the whole school to adapt to the system. Little by little , small steps, workshops and training, educational technology will make the classroom a better place just as the discovery of fire did for early humans. Cavemen rock on.

Enter Moodle-An Introduction

My department developed a slew of online quizzes for students to practice their vocabulary in Japan before arriving at our school using Hot Potato. But now we needed something more powerful to actually assess what they had learned from the online training. My system administrator suggested a truly groundbreaking piece of software called Moodle. So I gave it a whirl and man, was I blown away.

From wanting to put one assessment tool online, suddenly I realized my whole department and even the whole academic side of the college could be managed from one simple solution. With only weeks to go, I started introducing Moodle to the other instructors who would each be hosting their courses online. Now we had a way to test students for placement, post syllabi, give timed essay questions, blog, audio record, show headline news, create glossaries, edit profiles, conduct item analysis, calculate our grades, have e-portfolios, you name it, I'm serious, go ahead and try.

I had heard of such programs like Blackboard or WebCT, but Moodle was a free open-source solution with great documentation. It is now only the third week that our curriculum has been running with Moodle and as coordinator of the department and as an instructor I can say that I will never run a class without Moodle again. Two Thumbs up and five gold stars.


Be nice to your System Administrator

I know, I know, most of us don't have any idea who our system administrator is or what he does. If you have a clue, you figure he's like the email guy , and more often then not you zone out after 5 minutes of conversation with him. Traditionally, they are not the most skilled socialites and their techno babble can have you going in circles.

But they are the key to getting organized online, and you cannot have a techno revolution at your school without him. So do your homework. Get on google and learn something about unix, or linux, or servers, or whatever. Better yet try to learn about the software you want to use and generally how to install it.

Then buy the guy a beer or lunch and ask him to install it for you. If you're lucky he actually will do his job, and be excited that someone from the nongeek universe actually knows what he is capable of. Then ask him about solutions to all the great projects you've been dreaming of. He may just know about a lot of this stuff, most of which is free and open-source. Geeks love challenges, takes one to know one, and if you present yourself to be marginally knowledgeable, then the computer guy may just feel that spark that gets him to work. If you can get the system administrator on board you are well on way to getting it all.

Hot Potato -An Introduction

Hot Potato is awesome software free to personal users that generates all kinds online of quizzes. It is extremely easy to use and cake to install.

I'm the head of the ESL department at Hawaii Tokai International College. The Chancellor and Vice Chancellor asked me to develop an online training for students in Japan planning to attend our program. Hot Potato was the answer. I decided that students should start by first learning the most common thousand words in English. I then asked each instructor in the department to make a few Hot Potatos quizzes based on the list. Lucky for me they didn't revolt, and went along with plan. With a little help from Dreamweaver, I was able to put together a website that featured the vocabulary plus lots of extras such as listening quizzes and even quizzes with embedded video. This was my first project collaborating technologically with my colleagues and I was worried the whole thing might just blow up.

But sure enough everyone submitted their quizzes by deadline, all was posted to the website, and thanks to a built in HOT Potato script, the students in Japan were prompted for their names every time they took a quiz, and their grades were sent to me via email. A lot of time collaborating and setting up, but once all testing was over the students were flying through the quizzes.

Success! We had reached the students online thanks to Hot Potato and my department was on its way down the path of revolution.

So begins the educational tech revolution...

I did it! I got my department online. I got software to grade my tests, keep track of student's assignments, make fancy online magazines, even help with the boring admin stuff, it goes on and on. I did it all for free. I hate paper and I will never use it again. Good for the trees. In this blog I share my story, offering technology and political advice about how to get your class, department, school, or business working online to increase efficiency, learning, and save the rainforest's too.

And so it begins. After years of making copies, grading multiple choice quizzes, keeping track of papers, getting wrapped up in endless and seemingly pointless paperwork, looking at student's bored faces needing a way to go beyond the walls of the classroom, I have an epiphany. What if everything(save for the actual face-to-face communication part of teaching) could be done online? What if I could start training the students before they even took classes, a kind of pre-teaching? What if all syllabi could be posted? What if each course had a 24 hour meeting place to discuss topics, save and edit assignments, and even check grades? How about elegant online magazines to showcase student work? You know the kids are online all the time anyways, so why not serve up our content fresh and easy.

The dream goes on for teachers and administrators too. Imagine a central location that lists enrollment, classes, teachers, provides stats, the skies the limit. Okay, enough dreaming, you get the point already. So welcome to the blog that explains how to make the dream come true.