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.