Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thanks to Year 2011 for introducing me to Moodle, and to allow me to finally finish my Masters Thesis!

2011 was the year that I started blogging about Moodle code and innovations.

I began in May 2011 and after 53 posts, I've come to be fond of this Learning Management System, Content Management System and Virtual Learning Environment called Moodle. In this, my last post of 2011, I'd like to rant on what I like, no, LOVE about Moodle, specifically Moodle 1.9.15:
  1. Over 700 fully customisable mods, blocks and filters, for my Moodle site. Thus making Moodle a true Swiss-Knife tool for the E-Educator.
  2. Themes! Ah.
  3. The Moodle community. So many talented people, who despite their full schedules and full plates of work, still manage to make posts on for the benefit of others like myself.
  4. Sound recording and playback, specifically Nanogong4 and Audio Recorder assigmnent. I'm still waiting for Moodle 2.x to enable Nanogong in-HTML-editor recordings. Ah what a day that would be!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Audioboo - a cool Web 2.0 audio recorder to record and playback audio

Thanks to this post by the prolific Moodlefairy, Mary Cooch, I've learnt about Audioboo today. It's a cool Web 2.0 free recording service with a nice interface.

Screen 1: Audioboo's Homepage

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Enrich your user's learning experience with Mediabird Study Notes (Part 1)

One of my joys in life as a Moodle site administrator is scouring the Net to unearth gems of Moodle activity modules of earlier years. Such is the case with Mediabird Study Notes, which allows you to add private and community note-taking to your Moodle site! Never heard of it Mediabird Study Notes? This blast-from-the-past (April 2009) is a real gem of an activity module for note-taking.

Private Notes 
With Mediabird Study Notes you can have your own personal note-taking database system. This virtual notebook is available to you wherever you go in your Moodle course.

Sharing Your Notes 
You can also share your notes with others who use your Moodle site. Share them with any specified group of people that you choose. You can even be an admin of the group that you create in Mediabird Study Notes. As admin you get to share your notes with, you control who gets access.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Nadav Kavalerchik's Spelling Bee block for your Moodle 1.9.x site

Here's one from the deep recesses of - a very good Spelling Bee block to challenge your English linguistic and spelling prowess.

Nadav Kavalerchik is a brilliant Isreali chap with a penchat for churning out Moodle custom code like the  Spelling Bee. If ever there were a Nobel Prize for Moodle Open Source coding, this Moodler would be a serious contender (amongst others) for the title. He has written a brilliant piece of code that is the Spelling Bee block.  Created in November 2009 and updated in July 2011.

How it works is simple. Students are presented with an English word they should hear (audio using flash) students can choose one of the three difficulty levels for words.

Screen 1: Easy Level

They are then asked to type in the word they heard and check the spelling. Pressing the "new word" button retrieves a new word from the dictionary. The block's code is based on a igoogle free service. Unless your IBM's Watson, I doubt if you could score high in Nadav Kavalerchik's Spelling Bee block for Moodle.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas isn't Christmas ...

...Till it happens in your heart.

I'd like to share the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season.

The Christmas story is not complete without this message of hope of Jesus Christ. According to the Holy Bible scriptures, Christ died for our sins,  and was buried and rose again the third day. God has raised Jesus from the dead and made Him Lord. Jesus is alive today and is seated at the right hand of God. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nail that Certification Exam with's "200-530 – Zend PHP 5.3 Practice Test"

As a Moodler with a background in programming, I am keen to improve my PHP and MySQL programming skills. I recently had the opportunity to access and review uCertfy's Z200-530: Zend PHP 5.3 - Evaluation Copy PrepKit. This is my review. However, this is more than just a review on PHP exam preparation. It is also a review of the PrepKit software engine that is the brains and workhorse of uCertify's other Certification preparation products.


Certification is the lifeline of any Information Technology (IT) Professional. IT professionals are constantly updating themselves with hard skills through Certification programmes. In a busy world like today, how do you keep pace with current IT skills like Oracle, Windows 7, CCNA, PHP, SQL, etc.?

Enter specialises in certification preparation software. Now you can simulate the Certification Examination by taking an exam preparation kit by uCertify.

First, little introduction to uCertify. uCertify creates top quality test preparation software for over hundreds of IT certification exams from all major vendors including Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, CompTIA, Cisco, Adobe, ISC-2, EC-Council, LPI, Project Management Institute, and CIW. uCertify offers a superior product with content written by industry experts, and a powerful learning platform that ensures understanding of the concepts being tested. UCertify's mantra is, 'Learn Smarter, not harder'. A visit to will show you that the company has a whole array of commercial certification study aids:

Screen 1:'s array of products is dazzling

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wiggly icons on your Moodle site to liven up the interface

Here's a Moodle first I think. First in the WORLD.

I've made use of Dynamic Drive's Shake Image Script to make the images, avatar icons and activity icons on my Moodle 1.9.15+ site go all wiggly. This is my innovation to make the Moodle interface more interesting and visceral.

Demo site:
Username: student
Password: sudent

If you move your mouse cursor over your avatar's icon, it will come alive...I mean, wiggle.

The window below is LIVE. Do a mouseover on any one of the blue round icons.

See what I mean? Good.

Below is a screenshot not a live window. Just in case you didn't know.

Synonym filter by Nadav Kavalerchik and Big Huge Thesaurus

Here's a wonderful synonym filter I've just discovered for Moodle. If you teach English you might be interested in this. Maybe even excited.

What's the fuss about? Well here's a filter that allows the user to generate a tool-tip list of synonyms and antonyms just with the push of a mouse icon.


Works great with Google Chrome. Note the clean and tidy appearance below:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to combine a FLV video and a PowerPoint presentation on the same Moodle page

There are several ways how you can combine a PowerPoint with a video on the same Moodle page.

 I don't know about synchronising a PowerPoint with a video, but I can manage a 3-paned window by using 1995-technology HTML frames coupled with Xerte. Here's a demo of a prototype of what I think you are looking for, minus the synchronisation (which I have no idea how to do):
a related post is here:

The PowerPoint was transformed into a flash swf file by using ISpring free version.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Extending the Form Maker

In an earlier post, I introduced the remarkable Form Maker block. The block allowed you to create a data entry form where users could type in data input. The block allows you to output the data in PDF or XLS (Excel) format. Cool! The only problem I faced with it was that it allowed only a maximum of 11 fields. 10 fields plus the default email field. So what happened if you wanted to capture more data with the block? Well, you couldn't because there was no direct way to extend the number of fields beyond the default limit!

Until now. I poked around the code a bit and discovered that you could increase the number of edit fields in the front end by increasing the 10 part of the code to 20, whenever you see the < 10 code in these three files: config_instance.html, block_form_maker.php and block_form_maker_submit.php.

\config_instance.html (2 hits)
Line 61:  for ($i=0; $i < 10; $i++) {
Line 207:  for ($i=0; $i < 10; $i++) {
\block_form_maker.php (1 hit)
Line 44:  for ($i=0; $i < 10; $i++) {
\block_form_maker_submit.php (2 hits)
Line 20:  for ($i=0; $i < 10; $i++) {
Line 46:  for ($i=0; $i < 10; $i++) {

Change those lines to:

\config_instance.html (2 hits)
Line 61: for ($i=0; $i < 20; $i++) {
Line 207: for ($i=0; $i < 20; $i++) {
\block_form_maker.php (1 hit)
Line 44: for ($i=0; $i < 20; $i++) {
\block_form_maker_submit.php (2 hits)
Line 20: for ($i=0; $i < 20; $i++) {
Line 46: for ($i=0; $i < 20; $i++) {

After editing the files, save them back to their original filenames and FTP them back to the block's folder in your production or test site.

However, that's not the end of it. You also need to edit the block_form_maker table and add more fields into it. Whazzat? Don't worry, all you need is to download and install the popular phpMyAdmin tool. Then go to Administration | Server | Database to list the tables of your Moodle database. Like so:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Upgrading your Moodle 2.1.x site to Moodle 2.2

Moodle 2.2!

If you're running Moodle 2.1.x and wish to upgrade to the latest new-fangled Moodle 2.2, then here's an EXCELLENT resource, generously littered with clear screenshots.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nadav's HTMLAREA Toolbar Extentions

I just spent the larger part of my weekend extending my Moodle 1.9.14's HTMLArea Toolbar. Many thanks to the prolific and brilliant Nadav Kavalerchik. See the plugin page.

Hadav's work is amazing!. He has increased the pedagogical value of Moodle right from the Editor itself.

For me the most useful plugins that has has added to the Moodle editor functionality are:
1. Drag and Drop image adder (a must-have for any Moodle site! Previously only the admin or teacher could add images to the editor. Students could only insert images by giving the URL)
2. Insert PDF (no more having to figure out the HTML embed codes)

3. VideoRecorder (FANTASTIC. Thanks for Kevin Brake (and Vimas Technology)!)

Friday, December 2, 2011

How to install the Accordion Resource on Moodle 1.9.14

Abrar Ullah's Accordion Resource Editor 2009 module allows you to hide and display labels and Moodle resources and activities at will. I absolutely love using it on my Moodle site. In this post, I will show you how to install it on the latest (as of December 2011!) Moodle 1.9.14.

Firstlly, here's what it looks like on my production site:

Here's what the course page looks like after I click on the Video Accordion tab:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My first presentation at an International Conference - and it's on Moodle, Maths and Science!

Moodle, Maths and Science. What a combination!

Me at the Fourth International Conference on Science and Mathematics Education (CoSMEd) 2011
(15 - 17 November 2011). Regional Centre For Education In Science & Mathematics, Penang.

My wife, Ju Lee. Moments before I was about to begin my presentation, she informed me that there was a piece of (fresh) tooth floss sticking out of my coat waist pocket. Saved in the nick of time!

I was away in Penang, Malaysia from 15th to 17th November 2011 for the 4th International Conference on Science and Mathematics in Education (CoSMEd).

My wife, Ju Lee, and I co-wrote a paper on the use of Moodle in Maths and Science.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Virtual Student for your Moodle site

Nicholas Walker, an ESL teacher at Montmorency College, has used Google Chrome + HTML5 + Google Speech Recognition + code embed into Moodle to create a Virtual Student. It is as part of a English Language Lab HTML activity that Nicholas and his colleague, Melvin Shantz, are currently testing.

What's really GREAT about the experimental Virtual Student is that it can be used by English language students to test their pronunciation skills.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Speech recognition for Moodle with Google Chrome

Did you know that Google Chrome version 11 or upwards can add Automated Speech Recognition capability to your website? Many thanks to Nicholas Walker for highlighting this cool feature to me.

Check out my webpage

At the moment, this only works with Google Chrome 11 or above:
click on the microphone icon on the far-right of the text input box.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cleverbot for students studying English. Comes with ASR. What's that?

A big thanks to Nicholas Walker for introducing me to the subject of virtual characters and chatbots. Cleverbot is one clever robot. But try convincing Cleverbot that he is a robot and you might be facing a stiff fight, er.. I mean conversation.

Launched on the Web in 1997. 65 million conversations since then. Judged to be 59.3% human in the 2011 Turing Test, far exceeding AI experts' expectations, as the humans in the same event "achieved just 63.3%" (Wikipedia). Cleverbot is one impressive piece of software.

Available on the Web with text synthesis and voice recognition, Cleverbot has been mimicking human conversations with uncanny accuracy for more than a decade. Cleverbot is also available on iOS and Android (with a spoken voice!).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve taught me to be hungry and foolish.

My tribute to Steve Jobs on

Hi Chris.

Yes, Steve will be sorely missed.

      Image by Jonathan Mak , Hong Kong

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An interesting way to navigate Moodle with hotspots

  Nicholas Walker of Collège Montmorency has shared an interesting and instructive post on how to create a Moodle block that contains a image with hotspots that link to various parts of your Moodle course.

For those of you who would like a different approach for your users to navigate through your Moodle activities and resources, why not try it out? You can read about his method at

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Youtube video a day makes Jack (or Jill) a Web 2.0 boy (or girl) - how to embed Web 2.0 code inside an ACal Calendar

Ever heard of the ACal Calendar Project? Arthur Wiebe's ACal Calendar is one of those unsung heroes of freeware PHP Calendars.Today's post is something that just hit me as I was about to knock off to bed. So this post is going to be as concise as possible, and yet leave you wanting for more information. So you'll have to figure out the installation steps by yourself for the time being.[Note: I added the installation steps on the next day]

TimeStat: track student presence in your Moodle by the second

Here's something from the archives of that I had to post on

Figure 1: A really cool block.
Be prepared to edit the weblib.php file though.

TimeStats is an indispensible module "...that tallies and reports total seconds and minutes that students have been in a course. It’s great for tracking overall usage and gives a little better information than just click tallies and page views"

Figure 2: See how versatile the TimeStats plugin is?

Joseph explains it very well on MoodleNews. Here's what his post looks like. I'm using Bitty Browser to display the below content. Looks cool right?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Internet access to your Moodle site slow? Untangle to the rescue!

So you've tweaked your Moodle site's performance until your eyes are red from too much online reading. Your network has no bottlenecks, at least that's what your network engineers says. Your network's running on a fast broadband line. However, no matter what you do, the line is still running slow and your Moodle site's loading slowly. Your organisation doesn't have or can't afford a good hardware firewall. After a while, your network is falling prey to students' bit-torrenting and unmonitored video streaming. Your network's grinding to a halt. What's next? Well how about using Untangle?

Untangle won't improve the speed of your Moodle site - which is either on your own private server or on a Web Hosting company's server. Untangle will help you to block unnecessary website surfing and unproductive protocols like (IM, Peer-to-Peer or gaming services). So in effect, your Internet access is controlled. So when your users surf to a Moodle site, the experience is smoother and faster. The free-version is not fool proof, meaning that there are ways to circumvent the blocks, but there's always the premium package that comes at a monthly fee.

Untangle is a software appliance that manages every aspect of network control from content security to web caching, remote access to policy enforcement, all from one simple, drag & drop command center.

Figure 1: The Untangle solution - it's free unless you install some of the premium modules

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Editing a forum post after the 30 minutes deadline

Today I finally discovered how to modify the maximum allowed time to edit a forum post in Moodle.

I was conducting my Intensive English computer lab class a few days ago. In that class I introduced the class to the joys of forum posting. As the students were posting their replies to my "Introduce Yourself" discussion, I began correcting their grammar by using the Marginalia feature. It soon became apparent that many of the students, upon reading my highlighted corrections, immediately set about editing their posts. Some had already exceeded the maximum of 30 minutes time allowed by the Moodle system to edit their posts. That is the standard in Moodle.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Noodle - and your Moodle site will NEVER, EVER be the same again!

Thanks to this post by Joseph Thibault, I (only) now know about Noodle and UK's National Learning Network (NLN) which is a large repository SCORM-compliant learning objects. And there is a Moodle plugin for the NLN as well! Cool. Actually the NLN Materials GUI browser (Noodle!) was first introduced to the Moodle community in 2008!

So what exactly is Noodle?

"Noodle is a module, downloadable by your Moodle administrator, All which makes it very easy to add NLN Learning Objects to Moodle course pages. By making a streamlined version of this Web site available from within Moodle Itself, it makes adding Learning Objects to a course page as Word documents Easier than adding."
Figure 1: Noodle at work in Moodle.

So what exactly are the NLN materials?

The NLN Materials are small, flexible 'bite-sized' learning objects. They are designed to support other main topic areas. "The materials adopt a range of approaches involving some knowledge acquisition, a chance to practice and absorb, and some form of assessment to check that the learning has been understood and the learning outcome(s) achieved" (from Xtensis Ltd's website).

Funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the NLN materials represent one of the most substantial and wide-ranging collections of e-learning materials in the UK.

 Figure 2: The main menu of the NLN materials as shown inside the N:N browser.
ACL stands for Adult Community Learning.

Friday, September 16, 2011

MP3 Quickie Makeover - a skinnable Version 1.8

Here's what MP3 Quickie looks like now after a Graphical User Interface makeover.
Funkier, if you asked me. It comes in two flavours.

Flavor 1: with PHP File Uploader (commercial uploader with 30-day demo)

Figure 1: With PHP File Uploader.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MP3 Quickie - Ver1.7 now allows MP3 files downloading to AND uploading from the client computer!

Here's news on my latest work on the MP3 Quickie.

It now incorporates an upload MP3 files button and two selection lists. One selection list is unsorted to show the MP3 files stored on the server in chronological order - it functions as a MP3 playback list. The other selection list is alphabetically sorted for easy single downloading of MP3 filenames. MP3 Quickie now stands at Version 1.7 as of September 2011.


This feature was achieved with version 1.5. At the moment, you can only download MP3 files one at a time.

Figure 1: The download list allows you to download one MP3 at a time.

In earlier development phases, I was able to do multiple selections on the selection list and pass multiple filenames to the download.php file, but alas, only one file was downloaded each time. So we will have to live with single downloads until and unless I can figure out how to do multiple downloads or even download all stored MP3s as a single zipped file.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

MP3 Quickie Version 1.6 now allows you to download your saved MP3 files from the server to your client computer!

Hi there. I've just finished Version 1.6 of MP3 Quickie.

Now the recorder allows you to download your MP3 file directly off a selection drop-down box. In this version, only single downloads are allowed. So if you have 10 MP3 recordings on the server, you'll have to select each one in turn and download each one by one. Still, this is a vast improvement over Version 1.5.

Here's a screenshot:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

OKMindMap - make sibling nodes into a parent-and-child: a simple but not obvious operation

Hi there.

If you're using OKMindMap to build your mindmaps, this is something that may not be obvious to you. How to make two sibling nodes into parent and child node relationship.

I want to go from here:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

MP3 Quickie - a new MP3 voice recorder for Moodle 1.9 and Moodle 2.x to record 20-second "quickies"

I would like to introduce a new MP3 voice recorder for Moodle 1.9 and 2.x. Here it is, sitting pretty on my Moodle coursepage in a Moodle HTML block:

Figure 1. MP3 Quickie Version 1.0

The interface design is "original", but the main underlying code is not. More on that later in this post.

You can try the live demo here:
Username: student
Password: moodle

Friday, September 2, 2011

How to embed an OKMindMap inside your blog or Moodle webpage resource.

Hi. In this post, I will show you how to embed an OKMindMap in your website or Moodle webpage resource or label.

This method is different from adding an OKMindMap activity to your Moodle site as mentioned previously in this post. That was a pretty long post wasn't it? Don't worry, this article is short(er) and sweet(er). The method oulined in this article is quite straight-forward and easier to implement that the OKMindMap activity. The advantage of a Moodle activity is that it can be tracked and logged. Warning: a mindmap embedded (as shown in the sections below) in a Moodle label resource or Moodle webpage resource cannot be logged. With that in mind, let's begin!

The window below is an example of an embedded mindmap. One of my mindmaps saved on It is live.Go ahead click on it. Hold and drag your mouse. Click on the tip of any first level node to expand the child nodes.

Here's the embed code of the above window:

<iframe src="" width="600" height="600" ></iframe>

Monday, August 29, 2011

How to embed a website inside your Moodle webpage with iframes and Bitty browser

Bitty Browser is truly an amazing web application. It allows you to embed a website within a website. 

So you can embed an entire working website inside your blog or Moodle site. Its developer is Scott Matthews. But first, a brief comparison between a normal iframed website and a Bitty framed website.

Figure 1. is embedded inside my Moodle coursepage using normal iframe HTML code.
This is an image only.

Figure 2. is embedded inside my Moodle coursepage using Bitty iframe HTML code.
This is an image only.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What do the words arsenal and class have in common? (Word censorship in Moodle)

Profanity and word censorship. The purpose of today's post is to share with you how I enabled a Year-2008 improved Moodle censorship filter on my Moodle 1.9.7 site. I will let you know how I tweaked it to achieve the desired effect. So at the end of this post, you will know how to enable the 'new' Censorship filter that allows a good word list while censoring bad words. You will also know how to generate a list of good words that contain a swear word. Like the word mishit, or peacock, or Emily Dickinson. Okay, I think you get the picture.

Do you enable the word censorship filter of your Moodle site? I suspect that there is a high chance that you do not. There are many who consider it useless and ethically challenging. Some may have disabled it because it takes up processing time. My guess is that 99% of forum users are well-behaved and post appropriate and politically-correct text in a Moodle forums. After all, forum participants can be identified by their Moodle username. Okay, but what about the renegade 1% for whom profanity may be common-place in their vocabulary? If the technology allows that 1% to post what we would consider as profane words, should we care enough to do something?

Times, they are a-changing. What used to shock us decades ago no longer shocks society at large. Many of our modern movies, if we care to admit it, contain profanity. In the heat of the moment, in his or her excitement or just out of sheer frustration, a forum user might let loose a bomb-word in a forum post. By the time the offense is detected, the damage may have already been done. 

So do we really need to enable this feature? In its native form, I would say "no". The first time I enabled it, I set it to censor the word "ass". I then proceeded to create a forum where I used the words "Class" and "Assignment". Those two benign words, common to education, were filtered and were displayed as "Cl***" and "A**ignment". Oh no! I then disabled the filter.
However, if we could modify and improve the existing standard Moodle censorship filter, and depending on the subject that you teach, I would say that there is a case for it. By the way, the Word Censorship settings can be found at: Site Administration > Plugins > Filters.

Figure 1. Enabling the standard Moodle censorhip filter.

Create a form in a block the easy way with the Form Maker block - no HTML needed

Some of the simplest blocks on are also the most elegant and easy to use. Caio Almeida's Form Maker block for Moodle 1.9 (March 2009) on is one such example. At the end of this post, you will be able to use the Brazillian Moodler's block to create a basic form in a Moodle block. The block will allow you and non-technical teachers to easily capture input from users.

This block allows a site administrator or teacher to setup a form inside a block. Best of all, absolutely no HTML knowledge is needed and the interface is easy to use. I was able to set up a basic form on my main Moodle homepage within minutes.

Figure 1. The block in action.

The block informs me that out of a maximum of 100 submissions, 2 have already been created, leaving 98 more to go.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Making the "Web's best php shoutbox" even better for your Moodle site

In my last post, if you were observant enough, you would have noticed an interesting-looking block on the lower right-hand corner of my Moodle course page. That's the section with the red border. Today's post is about that intriguing block with the text "Whisper" inside it. At the end of this post, you will know how to install a profanity-filtered chat widget that can identify the post by it's poster's Moodle account firstname. The widget also shows who is currently online. Best of all, this chat widget is free to use! Two versions of this chat widget exist - one version that is tested and running on both Moodle 1.9.x AND Moodle 2.x; and one version (with avatars) that so far as of 1st September 2011, has only been tested on Moodle 1.9.x.

Figure 1. Check out the area shown in red border.

Friday, August 19, 2011

FreeEmbedChat - you've never seen a free PHP chat like this for your Moodle site before!

Julie slaps Frankie with a large trout.

Remember the line "...slaps... with a large trout"? in the good old days of the 1990s of the Internet when text ruled the roost and Internet connections were mainly dial-up lines, chat clients like mIRC and ICQ were all the rage. in this post, I unvei a modified version of PHPFreeChat that caters for Moodle and Web 2.0. You are cordially invited to read on!

I. Introduction

For the last 3 weeks I've been working on an embedded chat widget for my Moodle 1.9.7  site. I am sure that it can be easily modified to suit Moodle 2.x.
My improved chat is based on modified PHP code of Stephane Gully's excellent phpfreechat, Eloy Lafuente's Multimovie filter  and Simon Karpen's Voicethread filter.

I call this modified chat, "FreeEmbedChat".

        Sample screenshot1.

Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain