Moodle 1.9 Multimedia by João Pedro Soares Fernandes – a book review

Moodle 1.9 Multimedia

Moodle 1.9 Multimedia
£27.99 / $44.99 Packt Publishing A sample chapter is available.

I was recently sent a copy of this book for review. First published in May 2009, Moodle 1.9 Multimedia is one of a series on the popular learning management system / virtual learning environment published by Packt which includes titles on Moodle administration and course development. In fact, while badged as a book on Moodle, it could almost have been entitled How to do a whole lot of whacky things that Moodle can’t. A relatively small proportion of the book is actually about Moodle at all.

The book is aimed at teachers and trainers who already have some experience in the use of Moodle. Certainly having a basic understanding of the concepts of a VLE would help to get maximum use out of it. It is a hands-on, practical publication which will be most useful in schools and situations where the teacher is very much concerned with creating their own teaching content. However it could also be of interest within further or higher education settings by educators who wish to create more imaginative courses and are interested in seeing what tools might be available to them, even if other development staff are employed to create the resources and integrate them into the VLE.

The book is also claimed to be for students and you could imagine a copy left around the classroom being of interest to some of the geekier kids in the class.
To be able to get maximum use out of all the tools you’ll need a good relationship with your Moodle administrator who will be required to change a few settings to enable the integration of some of the multimedia content.

Within the covers is a veritable treasure trove of free applications for creating and editing multimedia content, some of them downloadable, others usable directly over the Web. There are comprehensive and clear instructions on how to use the programs, and as part of the narrative which holds the book together, short sections on how to integrate them into Moodle for presentation to students.

The book has a broad definition of multimedia and describes applications for capturing, creating, manipulating and storing images, sounds, video, animations, screencasts, cartoon strips, slideshows, floorplanners, mindmaps, interactive timelines and interactive maps. At the end it strays into interactive classroom applications including text chat, shared whiteboards, shared applications and audio and video conferencing, though 13 pages devoted to synchronous conferencing is scratching the surface – and it’s debatable whether chat and shared applications constitute multimedia.

From a learning point of view there are a few ideas on activities which can be provided for students using the various multimedia elements but these are fairly minimal and this is more of a “how to” book than one brimming with educational ideas. However the accompanying Moodle website gives some good indications of how the multimedia content can be integrated into learning activities.

Readers are given tips on how to take good photos and enhance them using the popular open source image editing software The Gimp. They are shown how to make screencasts using Jing and comic strips using Strip Generator. The online application Slide is suggested for creating slideshows and the website Imeem for storing songs and creating playlists. Audacity is recommended for editing sounds and Windows Movie Maker for videos. There is even an application called Mogulus explained for creating an online TV station. When Google Docs and other applications such as Google Maps were introduced I really began to question why this book was called Moodle Multimedia however some of these applications are so good that they do need to be mentioned and Moodle can of course be the front end system for the student which brings all the pieces together.

Fernandes describes how to add multimedia to questions in the Moodle quiz engine and also how to use a couple of other interactive quiz systems with Moodle. There are also a few tips on how to assess multimedia content produced by students themselves.

Many of the Web 2.0 applications suggested by the author allow the storage of the resulting content online and the reader is presented with the choice of whether to upload the content to the Moodle site or simply link to it from Moodle so it is embedded within the course but held elsewhere. The pros and cons of these two approaches could perhaps be better explained however there is a section at the end detailing a few issues around the selection of Web 2.0 software, copyright issues etc.

In summary, this is a useful and practical resource about tools for creating, editing and storing a wide range of multimedia content. It is more about multimedia than about Moodle and the majority of the book would be relevant and of interest to users of other VLEs too. There’s perhaps not a lot that can be said about multimedia within Moodle anyway because it is basically an empty shell, crying out for the imaginative resources you will now be able to create using the applications described in this book.