Moodle+Mahara+Google Apps+New Theme

This week our school Moodle has undergone some major changes. Our friendly Moodle partner host (Remote-Learner) installed Mahara and connected the two installations together with single sign on (SSO). I then got inspired and used the instructions here to install SSO between our Moodle and Google Apps (Gapps?). I then got further inspired and hacked together a new theme with the YUI menus of Afterburner, the profile block of Aardvark, and the Moodlebar.  (Trying to meld the greatness of New School Learning, Shaun Daubney, and Lewis Carr into one theme!).

You can download the theme here. (named Burnt Aardvark Bar).

So now, once students log into Moodle, they will be able to migrate to Mahara’s e-portfolio system and Google’s email and docs as well as participate in the activities on Moodle itself.

I plan to really push teachers to use the portfolio system as an end of the year assessment tool and chance for student reflection this year. Hopefully the e-portfolio process can become part of the way-we-do-things-here. I have heard that Mahara isn’t the most intuitive tool and so I am really interested in working with some students and teachers to run it through the paces. I talked with Open Source web guru Chris Kenniburg who gave up on Mahara in favor of Buddypress so I have doubts before I even begin that is Mahara is the best tool for the job. Mahara seems to be a more robust e-portfolio tool, while WordPress MU/Buddypress seems to be more intuitive. I like Mahara’s ability to have multiple layouts and its drag and drop module based page creation. However, I love WordPress’ thousands of themes. We will see.

The google apps piece is a nice way for us to move more into the cloud. I am not sure how we will use the email feature (will it be required for school communication, will it be monitored). Right now it is just available and slightly unofficial. As for the docs, hopefully some teachers will be willing to use it with their students this spring and we can make our push to get rid of MS Office and go Open Office+Apps for productivity software.

The most important piece about this week for me is that it gives me a taste of what Moodle 2.0 will be like. I see the vision of Moodle 2.0 as Moodle as a hub in a webby world. We have the key pieces in place and the single sign on works. However, in Moodle 2.0 students will be able to pull docs from Google into Moodle and then out to Mahara in one seamless flow from creation/collaboration to sharing/assessment to reflection/documentation.

It is also a reminder of how awesome Moodle 1.9 is.

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