Thursday, February 15, 2018

Moodle Good Practice

Originally posted on Wikispaces at in 2011 but migrating here due to Wikispaces' sad but inevitable impending closure. Many links may no longer work. This is more for the historical record.

SOME EXAMPLES (and they were hard to find, or extract from people!)

1. Open Learn – the Open University
Lots of unfacilitated open courses to browse. Check out their excellent list of Learning Tools.

2. On Moodle’s own demo site at there are just two courses offered (use logins provided at site):
i) a Moodle Features demo
ii) Film Studies Module

A more recent demo site from Moodle is at

3. On the Moodle commons I found this good example on Digital Photography
4. There are some showcase geography Moodle courses on Wycombe High School moodle here I came across the other day:
Krankenzusatzversicherung g√ľnstig

5. Two great examples from Wallace Web Design(thank you Richard)

i) Career Awareness
ii) Using Quizzes and Assessments in Moodle

More examples from Wallace Web Design at

6. Online Facilitation course & others on OER site in NZ
Online Facilitation course by Joyce Seitzinger (little old now, we've made improvements since, but still)
Instructional Design for Blended Learning course by Sue Dark & Anouk Janssens
7. UVCMS Online demo courses :

8. A selection of Moodle sites on a slideshow from Miguel Guhlin. (Links on the sites shown in the slides are clickable.) Useful to see the various ways teachers have exploited the basic Moodle interface. Download Moodle courses you can restore from backup here . Also, a wealth of Moodle related resources, including videos online at

9. Linux for Education - this site has a bunch of courses, no authentication/login/registration is necessary.

10. A Moodle for a primary class - Second grade in Tampa, Florida. Our wireless has been bad for weeks, so I don't add as much content as I should. Week 6 is a good example of what the Moodle looks like during a week of full connectivity.

User name: pbguest
Password: guestpb

11. Leeds City College - check guest courses

That’s all I’ve been able to find so far that I think are worth showing. There have to be hundreds more. PLEASE ADD THEM.

( Very few did. - Ed) 

What is a blog?

Originally posted on Wikispaces at in 2007 but migrating here due to Wikispaces' sad but inevitable impending closure.

What is a blog?

A blog is an abbreviation of ‘weblog’. It is a web based journal or diary where entries are posted and arranged chronologically. They are typically free, and are found all over the Internet. The most common free blog hosting services is Blogger, but many educators are using Wordpress ( or Edublogs ( for educational blogs. These days many LMSs now have blog tools built in to them.

Why would I use a blog for my students?
  • To have all their work in one place (writing, images, video, etc)
  • So students have a portable ongoing record of their work (like an e-resume, or eportfolio)
  • So students can read and comment on each others’ work
  • Perhaps make student work available to a wider audience beyond the institution or college
  • To improve student writing skills
  • To encourage and promote digital literacy
  • To use as a reflective journal for students who may be off campus
  • For a teacher to write regular reflections, summaries, etc about the class
  • A way to give students ownership of a personal space - a web site that encourages active engagement by the students and teacher

Some Examples of the use of Blogs in Education


Friday, January 26, 2018

Steve Foster

I guess I was 18 or 19 when I first heard Steve Foster play. I used to attend the lunchtime concerts held in Union Hall at Adelaide Uni. They were usually band gigs, but Steve played a couple of shows there on his own. I was smitten on first take. I had been playing guitar for a while, learning the same few chords that most beginners latch on to and I thought my guitar playing was pretty average.
Steve had just released his Coming Home in a Jar album, and most of the songs I heard him play at these Union Hall concerts were from that album. They were strong songs – catchy and meaningful. And by and large simple. Steve used chords I played, and didn’t use any fancy picking. He just strummed. And the songs and his delivery of them were beautiful.
It was a moment when I thought “you know, I could do this. I know those chords, I can strum, and I have a reasonable singing voice. “ It was a moment I’d never forget. I learnt a couple of Steve’s songs and had great pleasure over the years telling people who liked them that they were written by Steve Foster, the Adelaide Steve Foster. (There is a much more famous Stephen Foster – the American songwriter responsible for a great many famous songs like Oh Susanna and Camptown Races.)
Steve left Adelaide for Melbourne and ports beyond in an attempt to make the big time and for whatever reason he didn’t quite get there. He should have – he got close – but that’s a story for others to tell. In my eyes he was certainly good enough.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Adelaide Fringe. Steve was back in Adelaide and performed his Dylan & Donovan: The Prophet, The Poet & The Sorcerers’ Apprentice at the Semaphore RSL Club. It was a wonderful show. As I wrote at the time, it was a real treat to hear that beautiful musical soul sing and play and tell his stories again.
Some months later Steve contacted me. He wanted to meet for coffee and thank me for my review – he figured it had gone some way to getting him invited to the Edinburgh Fringe. I hope it was that way. If so, it would be some repayment for the enormous influence Steve had had on my musical development. I was really pleased to be able to tell him firsthand about the impact his Union Hall concerts had had on me.  I told him how he had unknowingly helped me believe in my musical self.
Steve was to do another show featuring songs of the sea in this year’s Fringe but alas it won’t be happening. Steve died yesterday. One of Adelaide’s finest voices will sing no more. Thank you dear man. Rest in peace Steve.  

Monday, October 09, 2017

Collecting People

As people that have been part of my life start to die around me it occurs to me that in a sense one collects people. You gather around you people who make you feel good, or make your life better and richer. With friends and family you do this by enjoying their physical presence, but there’s a whole host of other people you have never met who mean a great deal to you, and who you will likely never meet.
In recent weeks I feel like I have lost 2 very dear friends – Vin Garbutt and Geoffrey Yunupingu. They were both extraordinary singers who filled my heart with joy and wonder and since I first heard them – Vin Garbutt in a folk club in Zaandam in Holland, and Gurrumul at WOMADelaide – I have collected their songs on record and tape and CD, and tried to see them live whenever possible. They were an intrinsic part of my world. They both gave me emotional highs of happiness and wonder. Vin also made me laugh. They made me feel fantastic and I took on the values they represented – dignity, compassion, joy, passion.
My world made sense with Vin and Gurrumul in it. I had sought them out on multiple occasions, and could play their music anytime I wanted. I can still do that, but something deep down has changed. I can no longer see them live. I can no longer imagine them playing live to others. I will no longer read reviews or see film clips of their recent concerts. They now become a memory.
They were part of who I am, or was. I was someone who loved their beautiful singing. I loved the way they looked, the clothes they wore, the way they spoke and carried themselves on stage. They were familiar to me. I had made them part of my psyche; they represented a part of how I viewed the world. They were singers that touched me deep in my soul. They both made me cry regularly.
It seemed a little cruel to take these two remarkable singers so close together – to rid the world of such voices in the space of a few weeks. We have lost two beautiful souls and a great many beautiful sounds.
And as I live on, I realise that bit by bit the people that I have collected; the people I have discovered that both nurture and nourish my soul – the singers, the writers, the speakers, my friends and family – will disappear. Until one day I will too.
In the meantime I either go on living feeling like I’m losing people and things I love, or better, try and continue to live and acknowledge the role they played in creating me, and making me who I am.

If you live to really advanced years this must get harder and harder – to have so many of your light posts disappear so that it’s just you and a few of your favourite things left – so it’s seems that I must collect something new. Find other ways of replacing what Geoffrey and Vin gave me; augment their memories with new songs, new books, new movies, new conversations - to make sure I don’t shrivel under the weight of sadness and disappointment their passing has wrought. Collect, assemble, and welcome new ideas, new experiences, and new people. I’m sure there are worlds I know nothing about…..

Monday, April 17, 2017

Patmos 1981

Psili Amos, Patmos. (Image courtesy of
Many years ago in pre-Internet days a friend (Peter) and I spent a week or two on the Greek Island of Patmos. Peter recently wrote up his diary entries of the time, and it inspired me to finally record a song I wrote as I left the island by ferry on a wet and windy night. It's called Lights Across the Water. The lyrics are printed below. I may elaborate on the background to the song at some later date. But for now, here it is.


I'm on a late night journey across the sea

Wind and rain callin' out to me

Lights across the water

Callin'  out to me

Golden man smiles through his beard

Lady on his arm is cryin' tears of fear

He doesn't even hear her - her screaming agony

And the wind across the water 

Brings sweet misery

The lights across the water 

Are callin' out to me

It's time to leave this island home

Time to break this island's hold on me

And sail across the water

To another land

The wind across the water

Is callin' out to me

Copyright Michael Coghlan 1981

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Talking to the Other Side

It has been measured and noted recently that the impasse between left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican in the Disunited States is greater and more bitter than ever before. Obama referred to this in his parting speech. Though not as extreme as the DS, there’s probably something similar occurring in Australia.
Since the shock of the Trump election there has been a realisation that democracy needs meaningful conversations to take place across this political divide. America, and democracies in general, need healing, and need to find a way to talk to each other across the chasm to aid this healing.

Robb Willer, psychologist, in his TED Talk about how to have better political conversations reveals that the political divide in the DS is underpinned by a moral divide. Each side of that divide has its own set of values. In broad brush they look like this:  

And in essence, as long as the values of each side remain steadfast and refuse to accommodate the point of view of the other, no one is ever going to change their mind. He argues that if a liberal thinker wants to change the mind on some issue of a conservative thinker then you have to do it by appealing to values that the conservative relates to – patriotism for example. Or respect for authority. And vice versa of course.
Now it turns out that someone else using a different set of data – a study comparing what parts of the brain are used predominantly by liberal and conservative thinkers – came to the same conclusion. That we need to use the language and perspective and values of the other side if our appeals to them to see an issue differently are to get any traction. What this study found is that liberals and conservatives use different parts of their brain to process information. Not exclusively, but they each have a tendency to use a part of the brain more than others.
  • Liberalism was associated with the grey matter volume of the anterior cingulate cortex
  • Conservatism was associated with an increased right amygdala size
Amygdala – seat of fear
Cortex – logic, rational argument, ideas,
  • Conservative brains are more active in declarative and episodic fact-based memory and negative emotions like fear.
  • Liberal brains are more active in terms of emotional awareness and empathy.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

CD Review - Trout and Toolbox

Ray Smith
Some musicians seem able to move happily between different musical worlds. I first became aware of Adelaide based musician, Ray Smith, when he was playing in loud, experimental rock bands like the Sympathy Orchestra. Sometime later I heard him accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and was immediately struck by the depth and resonance of his voice. Those deep and resonant vocals are front and centre on Trout and Toolbox.
Trout and Toolbox is a collection of folk songs with very strong connections back to Ray’s native Cumbria in the north of England. All but one of the tunes are original, and there are telling turns of melody that derive from the mournful, haunting sounds of traditional English folk music. And so too does much of the subject matter – mills closing down, life as a weaver, and a song of praise to northern landscapes. It’s almost as if Ray is unveiling his past while he tries to reconcile his origins with the person who chose to migrate to Australia, and in that sense it’s quite a personal collection of songs.
Trout and Toolbox is book-ended with an unnamed instrumental piece that features some rich and melodic acoustic guitar tones that aptly signal what’s to come, and neatly wraps up the package after the final song.
Billy is a tale of war beautifully arranged for guitar, flute and violin. A Sense of Place is an endearing tale of a couple who have spent most of their life together and learnt to appreciate that a sense of place can be as simple as ‘the smile on your face’. There’s some lovely lyrical images here – ‘he will wash and she’ll carefully dry the plates’; ‘he always checks his tie’s straight in the mirror in the hallway.’ A curious feature of this album is the fact that Ray Smith’s vocals still sound like he’s living in Cumbria, and it’s quite pronounced on this song. It’s often hard to tell where people come from once they start singing, but not so in Ray’s case. It adds a layer of authenticity that appropriately gives greater weight to the idea of place. There’s a sting in the tail here as the final verse addresses Australia’s Stolen Generation being robbed of their sense of place – ‘a national disgrace’.
Using the metaphor of migrating birds, Migration focuses on the tension between staying and leaving. Punchy guitar underpins a melodic air that feels quite ancient. A mini jig/reel on accordion mid-song and again at the end briefly lightens the mood, but the prevailing feeling is one of a difficult reconciliation between the state of migration and the desire to stay home.
The Weaver Is much very rooted in the context of industrial England. Another strong vocal features curious phrases like ’watch your shuttle”. The cornet part by Kerryn Schofield lends an anthemic feel and in what feels like an intentional romanticising of the passing craft of weaving, breaks into a last post type coda to conclude what is quite a lovely song.
The Mill continues with a similar theme. “There’s no need to hurry now; soon we’ll be leaving the town.” There’s no more work because the mill is closing. It reminds me of Eric Bogle’s lament about the disappearing Australian farmer, and the emotion etched into this story is exquisitely wrought on violin by Emma Woolcock. The warmth and resonance of her playing is just delicious.
Tallahassee takes us to the other side of the Atlantic searching for a past lover. Curiously the narrator learns that his old Tallahassee flame no longer lives there and had also migrated to a land far away. This song feels and sounds quite different to the other songs on this CD and is steered along by fiddle that sounds more American than English, with acoustic bass from Tamas Smith.
Planxty Isaac is an instrumental track with acoustic guitars dancing in a bright and chirpy tune in a style similar to that of Canadian guitar virtuoso, Leo Kottke. Guitars here cross the oceans with influences from both sides of the Atlantic.
In Now, written by Nic Jones, the migrant pleads the case for the present moment in an attempt perhaps to convince himself that he made the right choice to leave all those years ago. “The now is here; so simple and clear; the past is gone.” Cornet provides an anthemic backdrop again, and the tone of the guitar picking is warm and resonant.

And then, and it feels like the whole album has been leading up to this point, the migrant returns home. To see ‘that broad fen again, feel the wind blowing cold from the glen; to hear the curlew call and the ocean roar’ and where ‘he’ll be home again once more’. Cue Cumbrian pipes! Home Again is another haunting and captivating melody with tentacles stretching back to Cumbria. There is a plaintive sadness here.  Australia has been good for Ray Smith. But there’s clearly part of his soul that will always be in Cumbria. I hope he continues to bring that part of his musical soul back to our shores because it has a wistful depth and wisdom that reconciles past and present, and delivers perspectives in songs that are rich in melody, warm in feeling, and resonant with meaning.

(This review also on The Clothesline.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Don Henley in Adelaide

Don Henley
Entertainment Centre, Wed  15 Mar

A concert by Don Henley, co-founder of the legendary Californian band The Eagles, with a handpicked band of 15 musicians was always going to be good. Henley has lost nothing of his vocal capabilities – he still hits the highest notes with ease, and he clearly enjoys playing rockier numbers. He and Glenn Frey always wanted The Eagles to be more of a rock band and he can now live out that dream.
There were plenty of quieter, almost acapella, or country style numbers that featured wonderful ensemble vocals, but the bulk of the show was firmly in rock territory.
Several things stood out – Henley’s voice, the superb back-up vocals from the female chorus, a spectacular light show, and the fact that Henley himself has become quite chatty on stage - unlike the vaguely disengaged persona he appeared to be in The Eagles. He comes across now as a generous and friendly guy, humble and sincere in his appreciation of the audience’s love of his music. When he wasn’t singing he wandered to the back of the stage out of the limelight.
The band ranged back and forth across four decades playing hits from the Henley canon. All 16 members of the band sang on the opener – Seven Bridges Road – in a thrilling start. Witchy Woman, One of These Nights, Life in the Fast Lane, and Boys of Summer are well known Eagles songs that got royal rock treatment. A couple of songs from his more recent Cass County album were done as duets with one of the female singers with impeccable harmony.
Desperado was dedicated to Henley’s recently departed songwriting partner Glenn Frey – the first song they wrote together. Hotel California got a gig, and was as good as ever, complete with duelling guitars on the closing part of the song. But I missed Don Felder and Joe Walsh. And I missed Glenn Frey. At times those absent names were very present in the memories of the earlier versions of these songs.
Henley would be very aware of this of course, but all he can do is play the songs he wants to sing with respect for those who helped him get to where he is. And he does all of that in spades. He seems to have grown into something of an elder statesmen of rock as he tells the tales behind the songs with the wisdom (and occasional wit) of hindsight, and he has assembled an impressive band of musicians of all ages to bring his history of rock to modern audiences.

It was a slick and polished show. The time flew by and it was all of a sudden time to bid farewell to a remarkable talent who has entertained several generations of music fans now for 45 years. And given how good he looked and sounded tonight I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it for quite a bit longer.

This review also published on The Clothesline.