NetBeans for Moodle Development

Test Driving Gary Anderson’s Moodle Unit on this topic

Spring Trimester I teach a software development elective at my high school (Seattle Academy) which focuses on web applications. Since we have heavily customized our Moodle system for our high school environment, Moodle developement is often one of the things we concentrate on in the course.

This year I have decided to switch to the Netbeans develoment enviroment for the course, and would love to have a few Moodlers test drive the 5 week unit so that I can optimize it for my curriculum.

My students will begin this unit after working through the book Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML, so they will have their own web sites, but will just be starting PHP. Hence, whether you are an advanced programmer or just beginning probably won’t matter much. You should learn a lot no matter what and ably won’t matter much. You should learn a lot no matyou imput will be helpful for when I run my course with students.
Unit outline:

Week 1: Install Netbeans and install both XAMPP for the local machine and connect through FTP to our server. Then get Moodle 1.9 Stable from CVS trough Netbeans. Run, examine, and use the debugger to learn the way web applications run. Learn to work with Moodle both as a site andmistrator and as a teacher (my students already use Moodle in all their classes, so this other step is not hard for them).

Week 2: Explore Moodle’s code: Study the organization, hack at the code and put in debugging statements and then make customizations. Simplify or modify features by changing forms, parameters, and function calls. See how various modules and pluggins work.

Week 3: Making custom themes: Make a theme and modify the CSS to adjust the look and feel of the site (changing about 10 elements can do much of the work). Use the Web Developer pluggin for Firefox to examine page element and then modify them with CSS. Hide or move elements of the UI using CSS. Use Web Developer to make Moodle have the look and feel of another site.

Week 4: Making custom Blocks in Moodle: Go through a tutorial on making blocks, study existing code, and make a custom block. We will look also at previous student’s work on this.

Week 5: Make a custom activity module. This year our focus will be probably be on a common checklist activity that students can mark off tasks that they have been assigned in courses and teachers can verify these and add comments.
Expectations of those test driving the course.

* This is a typical high school course where classes meet a total of about 4 hours a week. Most students working fast have little out-of-class work. Expect to spend about that amount of time for each week in the above outline — maybe less time if you are an experienced PHP programmer or already know Moodle, but in that case, you will probaly really get into learning the featuers of Netbeans for develoment.
* At the end of each Week, you will be expected to write up a reflection on what you learned with links to your work (just as my students do). In that reflection, those test driving the course should give feedback on how the week’s activities might be be improved. I will treat this just as one of my normal Moodle courses and grade this reflection out of 20 points — normally you get great scores if you do all the required activities. In that case, I am an easy grader:) You might get extra credit for extraordinary work. For some of you, this might help you relate to the student experience in Moodle.
* There is no charge for helping test drive this course, but if you don’t stay current with the work and participate in the help forums, I will need to drop you as a partipant.
* You will need to help each other with feedback. I should be no more than a normal participant in the process of helping fellow participants with routine tasks.
* I hope this group can also contribute some pages to on how to develop with Netbeans as it seems to be a great environment for this type of thing.
* If you complete the course, and need some recognition, I would be happy to print you off a nice certificate of completion suitable for framing:)
* I will need 3 or 4 participants to have this be worthwhile, and will cap the number of participants at 8 on this go around. If there is sufficient interests, I may run the course again after my student have gone through the process.
* We plan to begin the trial run of this unit the week of March 23rd. My students will begin it the week after they return from their Spring break (April 13th).
* Contact me by the forum message system or my email below if you would like to participate. As I am on a student retreat this week, it may take me a day or so to reply.

Gary Anderson
Math Department Chair
Seattle Academy
ganderson at SeattleAcademy dot org


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