Thank you for your detailed answer!
The icons are from a demo i used : http://razorjack.net/quicksand/ ( i found it here ) it uses jquery, so i was not even sure if it is wise to use at all, after reading all the jquery vs yui discussions, here in the forums. (but, last Moodle HQ dev meeting, it was decided to include an option for jquery in core. so it seems it is relatively an option, once again )
I forgot to show in the video that we also (like you) hide all the extra (and very confusing) advanced preferences or settings in each Form Moodle has. Since most of the teachers use only 20% of the features and are intimidated by all the settings they need to fill (or decide upon) when starting a new activity.
On the same subject (Forms), I would also like to add that we consider adding a "submit" button right after the two or three most needed fields in each Form, (and color it green, maybe?) so teachers could submit the Form after filling the basic necessary info for the activity's initial state. later, they can go back and tweak it in a more advanced way. (i think)
Regarding the hidden activity/resource Action icons:
I was inspired by the Foodle theme, which implemented this very easy CSS "trick". it is an old theme from 2009 and no longer available but here is a link to my archive: Foodle theme
I also agree that it can be confusing, at first. and i like your idea to make it grayed out. or make only one button/icon that opens up a small window with all the options. similar behaviour to a right click context menu. but with left mouse click. (maybe)
Getting back to the new activity/resource menu...
We are currently developing and looking for ideas to solve our following needs:
1. Activity Chooser: make a clear list of activities and resources with short description of each (like you did)
2. A wizard that take the teacher through a pedagogical decision making flow, and eventually, recommends the use of one or more resources and activities that he/she needs to create in order to fulfill his/her pedagogical agenda. ( A pedagogical add activity and not a technical add activity, like we currently have)
3. A quick add file(s)/resource(s). (there are some 3rd party solutions) maybe drag & drop?
4. First time course generator, that asks for subjects (topics/sections) with images and text that is generating the entire front-page of the course
5. Complete course template generator, which will probably import all activities and resources from a Course Template which is placed in some other Hidden category on the system along with several other course templates.
We would like all of these ideas/needs to be, some how, combined into a single UI. not sure how, yet.
I would LOVE your (and anyone's) opinions on those needs/ideas.