I'm preparing a talk on "Moodle for math and science" for the Southern (US) Moodle Moot 07 in February. Like most teachers, I work in a vacuum except for occasional contact with a few other (likewise isolated) teachers, and with the moodle.org forums. So I rely on YOU to tell me how you're dealing these challenges.
Consider how a "sink the pirate ship" simulation" can help physics students develop an understanding of the physics of projectile motion. The simulation allows them to assign values to equation parameters of the equations of motion (initial velocity, angle of elevation, gravitational constant) and immediately observe their effect on trajectory. The simulation can even be turned into a game: Who can sink the most pirate ships?
Consider how interactive math software can help math students develop an understanding of the connection between geometry and algebra. In a traditional classroom, the teacher writes the equation on the board and draws its graph, a parabola. The teacher explains that the parabola is just one of a family of curves that can be obtained by applying algebraic transformations to the equation (or, equivalently, by applying geometric transformations to the graph). In a 45-minute period, the teacher may be able to put several examples on the board. Using interactive software, the class can manipulate the graph directly and immediately observe its effect on the equation; or, they can manipulate the equation and immediately observe its effect on the graph.
The Web abounds with physical simulations and interactive resources for mathematics. The challenge is how to incorporate these resources in a Moodle-based course. The fundamental question is: How tightly should they be integrated?
An example of a loosely-integrated resource is a link to a "Sink the pirate ship" Web site with the instructions from the teacher "Go and sink ten pirate ships." But how do we track such an activity, and how do we assess its educational value?
An example of a tightly integrated resource is a "pirate ship simulation applet" downloaded from the Web and packaged in a SCORM, with hooks added so that the application can pass tracking data back to Moodle, including a grade for the activity ( grade = number of pirate ships sunk divided by number of cannonballs fired).
The problem of rating is a more semantic one (but indeed very important). Using ICT in the classroom unfortunately always has the side effect of wasting time with training pupils to use some kind of software. For me, the rating could result from giving pupils exercises and asking them to report about their results in a text file (may be with embedded images). Writing text finally ensures that there is some comprehension of the topic on the pupils side. But I agree that it is sometimes a problem to motivate pupils to use ICT tools like a screen shot or a text editor instead of just sitting down and sketch with a pencil and having the teacher just dtanding aside and noting in a grade book.
THe advantage of Moodle is in this case more on the teachers side, who gets some relief, an important issue.
From what I have seen, most Web-based simulations are pretty easy to use and don't require any explanation from the teacher.
The "sink the pirate ship" example came from a physics teacher I know who had the game as a Web resource. There was no graded assignment related to it, such as you describe. I agree that it would have been good for students to report their results and reflect on what they learned playing the game.
The game was extremely popular (I read the forum comments). Students would have loved if it were a graded activity (it was a very competitive group). If it were my class, making a SCORM for this activity would have been worth the effort.
So I found that applets which could be adjusted to "the problem at hand" were much better in a distance context. The PHYSLETS applet suite is a very good example. For example, using one powerful optics applet (which can be used "as is" as an optic bench) in different pages with different Java script controls one can show refraction, reflection, lens, human eye, camera and enable the user to change between different prepared situations with a simple click and connect the situation to interactive questions (which would know WHAT the applet is showing at the moment).
The PHYSLETS graph applets are well suited to a lot of "pure math" problems too.
Sometimes applets that aren't presented as customizable can actually be (or be made) so. http://www.falstad.com/circuit/ is an amazing electrical circuit applet (check under circuits [over 100 I think] in its menu) which is able to be setup to show special arrangements in different pages and even have a certain interaction (page buttons or links can open and close various switches).
If you find interesting applets that lack some feature you would like, contact the applet author. I have many times been quickly given new features by the rightfully proud authors! (Or told about undocumented possibilities.)
PAD, Physics Applets for Drawing (which can, by the way, interact with Physlets) provide great applets for situations calling for diagrams, vectors, interactive motion or video motion analysis, direct in web-pages. They can also give guiding feedback and be connected to recording of grades.
Bringing Java applets into Moodle in IMS/SCORM package I've found to be sometimes simple and sometimes problematical. There's unfortunately not much to be found about it in Moodle Docs.
I actually did download the Galois SCORM package and played it in Moodle. Do you capture the grade? (I think you do).
Unfortunately, I do not read Dutch, so I don't understand the scope of the Galois project. Do you have authoring tools for creating exercises?
Yes we capture the grade and in Moodle 1.5.3 (still some bugs in 1.6 version) we also capture the suspendstate and thus everything a student "does".
We hope to form a developing community for a SCORM applet generator, a jar applet that creates SCORm algebra applets. We are also looking at an english version and perhaps a pocket pc version.
I'll keep you posted.
The how to:
1) Set up your Moodle server for JavaSketchpad: copy the free /jsp directory to the root of your Moodle install. Allow the html tag in Moodle (how to do this is found elsewhere in this Free Support area, I just can't remember how right now).
2) Make sure student computers have the Java plugin for their browsers.
3) From the Teacher's computer, create your sketch (or there are many sources of pre-made sketches). Any sketches made in Geometer's Sketchpad can be exported to an HTML/Java document straight from the Save As dialog box, although not all the features of the full Sketchpad are supported. Test the HTML/Java document in your web browser. Often I have to make a few quick round trips here to get it just right.
4) Integrate into Moodle: Open the HTML/Java sketch in any html editor. Change codebase="jsp" to codebase="/jsp". Remove all the carrage returns in the tag (just do a global search & replace). Copy all the html from to . Paste straight into any html text area in Moodle (HTML editor in TEXT MODE) - I have already tried questions, assignment, lesson, HTML block, etc. You can add any descriptive text above or below the sketch.
I'm having a lot of success right now with this, but I am still new at it.
I will definitely look into Java Sketchpad.
Like you, I had also been using Geometer's Sketchpad for "dynamic math." I have found GeoGebra to be a good replacement for Geometer's Sketchpad, and even better in some ways. Furthermore, GeoGebra has been integrated into Moodle by J. Maeusle with a filter that makes it easy to incorporate a dynamic GeoGebra worksheet in a quiz, lesson, or any other resource or activity with an HTML area. The filter eliminates the manual steps that would be needed to patch in the worksheet manually (similar to the steps you do with a Java Sketchpad). The teacher just uploads the ggb file to the course files area and links to it from an HTML area.
Would you consider making a filter for Java Sketchpad?
Once I get to a Windows computer, I will unzip J. Maeusle's filter and see if I have the PHP knowledge to do something simular for JavaSketchpad. (Maeusle's filter gives me an error when unzipped on a Mac OS X machine).
PS. Regarding my earlier post - Moodle stripped some html tags from my instructions (of course it would!) In Step 4, the sentence that reads "Copy all the html from to ." should read "Copy all the html from the APPLET tag to the closing /APPLET tag.
"The teacher just uploads the ggb file to the course files area and links to it from an HTML area"
I am very interested in adding Geogebra files to a quiz or lesson.
If there was someone who could explain how to add a piece of geogebra to a quiz or lesson I'd really appreciate it.
I've been able to add something from a Geogebra worksheet to a lesson, but the size of the Geogebra area on the screen is too small.