Moodle + BigBlueButton = Awesome

Ask an you will receive. Two days ago I posted about discovering BigBlueButton and wondered if there was a way to integrate it into Moodle. Yep, there is. Thanks to Luc, Fred, and Denis who were kind enough to post in the comments where I could find one.

The eLearning company Dual Code makes a GPLed module that connects Moodle to your BigBlueButton server. Once it is installed things are simple. A teacher can add a BigBlueButton assignment that will create a room on the BigBlueButton server.

BigBlueButton Assignment. It's that easy.

Just fill out the information and you are good to go.

Once the teacher has created the room students will be able to enter it by clicking on the assignment under Moodle. The room will be closed until a moderator enters the room. This is great to make sure there is always someone there for the students and so students can’t accidently go in as a moderator.

Setting it up on your Moodle server.

  1. Download the plug-in from
  2. Unzip the directory and you will find two folders: lang and mod
  3. In the mod folder you will find a folder called bigbluebutton. As an adminstrator put this folder into the mod directory of your Moodle server. It is at the top level of your Moodle directory. This provides the functionality of the module.
  4. In the lang folder you will find a folder called en_utf8. In that folder you will see a file called bigbluebutton.php. That file need to go to the same location on your Moodle server (yourmoodleinstall/lang/en_utf8/bigbluebutton.php). This provides the language files we need to make it work.
  5. In the lang folder you will find a folder called en_utf8. In that folder you will see another folder called help. Open it an you will see a folder called bigbluebutton. Copy the folder to the same location on your server (yourmoodleinstall/lang/en_utf8/help/bigbluebutton). This provide the help files when you click on a question mark in Moodle.
  6. Login as administrator and go to Notifications. Moodle will detect the module and take care of everything else.
  7. Go to Modules > Activities > Manage Activities. You can click the eye to give teachers access to BigBlueButton.
  8. Click Settings beside BigBlueButton. We need to tell Moodle a few things about our BigBlueButton server.
  9. Make sure you click the “I am hosting my own BigBlueButton Server”
  10. Input the IP address of your BigBlueButton server.
  11. Input the Security Salt from your BigBlueButton server. You can find this in a file called “” on your BigBlueButton server. On my Ubuntu server I found it at /var/lib/tomcat6/webapps/bigbluebutton/WEB-INF/classes/ The security salt string you are looking for can be found after beans.dynamicConferenceService.securitySalt=your_number_here. Input that long string of numbers and letter to the field in Moodle.
  12. Put a star in the Meeting IDs field. That will allow an unlimited number of rooms be created. You can also put any number here to restrict how many rooms on your BigBlueButton server you want going at one time. This can be helpful for performance issues.
  13. You should now be able to start a room by choosing it as an assignment.

Have fun out there folks.

Easy Open Source Web Conferencing: Big Blue Button

I love my PLN. I discover so many new things every day. Today’s find is via Richard Byrne’s Free Tech 4 Teachers blog.

Big Blue Button is a video conferencing platform similar to Adobe Connect, Elluminate, or dimdim. It does all the regulars like text chat, voice and video sharing, PDF and PowerPoint viewing, and even screen sharing. The interface  is very clean and easy to use. The big draw to Big Blue Button for me is it open source and free to download.

When I say you can download it, that means it isn’t a hosted solution. You need to install it one your computers/servers. The good news is it is easy to install. I was surprised at just how easy it was for such a complex piece of software. Usually something like this requires lots of configuring and tweeking before you can get started with it. The developers have done a great job of making it easy to get started.

I installed it on Ubuntu 9.04 that was running on VirtualBox and I followed the very clear instructions available on the website. It is as simple as 6 steps. Open the Terminal and type each command.

  1. wget
  2. sudo apt-key add bigbluebutton.asc
  3. echo “deb bigbluebutton main” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/bigbluebutton.list
  4. sudo apt-get update
  5. sudo apt-get install bigbluebutton
  6. You will be prompted to add a password to MySQL

Total install time was just over 8 minutes. That is pretty impressive.

Big Blue Button - The crappy webcam is my fault.

That’s it. Open up a web browser and hit your computers IP address and you will see the home page. Just enter your name into the demo room and you should be good to go.

I want to spend a bit more time with it and see what it can do after a bit more configuring and customization. I would love to find a way to launch a room directly from Moodle. After about 5 minutes of play it is very intuitive and just works. Certainly easy enough for teachers looking for a way to present online. BBB has their own demo server if you want to see it in action. They also have some great tutorial videos to get you started. I will keep you updated on my results. Thanks again to Richard for the great find.

What I am looking forward to in Moodle 2.0

Ah, the smell of Moodle 2.0 is in the air. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and pure awesomeness is right around the corner.

I have been using Moodle since version 1.4 and have loved it the entire way. I have recently been playing with the yet-to-be-released version and it is certainly going to be worthy of the shiny new 2.0. Even though Moodle 2.0 isn’t even in beta yet (currently the beta is scheduled for a February 2010 release) the development version shows the direction the project is headed and there are many new things that Moodle users are going to love. I thought I would share some of the features I am most excited about. Continue reading

Embedding VoiceThread in Moodle

My undergraduate class is creating VoiceThreads at the moment and I was looking for a way to embed them into Moodle. While I know you can copy the embed data provided by Voicethread, enter html mode in Moodle, and it will work that way, there exists a more elegant solution.

Step 1: Get the filter. (This needs to be done by a Moodle admin).

VoiceThread has a Moodle filter for this very purpose. You can grab it here. You can also download the zip or tgz directly. Unzip/untar the file into the filters directory under your Moodle folder. Make sure it is the entire VoiceThread folder. I should also note that this filter is for Moodle 1.9 and above.

Make sure the folder goes here.

Make sure the folder goes here.

Step 2: Turn the filter on.

As a Moodle administrator under the Site Administration click on Modules > Filters > Manage Filters. Click on the closed eye next to the Voicethread filter to turn it on. You do not need to worry about the settings at this point. You will only need to change settings in there if you have a VoiceThread sub-site.

The open eye means the filter is active.

The open eye means the filter is active.

Step 3: How to use the filter.

Now you should be ready to embed a VoiceThread into any editable text space. I chose to embed mine into a web page. There are two options for embedding, one for a larger size and one smaller.

  • [[vt:nnnnnn]] – This will embed a larger size
  • [[vtsmall:nnnnnn]] – This will embed a smaller size.

The n’s represent the number of your VoiceThread. This is easy to find. Just click share on your VoiceThread and it will give you a URL. Such as The final number is your VoiceThread number. So [[vt:650591]] would embed this VoiceThread into Moodle.

Remember to use the square brackets

Remember to use the square brackets



While this isn’t as good as a VoiceThread button in the WYSIWYG tools it is better than messing with the HTML. Let me know how it goes.

I am presenting at K12 Online 2009

Alright! Just saw the list of presenters at this years K12 Online Conference and I am one of them. My presentation, OpenSim: Open Learning, will focus on the learning opportunities enabled by the fantastic open source software OpenSimulator. There are also three other Mainers presenting at the conference. Sarah Sutter is doing a session called Show & Tell : Exhibit, Reflect & Critique with blogs, which will surely be as awesome as she is. The Kelly brothers from Newport (Kern and Keith) are doing The iPod Touch in the Classroom and Skateboard respectively. Make sure you check out the rest of the great presentations planned.

Wikipedia Debate from EDT 520

I am currently teaching a group of Master of Arts in Teaching students. The course is Methods of Teaching with Computer Technology. It is a two week course where we explore the latest emerging technologies and discuss ways to integrate them into their future classroom.

Inspired by the Oxford style debate I saw at NECC this year, I decided to do the same in this class. The topic: Wikipedia. They read a few articles provided by me the night before to provide them with a bit of background.

I broke the class into 4 groups of six students. Two groups would argue for the use of Wikipedia and two groups would argue the opposition. This was great as students would certainly be arguing a point of view they dont’ necessarily believe in. Always a good way to learn more about a topic.

The “against Wikipedia” group had their work cut out for them too. A quick poll before the debate using polleverywhere found 82% of the class thought Wikipedia should be used as a research tool in K-12 schools.

If you are interested in the debate, I Ustreamed it. Check it out. The audio isn’t the best, but it is better than nothing.

In the end, the pro Wikipedia group was declared the winner as another poll found 83% for the use of Wikipedia.

This was a great conversation starter as the group discussed the topic in great depth after the debate. Unfortunately, I don’t have a recording of this discussion because the room was too big to capture it at any level of quality. Maybe next time.

By the way, the group that edited the Orono, ME entry to include me, found that someone (not in our class) had the article fixed within 5 minutes. Yay, Wikipedia.

Two great quotes from “The World is Open”

I am currently reading The World Is Open by e-learning guru Curtis J. Bonk. It is a great book so far and am holding comments until I am finished with. However, I had to share a paragraph that hit home with me. It comes from chapter three, E-Demand Around the Globe and he is talking about different online learning opportunities.

Although there are scores on online learning optimists and pioneers, as well as myriad examples of innovative uses to justify such optimism, there are also many who admittedly are more hesitant, reluctant, or resistant about technology’s role in education. Like medieval European sailors who hugged the shoreline and relied on familiar landmarks, many teachers will not give up the lecture, the canned drills, rote instructions, and twenty years of dog-eared lecture notes. In education, our safekeeping selves too often suppress our risk-taking selves. But with such safekeeping comes an earth with a different soft of familiarity, accompanied by redundancy, complacency, and dryness. In a word, boring!

I also have to share another passage from the same chapter. This time is is a quote from Florida Virtual School president and CEO, Julie Young.

Part of my passion as an educator is to help other educators understand how vital it is that we be willing to pioneer withing this new “open” world on behalf of our children. If you think of pioneering days of old in this country, no one would have dreamed of sending children out to forge a trail to the West ahead of their parents. Yet, so many parents and educators today are willing to throw up their hands and say that they just aren’t good at technology or they are just too old to change their way of teaching. That’s the equivalent of sending our kids into a wilderness with no map or compass. We have to be willing to provide the maps and the compass so that when the get out into this new open world of instant access, they will have guideposts, warning signs, and even a moral compass to keep them on a productive path.

Two great points that should be taken to heart by educators everywhere. If you have added The World is Open to your reading list yet, you are missing out on a great book filled with to-the-point commentary on the wealth of learning opportunities out there.

Raw notes: Tuesday Afternoon Session: Ramapo Islands Year 3: No Avatar Left Behind

The last session from today. Phew. That was a lot of typing. Hope you get something out of these. Again, I will be going back through these sessions after NECC09 and reacting and adding a few things.

Ramapo Islands Year 3: No Avatar Left Behind

Peggy Sheehy, Ramapo Central SD

Session Description: Continuing the Suffern Middle School journey in Teen Second Life, this presentation demonstrates concrete examples of projects that support standards-based curriculum and NETS.

session overview

  • rationale
  • second life overview
  • curriculum connections
  • professional development

Need to have the correct lens
-”A milillion computers cannot replace a good teacher”

Think about shifts in culture and learning got her thinking about different ways to approach learning

  • challenge it to figure out what kids need to know and how to do it
  • need collaboration skills
  • mentions warlick, tapscott, jenkins, pink, gardner
  • Dan’s pink book had a big influence on finding new ways to teach

Again – “Not about technology. It changes so quickly.”

Our kids need to ask good questions.

Peggy told a great story about a pigeon that flew in the computer lab windows. She wanted to take a picture so she went to her media desk and had the clerk get a camera out of the closet. By the time she was back, kids already had cell phones out. Cell phone that they aren’t supposed to have on them. The picture she showed of the kids taking pictures of the pigeon made her point beautifully. After this comes my favorite quote of the day, “Connectivity is today’s kids birthright. We need to stop being scared and blocking it.”

Talked about what she called “The shifted learner”

  • basically explaining the progress from student in rows to real project based learning

Peggy was at some conference talking with people at nasa and they say they need employees that understand the relationship between abstract ideas and reality. She then explained a thought game.

  • You have three lightbulbs hooked to three switches. There is a wall between them. You need to see which switch turns on what light and you can only walk around the walk once. Can you answer it?
  • Highlight after here for the answer: Turn one on, wait, turn on another, walk around. One is hot, that is the first switch. The other one the cool bulb. The third is one turned off.
  • She asks, is abstract thought taught in the classroom? Isn’t that one of the best tools we can give students?

Mentions Disrupting Class as another big influence

  • disruptive innovation
  • extrinsic and intrinsic motication
  • computer based learning
  • playful
  • billions have been spent and not much changed
    • “we have taken new tools and applied them to old educational paradigms”
      • we need a true shift. truly make learning change
      • REALLY move away from sage on the stage

To make the shift

  • what will teachers let go?
  • when will admins start trusting their teachers?

Intros Second life

  • supports constructivist learning
  • participatory culture
  • conveys a sense of presence
  • harness lots of different types of technology
  • require students to participate
  • students are engaged
  • engages problem solving in context
  • Your world. You build it.

SL for educators

  • a supplement to face to face
  • extended learning
  • introduce and explore concepts
  • demonstrate mastery and create new meaning
  • “Over 13,000,000 residents. How can we ignore that?” -David Warlick

Purchasing and Island

  • 16 acres o virtual space
  • secure “intranet”space
  • or open and public
  • $700 one time + 147.50 monthly

Main Grid = Adult place – Not Xrated place. There is a difference. X rated content is on its own continent. Have to seek our x rated content, you won’t find it by accident.
Teen Second Life = 13-17

  • press got on the adult content. educators have to fight stigma of this.
  • made the point that the Teen Grid is for Teens. Adults are there as guests. IT IS FOR TEENS.

Safety and security on ramapo islands

  • private islands
  • adults have rigorous background check
  • no access to TG residents or content
  • constant adult supervision
  • have a security sript in place to allow kids onto the islands only when adults are there
    • equates it to a lunch room without supervision
    • she open it up at night and that seems to be when the most creative things happen

Teachers learned SL by getting on the Main grid and learning there

  • 45 teachers have gone through her main course to get up to speed to delivering learning and tie to curiculum

First brought a group of 9 students that were labeled as learning diabled, etc.

  • called them peer leaders
    • in hind sight this was probably the best things she could have done.
  • empowered these students in ways that they weren’t before


  • nasa contributed content to them
  • weather center
  • catastrophic events
  • ecology debates
  • nasa rockets
  • noticed it leveled the playing field

Family and Consumer Science

  • entrepeneur reseach, interviews, business proposlas,
  • kids started telling teachers ow to teach them
    • they started adding rigor themselves
    • got them engaged in improving because they wanted to run their own business


  • modeling math objects
  • add notecards describing explainations
  • then students started to increase it
    • students would include a problem with the model and if others solved it they would give them a dollar
  • math teacher wanted to go to store and have them buy things
    • gave them $100 and had to buy things and still have enough left over
      • planning, buying, saving, study % off
    • students started just buying things they wanted and out of money quickly
      • they started a back channel chat and started trading
    • great way to learn financial literacies

Social Studies

  • rebuilt ellis island
  • She then asked the kids what they could have done better
  • students told teachers that they should have role-played
  • students were completely involved and immersed
  • students developed empathy due to changing roles and understanding immigrants and officers though role-play

Health and Wellness

  • showed dove real campaign to students as a starting point
  • had students create representations of themselves
  • talked about how the media lies to us about what people look like and encouraged them to think about it
  • students did what media does and dolled up avatars
  • great conversations and deep discussions
  • changed gender roles
  • then switched back and students realize the pressure that is on them
  • Middle schooler “Maybe we should reevaluate what beuaty is.”
  • my thoughts- Peggy is really doing a fantastic job here. VERY powerful presentation. My notes do not do it justice.

Multimedia Island

  • Music studio
  • soundstage
  • wrote and sell music

Foreign Language

  • cultural investigations
  • voice immersion
  • authentic artifacts
  • shared experience

This year, student are designing the curriculum. Students designed experiences. Students were able to collaborate with their research on the planets. Had discussions on how to place planets correctly and what to include for an effective experience for other students.

When students act in the avatars identity (which it part of theirs) it allows students to participate in a safe and profound way.

Students are motivated like no time before.

Mentions What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee.

  • SL allows users to explore alternate identities withough repercussions.
  • The fact students identify under the SL avatar allows them to open up more then in face to face.

Places to go and atlantis rising campus (a Sheehy project)

LL Lab is looking to make a better way to get teachers in to sl

Ramapo Island Blog

Here are her slides:


View more documents from PeggySheehy.

Announcing the UMaine OpenSim Project

As many of you know I am involved with Educational Games and Simulations, including Second Life. The College of Education owns virtual space (Black Bear Island) on the Second Life Grid. This space has been used to teach EDT598 Teaching and Learning in Second Life as well as operated as a meeting area for Maine educators.

Today, I am announcing the start of the UMaine OpenSim Project. Its aim is to study the use of the Open Source 3D Application server, OpenSimulator. The goal is to provide a private virtual space for teaching and learning. When I say private, I mean the creation of our own Grid. A Grid that we control from top to bottom and can expand as we see fit. If that doesn’t make much sense to you, I encourage you to follow this blog or even sign up for the Teaching and Learning in Second Life course in the summer of 2009.

This project is not meant to replace the work already going on in Second Life. It is meant to compliment it. We plan to keep Black Bear Island going for the forseeable future and even plan to expand our in-world presence. However, that doesn’t mean that all our eggs should be in one basket.

To get people started, I have started a wiki for the project. You can access it at Eventually, everything you will need to know will be there. There is still a lot of work to do, but it is a start.

I should also say that this is meant as a research project. We make no promises to the stability or security of the system. However, if you want to be on the cutting edge of virtual worlds, then this project is or you.

If you want to get involved, you should send me an email to get an avatar name and sign in. I am limiting accounts to people who have some experience in SL as it isn’t ready for prime time yet. Hopefully, in the future we will be able to open it up for more people and spread the project to more people. I don’t want to do that without studying the platform, which is what this project is about.

There is’t much on the main island yet. Since it isn’t attached to the Second Life grid, all objects have to be created by users. This is where you come in. Hopefully, this will be a group effort. If you love building, then please get involved. We need “stuff.”

I will be blogging about this project in the coming months. Stay tuned. Think this is too good to be true? Well, here is a pic. Notice the name above my avatars head. That isn’t a Linden assigned name.

ATM Replacement

If you hadn’t heard, the ATM system is not going be around after June 30th, 2009. This really wasn’t a surprise as the contracts to support the system were up. We have a bunch of people at the college using ATM to deliver courses, so we need to have another way to deliver content.

I think most people have accepted online asynchronous courses as a valid way to teach, however, they still want face to face instruction. ATM, even with it’s technical problems, provided somewhat of a face to face environment.

I am looking at a few options to “replace” ATM. One I think has potential is Dimdim. I really don’t want to use the words web conference to refer to it because that usually brings up negative connotations. Lots of people have sat in a WebEx session while bored to tears. My initial reaction to Dimdim is very positive and it could very well be the direction I decide to go for providing faculty with a partial replacement for ATM.

Some of the features I like:

  • Great Moodle integration. The module doesn’t just link to their service. Anyone could do that. Their module can control of the the settings to set up a meeting. That makes things way easier to get technophobes on board.
  • No installs required. If they have flash install they are good to go. In the YouTube era, everyone has flash installed.
  • Built on Open Source. They even have an Open Source version you can use. If you know me, that is pretty rad.
  • You can share your Desktop with the group. Great for times when you need to show something specific to your class.
  • Can share presentations and whiteboard with the attendees.
  • Easily broadcast video to the group. Can change the camera to any of the attendees.

I don’t see this being the sole way to deliver content though. Only because it doesn’t completely replace the wealth of learning activities available through online learning environments like Moodle. However, it does give a face to the teacher and allows some kind of meeting area for real-time discussion. I will keep you updated on what I decide to do.