FDT documents

This is the documentation area for Feel Do Think.

Each of the four category pages has an intro which tells you more of what they are about. I’m going to add to each of them as I find and sort through my materials. In short, they are:

  1. FORK - is about the philosophy of communications technology from Odoevsky (1803 - 1869) to Stiegler (1952 - 2020)
  2. NOTE TAKING - is about ways of recording ideas, with some advice on studying and the writing process.
  3. MOODLE - is about the Virtual Learning Environment and the community around that open source project.
  4. Language-Edtech - is about EAP (English for Academic Purposes), with a focus on the effects of LLMs (Large Language Models)

Subsections of FDT documents

Chapter 1

Fork

Thomas Moynihan describes Odoevsky as “one of the few to sense the complex entanglement of forecasting, mechanization and risk escalation”.1


  1. Moynihan, T. (2021). The interesting case of Prince Vladimir Odoevsky and his speculations on civilization’s trajectories: Early thoughts on omnicide, lunar prospecting, geoengineering, world government & planetary defense. Futures, 129, 102732. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2021.102732 ↩︎

Subsections of Fork

keeping a record as you go

The Stiegler concept of “Bifurcation” suits the interest of this site in non-linearity. It comes from the Borges short story of the Garden of the Forking Paths. (“El jardin de los senderos que se bifurcan”) The characters thought that there ought to be a narrative, but in fact there was instead a mysterious space where time itself branched out in unseen ways.

Bifurcations happen when somebody makes a choice about what to do.

This idea appears in a famous poem by Robert Frost The Road Not Taken written in 1915. There’s a collective version of it in the final chapter of the ecological milestone “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson (published 1962) which explicitly borrows from his “familiar poem”:

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road— the one ’less traveled by’— offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth.

Chapter 2

Note Taking

This section is motivated by an idea of education as it might be in the future… where the main training people receive is in imagination and critical thinking.

How can teachers foster these qualities?

A new kind of writing activity will be part of it, which combines processes of research and thinking. This will be documented in notes which evolve, but allow the reader to trace all the steps of their evolution.

Subsections of Note Taking

themes for Hugo

I liked some of the Hugo themes first, like Juice Bar and Nightfall. But then I started to think that a learner probably should begin without a theme, just using the defaults from the Hugo framework. Today I’m following the instructions in this series of tutorials. Later I made a site with the nightfall theme, but by the end of September I will switch to “relearn”…

back home

I plan to blog more regularly now as a way of tying together all the bits of this project “feel do think”. I’m in the process of learning to use the Hugo framework as a way of turning notes into pages on a static site. Supposedly a big advantage for the “non-linear” nature of this site is the ability of this system to create custom taxonomies for showing the connections between posts.

Chapter 3

Moodle

A lot of people are familiar with Moodle because they have been students in institutions that use it as a “learning environment”. The most common misconception about it, is that it is some kind of centralised platform belonging to a single organisation. The reality is much more interesting, and more inspiring…

Subsections of Moodle

setting up a moodle site

aims of the site

This description is about a new installation of the latest moodle (4.2.2) at johnkuti.net . The site is going to be aimed at Russian-speaking users interested in methodology for online teaching and helping teachers to use moodle. I want the site to have open access to courses for visitors, although they will need to register to interact with the materials, post to forums, see profiles of other users and suchlike. Registered users should also be able to increase their involvement by getting the right to request courses and see materials that are hidden because they are still in development.

before installing

For reference, I’m going to list the steps in setting up the site here:

  1. in the server add the extension “sodium” in php, this is something to do with passwords and security. Everything else I needed was included by my hosting service by default. The version of php is going to be 8.1

installation

I am not going to cover this here. How you do this will depend on each server. Many hosting plans offer a service that will carry out the installation automatically, such as installatron or softaculous. I think these usually offer the latest official release of the program. There’s an argument that it is preferable to download the latest stable version which is offered prominently on the downloads page.

after installation

(To have a fully functioning site you need to set up a cron job which runs cron.php once a minute. Again the way to do this is going to depend on the characteristics of each server.) 2. install the language pack for Russian, I want that to be the default language of the site. This in in the section general > Language> Language packs, where there is a special installer. 3. in site administration > general > language settings I put the new language as default for the site. 4. I’m starting with the default theme “boost”, but I always find it reassuring to put my little green spiral in place as a “favicon” that’s the little symbol that appears on a browser tab or the favourite links in your browser. You can add this, and bigger versions of your logo for webpages in the “Logos” page at Site Administration > Appearance > Logos.

uploading and restoring courses from old back-ups

  1. Prepare for uploading your backups by doing these two steps: (a) Work in the Site Administration page at courses» Manage courses and categories. It is convenient to create a structure of categories and sub-categories for courses. For example on my site there are going to be three main categories: “pedagogical” (or learning) design, English for academic purposes, and courses for teachers using moodle. (b) install any extra plug-ins that were used to make the courses. In my case this means “Hot Potatoes” for making interactive practice exercises. This should be done before restoring any courses with Hot Pot exercises in them.

  2. uploading courses in the moodle backup format which I had saved from my previous installation. This is done on the “restore course” page in administration. Don’t be confused by the upload courses page, which is for uploading a csv file with names of large numbers of courses. To “restore” a course you need the backup file with mbz extension… which hopefully will contain all of the content for your saved course. I’m uploading to an empty site so my only option is “restore to a new course”. At this point you can choose the category you want the course to appear in, and the start date. Both of these points can easily be changed later.

improvements to the home page

  1. Using the “settings” tab on the front page, I change the way courses are shown. I want a user who is not logged in to see the list of categories and also the site announcements forum. This will change to the “combo list” for users who are logged in.
    This means that a visitor to the site can choose a category that interests them, and then they will go to another page with details of the courses in that category.

With the home page in edit mode a section on the right appears where you can “add a block”. Here I add the “latest announcements forum” which will allow me to put out news in a forum.

To make a “hero” space for general explanations, I choose “add an activity or resource” in the central area and add a “text and media area”.

a special role for members of staff

I usually create single sites that can be used both by students and also as a place for members of staff or collaborators to work on new courses. There is a site role for people who have the right to create new courses: “course creator”. But I think it’s better to have some kind of central oversight over this process, so I like to give staff a right to request a course… and there’s a specific permission to do this as described in the documentation. The documentation states that you need to take away the permission from ordinary “authenticated users”, however I don’t think it’s correct that this permission is given by default…so here is how to achieve step 8:

8. create a “member of staff” role:

a. go to site administration > users > Permissions > Define roles and click on the button “add a new role”.
b. choose “authenticated user” in the “role or archetype” box.
c. give a name to the role…in my case it’s going to be “научный сотрудник”, the short name has to be in Latin letters so make it: naucnyjsotrudnik
d. edit the role by adding these permissions:

moodle/course:request
moodle/category:viewhiddencategories
moodle/course:viewhiddencourses

giving maximum access to the site and to courses

I want visitors to the site to see as much as possible of the materials without having to register. However, I also want to encourage a deeper engagement, so there should be a possibility to self-authenticate in the site using email. This will be allowed with a “captcha” to cut down on spam:

  1. open the site to search. In general>site security settings> I flag yes to “open the site to search”

follow the instructions to enable guest access.

  1. visitors to the site will be able to authenticate themselves using email. There are good instructions for this in the moodle documents. The Captcha system I am using is v2 invisible available from google here: https://www.google.com/recaptcha

Once users are authenticated in the course they will be able to enrol as students in courses. This allows them to participate in activities and get grades etc… So for each course in participants > enrolment methods I open the “guest access” and the “Self enrolment (student)” options.

security and data

In site admin > users / privacy and policies – change the policy handler from the default (core) to Policies (tool policy). After you have saved the change, a new section appears called “manage policies”. I’m also adding an age requirement in the “privacy settings”. Fill in the data registry at Site administration > Users > Privacy and policies > Data registry

Chapter 4

Language Edtech

At some point in late 2022 teachers of “English for Academic Purposes” realised that the new large language models were able to automate practically everything that we had been teaching students to do.

Subsections of Language Edtech

twee

in this video about twee, David Read demonstrates the process of creating materials about “pub culture in the UK”.


The steps are quite sensible from the point of view of materials development:

  1. begin with a topic, and you can select a level of proficiency in order to grade the language.
  2. list some items of target vocabulary connected with the topic
  3. the “AI” generates text of the appropriate level where the target vocabulary can be highlighted.
  4. go on to produce practice exercises and tasks that use the same target vocabulary.

My observations on this:

  • the general workflow in twee corresponds well to the steps you would follow as a materials writer and certainly speeds up the process.
  • the language model doesn’t actually understand the data it is manipulating. Therefore you can get some mistakes or confusing ideas like the example phrase (from the materials in the video):

I prefer to drink lager rather than beer

  • the above kind of artifacts of the algorithm suggest that you would still need a person with a good understanding of English and the topic in order to proof-read everything. In the above example we could change the sentence to:

I prefer to drink lager rather than ale
We might add the note that the word “bitter” has fallen into disuse. Wikipedia describes bitter as an English style of pale ale