Using Plugins and Add-ons for Mahara

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Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

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Over 50 recipes for using Mahara for training, personal, or educational purposes

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by Ellen Marie Murphy | September 2011 | e-Learning Open Source

In this article by Ellen Marie Murphy, author of Mahara 1.4 Cookbook, we will examine a few of the many plugins and add-ons available for Mahara. These will need to be installed on the server and then configured from the Administration page.

Specifically, we will cover:

  • Adding a spreadsheet and chart using Google apps
  • Using Embed.ly to add a Google map
  • Adding the Facebook Like button to a page
  • Adding the Twitter Tweet button to a page
  • The Continuing Professional Development artifact

 

(For more resources on Mahara, see here.)

 

Information about the various add-ons and plugins is available on the Mahara.org site. You can access some of the plugins, as well as information on how to install and use them, at http://wiki.mahara.org/Plugins.

 

Adding a spreadsheet and chart using Google apps

In this recipe, we will create a spreadsheet using Google Docs, and then, we will use the Google Apps block to add the spreadsheet to a page.

Google Apps is now a standard block in Mahara, rather than a plugin.

Getting ready

Go to http://www.google.com. Across the upper left-hand portion of the page, you will see a small menu of options. Click the small arrow next to the word more to expand a menu of options. From the menu, select Documents.

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

If you already have a Google account, sign in; if not, then click the link to Create an account now and complete the information form to open an account. Google accounts are free.

How to do it...

  1. Once you are at your Google Docs page, click the button labeled Create new and then the option Spreadsheet.
  2. Before working, go to the File menu and select Save.
  3. In the small window that opens, you will see a space to put the title of this document. After typing in the title, click OK. Google will now automatically save your document as you work.
  4. Begin building your spreadsheet.
  5. To publish the document, click on the small arrow in the upper right-hand corner, then select Publish as a web page.

    Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

    Publishing a document as a web page allows those who have the link to the published page to see it. It does not give them permission to edit it, and it does not allow the general public to see it.

  6. In the Sheets to publish area, use the drop-down menu to select which sheets in the spreadsheet you would like to publish. If you’ve only used the first sheet, or you wish to publish all the sheets in this particular spreadsheet, then you can leave the default setting of All sheets.
  7. Leave the option Automatically republish when changes are made checked.
  8. Click the button to Start publishing.
  9. In the area labeled Get a link to the published data, leave the drop-down menus set to their defaults. Below them you will see a URL that begins with https. Highlight and copy that URL.
  10. Log in to Mahara and go to the Pages area of your Portfolio.
  11. Open the page you want to embed your Google spreadsheet into, and then click the Edit option in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
  12. From the Files, images and video tab, click and drag a Google Apps block into the area where you wish to add the spreadsheet.
  13. In the Block Title, type the name of the spreadsheet.
  14. In the box labeled Embed code or URL, past the URL you copied in step 9.
  15. For now, you can leave the default settings for Width and Height, as you can always change them later.
  16. Click on Save.

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

How it works...

As you update the spreadsheet in Google Documents, the spreadsheet displayed in your Mahara page will automatically update as well. At the bottom of the spreadsheet, in Mahara, there is a link to Edit this page. When the link is selected, a new window will open and the user will be asked to sign in to their Google account. If you have not given them access to the page, they will not be able to view the Google Docs page. If you have given them access to view, but not to edit, then they will be able to see the document in Google Docs, but they will not be able to edit it.

There's more...

There are two types of permissions in Google Docs. In the main recipe, we looked at the permission setting that allows for publication, but Google Docs also has a setting that controls who can view and edit a document. Changing this setting, which by default is “private”, can provide more functionality to your embedded Google Doc.

Giving others the ability to view and/or edit the spreadsheet in Google Docs

  1. Log into your Google account and open your spreadsheet.
  2. Click the Share button in the upper right-hand corner.
  3. A Sharing settings window will open. In the area for Permissions, you see will the current setting for this document. By default, it is set to Private. You have two options: one allows you to provide general viewing and editing permissions; the other allows you to identify specific individuals you’d like to grant permissions to (they will have to log in before they are able to access the spreadsheet).
  4. To allow others to view the document without logging in, click the Change link.
  5. Click in the bubble next to the visibility option you would like to set.
  6. If you select anything other than Private, you will be given the option to Allow anyone to edit the document. Technically, only individuals that can see the document will be able to edit it. If you wish to grant that access, then select that option as well.
  7. Click on Save.
  8. If you wish to give permissions to specific individuals only, then skip steps 4-7.
  9. Click in the textbox under Add people.
  10. The area will expand. In the Add people box, type the e-mail addresses of the individuals whom you will be sharing this document with.
  11. From the drop-down menu, select whether you will give permission to edit or only to view.
  12. In the textbox for personal message, type a small e-mail message letting them know they now have access to the page.
  13. Click Share.

 

Using Embed.ly to add a Google map

The Embed.ly block makes it possible for you to embed all kinds of media into a Mahara page. There are over 200 media services that work with the Embed.ly block. A list of these can be found at http://api.embed.ly/. In this recipe, we will use Embed.ly to add a Google Map to a page. The exercise will provide information that will be useful, whether you wish to embed a Google map or any of the other services available through Embed.ly.

Getting ready

You will need to open three windows (or tabs) in your browser. One window needs to be opened to your account in Mahara, the other to Google maps (http://maps.google.com), and the third to Embed.ly (http://api.embed.ly/).

How to do it...

We’ll start with Embed.ly:

  1. Go to the Embed.ly page listed previously.
  2. Scroll down to the list of Services available through Embed.ly and click on the one labeled Google Maps.
  3. A small window will open that displays the format of Google Map URLs that will work with Embed.ly. Make note of the format—see the following screenshot:

    Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

    The * in the URL patterns for Embed.ly are a type of placeholder, that is, they represent URL content that will be specific to the item you will be embedding. The other characters in the URL pattern are very specific and must be matched exactly.

  4. Go to the Google Maps window.
  5. In the search box, type the location you wish to get a map of and click on the Search Maps button.
  6. In the upper right-hand corner of the map, you will see three words Print, Save, and Link. Click on Link.
  7. A window will open with the URL for the map highlighted. Copy the link.

    (Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)

    Notice that the URL has a format that Embed.ly had identified as an acceptable URL format. It begins with http://maps.google.com/maps?. After the ?, there are a number of letters and symbols. These characters are in the location that the * was in. This is a proper format for Embed.ly.

  8. Go to Mahara and open the page to which you wish to add the Google Map.
  9. Click the option to Edit the page.
  10. From the External feeds tab, click and drag the Embed.ly block into the area of the page where you wish to add the map.
  11. Change the Block Title to the name of the location displayed in the map.
  12. In the field for Content URL, paste the URL you copied on the Google Maps page.
  13. For Google Maps, do not check the Show Description? box (it displays an ad for Google Maps)
  14. The Width should be set according to the size of the column you’re using for this map. You can always go back and change the size, so begin with setting the Width to 300.
  15. You don’t need to set the Height as the Embed.ly block will display the content proportionately.
  16. Click on Save.

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

 

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook Over 50 recipes for using Mahara for training, personal, or educational purposes
Published: September 2011
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

 

(For more resources on Mahara, see here.)

 

Adding the Facebook Like button to a page

Another useful plugin is the Facebook Like button. In this recipe, we will add it to our profile page; however, it can be added to any page in Mahara.

How to do it...

  1. Click on the Portfolio tab and then on Pages.
  2. Click on the Profile Page to open it, then click the Edit option in the upper right-hand corner.
  3. From the General tab, click and drag the Facebook Like block into your Profile page.
  4. Beneath the Block Title is the option to Show Block Title?; leave that unchecked.
  5. Select your preference from the drop-down menu for Layout Style.

    Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

  6. Select your preference from the drop-down menu for Verb to display.
  7. For the Color Scheme option, select Light if the background of your Profile page is dark; select Dark if the background of your Profile page is light.
  8. Click on Save.

How it works...

When a visitor clicks the Like button, they will be asked to log into their Facebook account (unless they are already logged in). Their Facebook feed will indicate that they “Liked” your page and a link to the page will be included in the feed. Your page will automatically add their click to the counter associated with your Like button.

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

 

Adding the Twitter tweet button to a page

The Twitter Tweet block provides viewers with the ability to tweet about your page, right from your page. The tweet will include a link back to your page, which can increase the number of individuals who see your page. In this recipe, we will add a Twitter Tweet button to a page. You do not need a Twitter account to add this feature. However, individuals who click the Tweet button will need to have a Twitter account in order to send the tweet.

Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

How to do it...

  1. Open the page you wish to add the Tweet button to. Then click Edit in the upper right-hand corner so that you can begin editing the page.
  2. From the General tab, click and drag a Twitter Tweet block into your page, where you would like to add the button.
  3. You can leave the Block Title as is, but do not check Show Block Title?.
  4. From the drop-down menu for Layout Style, decide whether you would like a counter and, if so, how you would like that to display.
  5. In the Tweet Text box, you can add text that will automatically be included in tweets sent from your page (such as a hashtag). All tweets will contain the URL for your page as well as the title of the page, without exception.
  6. Select your option for the Alignment of the button. This will place the button either to the left, right, or middle of the block.
  7. Click on Save.

How it works...

When an individual clicks the Tweet button, a small Twitter window will open asking the individual to log into their Twitter account (unless they are already logged in). Once they sign in, a tweet window will open containing the name of your page and a shortened URL for the page. The individual needs only to click the Tweet button on this page and the tweet will be posted to their Twitter account. The counter on your page will increase by one.

 

The Continuing Professional Development artifact

Some professions require documentation of ongoing professional development. An add-on for building an artifact of professional development is available for download at https://github.com/geoffrowland/mahara-artefact_cpds.

This add-on creates a new tab in the Content area of your portfolio. It is labeled CPD. It also creates a new block in Pages. In this recipe, we’ll learn how to create a CPD artifact and how to add it to a page. The CPD artifact can be created in a number of different ways, for example, you could create CPD categories (workshops, courses, and so on), or you could simply create one CPD and list each item individually. In this recipe, we are going to create categories. Below is an example of what this might look like:

Your Mahara administrator will have to install the add-on and configure Mahara before you will be able to use this. It is not part of the standard 1.4 package.

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How to do it...

  1. Select the Content tab and then the tab labeled CPD.
  2. Click the New CPD button.
  3. In the Title field, type the category for a group of activities associated with your professional development. In our example, we will begin with Workshops.
  4. The Description is optional.
  5. Click Save CPD.
  6. You can now begin to add your professional activities to this category. To do so, click the New activity option.
  7. There are three fields that are required: Activity, Location, and Start date; the others are optional. However, the more information you enter here, the more complete a record you will have. Note that the field for Hours only accepts up to one decimal place and the field will display in a page even if you do not enter anything here. Enter your information.

    Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

  8. Click Save activity.
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 until you’ve added all that activities for this category. You can continue adding to this, even after you've added it to a page; so, this can be an ongoing record.
  10. To create another category and begin adding activities to it, click the CPD tab. Repeat steps 2-8.

Next, we’ll add this to a page:

  1. Go to the Pages section of the Portfolio tab and click to open the page you wish to edit (the page to which you wish to add your CPD artifact).
  2. From the General tab, click and drag the Your CPD block into the area of the page you wish to add the list.

    Mahara 1.4 Cookbook

  3. The Configure window will open. If you wish to give this block a specific title, click the small link labeled Set a block title; otherwise, the title will be the name of the CPD list you select to display.
  4. Select the small bubble next to the CPD list you wish to display. Note that you can only add the categories one at a time.
  5. Click on Save.
  6. If you wish to add another CPD list, repeat steps 12-15.

How it works...

Each CPD will display in a table. If you have added descriptions of the activities, the Titles of the activities will become expandable links (when clicked, the area will expand revealing the descriptions). In the column labeled Hours, you will see the time you indicated when you created the item and Mahara will automatically total the column. If no time was entered, then a zero will appear in that column.

Additional activities will need to be added in the CPD area of the Content tab, and will automatically be reflected in any pages to which the category was added.

Summary

In this article we took a look at some of the plugins and add-ons available for Mahara.



Mahara 1.4 Cookbook Over 50 recipes for using Mahara for training, personal, or educational purposes
Published: September 2011
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Ellen Marie Murphy

Ellen is a learning technologies specialist and educator with over 16 years of experience. She is an avid proponent of open source software, and tends to be an early adopter. Her first Moodle and Mahara implementations were during her tenure at The Sage Colleges, where she was employed as Director of Instructional Technologies. Currently the Director of Learning Technologies and Online Education at Plymouth State University, and the Higher Education Liaison to the New Hampshire Society for Technology in Education, she remains actively engaged with all levels of education: K-20.

In 1998, while teaching at a middle school in Vermont, she was introduced to the concept of ePortfolios and has strongly supported the use of ePortfolios in teaching and learning since. She recently hosted a Statewide K-20 ePortfolio Day and hopes to make it an annual event.

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