The Teaching and Learning Centre here at the University of Canberra, facilitated a valuable introduction in the form of David Jones, working with Central Queensland University on a feed aggregation and marking tool for Moodle called BIM, and researching academic staff development for improved teaching practices.
David gave a presentation on the current features and future directions of BIM. Without a doubt, this add on to Moodle will greatly assist teachers trying to use blogs with large cohorts of students, and trying to fit that teaching and learning practice in to existing paradigms of assessment and administration through Moodle.
Essentially, the current version aggregates feeds submitted by students or added by teachers, and automatically matches a post to an assignment based on same words used in their titles. The BIM makes a copy of the student's blog post, lists it in a schedule for marking - along with other information such as who hasn't posted on the assignment yet, for the assessor to go through and add feedback and marks within the Moodle structure.
Future development plans for David (and anyone who wishes to collaborate with him on this Moodle development) is for aggegated feed display features that will help to encourage interation between students. Things like tag clouds, snippets, and links to active discussions might be developed - helping Moodle to match some of the features of its possible rival in Wordpress Multi User... depending on future development add-ons being developed by Wordpress' educational user base.
I asked the obvious question of why, or if BIM might consider developing outside the framework of Moodle say, as a Firefox based or other Feed Reader plug in, and offering a file that can be imported to Moodle (as well as a spreadsheet, a MediaWiki table, a Wikispaces Table, MySQL database, a text document and a PDF to email), and thereby offering the functionality of BIM to a wider user base than just Moodle. David explained that the project was constrained in many ways to the needs of the sponsoring Institution, and that triggered an interesting (I thought) discussion about such institutional constraints and their apparent impact on more lateral, some might say, socially engaged and relevant development projects not to mention impact on defining teacher practices and academic development and support.
Defense comments regarding Moodle go usually along the lines of "this is not a do everything tool, but one in an array of tools.." yet so many of our development and support efforts don't seem to reflect that stance. Take an already very useful Moodle add-on like BIM, and rethink the constraints on its development. How could we achieve the functionality we need for Moodle, but in such a way that compliments an array of other ways of doing things, and possibly leads us into that more lateral development and practitioner culture, engaged with wider more socially engaged (as apposed to educational institution engaged) projects like Mozilla, MediaWiki and Google...?
David, if/when you read this, it was great to meet you and I'll be following your research work with interest. Could you record a screencast on the feature of BIM and load it to Youtube?.. I did a quick search and couldn't find anything, and I'm sure a number of people will be very keen to gat an inside look. I did find your Slideshare though.