Category: 1. Moodle

Resources and writings about Moodle

What I learned in 2011

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My big(gest) lessons and reminders of 2011:

The importance of doing what you love doing in your career.

I never have or will regret joining Moodle HQ but I never have or will regret leaving Moodle HQ this year either. Thank you Martin & Moodle HQ. I love Moodle and its community but I am really happy to be a Moodle volunteer again and get paid (less) to work with teens that I dare say majority of teaching colleagues would not want to see in their class.

The importance of expectations.

You don’t significantly change or disrupt status quo by doing more of the same (way) but harder. Changing expectations shifts things dramatically.

Picture the expectations of a kid (and his surrounds) who has been told, overtly and covertly by the system of mainstream schooling, that most he can aspire to be is a dumb poor loser with some dead-end job as his only option (like many in his family). Suddenly, he completes a great project in the field he is passionate about. He is told, for the first time in his life, that a local university is offering courses in that field, and that, on the basis of things shown and in all sincerety,  going to uni and/or getting a well paid, challenging job in the industry is a realistic option for him in a couple of years if he puts in the effort. I saw the reaction of this kid and his parents. And it gives me tingles as I write this.

The value of Big Picture.

Big Picture is not a panacea for all our educational ills. It also isn’t for every kid out there. It requires a special kind of educator to really ‘get it’ too. But from what I have seen, learned and experienced this year after working in a Big Picture school and seeing some great work of kids and colleagues in BP schools around the country and the world, it is an approach, a state of mind rather, that truly empowers.

‘School’ is deeply ingrained in our societal DNA

It is soooo damn hard to ‘forget’ what ‘school’ looks like and does. In a ‘school’ you learn to play the game (usually called ‘what does the teacher or test want me to say’) then pass … and largely forget. There is a teacher, the knower, and a bunch of students who need to be ‘taught’ stuff prescribed by often someone else and contextually remote. You need a grade to show how much you are worth. Above all – you don’t ask (tough) questions. Things like: ‘What are we doing this for?’ And if kids don’t learn, the teacher says ‘I taught them that but they didn’t learn it’ (akin to a realtor saying ‘I sold them the house but they didn’t buy it’ …).

No wonder it takes us a very long time at our school (yes, we are one, but a Big Picture one) for kids and parents to come to terms with statement/questions like: “What are you passionate about?”, “What is worth learning?”, “No, I am NOT going to tell you what to do next, but I am happy to figure it out WITH you.” “You (student) know more about this (topic) than me (teacher) already so I am going to learn with you.” Crazy stuff huh? Or is it? Ask yourself why (not).

The value of networks

You have no idea how grateful I am of my, well our, network. This goes particularly when I see you from around the planet interacting with kids at our school, kids who, in most cases, have barely left their suburb all their life. Things like comments to ‘John’s’ motorbike website or ‘Billy’s’ ‘World Of Drugs‘ wiki project (one I am hugely excited and hopeful about in 2012) are small but priceless.

Every comment here on Human, every @ reply on Twitter, every *Like* on Facebook, every email, Skype call, shared document or other interaction reinforces my liking for Stephen Heppel’s observation: Previous century was about making stuff FOR many people. This century is about helping people help each other.

and finally … drumroll …

Watching students flourish in front of my eyes in moments during the year and particularly during their Big Picture exhibitions reminds me why I want(ed) to work in education: not to be “the knower” in some field and bang on about it as if it were the most important thing in the world but watch and help others becoming knowers (of) themselves in the fields they chose and share.

PS. If I don’t post anything before Christmas/New Year it probably means I am playing with my own kids and enjoying a bit of holidays. But I do check in here and Twitter …

Have a peaceful Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Kiss your kids and loved ones and tell them you love them. Often. And mean it.

Great Moot but …

#mootau11 collage
A memorable moot !

Quick slideshow…

This is what I tweeted at the end of 2011 Australian Moodle Moot 2011:

To sum up #mootau11: We flew First Class! Thank you @ns_allanc [Allan Christie] and @netspot crew.

It was truly wonderful.  Great ideas, great people, great venue, great organisation, great community vibe. It was a three day Moodle love-in.

Highlights – meeting soooo many people I have net-known for a while but we have never crossed paths in person (Mary Cooch, Helen Foster, Geoff Young, Nigel Mitchell, Shannon Johnston, Nathan Hutchings, Michael Woods, Claire Brooks, Jon Powles … to name just a few!!!), working collaboratively with the one and only Sarah Thorneycroft on the game-based learning stuff, sitting in some very cool sessions and speakers, watching Martin strut his stuff on the dance floor, toughing it out with four fellow moodlers at the inaugural MoodleMoot jog on a wet, cold and windy morning, doing the Baywatch slo-mo impersonations with the indomitable Louisa ‘Buzz’ Wright … and so much more!

Mark Drechsler has posted a few reflective posts day by day and I invite to you to head over for a great rundown with added personal reflection of a team member who has worked very hard to make this moot such a success.

But it made me a bit … sad, too.

Sad because ideas like:

  • Give students a course to create and demonstrate what they can do and care about.
  • Give students the power (and associated responsibility!) to edit and become co-creators in a course/parts of you run.
  • In staff PD, get reluctant teachers to come up with examples of use of a tool as a buy-in before they learn how to set it up.
  • Pique curiosity with quest(ions), interesting challenges for staff or students to complete and build-in some feedback as they go along (game-based learning).
  • Don’t spoonfeed – teach how to think not how to do the new tool.
  • “You never know more than the people you train.” – be humble and listen, value, adjust.
  • Get the audience to contribute their ideas via real-time editable doc and use, build on those.
  • Instead of building new ‘portals’ for content to hoard and lock down – open up and build networks instead with a few simple, existing tools and invest in people instead.
  • Make your assessment match the conditions of the ‘real world’, make it as authentic and relevant as possible.
  • and more …

were met with ‘wow’ and gushing tweets how ‘fantastic’ and ‘innovative’ that was to hear and see. Yeah sure, these are all great things. But why aren’t they as common as dirt? They are hardly new or revolutionary – arguably, they have been around for millennia in different contexts.

It is truly sad to see ‘tighter submission of assignments’, ‘improved procedures for protecting content’, ‘better tracking capabilities’, ‘faster delivery of content’ (whatever that means …), ‘building content portals’ etc. becoming so pressing yet normalised concerns and ideas.

It is equally, if not more, sad that things that we as species are so intuitively damn good at, such as ‘working out a problem’ and ‘challenging ourselves’ and ‘being curios’ and ‘wanting to be involved’ and ‘valuing listening’ seen as some incredibly smart, ‘progressive’, bleeding-edge notions?

Hey, some folks are making a mozza on speaking circuit peddling the obvious…if we took a second to think for ourselves. But I do wonder how and why have these rudimentary human strivings become so counterintuitive to ask, wonder about, and try to stimulate for learning?

I know schools and universities aren’t going to disappear or change in a hurry. And they shouldn’t, for my money. But if education is/were a business, what is its currency? What do you/we want it to be?

I know I’m using broad brush strokes here. I know the minutiae of our professional lives prevents the odd navel-gaze and wonder. But it is important to see the forrest from the trees sometimes.

Once again – thank you organisers of 2011 Australian Moodlemoot. I hope to see you next year on the Gold Coast, weather (aka $$$) permitting.

Leaving Moodle HQ

Bye Moodle HQ
Bye Moodle HQ ...

I didn’t think I would be writing this roughly a year and a half after joining HQ but here it is.

On Friday, 22nd July, a few days after returning from the Australian MoodleMoot in Sydney with the team (and Mary Cooch, hooray) I will resign from a paid position at Moodle HQ and become again ‘just’ a volunteering member of Moodle community. Like thousands of others without whom Moodle would probably not exist and thrive as it does.

Some people may say ‘What an ungrateful bastard, leaving a great job many would love so dearly to have…”. They’d be right, in their own way.  But I am compelled to follow an even greater, deeper interest and passion than Moodle.

I am joining a small team of educators at a small school just south of Perth. The school, a pretty unconventional one, has about 80 students who have disengaged with education, for all sorts of reasons. These are teenagers to whom life has not been kind (and many of them haven’t been exactly kind to others, let’s not pretend…) and whom the mainstream schools would not touch (anymore). The school is less than year old and is soon becoming a Big Picture school. I will no doubt write more about Big Picture approach but this and its motto ‘ One student at a time in a community of learners’ should give you an idea.

Thank you Martin and the team at HQ. I am not really ‘leaving’ Moodle (how could I :D ) since I will certainly be involved and contribute further, I just won’t be there every day to shout at the couriers (an in-joke…).

And besides, the school uses Moodle and they are looking for someone to take it beyond uploading a few files…

Born today – Moodle Docs 2.0

Early this year, Martin (Dougiamas) gave me a ‘brief’ for a new version of Moodle Docs, a ‘Moodlepedia’ created by and for members of Moodle community. Main two points of the brief:

  • create a clear, navigable structure for a ‘Moodle manual’ of a kind,
  • draft an overview of: what is there, what needs updating to reflect Moodle 2.0, what is obsolete and/or pointing to older versions, what is missing and what could be re-used as part of Moodle Docs 2.0.

It feels like Christmas today because after months of (often pretty tedious… ) work, it’s just been announced that we are opening the Moodle Docs 2.0 to all moodlers to get stuck into and improve !

Two important things to note:

Moodle 2.0 Docs is a clone of previous Moodle Docs.

We’d be totally crazy to re-write much of the excellent content, contributed voluntarily over thousands of hours by hundreds of people over the years and linked to from a myriad of pages. So we cloned the whole thing! But there is problem just leaving it at that…

You see, every page in Moodle links to a corresponding page in Docs – a wiki about the item used (eg. Forum activity).

Moodle Docs link - bottom of every page in Moodle
Moodle Docs link - bottom of every page in Moodle

Because the old Moodle Docs were independent of the version of Moodle they describe (1.4 – 2.0), many Docs pages ended up with mixed, outdated information.

For example, a person using the Forum activity in Moodle 2.0 clicked ‘Moodle Docs for this page’ and got information about Forum in Moodle 1.9 or even earlier versions. Not good is it?

The aim of Moodle 2.0 Docs is to update/create everything to refer ONLY to Moodle 2.0.

When a new major version of Moodle is released, Docs 2.x will be cloned to a new version and updated (eg. Moodle 2.2 will link with Docs 2.2). Because of the existing structure and up-to-date content, the updates between the versions of Docs will be (increasingly) minimal.

At any point, you will still be able to update Docs for a particular version of Moodle (eg. 1.9, 2.0, 2.1 etc).

Much of the content in Moodle Docs 2.0 still needs to be edited or created to refer ONLY to Moodle 2.0.

It’s a wiki! There are dozens of pages that need the content to be updated to ‘sing’ with Moodle 2.0 (and not previous versions). There are many stubs, with minimal content or empty, that need to be created, expanded.

I have scoured Moodle Docs for months. To make people’s editing job easier, and to have an overview of what’s there and missing Martin had asked me for, I have created brief editing notes for hundreds of pages and (new) sections.

The notes provide a quick status of a page (quality, last update) and suggestions on what could be updated, deleted and linked to from it. While of course not bound by them, the notes will hopefully help the editors in writing the content and help us keep Docs 2.0 eas(ier) to navigate and maintain. Example below, access them all here:

Example of page notes
Page notes - these should help the editors...

So … in brief:

  • Moodle Docs 2.o was cloned from the old Moodle Docs to preserve content and links. It is however a separate wiki.
  • There are no more separate Admin and Teacher pages. They have been merged into ‘User Docs’. Developer Docs will be a separate wiki.
  • Moodle Docs 2.0 are (visually) organised on the Main page and accompanying Table of contents, like a manual. These are not the only pages in Docs, of course, but they are key pages that provide easier browsing, searching and editing of Docs 2.0.
  • Templates (boxes on the right hand side of articles) form the structure you see on the Main Page and Table of Contents.
  • Many templates (process not 100% completed) have been created, changed and/or standardised. For example, all activities have the following template:

[Activity] settings – Everything related to BEFORE the activity is open to participants. First steps of creation and equivalent of clicking ‘edit settings’ (including permissions).
Building [Activity] -  ( Database, Lesson, Quiz, Feedback only). Everything related to building the activity AFTER the initial setup and BEFORE it is opened to participants.
Using [Activity] – Everything AFTER the activity is open to participants. Things like (if available) viewing, posting, grading, results, analysis, reports, good practices, creative uses, examples, pedagogical implications etc.
[Activity] FAQ – self-explanatory…

  • Existing pages have been preserved as much as possible to maintain links and keep the history of contributions. Some have been moved and redirected appropriately.
  • Docs 2.0 are/will be Moodle 2.0 specific. Each major version will have its own Docs (eg. Moodle 2.1 will have Docs 2.1), cloned  from previous and updated for the current version. Moodle version will automatically point to its appropriate Docs version.

There is still a lot of formatting, testing and updating work to be done but I do look forward to watching Docs 2.0 being shaped and improved, collaboratively as every wiki really should.

Look forward to seeing (y)our edits soon!

PS Special thanks to Helen Foster and her constructive questioning of my work along the way. I have learned a lot about Moodle and Docs over the past few months (perhaps why this beast has taken such a long time to bear ;-) ).

The only, the biggest and the friendliest Moot

Moodle Moots are particularly named gatherings of Moodle users, developers, enthusiasts (from) around the world.  They are famous in Moodle community and beyond for their community spirit of learning with and from each other (and let’s not forget their social side either).

They are special and I am really looking forward particularly to a few of them (hosted) around this ‘antipodean’ part of the world this year!

iMoot (online, 30 April – 3 May 2011) – The world’s only virtual and global MoodleMoot

The one and only truly global moot !

Last year’s inaugural iMoot (2010) was a huge success and very well received by moodlers around the world. Jovially billed by participants themselves as ‘the only moot you can attend in your pyjamas’ it featured over 150 sessions with 70 original presentations by over 50 presenters, moderators, panellists and nearly 400 registered participants who either joined in live across the four days in different timezones with many more checking the sessions in three streams (Teacher, Admin, Developer) afterwards. One helluva inexpensive (50 bucks for the lot!), convenient and trailblazing moot!

So…to share something Moodle-related that has worked for you, kick around an idea to improve Moodle, or be a part of the famous community effort in shaping Moodle and its use (very important and one of the reasons for 2011 iMoot motto ‘ New directions’) just head over to iMoot site and register. Or, even better, throw your hat in to present a session or two over four days at a time that suits you. Reward for you hard work? Free registration (but get in early, you only have until …. 11 March! ). And that’s just the financial reward, not to mention the connections you are likely to make and some great ideas you will NO DOUBT come across.

Big thanks to Shane Elliot, Leonie Beetham, Julian ‘Moodleman’ Ridden and the rest of the team at Pukunui (one of the two Australian Moodle Partners) for putting this on again this year. I have been working with Julian and a few others in the background for this one and it has some fantastic innovations to look forward to.

Moodlemoot AU 2011 (Sydney, 17 – 20 July 2011) – Biggest and best of Moodle community

If there has ever been moot where all stops are pulled to ensure you get immersed in Moodle and its community professionally, educationally, technically and socially LIVE for four days – this is it! The team at NetSpot (also Australia’s Moodle Partner) and the advisory committee (another pie that yours truly has stuck a finger in) have been working hard for months ahead of this event to make good on the motto of the event: Community Canvas.

This is a particularly timely event as more and more people and organisations are getting familiar with and starting to use Moodle 2. It is also a great chance to listen to, ask, share and mingle with up to 800 (!) developers, academics, teachers, students, administrators, IT integrators, business people … This will include a large part of the Moodle HQ team, headed by Martin Dougiamas, Lead Developer & Creator of Moodle, Helen Foster, Moodle Community Manager flying in from Europe, Anthony Borrow, Contributions Manager flying from USA and a bunch of us from Moodle HQ. You will also have Mary Cooch, the ever-helpful ‘Moodlefairy’ from UK and the author of a range of Moodle books, ‘on tap’ so to speak for four days.

There will be something for everyone at the Australian Moot 2011 and big efforts are under way to ensure many ‘takeaways’ and hands-on, contributive experiences over the four days. Not to mention a great social calendar, a very important part of the moot experience.

New Zealand Moodle Moot (Auckland, 26- 28 July)

If you are flying in from other parts of the world to the Sydney mother-of-a-moot, why not stretch it New Zealand moot only a week after? Smaller but famous for their informal, friendly and pedagogy-focused atmosphere, NZ moots have been well attended in the past and appreciated by many moodlers.

Here is a taste of last year’s NZ gathering…

Summary (with links to respective moot sites):

iMoot (30 April – 3 May 2011, online)

- fully online
- very flexible
- inexpensive (free if you register a presentation before 11 March!)

MoodleMoot Australia (17 – 20 July 2011, Sydney)

- biggest moot ever (800 participants!)
- huge range of presentations, workshops, demos, master-classes, events for educators, administrators, business …
- daily passes but four-day full registration best value
- make a holiday out of it

MoodleMoot New Zealand (26- 28 July, Auckland)

- strong teaching/learning-focus
- traditionally very informal atmosphere
- make a holiday out of it

See you there! ;-)

Ed-tech Ferrari in first gear – why change?

This is a reply to a healthy ‘ring’ of posts by Mark Drechsler (Learning technologies – should the tail wag the dog? – an excellent string of replies growing there!), David Jones (The dissonance between the constructivist paradigm and the implementation of institutional e-learning) and Mark Smithers (e-learning at Universities: A Quality Assurance Free Zone?). I invite you to read these excellent posts to get a better picture. In a nutshell, they collectively wonder that old nut in many guises and variations: “Why aren’t educators using progressive pedagogical approaches by using technologies that lends themselves so well to such approaches?”

First, let’s clear with some nomenclature. Here, let’s call constructivism (mentioned by these guys) and the likes as ‘progressive’, and ‘results of outdated policy changes that have calcified into conventions’ (Nehring) as ‘traditional’. One could drive a truck through this argument, I know! David explains this continuum nicely, so does Alfie Kohn (Progressive Education; Why It’s Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find).

Similarly, learning theories (the various -isms) are useful, but frankly oft overrated, mis-understood edu-psych discourses with shades of purism. In sporting parlance, every -ism is a ‘well-meaning’ club with its main players and legions of fans. It thrives on membership & wins against other -isms, sometimes to the detriment of the game itself. While perhaps fonder of a particular theory on a dynamic continuum, a wise educator has to be part-constructivist, connectivist, traditionalist, instructionist or other -ist, strategically. Let’s not get too stuck on purist theory but take things with a grain of pragmatic salt.

And this is getting to the heart of the matter, for me at least: Educators will mostly use pedagogical approaches which align with the answer(s) to the question(s): What is the primary purpose of education? What are the priorities? What are we here for?

Importantly, they will NOT always align with their own answers to these questions, but also answers of the school/uni they work at, parents, students, and the larger society the school, and themselves, are a part of. These can be poles apart but need to be upheld, negotiated in different spaces and different times. No glib universals and binaries please!

Educators bring their own passions and priorities to technologies they use in their work. Take Moodle for example. An educator with a ‘progressive’ mindset will relish wikis, forums and collaborative tools in Moodle, her colleague might puke a bunch of files and worksheets in Moodle (thanks for that turn of phrase KerryJ ;-) ) because they are a convenient electronic version of ‘have what kids need to know’, another one may love the intricate ‘drill and kill’ possibilities of Quiz … you get my drift, surely (and they are all ‘using Moodle’!).

Now, all this gets tempered with, for example:

  • what students’ preference may be (I’ve heard “no more Moodle forums Sir, can’t we just talk about it in class” after an enthusiastic Moodle overdose on my part),
  • what schools allow (‘Allowing YouTube? Are you nuts? How about some teaching instead?” – oh yes, heard that one!),
  • what parents want (“I just want my little Johnnie to get the best exam marks and your job is to help him do that” – yep, many times),
  • what the Prime Minister is touting on TV (“schools that don’t perform will have their funding cut…” – and I thought bullying was a thing to get rid of in schools, silly me)

A glorious mess of tensions and priorities to negotiate!

I’ve tried to put things in a hopelessly inadequate graph. I cannot stress enough (again) that people move through this graph at different times for different purposes. But here it is…

ed-tech quadrant
Not a static thing!

Now, I do work for the makers of one (and love it!), but for all the bells and whistles, it’s a bit pointless calling a piece of software ‘progressive’ (or ‘traditional’ for that matter). Makes about as much sense as calling say leeches in medicine ‘primitive’ . While certainly built with ‘progressive’ use in mind, Moodle (for example) is only as ‘progressive’ as its use. And I assure you it is painful for Moodle HQ to watch a Ferrari built to facilitate ‘progressive’ approaches, driven so many times in the first gear and without considering a change …

I answer Mark’s (paraphrased) question “Are we happy with just using technology or are we only happy using technology in a particular, progressive way?” with a question: Will/do these ‘progressive’ approaches fail to take hold because we didn’t/don’t use technology at hand in a particular way?

Beware getting stuck in the reflexive cause-effect conundrum (in plain English – chicken or egg?) but it is bloody important to ask.

Reference:

James H. Nehring, “Progressive vs. Traditional: Reframing an Old Debate,” Education Week, February 1, 2006, p. 32.

Nobody asks

Last week, I was invited to a high school as an ‘expert’ on using Moodle in the classroom. I had a series of 45-minute sessions to, as my brief read, ‘inspire’ each group of teachers (average size of about 15-20) over two days of PD to use their nice local Moodle & Mahara setup in their teaching.

Yeah right.

I’ve never liked ‘gurus’ showing flashy wares and ideas, especially right at the start of school year with so many things to get ready before the kids arrive. I’ve never liked being considered one either.

So, I thought we’d use the 45 minutes for a guided chat about things we are kinda all good at – talking about our needs. Needs of teachers I spoke to and, importantly, the kids they teach. In the context, shoot a few Moodle ideas past them and see how use-full or use-less they may be. But it was about the hole, less about the drill.

Digigogy Images

I even flashed these sort of things as a visual reminder:

Great teachers

and …

needs

EVERY group sat a little stunned at first. Believe it or not, the ideas did not flow very freely. The replies ranged from encouraging (‘enthusiasm’, ‘motivation’, ‘meaning’ …) to downright pathetic (‘textbook’, ‘ways to easily memorise a range of acronyms we use’). We’d eventually get about 5 – 10 needs on the board to work with.

And behold the question “Why DO you teach?” asked as the conversations began to flow. Many felt a little threatened even!

Or as one teacher put it: “Nobody really gets asked these questions.” Rarely, if ever, do teachers ask these themselves. It’s all assumed, we all know what happens at school and what the school and teachers are there for, we all ‘innovate’ but it basically changes bugger all while giving the impression of progress and change.

I am NOT  bashing teachers here. Quite contrary, I understand so many of them, barraged by things to, often mindlessly, tick and do while lacking time, space, even increasingly a reason for these questions (other than stuff like ‘raise scores’ etc.).

A friend noted in reply to my email containing a few gems collected over two days: “I often reflect that all of these controlling, narrow and limiting views of education are expressed by people who once showed wonder, imagination, a sense of fun, and often got into teaching because they wanted to have a positive influence on the lives of young people. How is it that they are who they are today? Not easy to answer, but important to try nonetheless.”

While I did cover my brief and talked about Moodle and ‘technology’ over the two days, I was glad, while sad and often a little horrified, to talk about the ultimate technology and weapon for change – asking good questions and wrestling with them.

I wish all my Australian & New Zealand teaching colleagues and their students a great school year 2011 (first day today for most). Turn the crap detectors on and use them! Make it matter.

And if you think I can help you in some way in doing that, you know where to find me.

Christmas present for Moodlers

I have been waiting for a few months to write this … school is out, just announced on moodle.org ! The Mount Orange School Demo that is. What started as an in-house bashing pinata for testing Moodle 2.0 at HQ in ways likely to be used by educators is now (officially) ready for play.

And what is this site good for? Here are nine things I could think of (OK, bit of a shameless promo). If the answer to any of these is ‘Yes’ you should check out Mount Orange School Demo. Out of all these, I am definitely the most excited about the last one.

  • Ever wanted to just play with Moodle before installing or creating accounts?

Mt Orange School Demo is perfect for sandpit play. No need to install anything or create accounts – all ready to go. Don’t worry about breaking things, the site is completely reset every hour at .00. If you see some strange settings from time to time, it probably means someone else is playing in there to. Share patiently, like you did in a sandpit as a child (we hope… :-)

  • Ever wanted to see how Moodle could be used by different kinds of users (eg teacher, student, parent, principal …)?

Be a principal and manage the school, a teacher editing courses, a student engaged in activities, a parent checking your children’s work and more!  You can create from scratch or help yourself to many examples ready for your to see and edit if you wish.

  • Ever wanted to see some realistic examples of standard Moodle features being used, together with sample data?

Seeing realistic examples of use of different standard Moodle features is a great way to generate ideas and tailor them to your context. We have just started building this site, many more to come!

  • Ever wanted to run a hands-on workshop where people would learn Moodle by doing?

You don’t learn driving a car by reading a book do you? There are plenty of existing accounts to play with. You can also download the whole site as a standalone piece, then create new accounts and play beyond the hourly reset with others in your workshop, organisation.

  • Ever wanted to introduce Moodle by pointing to a good site one can explore beyond the front page?

Unless you have a login account, you can’t go past the front of many Moodle sites (mostly for privacy and security reasons). Not so at Mt Orange School Demo – you can go pretty much wherever you like and as whoever you like in the right role.

  • Ever wanted to see or show others how an entire Moodle site, not just course or activity, could work?

Most demos show you things in a course or an activity. At Mt Orange you can see those plus many sitewide items (eg. cohorts, blogs, security settings, parental access …) to help you see the flexibility of Moodle and what can be done with it.

  • Ever wanted to compare previous versions of Moodle with the latest?

Mt Orange School Demo (always updated to the latest version, currently Moodle 2.0) is a great way to see real examples of what each new Moodle version brings. Compare, test, review, suggest.

  • Ever wanted to test Moodle 2.0 before upgrading from an older version?

Millions of moodlers out there have or are about to switch to Moodle 2.0 but want to ‘dip their toes’ in Moodle 2.0 before upgrading from an older version. Mt Orange School Demo is a safe place to do just that.

  • Ever wanted to (co)create a great course with sample data in your area of expertise to share how Moodle can be used creatively?

Mt Orange School Demo is a recently started but a living, growing site. Join a community of creative educators using Moodle creating great demo courses in their area of expertise on a dedicated building site, to later feature at Mt Orange School Demo. Register your interest to (co)create here (or in comments below if you don’t have a moodle.org account).

As stated earlier, the last one is definitely the one I am looking forward to the most!

Before I forget – feel free to join Martin Dougiamas and myself for a live ‘guided tour’ of Mt Orange Demo School on Wednesday, 22nd December 2010 at 1pm GMT (check this moodle.org calendar for details) and see how you could get the most of it and ways you could get involved in this project.

Merry Christmas from HQ and – enjoy our (serious) toy :D !

Moodle 2 intro clips

In my role as Educational Researcher at Moodle HQ, I get to play around with things a bit.

Over the last week or so, I got to create a series of short clips to introduce some of the main new and redesigned features of the recently released Moodle 2.0. Here they come … in a funky ‘skin’:

If the clips don’t play well, please help yourself to the original playlist on YouTube.

The clips only have a voiceover but no music. Or as Martin suggested, “play some Herbie Hancock while watching” :D

Enjoy and share freely!

PS Big thanks to and a big plug for Lumaxart for sharing their excellent ‘orange guys’ artwork on Flickr (see ‘Full Sampler, CC licensed). Even my 2 year old son is thankful for “The Moodles”, loves them!

Moodle Community hubs – what, how, why

Very early this morning (3am! :-O) I had the pleasure of co-presenting a session at the Global Education Conference (wonderful event, more Moodle sessions there too!) with Tabitha and John Roder, talking about Moodle community and ways in which Community hubs, new feature in Moodle 2.0, will support and encourage Communities of Practice across the moodling world and beyond.

I thought I’d share a part of the session along with a few insights.

What are Community hubs?

Community hubs are a brand new feature in Moodle 2.0 and one of the most important ones (at least to me!). My good friend and colleague Jerome Mouneyrac has worked on them for a long time and we can now enjoy the fruits of his excellent work. Here is a quick overview:

How do Community hubs work?

Why explain it with a precise technical diagram if you can tell a story (for a precise technical diagram and specs click here)

Why have Community hubs?

The most important question. Look at this picture:

Samba leader
Community

John Roder used this image during his part of the presentation on communities of practice. The samba drum leader is there to initially give the basic rhythm, demonstrate the basic skill then supports the community of drummers (some experienced, some newbies, some frightened, some confident …) to create, nurture and carry  the rhythm. He starts as (excuse the truistic edu-slogans…) a ‘sage on the stage’, gradually becomes a ‘guide on the side’, but surely enjoys himself (together with others) the most when he becomes the ‘meddler in the middle’ (I borrow the term from an excellent paper by Erica McWilliamhighly recommended read!), playing, creating, while leading and being led by the group’s ebbs and flows.

Outwardly, Community hubs  in Moodle are aggregators of content (courses to enrol in and download) and one could easily stop seeing beyond that. But they are the room in the picture, with drums as courses.  You can bring your drum (publish), join the group in playing a rhythm (enrol in course) or take a drum with you to your own room (download) and play it with your own group of people. But it’s the people that make it go!

And that is what we are hoping Community hubs will blossom to – people connecting around a similar rhythm, interest, field of study through either MOOCH or the hubs they set up and look after. Content and courses in hubs will be a mere starting point in the process, not the end. Because whatever the course your download or enrol in, chances are you will understand it and change it to your own context, your own people, your own samba group.

After all, that is how Moodle itself has been built and used by millions all these years. And to me, THAT is the beauty of it.