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Moodle Evolution: Moodle Moot 2014 Wrapup

This year’s Australasian Moodle Moot’s theme was ‘Evolution’ – and the keynote address by Alec Couros swept us into the future with his vision of the educational potential offered by the tools of connectivity. The examples Alec shared of openness in education, networked learning, social media in education, digital citizenship, and critical media literacy were very inspiring and set the tone for an evolutionary conference.

 

My personal favourite of Alec’s resources was this video encouraging us to share both our successes and failures online:

Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap

 

This has inspired me to share more of what I am doing in my classroom. My latest project “Velvet Throne” is gamification of the learning journey based on small groups competing to become the noble family by the end of the semester. Keep your eye out for my tweets tagged #velvetthrone.

 

I was also inspired by the work of the UNSW team in customising the Moodle Workshop activity which has evolved into something quite amazing, There was some talk of these improvements being merged into the Moodle Core package. The successful outcomes of this project highlight the foundations for effective educational technology: you start with solid pedagogical experience and then look for ways technology can improve the experience for both learners and assessors. Congratulations to UNSW for sharing their brilliant work!

 

Russell Waldran

 

Another evolutionary feature in Moodle is Outcome Sets – a hierarchical list of performance standards in achieving learning goals. From a learner’s point of view, this will offer more flexibility in choosing a preferred assessment to meet a learning outcome. From a manger’s perspective, this mapping ensures that courses meet audit requirements. Having a well-structured foundation of a course using outcomes allows for flexibility in how competency in an outcome can be achieved. Learners can navigate their own pathways based on preferred learning styles and be awarded badges or points for their achievements. Learners are more engaged and motivated to continue when they receive frequent feedback that they have passed the standard required for each outcome.

 

I facilitated two 90 minute workshops demonstrating Outcome Sets and other gamification features. The participants were inspired to try out these tips and tricks in their own courses. We went through a demo course on ‘Level up your skills in Twitter’. Anyone can register and enrol at http://truth-or-dare.org to see an example of this Moodle Course based on a Gamification framework.

 

Truth or Dare Web site badges

 

Learning is moving out of a habit or comfort zone and into a new space, or in other words, evolving. Whatever age we are, play (practice) is the tool we use to make this transition. Humans evolved because we play: snakes and reptiles don’t play. Play is vital at both the individual and a society level. Research suggests that deprivation of play can have devastating effects.

 

As a drama teacher, I have watched people transform when handed a mask or a costume! They take on a new attitude, body language and set of beliefs when given license and opportunity. Props and tools encourage this exploration into a new space.

 

Role-playing and simulation have long been used by teachers to coach students into trying a new skill or to contemplate a new idea. Video games that offer a levelling up of skills with frequent feedback build confidence.

 

Gamification in education is the process of borrowing these ideas of play and games (imagination, creativity and confidence) and using these philosophies in designing learning experiences.

 

The new feature in Moodle 2.8 of Outcome Sets, along with the recent addition of Open Badges, Conditional Activities and Rubrics, create a powerful tool set.

 

As an LMS based on Social Constructionist pedagogy, I feel it’s natural that Moodle has evolved to provide a powerful gamification platform for teachers to create highly motivating and engaging learning experiences.

 

So overall the Australian MoodleMoot 2014 was great evidence of evolution in so many ways, (except for the DJ at the conference dinner who seemed to be stuck somewhere around 1984!) Meeting up with so many people dedicated to education is a real privilege. I look forward to doing it all again next year.

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