Schools Moodle Moot #smootau13
I had a dream and I am still not sure if I am awake. The dream was about the Australian Schools Moodle Moot held in Sydney at the beginning of October. See this Storify collection of Tweets and resources: http://storify.com/MoodleMuse/school-moodle-moot
On the first day, I was lost, at dusk, walking in circles around seedy streets reminiscent of Montmarte in Paris. Perhaps I should have used google maps instead of asking a human for directions. I finally arrived (with the help of a taxi – and his GPS) as the party was finishing. As I walked in to join the stragglers of the pre-conference rooftop canapes party overlooking the Harbour Bridge it felt as if my imaginary friends who live inside Twitter had materialised into real humans standing before my very eyes. We moved the party on and spent a few more hours chatting about education, technology and life in general (maybe I was dreaming?).
The next day I made some new friends. One of them, Steve Collis, dreamed of a ‘flock’ of students merged into starling-like patterns of movement within the structured freedom of physical, virtual, and cultural space. Steve and other innovators at the Northern Beaches Christian School are idea merchants for a post-industrial-model school system (http://www.happysteve.com/). The teachers flew around like a murmuration of starlings until beautiful patterns emerged and faded. They didn’t have a plan – or even words. They kept on trying things until it worked. Now … in hindsight, they are going to find labels and explanations. They are learning new ways to teach by the same exploratory learning methods being used by their students. The Moodle courses used at this school are a visual matrix using Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and Bloom’s Taxonomy creating a matrix of activities learners can select and work through, often in small groups. Some tasks are marked as compulsory. The ‘classrooms’ look more like Library spaces with sofas and study nooks. A supportive teacher is positioned nearby to coach them along. I cried to know this was really happening and in my country and hometown. (If this is a dream please don’t wake me now)
The dream-like atmosphere continued as I looked up to see the staff from Netspot and Pukunui (Moodle Partners from Australia) having a jam session. Instead of donning boxing gloves to protect their IP they had donned Ukuleles and were playing together! Aaaahhh.. the stuff of dreams .. Starlings making music.
During a keynote speech toward the end of the conference, I planned on blowing up my travel pillow and curling up in between the rows of the lecture theatre for a quick nap (this may have been related to the delicious conference dinner the night before). I was woken up by @vinny_stocker playing Beatles music from YouTube to provide a timer to a group activity. My tired brain was not only treated to some cool music, it was treated to a demonstration of how engaging learning can be. We were provided with 3 learning objectives. We were then asked to *think*. We committed to an opinion – using a quick Moodle quiz – and were then shown research and meta-studies to see what other people thought. The next carefully thought out step was to turn around and talk to the 3 people closest to us to brainstorm some ideas. At this point, we were very aware of the limitations of our physical environment in which it was easier to line up like a lot bewildered battery hens than to be a murmuration of free-ranging starlings sharing ideas.
More music was played to provide an atmosphere of fun along with a clear deadline to complete the required task. Our thoughts on how we could apply this within the Moodle LMS were placed on an online shared whiteboard (Padlet) for all to see. (The naughty girl up the back just had to put up a picture of a squirrel!) It was interesting to read what the other groups had been discussing. The final step was to offer feedback to other groups’ comments. Again to a music clip as a timer (Michael Jackson this time). The brief interludes of instruction from Vinny were not too hard to focus on. The interaction between participants created energy and removed barriers to creativity. (Oh Vinny where were you when I was at school!).
My favourite moment in this ‘dream’ was sitting in a funky bar being served pinchos by waiters who could offer you a range of late afternoon wines in such a way that I just wanted to get my phone out and record the spiel. I sat sipping my unpronounceable white wine (agrophiny?) while debating whether a cultural shift in education institutions will be initiated in kindergartens or university … or the Netherlands. Within a delightful physical space (Lou Lou’s Bar) we explored a virtual space – the information flow of educational technology. I felt it a privilege to meet these ‘virtual’ friends I have connected with by building up a Personal Learning Network over the last few years. This joy is a result of what my education has done for me. Through technology, I have connected to people and ideas beyond the physical boundaries of living in my beautiful small country town. Ideas are being spread wider and faster. I was aware that in the process of discussing and dreaming what the future of education might be, while flying in this world of abstract visions, that we are contributing to creating this future. Like a murmuration of ed-tech starlings flying to conferences all around the country.
This may not sound like a blog post about a technology conference because this was a conference with a strong focus on education. Moodle and other technologies are tools of our trade – not our trade. From the first moment my Taxi driver used his GPS to the last keynote when Vinny used technology as needed, I was aware how ubiquitous technology is in our lives. Without technology, I probably would have found the venue (eventually – after a tour of Kings Cross back streets at dusk). Vinny could have delivered an excellent lecture. However using technology made it more collaborative, easier to publish and higher quality.
Anyone who was lucky enough to be at #smootau13 – The School Moodle Moot 2013 in Sydney – walked away inspired to use Moodle in new ways to achieve educational aims. They were subjected to some good teaching. They also had a great time and made some new friends. The conversations we had at that conference may continue through our online spaces. You are welcome to dream and fly with us. Why not join us next year at the Sydney School MoodleMoot 2014?
Big thanks to Pukunui and Wendy for organising this inspiring event.