Stand up to Moodle

I love my job. But it’s very bad for my health. That is to say, a job which involves sitting hunched over a  computer for between 5 and 7 hours a day (and then sitting hunched over a laptop in my evening free time) is hardly conducive to keeping fit and flexible. And I know you are meant to take a break every hour and stretch your limbs – but I get so engrossed, I keep forgetting…

In order to ofset this, I’ve been going to Tai Chi once a week and exercise classes twice a week with Impact Training @impactptpreston but I still felt there was more I could do. Then last year I saw an item on BBC – The Big Standing Up Experiment suggesting standing while you work can have major health benefits. This, coupled with the discovery that one Moodle Partner provides standing desks for its employees, and that some HQ colleagues also moodle standing up, inspired me to go in search of a better way of working.  While it’s possible to make your own standing desk for a few pounds with materials from Ikea, I wanted something that would allow me to choose whether I wanted to work standing up or sitting; I wanted the option to alternate. Google Sitting Standing desks and you will find no end of expensive products. My ideal desk was unfortunately not only way out of my price bracket ,but also too wide for the tiny alcove I have in my front room. Enter Project Ergo UK who offer a range of ‘Kangaroo’ adjustable desktops, one of which they agreed to customise to fit my needs – and it does – perfectly! So now I can work standing up for a couple of hours…

(Actually, according to this image of the correct posture from Makeuseof.com, I haven’t quite got the positioning right yet – but I’m still learning; it’s only been a week! )  I probably need a mat too. Already though,  I find I love working standing up: I can fidget in a way I never did when I was sitting, immobile for hours, and I’ve also discovered I can walk around the room during online meetings (as long as the webcam’s not on) and nobody minds :)

Then, after a couple of hours, I can sit down…

It takes literally seconds to move the monitor and work surface from standing to sitting position. If it took any longer than a few seconds, I know I wouldn’t bother doing it, and it would be a waste of money, but it’s just a simple matter of turning a knob, pushing down (or up) and tightening again. And it fits perfectly into my tiny workspace.

While standing to work is better than sitting, and while alternating between standing and sitting is better than just doing the one or the other, I do realise I now need to set myself an alert every hour to eject myself from the computer completely. That’s my next plan. But at least now I know that by standing, I am moving in the right direction :)

Moodlefairy goes to Paris: Mootfr14

Talking Moodle, speaking French, experiencing the City of Love – who could resist? Not me :) I tend only to go to Moodle Moots if I’m invited to speak, but last year in Bordeaux Luiggi Sansonetti had given the most entertaining “pitch” I’d ever heard for holding the Moot at his place, the Université Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle, that I decided immediately to save up and sign up. And so, last Tuesday afternoon I eagerly set off from Preston to the 10th Moodlemoot francophone in Paris.  And Luiggi came good on all his promises – even (eventually!) le soleil!

Photo thanks Thierry Koscielniak

 

We kicked off on Wednesday morning with the Father of the Francophone Moot, Nicolas Martignoni followed by Moodle founder himself Martin Dougiamas “en live” to the great delight of all attendees. He lost count of the number of requested selfies with him -in the hundreds I believe! Thursday began with my language Hero Dominique Alain Jan, (one of the kindest people I’ve ever met), and a suprise appearance from Catalyst UK’s Meredith Henson (and simultaneous translation by Dominique – Respect!)

One of the great pleasures of attending moots worldwide is seeing where the emphasis lies, in which sector; all moots are different. The French moots last three days, ample time for a great many presentations and workshops and are very much university focused. I won’t go into detail into all the interventions I saw because I don’t want to offend anyone whose  presentation, name or twitter handle I miss out, but here are quelques petites remarques:

  • There was a pleasing amount of analysis, reflecting on how the teaching/use of Moodle went, using reports to move forward and also honesty, with presenters sharing what didn’t go so well in addition to their successes.
  • The Moodle quiz does seem extremely popular and heavily used, although there were concerns with Certainty Based Marking, its effect on the gradebook and a dislike for the negative grade a student could potentially get. (If you can speak French or read graphs, here’s just one example, but there were others just as interesting)
  • It was gratifying to see people presenting for the first time, sharing their personal experiences and taking us live into their courses. Not a negative comment but a constructive one – it would be great in future, if you do this, to magnify your course page or to take magnified screenshots as I found myself straining to see what was obviously really interesting and some great ideas.
  • The live streaming was very successful, although if you wanted to watch two simultaneous talks -one on your laptop and one live in front of you, I don’t think you’d have benefited from either! But I’m presuming the recordings will be made available soon and I look forward to watching the ones I didn’t get to see.
  • The Learn Moodle MOOC was still being talked about, questions asked about repeating it. While HQ probably won’t run it again, Moodle partners are welcome to, and there is in fact an Italian MOOC  currently run by Mediatouch   There is also some interest in running a French speaking MOOC; I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that.
  • Moodle docs in French: people are quick to complain but slow to contribute. I’m going to try really hard in my free time (my job is not French docs) to bring some pages up to date but if each person who mentioned the docs took 30 minutes just to translate one of the English pages into French, we’d have a much better resource :)

And it wasn’t just about the talks! Evening entertainment was provided too -from the first night cocktails de bienvenue which turned out to be utter heaven for an Anglo-Saxon like myself: as much beer and pizza as you could want! – to the second evening’s private tour of the Natural History Musum’s Paleontology section: more skeletons and preserved monsters than you could ever imagine!

Paleontology

We also got a free entry into the botanical gardens, but for this we had to sécher or skip (nick off!) some presentations – and being a good girl, I couldn’t bring myself to do this, so sadly I missed out on that. The proximity of everything was a real advantage with this Moot – the  nice little hotel I’d found for example, was four minutes from the venue;  the museum was under ten minutes walk away and on the Wednesday night I was spoiled for choice finding myself somwhere to eat with the number of little cafés and bistros on the same or nearby roads.

Fun was additionally provided each day by the défi or challenge, of trying to include the word of the day wherever convenient – these words being, in day order: mammouth, vermouth and moumoute!

I did a presentation on the Friday morning – “Il était une fois dans l’outback”, a shorter (and French) version of  my German MoodleMoot Keynote (video here). It’s below, without the music or commentary. Much of it is from the Wonderful Wayback Machine.

On a personal note, I really appreciated being able to practise my French again, and included in that, challenging myself to acclimatise to Canadian French (very hard!) I was also delighted to meet face to face Joseph Rézeau, with whom I have communicated almost daily on the forums for several years. And others too! Finally, no moot is complete without a mojito so thanks to Dominique for treating me to one in the last hour of my stay.

There’s a Google plus page for mootfr14 photos, which is great because I am very bad at taking photos so I look forward to looking through everyone else’s good ones.

Group photo

Mystère à Hyères : a Moodle Google Street View Mystery

A couple of years ago I was inspired by Vincent Everett of Northate High Dereham UK  who had devised some ingenious web quests , or better said, Google Street View mysteries suitable for secondary level pupils studying French.  Based on some landmarks and people randomly photographed by Google’s camera van, he made up whole stories with activities for Y8//Y9 pupils (13-14 year olds) So impressed  was I that I moodle-ized one of them and you can read about it here

But – disaster! I heard from Vincent that the Google  van has uncaringly gone back to France and filmed over his mystery spots, deleting all the clues! They can no longer be used, and the one I made for Moodle, set in the sleepy Normandy commune of Blaru is similarly redundant. What to do?

Cue my daughter Estelle, an imaginative Teaching Assistant with some time on her hands during half term. And happy memories of family holidays in the Mediterranean resort of Hyères:

Hyères

Using Vincent’s originals as a guide, she has devised a totally new (and rather dark!) mystery suitable for Year 9 and which can be used either as a class exercise if you download the relevant documents here in  MS Word format, or as a self-directing Moodle course which makes strict use of conditional activities to hide the clues until students have completed previous tasks. (There’s even a badge)

Try the mystery out as a student by logging in to Mystère à Hyères with the username student and password moodle. (This is our School demonstration site, wiped clean every hour on the hour. Sometimes others might  be using it at the same time as you so if it’s behaving strangely, just try again later) If you like it and would like to use it with your own classes on your school Moodle, then you can download it from Moodle.net here.

Any native French speakers who’d like to improve on the interviews, feel free to send them to me and I will replace my own attempts. And  be warned: it’s not for the feint-hearted (or stomached!)

Farewell, my Moodle Friend

Today, along with many others, I say goodbye to  a former colleague, Assistant Head of Our Lady’s Catholic High School Preston, Mark Greenwood, who passed away suddenly  on April 14th aged 51. He was my Friend.

He was also the person who got me into Moodle and  – as they say – “gave me my break”.  Although I left the school last year to work full time for Moodle HQ, I still went in regularly as a volunteer to join him on Moodle-based projects and in fact since January I’d been working with  a small group of his Year 10s who were developing  their own Moodle course.

I had known Mark since 1994 when he arrived at the school but we barely exchanged a word until 2006, living as we did on different planets – me in Languages  and Geography, and Mark in Design Technology and then ICT. In 2006, Mark headed a team of teachers investigating Virtual Learning Environments (it was that time in the UK when we were all meant to have a Learning platform) I overheard rumours  in the staffroom of  the school choosing “Moodle” and, not wanting to get left behind, I got myself one and started trying it out with my own classes. (Because you can do that with Moodle!) It was another colleague, Alan O’Donohoe @teknoteacher who got Mark and me talking, realising my  lone-ranger approach  might be more usefully channelled into the whole school Moodle project. By 2007, Mark had  me training the school staff, then other teachers elsewhere, then…   Moodle had been my hobby; I’d spent many hours teaching myself Moodle  for the fun of it, but it was Mark who gave me the chance to turn my hobby into my career and Mark who put Our Lady’s Moodle on the map.

Bob, Me, Mark.

Last summer, we were visited by Australian teacher and Moodler Bob Willetts who came especially to see the pastoral way in which Moodle was used (picture right)

Mark was one of those people who make things happen quietly in the background. He didn’t complain, boast or make a career out of social media; he just got on and did stuff – encouraging and inspiring others along the way, and always with the school in mind. I once asked him to describe himself in one word and he said “supportive”.  He was instrumental in the School achieving its Maths and Computing Specialism,  played a major part in its Outstanding Ofsted report of 2012, and he  masterminded the Our Learning training centre which adds significantly to school funds by offering teacher CPD.  The school has recently become a Teaching School and as Director of the associated Catholic Teaching Alliance ,he was excited about this new big project which again would benefit the school and future teachers. And all this while at the same time being a devoted family man, husband to his wife, also employed at the school, and to their three children.

We worked together in the training centre from 2008, collaborating daily. But it wasn’t easy! After rarely speaking for 12 years ,when we got to know each other, we found out we were complete opposites. Mark’s favourite word was “team”; my favourite word is “I”. Whereas I’m an introspective,compulsive, wordsmith;  Mark  would just let things wash over him and calmly “move on”  What others would say in ten words, Mark would say in three, but unfortunately, sometimes you needed at least five words to be able to grasp his meaning. But it didn’t matter. We were soul-geeks, and when we were experimenting with new software, testing out new ideas, signing up to different websites, all in the name of enhancing Teaching and Learning,  we were both on the same wavelength and didn’t need to talk. He was always looking for ways to improve his students’ experience and we would spend hours trying things out on Moodle, feeding back, honing,  improving. Some people love gaming; some walking; some fishing.  I love playing with Moodle. Mark loved playing with Moodle.  And I will miss that shared interest more than anything. I’ve lost my Moodle friend.

Moodlefairy goes to Edinburgh #mootuk14

I don’t know which brand of coffee that serial Moot organiser Gavin Henrick drinks, but I definitely want some! Yet again he pulled off a magnificent Moodle Moot, this time in beautiful (and surprisingly sunny) Edinburgh. The presentations, panels and workshops were varied and valuable; staff at the hotel and venues were unobtrusive, efficient and above all – just there. And of course the two things upon which all conferences are judged: food and wifi were both superb.

So.. my personal highlights:

On the Monday , Quiz maintainer Tim Hunt, his  Open University colleague Mahmoud Kassaei and  I did a workshop on the Quiz. For me this was a double hit because not only did I get to do some “teaching” but also some learning as Tim and Mahmoud went through the intricacies of the OU Question types (which many people would like to see in core) What I liked was that Tim had planned it so that it wasn’t just about the technicalities of setting up a quiz but the pedagogy behind it; my contributions focused on what makes a good question; how to spot poorly phrased questions which will hold back students’ progress.

 

Late Tuesday afternoon I attended a session by Dr Jane Holland which also looked at this aspect of MCQs and which was probably my favourite session. When you first make a quiz you tend to go for multiple choice and not put a great deal of thought into it – yet this can create horrendous (and entertaining!) outcomes for the learners. (Those with accounts on the Moodle Moot site can access Jane’s materials for a  month with enrolment key MCQ)

On Tuesday morning I decided to go to two gradebook-based sessions, one by Phineas Head and one by Piotr Jaworski. Phineas turned out to be not only a great speaker and popularly voted “Moodler of the Year” at the gala dinner – but also incredibly handsome!

Following this I had booked my place at Gideon Williams’ session on “Transforming a Learning Curriculum.” Gideon is a teacher at Perins High School, which I’ve long considered a “sister” school in the south to my old school, Our Lady’s Preston, in the north,  both being very Moodle-focused. I appreciate the issues with cost and time but I still wish we could get more secondary and primary school teachers to come to Moodle Moots.

Sadly, desperately sadly, just before Gideon’s talk began I got a call from @teknoteacher with some really upsetting news from my old school which left me in a daze for the rest of the day and most of the rest of the conference, so there won’t be as much detail in this blog as I would have normally given.

Martin’s keynote on Tuesday afternoon talked about Moodle valuing “teachers” – the term meaning anyone who educates others. I guess that makes me still a teacher then, as Moodle’s Community Educator, which is nice. Once a teacher… He talked about what’s new in Moodle 2.7 Over the next couple of weeks the Sites team will be working on new features highlight pages, documentation and screencasts ready for the May release. (Picture thanks to @moodleroomsEMEA)

 

The grand gala dinner in the evening at Our Dynamic Earth was unsurpassed, and with the added bonus that there was a fascinating underground walk around -well – our earth and oceans! Drew Buddie snapped Community Manager Helen Foster and myself by some friendly gentle prehistoric creature:

Thanks to Moodle partner E-Learn Design for sponsoring the gala dinner. I went to their session on Iomad, a multi-tenancy solution they have released to the community. It looks very useful and straightforward to manipulate, but there is also paid-for support if you so desire. (And it’s pronounced ee-maw)

On Wednesday, Marcus Green did the best “elevator pitch” I had ever seen for his gap fill question type and raised a smile in me at an unsmiley time; thanks. I wasn’t brave enough to do a Pecha Kucha session this year, but admired Michelle Moore for her clever “Give a Mouse a Moodle” idea which you can see here on Slideshare. Michelle shares all her presentations on Slideshare, which is something maybe I should think of doing too.

Moodle.net is Moodle’s  somewhat underused community hub, where you  can either find a course to download or enrol in, or search for individual bits of content like quiz questions or glossary entries. Martin chaired a panel discussion to talk about improving and enhancing, revamping Moodle.net, out of which some interesting ideas came, which I’ll blog about another time. We certainly need to find ways to encourage reticent teachers to share and make the process of sharing courses and content easier.

I had a train to catch at 6.10 so sneaked out quietly before the final proceedings.  I’d like once again publicly to thank  the sponsors and especially Gavin -and Karen – who must be devoted to him – cherish him Karen ;)

And see you all again soon!