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. 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, 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!

One year on: Tips for Teaching with Moodle

On March 31st last year I left my school of 28 years, Our Lady’s Preston, to work full time for Moodle.  It has been  a great year, during which I have not only continued working on Moodle documentation but also looked after the demo School Moodle site, Mount Orange,  and the Community hub at and, additionally, enjoyed making videos explaining current and new features. (Hmm..  maybe I should think of broadening my job title beyond Documentation…) However, my first and main love is still Education. I do voluntary work at my old school and still have connections with the local primary schools. I love teaching, breaking  things down into  manageable chunks, simple steps – such as showing people how to make the most of Moodle, whether you are a teacher or an admin, a beginner or a power-user.

To that end, I thought it might be helpful (and also fun for me!) to do some regular posts highlighting aspects of the docs with the aim of giving some ideas to Moodlers out there. The prime target is educators I suppose, but (some) admins can benefit from better understanding the needs of  educators and (some) educators aren’t always aware of Moodle’s many possibilities  because they lack admins’ higher permissions. So… my docs-related posts will be a blend of teaching and managing Moodle, hopefully giving you ideas you could take back to  your own organisation.

I’ve decided to  add them to the Teaching with Moodle forum on, with the title “Moodle tip” -so keep an eye open! I hope to encourage more people to join and contribute to this forum.

Here are the first three topics:

  1. How teachers can share rubrics
  2. How to allow guests to post in forums
  3. Three teacher time-savers admins can enable

Please if you have any suggestions – do suggest them!

Return of the Random short -answer matching Moodle question type

Return of the what? I didn’ t even know anything was missing ! I hear you say… Let me elaborate:

In older versions of Moodle there was a question type called “Random short-answer matching” It was like the matching question type except that the answers to be matched actually came from previously made short-answer questions. It stopped working three years ago and has only just been fixed (thanks to French Moodling quiz enthusiast Jean-Michel Védrine) This week the question type has been put back into Moodle, so if you have the lastest Moodle versions, 2.5.5 and 2.6.2, you will be able to use it.

Many people however only started using Moodle recently and won’t even know of is prior existence. So this post is just to explain it and introduce it. Jean-Michel has added some detailed documentation on the Random short-answer matching question type.

If you have Moodle 2.5.5 or Moodle 2.6.2 then when you add a quiz question you will see this new type available:

There are two things to be aware of. (1) You can’t just add this question and make it there and then, like any other question type,  because you need first to have some short-answer questions pre-made and (2) those questions need to be connected in some way, share a theme.

So I first went to my course question bank and created a sub- category called “Capitals” and I set up some short answer questions on capitals or administrative centres of various parts of the British Isles. Here are a couple, for example:

With this question type, students have to type in the correct name, which I have already spelt out for Moodle. When we, after this, go to set up a Random short-answer question type, we ask a question which refers to all my chosen questions. So previously, students were asked specifically to name the capital of, say Wales, or Scotland. Now they are asked to match the capitals with the answers I had inputted in each question. When you set up the question ,you can choose which category  in your course and how many questions you want to include:


So when the student sees the question, they are seeing an amalgam of questions they might well already have answered but in a different form. This time they don’t have to type out the answers; they just have to remember which goes with which in a matching exercise.

So it would work well as a consolidation question, a knowledge testing question, once they had been through the individual steps for example. Do check out the Random short-answer matching question documentation for more details and give it  a go :)




The history of Moodle … mojitos

If you weren’t already aware, the “official” Moodle Moot drink is the mojito. At the German Moodle Moot in Leipzig last week I did a presentation on the history of Moodle and  Moodle Quiz maintainer Tim Hunt came to me afterwards and suggested it might be a nice human interest touch to include the mojito story. He had a vague idea it originated with Martin Langhoff in Spain a few years back, so I asked him.

In 2005 the Spanish Moodle Moot was held in Las Palmas de  Gran Canaria and a few people began drinking mojitos and one merry evening decided to name it unofficially the official Moodle Moot drink. I can’t locate much in the way of photographic or video evidence of that, but here is possibly one of the first ever:

image thanks to Nacho Ruiz de Erenchun

By following year in Tarragona the practice had established itself so well that (according to Martin L) an advance order of mint had been made at the bar to cater for all the mojito requests. One Moodler, Rafa Barrachina, went back to his boss and claimed for 22 mojitos. Forum thread in Spanish here if you want to see if he got his expenses!

Mojito bill

image thanks to Rafa Barrachina

By 2007 in  Cáceres  we have photos of mojito-drinking Moodlers popping up everywhere:


image thanks to Fermi Cueva

Barcelona in 2008 saw “mojitos in a big jar” captured by Martin Dougiamas who even titled the photos “the official Moodle Moot drink” So that kind of settles it then..

I was a very late starter with mojitos – my first encounter was when I went to Perth  HQ in 2011. Here’s a one minute demo:

My most recent encounter was at a farewell dinner for  Moodle developer Andrew Nicols before he swapped hemispheres to become a Moodle HQ developer down under.

image thanks to Andrew Nicols (and my son Chris!)

What about you?

Moodlefairy goes to Leipzig – German Moodle Moot #mootde14

What a beautiful city! I would call it a “hidden gem” except I suspect everybody else already knows how beautiful it was except me. And  a reasonable size for walking – and a fantastic venue for the 2014 German Moodle Moot, with the strikingly designed university – (thanks to Julian Ridden for the pic) -

New Main Building Leipzig uni

-  our hotel and the eating establishments all within minutes of each other.   I was going to take photos but then I thought it was pointless, since mine are so poor and others take much better ones, so to get a feel for the venue and the Moot, just look through Max Woodtli’s collection here (Max did an excellent, interactive workshop on the Friday on sowing the seeds for learning where we were all making mini-books, trying to locate numbers on a sheet and decipher a hidden word…)

I arrived on Wednesday night, greeted by Tim Hunt who had been doing a developer workshop the previous two days along with Julian Ridden who had done a themes workshop. Julian’s mother is Austrian so he enjoys coming over to Germany to make the (for an Australian) relatively short hop to Austria afterwards to see his “Oma”. It was good to meet again Ulrike Montgomery from Moodle Schule and Ralf Hilgenstock from ELeDia, both Moodle partners who got a mention in my Friday keynote on the history of Moodle, “Es war einmal im Outback”. Although the presentation was in German, the slides were from the wayback machine and in English, so I  hoped it would still be understood by the handful of non-German speakers there. (Photo thanks to Max Woodtli)

You can read a work-in-progress about the History of Moodle in the documentation.

Also a delight to see again was Mahara Granny Sigi Jakob and in fact this Moot was  Mahara Moot too, and every Mahara session I went to contained great real life examples of Mahara use – by Sam Taylor from Southhampton Solent, (Presentation here),  by Katia Murata Arend from Leipzig University  and by Linda Pospisilova.  from Pardubice. (Presentation here)  LInda has some photos on Flickr too (thanks!) It was also great (on the Mahara front) to  meet in person for the first time Kristina Höppner whom I normally see on  large screen beamed over from New Zealand but she was for once back in her homeland to complement the Mahara contingent. Here is a link to her Mahara Treasure Chest.

Back to Moodle -well, not quite: the Thursday keynote was by Jöran Muuß-Merholz  and was deliberately controversial, turning on its head the belief that digital technologies have made for better, more creative, independent and critical learning.  If you understand German, here is a  youtube recording of an earlier version of his presentation. Following this came hours of presentations – until 6pm with staggered lunchtimes – all short and focused. Each Moodle Moot is different, and I think a characteristic of the German Moot is that they offer such a great number of sessions. (Of course you still find you want to go to two, three or (in one case) four at the same time, but you are never short of something that will personally interest you and relate to your own experiences.

I won’t list all the presentations I went to – or had to miss -but one I cannot leave out was scheduled as being by a teacher Waldemar Sobieroj who would tell us how his classes were using Moodle and Mahara. But then it transpired he was just there for offficialdom; he passed the mike to three of his students (from the Oskar-von-Miller Schule) who very eloquently went through their experiences and future plans of both systems. You can’t get better or more genuine than that!

Amongst others I enjoyed finding out about Totara (yes, Totara) from Synergy Learning‘s Alex Büchner, adding questions to the Quiz via Excel  from EleDia’s André  Krüger and Dag Klimas, and 10+ Essential Tips every Moodle admin should know  by Andreas Hruska. I realised I could understand about 85% of what was being said in the sessions, but I  had to concentrate quite hard. In English you can half listen and still pick it up, but every presentation I went to got my full attention in German!

On Thursday evening we had a fantastic buffet at the Ratskeller, in the basement of the New Town Hall. Incredible architecture. On my final afternoon, while waiting for the train to get the plane, I realised I had seen hardly anything of Leipzig. Our hotel was directly opposite the famous Nikolaikirche Leipzig 

Nikolai Kirche from Wikipedia

Leipzig university itself had an incredible new main building

Wikimedia credit to Maria Giulia Tolotti.

but it was thanks to Regina from the University of Zurich that I got to see ALL of Leipzig in one go -from the Panorama Tower next door – 29 floors up and then a couple of euros to get onto the viewing platform. Highly recommended!

And for a bit of odd retro souvenirs – and a lot of  toy Trabants – there was the Allerlei- DDR (GDR)  a shop selling  East-Germany old-style sweets and goods you’d find typically in our Pound shops.

DDR Shop Leipzig

With Regina’s company I got to Leipzig airport with plenty of time for my connecting flight to Frankfurt, only to discover it had been cancelled without explanation. I waited nearly an hour in a long queue of frustrated people being sent back to town with a hotel room and told to return tomorrow. Fortunately for me as I only wanted to go to England and not some distant destination such as Rio or Manila, after my long wait it took the assistant 2 minutes to rebook me onto a connection via Munich and I was home not much later than I would have been flying via Frankfurt.

So a big  thank you to all the Leipzig team and especially Konstanze who has patiently answered my emails for the last few months and who worked very calmly and competently throughout. Mootde14: Ein grosser Erfolg!