On my travels I’m often asked “what does “Moodle” mean?” and I reel out the acronym Modular- Object -Oriented -Dynamic -Learning Environment, together with the information that “to moodle” is also a verb describing the process of lazily meandering through something, doing things as it occurs to you to do them, an enjoyable tinkering that often leads to insight and creativity. (See Moodle.org for more)
The word Moodle™ is trademarked, however, which means that if you are not an official Moodle Partner, then you can’t use the word Moodle alongside related paid services such as training or hosting. This is perfectly reasonable, because otherwise every Tom, Dick, Harry -or even Mary- would advertise themselves with the word and the logos - and then potentially substandard services could bring the name into disrepute. Moodle Partners are vetted for quality (and also contribute back towards the development of Moodle.) Years ago when I first began blogging, I was naively ignorant of this and called my blog moodletraining – only to receive a warning within weeks that this was a no-no; hence its current plain but descriptive name. (Still, at least the warning meant people were reading it!)
This does make for interesting linguistic challenges though as an individual or little enterprise offering training: how can you advertise without using the word itself? While it’s clear from some websites, that a number of companies just ignore the rule completely, others are very imaginative – one in particular taking its inspiration from a Britvic softdrink Despite being very careful, the training centre at my school,OurLearning, fell foul of Moodle Partner wrath last summer because we had “Moodle” in the title of a couple of our courses. A quick Search and Replace rid us of all offending terms, but somehow, VLE 2 just doesn’t quite get the message across! Fortunately I am allowed to say I am the author of books about Moodle, but I confess I nearly went into hiding last year when, having cheerfully agreed to write a foreword for Vinny Stocker’s Science Teaching with Moodle 2 my free copy arrived emblazoned with “Moodle trainer and Consultant” on the front cover. Noooooooo!! I didn’t call myself that, honest.
I’d imagine that while the trademark rules apply to the words written online and on paper, in general conversation it’s not quite as rigid. However, Paula, our training co-ordinator, is so paranoid about it that she refuses to use the term even when talking on the telephone, for fear, I suspect, that the Trademark Police might have tapped her phone and heard her using the “M-word” innappropriately. (It’s ok; she doesn’t read this blog!) Most times that doesn’t matter, but it did cause some confusion in September when she was trying to explain to a potential client that although it does say we offer VLE courses, actually, Mary is unable to provide training on Microsoft Sharepoint…
Of course, thoughtless use of terminology can backfire in the opposite way too: I went to a school in Oldham to present Moodle to the staff on an INSET day. I talked about Our Lady’s use of Moodle; I showed them example Moodle courses with good practice, explained how Moodle would save them time on marking, motivate their students, how the Moodle community would offer free help and support… and at the end of my hour slot, one lady, with a particularly puzzled expression, raised her hand: “Excuse me – but -what exactly IS Moodle?” she asked. Before I was able to formulate a response, her colleague nudged her: “It’s the VLE” she explained. Enlightenment shone across the first lady’s face: “Oh -THE VLE!!” she exclaimed; “why didn’t she say that?!”