Last week I attended the Japanese Moodle Moot in Tokyo, as a guest of the Moodle Association of Japan, a well-established and esteemed organisation of both native Japanese and expatriate western Moodle enthusiasts from all areas of Japan.
Family commitments prevented me from staying after the moot, so on the afternoon of my arrival I was delighted to have a whirlwind tour of Tokyo with MAJ President Hideto Harashima. We took in the ancient and the modern - Senso-ji, the city’s oldest temple, followed by the Skytree, completed in 2012 and now the tallest tower in the world. And to follow the ancient and modern: the traditional – my first Japanese meal of ramen - at which point I realised that while my having practised some basic Japanese before arrival might prove useful, it might have been even more useful if I had practised using chopsticks Never mind.
Sunday was the pre-conference workshops. I always appreciate participating in Moodle workshops run by people who aren’t me! This time I learned about using LTI to link courses and activities on different sites in a session run by Thom Rawson, who at 6 ft 9 is known as “the tallest man in West Japan” (which to me seems less of a nickname and more of a description.) I then learned about “Remoot control” a cool web app produced by the tech guys of Paris Descartes university which enables teachers to get their students responding on their mobiles to Moodle questionnaires. This session was run by featured speaker Thierry Koscielniak whom I know from the French Moodle moots. I did a workshop on the Lesson activity which caused me much entertainment as I listened to Hideto’s interpretation of my words, picking out the many borrowed English words in the midst of the Japanese I didn’t understand
Sunday night took us into the centre of Tokyo to a place called…. Beer Pub Camden where we drank craft beers (very good) and ate fish and chips (very British!) You could tell how integrated the American/Canadian/Australian/British Moodlers were as they sat there happily eating fish and chips with chopsticks. And yet again I learned how small this big world is: I sat opposite Elton LaClare, a Canadian who had lived several years just a few miles from me in Preston and there we were, in Japan, talking about the Sunday train service in Lancashire…
The moot proper took place on the Monday and Tuesday. If I mentioned all the presentations I attended, it would turn a blog post into a novella, so I’ll summarise by saying it was excellent to hear about the many real-life case studies , particularly of Moodle use in language teaching. I was happy to share my own experiences of language teaching in the UK and to pick up tips from Elton LaClare and Rob HIrschel from Sojo University , from long-time Moodler Gordon Bateson and to finally meet Justin Hunt, “the PoodLL guy”, a bit of a celebrity at the moot, whose plugins were showcased in several presentations I saw. I was particularly taken with his Read Aloud and TQuiz plugins (Github link here) and their use in diagnosing dyslexia. And to top it all, I’m promised a Python course from Christian Thompson (which will doubtless please teknoteacher and help me in my quest for Computing Moodle courses)
16 floors up in the Sky building of Toyo University was the venue for the Monday evening get-together, another chance to experiment with chopsticks, enjoy sushi and other dishes I had never tried but was delighted to taste and wonder at the magnificent view of the city at night. Here I had the opportunity to chat to Takeshi Matsuzaki, CEO of e-learning.co.jp, sponsors of the moot and one of three Japanese Moodle partners.
Former HQ developer Jetha Chan presented just before me on LMS issues in Asia. A student of Japanese, Jetha presented in Japanese and English, something I could only admire but not emulate, although I did try to say a few words in Japanese before my own keynote on “Working for the Community” – thanks to the kind assistance of Mari Yamaouchi (who’d also generously picked me up from the airport.) Asked by MAJ vice-president Don Hinkelman, Jetha and I helped in the judging and presenting of MAJ awards for best courses uploaded to the MAJ hub, a community hub similar to Moodle.net and for best Moodle innovation.
On Tuesday, my final night, a group of us – including Mari and myself pictured below – trundled off to an isakaya where we sat on mats at a low table and I had a lesson in chopstick usage and etiquette from Adam Jenkins (don’t stick them in your rice and don’t push your bowl with them!)
I also experienced both cold and warm sake and no hangover whatsoever when I had to be up bright and early at 7 am for my flight home, kindly escorted to the hotel by Peter Ruthven-Stuart and then through the morning subway maze by Takahiro Kagoya. Thankyou so much.
Overriding memories? The kindness, generosity and enthusiasm of Moodlers in Japan and their desire to promote and encourage subscription to the Moodle Users Association, which has Hideto on the inaugural committee. Oh yes – and the Japanese toilets - but you can read about them yourselves