Moodlefairy goes to Tokyo #mootjp16

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.

Don, Mary, Thierry, Thom, Hideto, Takahiro

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, sponsors of the moot and one of three Japanese Moodle partners.

Monday evening

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  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!)

Tuesday evening

images from

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 :)

Calling all Moodling Computing teachers…

Today I was pleased to approve two new entries in our Content database, the place where you can get Moodle quiz questions, glossary and database entries and more for your own Moodle site. They are both Computing related quiz questions, some General computing  questions from Hiteshi Trivedi and over 150 GCSE Computing questions from Alan O’Donohoe, former teaching colleague of mine and now continuing his Computing evangelism in a new role with the Exa Foundation.

I’ve for long wanted to create an example Moodle course on Computing, to showcase on our Mount Orange School demo site. This site contains ready-made courses and activities to give you an idea of how to use Moodle in your subject. These new quiz questions will make a great start to a course for teenagers learning Computing  - and I’ll get started on it – but there is only one problem: I don’t actually know anything about Computing :) So here’s where you come in, Moodling Computing teachers….

Open clipart image of teaching code

Alan sees his quiz questions as “Work in progress” and is happy for others to add to and improve them. I’m going to attempt to turn some into the cool new  drag and drop question types   - but we really need more stuff other than just quiz questions! It would be great if you have any other activities you could share, such as Moodle glossary entries , database templates or any ideas for collaborative activities you’ve used yourself in teaching Computing via Moodle.  I’ll build a sample Moodle course from them which we can add to Mount Orange, not only as an example of a Moodle Computing course but also as a usable one you can download and adapt for your own school and students. In fact, with grading via Competency/Skills Based learning being supported in the next version of Moodle, it would be a fine opportunity also to produce real demonstrations of how competencies are achieved.  So please spread the word!

Infographic: Moodle 3.0 What’s New

Webanywhere, one of our UK Moodle partners, sent me a nice infographic the other day which I’m sharing on here. Click the image below to download it as a .PDF file. It shows the new features of Moodle 3.0 from the point of view of teachers, students, admins, and also what’s new in our Moodle mobile app. It draws on the new, improved Moodle 3.0 documentation which is well worth a look if you’re interested in more details about enhancements in this latest  version. Enjoy :)


#mootes15 Moodlefairy goes to Mallorca

Long, long ago, in a different century, a ten year old girl spent two weeks in “Majorca” with her mum, dad and brother and loved it, even making the effort to learn some Spanish before setting off. Still got the book – cost 6 shillings! It’s rather faded,  and dog-eared – with a child’s scrawl attempting the now rather politically incorrect exercises:

Vamos a ver – 1960s BBC Spanish (click to enlarge)

But the memory remained! And so last week, I returned to Mallorca with my own (grown up) daughter to attend the Spanish Moodle Moot hosted at  the University of the Balearic Islands and organised by Toni Mas and  Spanish Moodle partner CV&A Consulting . My daughter is a trainee History teacher and her half term holiday was the week of the moot. Fortunately (for me) she speaks more Spanish than I do; unfortunately (for her) she is not very familiar with Moodle as her school doesn’t seem to bother with a learning platform..

Mother and daughter

We arrived shortly after our HQ colleagues Helen Foster and Gavin Henrick late afternoon of Wednesday 21st October. That first night, we ate together at the excellent Cook and Beer which was both a delight because we had that rare (to Brits) joy of being able to sit outside to eat and also very useful to me because, eating at 7 broke me in gently to the Spanish tradition of eating from 9pm onwards :)

The venue is about 7.5 kilometres from Palma centre. Much to the joy of my daughter (and me) the sun was shining and the sky was blue! What a great location for a campus – I can imagine finding it hard to focus when you can so easily sit out and admire the mountains…

la Universitat de les Illes Balears

Although the conference proper began on Friday, Thursday welcomed keen participants to a pre-moot hackfest with Gavin and Juan Leyva, our mobile app expert, while non-developers joined Helen and me in sessions on the Moodle tracker, translating Moodle, documenting, usability and accessiblity and QA testing. There are some collaborative hackfest notes available here. What struck Helen and me very much in our non-technical sessions was how much participants were both keen to improve their own skills and also eager to share their experiences and tips with us and the others. I often come away from Moodle moots thinking I have learned a lot in a very short space of time, and this was no exception.

The hospitality of our hosts was second to none and I loved our meal on Thursday night at a fantastic seafood restaurant with wonderful view of the harbour. (I just can’t remember its name!!) Salmon, prawn, mussels, crayfish, all delicious, followed by the fascinating tale, from Jordi Vila , CEO and founder of CV&A Consulting (website) of Spain’s popular Anís del Mono drink.

Juan Leyva, Helen Foster, Moodlefairy junior

Helen and I started the moot off on Friday morning with our keynote “El Futuro de Moodle” which is on slideshare.:

We talked about registering your site, about the funding model of Moodle and the positive impact of the Moodle Association; we discussed MoodleCloud, plans for Moodle moots,  HQ development priorities and of course, our next Learn Moodle MOOC starting in January :)  If you know anyone new to Moodle or who’d like to help out, please encourage them to sign up.

Juan on Moodle Mobile 2

Our keynote was followed by Juan’s presentation about exciting developments with the Moodle mobile app, a very important priority for Moodle. You can view his presentation here. After this, we were introduced to a new product, Open Drako TRP,  presented by Jordi’s partner Albert and then Gavin cast his expert eye on Improving the Student Experience. Here is Gavin’s presentation.

Gavin on Improving the Student Experience

(These photos are all from my camera so I apologise if they are not clear. Take a look at #mootes15 on twitter for more and better ones from everyone else.)

Many presentations and workshops followed,  and I especially appreciated the detailed documentating by participants. If you could not attend a session or even if you couldn’t get to the Moot, you did not miss out.

Workshop (Click to enlarge)

On Saturday, Helen and I ran a workshop on – er – the workshop. We were delighted to have so many join us, especially as the session was in English. The Moodle docs page on Pedagogy lists five ‘referents’ of Social constructionism, of which the first is:

All of us are potential teachers as well as learners – in a true collaborative environment we are both.

We definitely felt our session reflected that: participants discovered workshop tips they were not aware of and Helen and I got to hear about the various ways experiences participants have in their own organisations. (Thanks to Sara Arjona Téllez for the photo below)

(Click to see the original tweet)

I also enjoyed a session on Learning Analytics by Roger Dominguez - Roger speaks very clearly and his slides were easy to follow – so I understood quite a bit; thankyou!

Roger Dominguez

After another useful session by Gavin on Competencies,  another HQ Priority,  the moot ended all too soon.  As our flight back to London was not until the following morning, this gave me the opportunity to have a custom made, 3 hour walking tour of Palma’s attractions, with my daughter as tour guide – she having made the most of my time indoors :) I got to see the old town, the Cathedral, the Arab Baths, the Palace and.. well… I recommend anyone to go there and explore for themselves. Thankyou very much Jordi and friends for inviting me, and thanks for the Ensaimada. Mallorca was great, even better 46 years on :)


Top Ten Things to Try in Moodle

“You’ve got 25 minutes to show them Moodle…”

Although I left my school, Our Lady’s Preston, 2 years ago, I still volunteer there from time to time and help out with their Moodle stuff. Last week, I met with the 8 new teachers who will be starting in September (two of whom I actually taught; that’s what happens when you do 3 decades  in one place.) They had an ‘Induction Day’, where they were zapped with all the protocol and procedures of the school so they’d be prepared for the first day back. My brief? Introduce them to Moodle – in 25 minutes.

On the understanding they’d get some hands-on training in the new term, I decided to make this more of a motivational, aspirational session, showing them Moodle’s potential, in the hope they might want to experiment.  Of course, you have to have a handout! Mine included a link to Learn Moodle, our August MOOC , a great place for teachers to start,  and a link to Mount Orange, our School demo site with example courses and data.  It being the week before the launch of MoodleCloud ,my lips were frustratingly sealed about the possibility of trying stuff out on their own free site, but if you’re reading this and you want to try Moodle, head over to MoodleCloud and get yourself signed up.

I began with two points I consider quite pertinent based on my experiences with Moodling teachers in UK secondary schools:

1. Yes, Moodle is the school’s VLE/LMS and yes, it is used in other schools in our area and in the country too – but actually – it’s not just something teachers use in schools – it is global, used by millions in every country, by huge corporates, NGOs and top universities.  When I threw in a few logos, they were surprised. If all these famous entities and more use Moodle, it must have something going for it beyond Mr Brown using it to store his Word document worksheets. Perhaps it’s worth thinking outside the box school.

2. Yes, there is an increasing number of cool sites, programs and apps you can use with your students. (Like many schools, Our Lady’s issues each teacher with an iPad. They started this the week I left :( ) Ipads are very popular, and several of my ex-colleagues are straying from Moodle into app-land – but using stuff that, actually, we can already do in Moodle. I suggested the teachers check out Moodle before creating  accounts for themselves and their class on some new place in cyberspace.

These days it’s all about Lists. “The Top 100 Comedy Sketches of 2014″; the “Top Twenty Tanning Sprays”; “The Top Five Fat-free Foods” … and so on. I’ve even been doing some lists myself for So I gave them …

The Top Ten Things to Try with Moodle

… but in reverse order, starting with the coolest. I hoped it might make them think a little about their own practice, particularly when the one area  many people remain stuck on is actually at the botom of the charts.  So here goes:

1. Peer (and Self Assessment)

You’ve just been practising the past tense in French. Each pupil writes a paragraph “What I did last weekend”. You make a note on the board about what to check -verb endings, gender etc – and the pupils swap exercise books and feedback on each others’ work. Very popular classroom activity. Well you can set it as a homework in Moodle – using the Workshop activity – giving them a chance to try an example assessment and self-assess too if you wish.

2. Collaborative learning

Each table in your classroom has a great big sheet of paper or a flip chart and students work together to add information to it. Use Moodle’s Wiki or Glossary – or use Moodle as a placeholder for Padlet, Google Docs or Office 365 where they can write collaboratively.

3. Reflection and debate

As teachers, we evaluate our lessons, look for ways to improve. Our learners should be doing the same. Moodle’s Feedback, Choice and Blog options allow for self-reflection, focused or wider-ranging, and Forums can spark off discussions on the topics you’re currently studying.

4. Independent/Personalised learning

Moodle’s not just for practice; it’s for teaching. The Lesson activity gives branching options allowing learners to select their own path, and Conditional Activities let you direct your class to different content according to previous performance.

5. Assessment

While many LMS have a quiz option, Moodle’s Quiz is not to be confused with a 10-question-multiple-choice- Get -the answers -at- the- end- and- that’s- it-Pub-Quiz.

Its many standard and contributed question types, behaviours and feedback options mean it can be a formative as well as a summative tool. You can teach through a Quiz, not just test.

6. Submitting work online

Again, worth mentioning that while those other sites, apps or VLE-lites that teachers may have encountered do allow pupils to send in work to be graded,  none offers the variety of Moodle’s Assignment  in both submission and feedback options.  Additionally, Our Lady’s  is a PoodLL school:pupils can speak or perform their homework and teachers can record their responses.

7. Progress tracking and Rewards

Two “quick fixes” for motivation here: enabling Activity completion checkboxes  means your class (and you) have a clearer view of where they are up to. And awarding cool-looking Badges to 15 year old disengaged Johnny when he finally gets over 45% in your Quizzes might just be the turning point he needs.

8. Multimedia

Moodle makes it very easy for people who don’t want to fiddle with code to embed video and audio. YouTube videos display in a label or a page; you can even set the start time.

(At this point, I happened to mention that we seemed to be moving from getting the students actively involved to having them passively watch a video or listen to a podcast. I had an agenda…)

9. Online text books

Perhaps this is unfairly in 9th place,  but I was duty bound to include it as the school has invested in these commercial SCORM packages manufactured by text book authoring companies.  The MFL ones offer listening activites which may be done for homework for example. Another department couldn’t afford a text book for each child, and so buying the VLE package was a sensible solution.  However, in essence they are simply the online version of “turn to page 43 and do exercise 2a and 2b”

10. Share  Powerpoints and weblinks

So we get to number 10 (number 100 in some people’s book) Time to make the point that – of course – having a space to store and share your wonderful slideshows and the worksheets your learners dropped in the gutter on the way home IS a useful feature, but it will hardly tap into their higher order thinking skills, or even stretch your own teaching techniques.


In the last five minutes, we made the connection between Moodle and Bloom’s (which many have made before.)

Lo and Behold -the higher the number in our Top Ten, the higher up in Bloom’s. Our Peer assessment, Reflection, Collaboration – slot neatly into the Analyse, Evaluate, Create, while  the Videos and Powerpoint sharing are down in the Remember, and (with luck) Understand. The learners are going down from actively engaging in their learning to passively taking it in.

So the message in the 25th minute was: if you really want Moodle to help enhance your teaching and their learning, make Dr Bloom happy and aim for the Top :)