On what's not actually The Hottest Day Of The Year but feels like it might be, I'm at the Open University for the MoodleMoot 2006. There are nearly 250 people here - it's almost unrecognisable from the first one I went to two years ago, and significantly bigger than last year's effort. Martin Dougiamas is here and will be speaking tomorrow morning.
First up this morning was Niall Sclater - VLE director of the OU. His was a very interesting presentation about the OU's investment in Moodle both in terms of time, organisational and financial resources. It was really interesting and my overall impression was that it put all of the other commercial "buy our product and you won't worry" Learning Platform / VLE providers in perspective - seriously, there's nothing compared to this, it's going to be far bigger and far more significant than anything else, and that's before hearing about the OU's Open Content Initiative. Looking at my notes, significant input in these areas:
- Custom roles - any number of customisable roles including the potential for a role of Parent, which users having certain rights to participate in certain modules, rather than having a course-wide or site-wide 'right'
- Accessibility - improving the functionality of Moodle with a screen reader such as Jaws
- Asynchronous communication tools - improvements to wikis, blogs, forums
- Synchronous tools - including FlashMeeting and BuddySpace
- Calendar tools - including sync with wireless / mobile devices
- Mobile Learning - including an announcement that Intel are going to investigate the development of an offline browser which would synchronise with Moodle, both for mobile and desktop clients
- ePortfolio - an integrated tool within Moodle which should be available in (I think) early to mid-2006
After this session we hurried what seemed like a mile across the campus to a very warm room where Ray Le Couteur talked about his experience of Moodle in a secondary school. He's very much come from an enthusiast's position which has spread throughout the school, which was interesting. Greg Hodson and Katie Bownes are here (we're presenting this afternoon) and Greg and I weren't sure about Ray's assertion that activities weren't really appropriate for secondary level education (and presumably wouldn't apply to primary level as well) - and there was quite a bit of evidence from people in the room that they've found activities are effective and a core part of using Moodle in school. I think Greg will mention that this afternoon as part of what we're doing.
Right now I'm listening to Miles Berry's reflections on being asked by Naace to develop a CPD Toolkit around Learning Platforms. The man has a depth of reading that I probably couldn't manage if I gave up my day job. There are reflections from FutureLab, the Schools White Paper and all over the shop.
Next up in the Schools Track is Steve Hyndman and three colleagues from the Model Laboratory School in Kentucky. It's worth coming just for Steve's accent (do you think he thinks the same about British accents? probably not). Melissa Lindsey (4th grade teacher - 9 & 10 year old kids) is demonstrating a really nice and simple use of a course. Liese Rhodus teachers 7th & 8th grade (middle school) and has her own class page, but currently without student enrolments, so it's more like static resources with details of homework rather than active assignments. Finally Susan Neumann teaches at a High School and uses a wide range of Moodle units in her class.