Moodle at BETT and after

Mar 10, 2006

Miles Berry

I was very happy to play my small part in seeing Moodle represented at the BETT show last January. I see Leon Cych has linked to the HUGTOB site in his new TES Blog, so thought I ought to bring anyone following the links up to date. Here’s a copy of the post over there.

The Moodle stand at the show itself was a huge sucess – despite being “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy”, we had a near constant stream of visitors over the four days of the show – walking through the deserted stands of the main hall late on the Wednesday evening, I was astounded by the crowds still milling around the Moodle stand. We were all so pleased by the interest shown in Moodle, and delighted to play our small part in telling folks about it.

The presentation in the software seminar theatre was packed, and there were folks standing three deep on the outside – I’m hopeful that the video will make it out onto the web before much longer, in the meantime I did manage to record my BCS presentation on the e-strategy, which is now online, although the quality isn’t brilliant. There are photos of the stand, the presentation and some of the personalities over on Flickr.

Although there wasn’t the vast acres of press coverage we were looking for, there was some great feedback in the blogosphere, from Ian Usher, ‘RichardRadio’, Sue Hutton, who’d travelled down from Birmingham to meet us, National Strategy guru Mark Berthelemy, Steinn Sigurðarson, Stuart Yeates, Gary Day, Terry Freedman and, of course, Josie Fraser, amongst others.

We’ve also engaged in a fair amount of post-show evaluation, prompted by Julian Ridden’s notion of seeing Moodle promoted at Australia’s CeBIT – there’s a warts and all thread over on I certainly believe that there’ll be a Moodle prescence at BETT in 07, but I don’t think any of us are quite ready to say exactly what form this will take!

The big news over the last few months though has been the gathering momentum for the nationwide roll-out of ‘learning platforms’ in 2008. I’m helping coordinate a Moodle response to some aspects of this through Becta’s Learning Platform Technical Subgroup, and from what I’ve seen of the draft functional specifications, I think it’s likely that Moodle will satisfy these requirements by the time it reaches its v2.0 release (maybe later this year…), although most can already be ticked off or could be by the soon expected v1.6 – see the Roadmap for what to expect, and whilst there take some time to explore the outstanding Mooodledocs wiki coordinated by Alton College’s Helen Foster. Personally, I’m quite disappointed that it looks as though the Functional Specification is going to be far more concerned about delivering packaged content and tracking learners than providing tools for communication, collaboration and creativity, but I guess this is due to the top-down approach of consulting policy types and suppliers, but not asking teachers and learners what they want from a learning platform. This is a real missed opportunity, seems to pay little heed to the emphasis on personalisation we see in the e-strategy and the schools white paper, and will leave us lagging behind other countries, who have embraced the potential of this technology to transform education in a far more learner-centred way.

All of which is fairly hypothetical since, as Leon points out, Becta’s framework agreement, on which I didn’t see much by way of consultation, is all about big companies supplying commercial products, which, to my mind, is likely to produce learning platforms that make about as much difference to learning and teaching as management information systems do. I don’t know enough about EU competition law, but to my mind Local Authorities and Regional Broadband Consortia would get far better value for money by using the learning platform money to fund development, hosting, support, training and content of an excellent, and proven, open-source solution like Moodle. That said, as the school funding isn’t going to be hypothecated, heads will have the chance to opt-out of the centrally provided solution and choose something which is suited to their own pedagogic approaches and vision. As Geoff Minshull said in a 2004 Becta report,

“Buying a VLE is one of the most important decisions for an institution, one that has major implications for it, and should be seen as significant as buying a major new building. The choice of VLE will be significant across all areas of the institution and especially in the way in which teaching and learning are undertaken. It is therefore essential that the selection of the VLE and the way it is implemented are in close accordance with the institution’s strategic plan”

I am being kept jolly busy myself, apart from the day job – our work with Elgg is receiving some attention, and I’m very excited about the possibilities of Elgg-Moodle integration, on which there’s been a lot of progress from Martin Langhoff and Penny Leach in NZ. I continue to be involved with the BCS e-learning working party, and am also doing some work with NAACE’s transformed education project. I’ve been exploring a lot more of Web 2.0 of late, and have started a blog of my own. I’m also presenting on how we’ve used Moodle at St Ives on the Becta stand at the Education Show at 10.00 tomorrow (Saturday 11th March), if anyone wants to come and say Hi.