I Was Just Thinking…

The Little Moodle Moot that Could: Mountain Moot 2015

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think can

– The Little Engine

NOTE:  Wow I am slow getting this out.  Too many projects.  Hope it is still useful.  Here it goes…
As best as I can tell, a Mootineer is one who helps run the Mountain Moodle Moot. Our good friend Dan Case, the organizer and Lead Mootineer, has done an amazingly creative job of turning $650 in seed money into a destination Moot event for Moodlers.  I don’t think Dan was quite sure he could pull off a Moodle Moot when that $650 showed up at his door, (see image below)  but as in many other cases when a passionate individual and a plan come together, you often get amazing results in spite of circumstance.  Dan and the Carroll College crew have truly created a community based event that allows Moodlers in attendance to refill their Moodle buckets and enjoy the heart and character of Montana in just a few fun filled days.
650 dollars to do a conference seriously
I believe this was a destination Moodle event even before Chief Moodler Martin Dougiamas, decided to show up for the 2015 Mountain Moot.  That is a key point for this post and probably the main reason I decided to show up for this year’s moot.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the Mountain Moot each year I have attended and I have always learned a lot.  Although I have been deeply engaged in Moodle deployments since 2004 I am not as engaged at my current institution as deeply I have been in the past. I do have other open projects in the Asterisk/ Digium phone world going, but Moodle is no longer my institutional baby.
Because of this, I really considered staying home and focusing on other issues.  The second issue in my consideration of not showing up was related to a conversation I overheard in which one person said this has been…

The Year of Fake Open Source in Higher Education

I do agree that  this past year has not been good for open software in education.
I have written a series of blogs about a drastic change in higher education which occurred last August which stresses the very fiber of openness and transparency in educational software.  Much of the argument about this change relates to the shift in licensing from a GPL to a AGPL model in a higher ed ERP software called Kuali, but the reality is the arguments often revolve around the details of the change, not the spirit of open source.  The spirit of open source is the underlying issue. Dr Chuck Severances’ work explains the the GPL vs AGPL issue better than any other and he states,
Instead of hating corporations for being clever and maximizing revenue – we members of open source communities must simply be mindful of being led down the wrong path when it comes to software licensing.
Although it is imperative we continue to attend events such as the Mountain Moodlemoot to learn how to teach and serve students better, but I would suggest that we ALL dive a little deeper to understand how deeply a change in licensing of a particular software or the choice of licensing up front impacts true openness, transparency, and sharing. The conversation should also cover the establishment and enormous success of Instructure and their constant reminder that they too are open source.    I feel compelled to comment on this further because I believe Moodle’s new path is directly influenced by this enormous success Instructure has had with the Canvas LMS.   Moodle uses a truly open GPL license while Canvas uses the AGPL3 license.  People not familiar with various forms of open source often fall prey to the marketing machine that is Instructure.  It’s not that they offer a terrible product.  Quite the opposite.
My series of blogs mentioned above references a situation where there was  a change licensing, terrible communication, as well as what is perceived by many as apparent deception.  Even more documentation chronicling these issues is found here.  Frankly, the whole thing has gotten me a little down on open software in education.  
The beginning of the conference didn’t help my mood.  It was a bit frightening to me as I learned about the new Moodle Association and its tiered membership model.  Although I now have high hopes for this new path, when I first heard this concept, visions of Sakai,  Kauli, and Unizin danced in my head while the motto “He who Provides the gold makes the Rules”  flashed before my eyes.  Was this another strike against the little guy?  Had the open world and transparent world of Moodle been pulled to the dark side?  Is it time to go buy that shiny pizza truck I have had my eye on?  I wasn’t sure what to think.  (NOTE: Sakai & Kauli are higher education projects started with open source ideals that failed their initial promise.  Unizin is a higher education project the charges a significant entry fee in exchange for…. essentially nothing.)  
I have used this content previously but I think it important to occasionally offer a reminder of the importance of community in a project such as Moodle.  Years ago, I watched a talk that Dr. Jason Cole did at the  Alaska Society for Technology in Education ASTE 2009.  He described a community which brought a variety of skills together to achieve a common purpose as described by Yochai Benkler’s Commons Based Peer Production model.  He said, “With a big enough network of people, we can self Identify and allocate ourselves to the areas where we can add value to a given project.” Benkler says the Peer Production advantage over the Industrial Model is in identifying the best available human capital and using it collaboratively to highly refine and increase production.  With Chief Moodler, Martin Dougiamas steering the ship, Moodle has done this pretty well.  I was working for a broke little college which didn’t have two nickels to rub together when Moodle came along as a viable option for an LMS.   
However, as the LMS market has changed it appears only Instructure Canvas has grown widely in past couple of years.  Phil Hill tells us that Moodle gained no schools with an enrollment  >2000 in 2013 and 2014.   Although other sources tell me this is not quite true as they have personally been involved in site adoptions during this timeframe the point that Canvas has drastically changed the LMS landscape is spot on.  With innovation being critical as projects such as Moodle move forward, we have begun to hear cries that we must speed up development.  I suspect this is at least in part a direct result of the Canvas influence on the marketplace.  Moodle’s answer to speeding up development is the the Moodle Association.  I voiced my concerns to Martin about the path Kuali chose in moving from a community based model to a commercial-source entity and he assured me that core was safe.
martin tweet for twitter gameThis conference had Moodle Founder Martin Dougiamas giving a little different keynote than the other times I have heard him speak.  During the keynote this was re-emphasized.  One of his first statements in the opening keynote,

We are not selling out, going commercial, or accepting venture capital

martin dougiamas keynote
As he continued he described the plan which essentially is:

  • The Moodle Association will focus on and speed up additional development. Memberships will fund new developers to create this new development based on the priorities set by the Moodle Association Committee (NOTE: Since this post is a little too long I will have more commentary on the Moodle Association tomorrow)
  • Moodle Core development will remain the same as proceeds from the worldwide network of Moodle Partners will continue to fund development and oversight.  

Getting Moodle Out of the Way
I was talking with one of my Casper College colleagues, Michael Deal, this morning and he mentioned the power of  Martin’s comment about getting Moodle out of the way of learning.  We all have projects which are particularly special to each of us.  Moodle is Martin’s baby, so when he starts talking about getting his own baby out of the way of learning I think you should pay attention.  In the slide prior to the one shown below  there was a similar slide except it had Moodle in the middle of all these components (No I didn’t get a shot of that one).  Essentially he stated we have to get to the point where even though Moodle is in the middle of all the parts, it is not in the way.

Other Conference Stuff
My favorite Martin quotes from the Keynote

    1. Open brings privacy
    1. We won’t want to get to a situation where we can’t change our mind
  1. We always need the open option

One of the key things Casper College has been able to bring to the Mountain Moodle Moot is support for the conference social media game.  Each of the last 3 years we have brought our Social Media Specialist, Justin Pehrson, to help get people up and going with social media, specifically Twitter.  The key role of the games the past 3 years has been to provide another tool for conference participants to connect with other Moodlers.  The feedback I have gotten is that it has worked.  Here is a comparison of Twitter Activity 2013 -2015.   
mountain moodle moot twitter activity
Why the significant decrease 2014 to 2015?  I think there was more purposeful tweeting.  Last year several participants were simply retweeting everything in sight to increase their ranking for some of the games.  I think overall numbers have retweeted….I mean retreated because people are tweeting closer to my core recommendations in my post “10 Reasons to Tweet at a Conference”  People were sharing and networking like crazy via Twitter. We have tweak the game each year, but the core of the original game was my creation so I am pleased
Other looks at the Mountain Moot Twitter Activity:
mountain moodle moot twitter activity update
Top Retweets
most retweets 1
July 14, 2015
most retweets 2
July 15, 2015
Here are the Rules of Engagement for the 2015 Mountain MoodleMoot  if you have not seen them.

Live Streaming Video
Justin Pehrson also provided video streaming of many of the sessions from the moot, including Martin’s incognito presentation.  They are archived and available for viewing at
martins keynote on video
Moodle Cloud
If you haven’t heard of the MoodleCloud, it is a new service which provides teachers a free hosted Moodle instance to help them not have to worry about the logistics of setting up servers and installing Learning Management System software.  It will provide:

    • A full (always current) Moodle version
    • Unlimited database size
    • 50 users
    • 200 Mb Disk Space

announcement of the moodle cloud
The Closing Panel
What a privilege to sit on a panel at the 2015 Moodle Moot in Helena, Montana with Jonathan and Michelle Moore, Gavin Hendrick and Moodle Founder and Lead Developer Martin Dougiamas. (Notice the “wee acorn” amongst the giant Moodle Oaks getting a pic from his position in the panel cheap seats of the educational rock stars on the panel)   

moodle panel view 1 moodle panel view 2
moodle panel view 3

Other Bits and Pieces

My presentation “Looking Back at the Future of Moodle”  was a lot of fun.  Looking back at the Future of Moodle,  shows us what Moodlers such as Michael Penney, Jason Cole, Michelle Moore,  and D.I. Von Briesen were thinking in 2006. This was filmed at the first Oklahoma Moodle Moot held at Quartz Mountain Lodge near Altus Oklahoma.  My old Moodling buddy Scott Charlson shot the video and provided the footage for the presentation.  
The family got to meet the Moodle Guy I have been talking about all these years.   Some of my former Western Oklahoma State compadres such as Melissa Smith , Lynn Null and Susan Childs will appreciate this more than others.
Last but not least was my Petcha Kutcha 20×20 presentation (See image below)  6min40second Broomcorn Strong presentation which was a 1st run of the presentation “Dirt & Brooms” I am moderating at my hometown County Fair in a couple weeks.  By the way, I didn’t make the time limit.  I came in at 6min 43 seconds.
Kent Brooks Petcha Kutcha
From its humble beginnings nearly 15 years ago there are now over 46,000 registered Moodle sites, over 119 million enrollments, and 56 million users in 214 countries.  Martin is still the nicest most humble man who is truly dedicated to helping teachers have access to open and free resources to do their job better. If there is a true reason the new format might work…it is probably the preceding sentence more than the other gibberish I wrote above.  Great little moot and a great Mountain Moodle Moot Community. This is definitely a small but mighty Moodle Moot … sounds alot like the little train that could.  Kudos to Dan, Ryan and the Mootineers for another great learning experience.


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