MoodleMootUK 2010: A View from the Trenches

From Philip Butler ULCC, Chair of MMUK10 Programme Committee

Running on adrenalin during MoodleMoot UK 2010 (#mootuk10) meant that the following days have been returning to earth with a bump!  I imagine it’s similar to what astronauts must have felt when returning to earth; the world is familiar but strangely different.  The annual UK Moot took place 13 & 14 April 2010 with the impressive University of London’s Senate House as its backdrop.  Over 250 excited delegates arrived from all over the UK, along with a good proportion coming from as far away as Adelaide, New York, Beirut, Trinidad, Finland, The Hague, Austria and Russia.

I’ve successfully navigated ‘re-entry’ although I’m still suffering remnants of MoodleMoot cold turkey!  I can now look back over an extraordinary experience and pen a very personal report in an attempt to capture all the good things that happened. Martin & David wrote about their experience in the breakout session, feel free to comment or get in touch with to have your guest blog post featured on the blog.

IMG_1409-300x125First I can’t write this report before thanking everyone involved in making it one of the best I’ve attended in many years.  Clearly #mootuk10 couldn’t have happened without an awful lot of planning and preparation by the ULCC team, especially Mick Kahn and Frank Steiner, supported by Sean Keogh and a great Moot Programme Committee who put together the raw ingredients.  But a special mention has to go to everyone attended, along with a few bloggers and tweeple who were there in spirit if not in person!  The delegates bring the whole thing together and produce an experience comparable, I should imagine, like attending one of Heston Blumenthal’s feasts (could we explore this for next year?).

Day 1 – Tuesday 13th April

Anyway, it was a huge honour to have the Vice Chancellor (Elect), University of London and Warden of Goldsmiths College, Professor Geoffrey Crossick to officially launch the conference.  By all accounts it was an excellent speech, although I sadly missed it due to me trying to locate our first keynote speaker, Professor Sugata Mitra.  We managed to avoid catastrophe by one of Sugata’s whiskers as I was shoving him through the door and onto the stage literally as he was being introduced… Phew!

Panic over, it really couldn’t have got off to a better start.  I’ve been privileged to have met and heard Sugata several times, and his ideas and delivery are just as fresh and inspiring as if you’re coming to him for the first time.  He is a remarkable character who has been responsible for some incredible work in his native India, entitled the ‘Hole in the Wall’ project.  I have visited one of these projects and seen first-hand the impact that Sugata’s work has had on village communities and the ‘street kids’ who were given opportunities to ‘play’ with computers.  Indeed, this was reportedly the inspiration that led to the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.

I can’t say that inviting Sugata wasn’t without its risks; he’s never been associated with Moodle, or even the Open Source community, so the question was how a hugely discerning Moot audience would receive him?  But when considering a programme, I was keen to introduce delegates to a range of perspectives; including the impact of technology on teaching and learning, the organisational impact, along with practitioners and administrators.  My faith in both the Professor and the Moodlers were vindicated completely by the number of positive real-time comments appearing on Twitter:

“listening to sugata mitra talk about the hole in the wall project – pretty amazing stuff #mootuk10”by markdrechsler

“signing off 4 a bit, work 2 do, will catch up with #mootuk10 later, lots of thoughtful stuff, particularly Sugata Mitra on Hole In The Wall!” by jamesmichie

“Getting ready for day 2 @ MootUK10 Prof Sugata was awe inspiring Looking 4ward to meeting MD Mr Moodle #mootuk10” by mikallaane

Whilst Sugata certainly covered the former, Ross Mackenzie, the Open University, gave a really interesting insight into how one of the leading organisations in the use of Moodle approached the strategic issues when considering how to plan ahead.

“@rossmackenzie In 24h period OU Moodle has 35-50,000 unique users with 2-3,000 users on at any one time! Incredible stats #mootuk10” by digitalmaverick

Vice Principal Philip Badman on the other hand showed clearly what a large FEC can achieve (Outstanding Ofsted Inspection) when driven by a supportive and engaged Senior Management Team.