MoodleMoots are conferences held around the world, with a focus on encouraging collaboration and sharing of best practices of the open source learning platform.
Every year across the globe, thousands of Moodle community members, Moodle Partners and new users meet up at a MoodleMoot. They present, network, learn, and, like every good meet up, they also debate and have engaging conversations on topics they are passionate about.
If this is the first time you have heard of a MoodleMoot or if you have never attended one but have heard us or others talk about it a number of times, you might wonder….
“What happens at a MoodleMoot?”
“What will I get out of going to a MoodleMoot?”
Or you might also ask: “Why should I attend and present at a MoodleMoot?”
With the MoodleMoot 2017 calendar filling up quickly, we speak to Richard Oelmann, a previous MoodleMoot UK and Ireland attendee and presenter, to answer those questions and to share his personal experience at MoodleMoots.
Moodle HQ: Thank you Richard for taking the time to speak with us today. Let’s start with finding out more about yourself – what do you do, where are you based and what’s your involvement with Moodle?
Richard: Hi, it’s a pleasure. I’m currently the Senior Systems Developer, responsible for Learning Technologies at the University of Gloucestershire, having recently moved here from my Learning Technologist role at the University of South Wales.
My background though, is as a Primary school teacher and that’s where I came to development through Moodle in the first place. I got involved with Moodle initially when I was a Schools’ IT Advisory Teacher in Cardiff when we were rolling it out across the county, which was probably version 1.8 from memory.
At that point I was simply using Moodle to put some resources up for schools and passing that experience on to teachers just beginning to use it. When I went back into school from my secondment, I installed Moodle as our school website and VLE and began my journey in Moodle themes – adapting and then creating one for the school, with a LOT of help from the community.
Because of that support, I got more and more involved in the forums on moodle.org, both asking questions and then finding I could answer them too, so that the forum community and developing themes for Moodle became something of a hobby, or even a passion for me. That led to me becoming a moderator in the forums and eventually to me leaving teaching and taking up a university position running the Moodle site for them as an administrator and developer as well as a Learning Technologist. It’s great when you get paid for doing your hobby!
The community around Moodle remain a passionate reason why I advocate for Moodle as much as I can. And my advice to anyone involved in Moodle, whether as a Primary school teacher, University or college educator, user, administrator or developer would be to join with that community, use it, experience it. It’s one of the most friendly and supportive online communities I have ever been involved with.
Moodle HQ: So, how many MoodleMoots have you attended and where? And what drew you to attending them in the first place?
Richard: My first face to face Moot was the Edinburgh UK and Ireland Moot in 2014. And that first experience, meeting some of the people I had come to know online in the community for the first time was amazing!
Not just the Moot itself – well organised, fascinating talks (too many to see them all!) – but the networking, the social aspect, the informal chats around the tables, all of it contributed to a sense of community. Not to ignore the learning that I did there – discovering new things around Moodle and how people were using it and also discovering a few things that some people considered ‘new and innovative’ we were already doing as what we thought of as standard practice.
That open sharing of good practice, of innovations and ideas, of enthusiasm drew me to the Moots and keeps me coming back and learning more every year.
Moodle HQ: Now you have been a participant and a presenter at MoodleMoots. For those who might ask, why would you become a presenter at a MoodleMoot? What do you get out of it?
Richard: Why become a presenter? – Perhaps, ‘why not’? Everyone has experiences to share and the range of attendees at the MoodleMoot is such that everyone has something to learn and something to give – whether it is examples of good practice in teaching, something new or novel in Learning Analytics – or not so new and novel, but giving personal experiences of how something has been used in your context.
My presentation in Dublin was based on a simple adaptation and use of some multi-lingual tools in a Welsh context – it was part of a project we were doing in the University at the time and I knew there had been a number of queries around the area in the forums. As a result I was asked to talk about it at several other conferences and even had people internationally coming to one of those conferences because of my talk!
I guess one of the other things I got out of it though was a better understanding of what it is like to present at a conference – for all my teaching, tutoring and advising experience, standing up in front of your peers as the ‘expert presenter’ can be daunting at first, but is hugely rewarding, right from the initial preparation and submission of the proposal, through to the relief as you step down after the final questions!
The little comments beforehand as you are meeting people at the Moot ‘Oh you’re talking about… I can’t wait to hear it’, through to the chats afterwards from people who want to know more, or come and share their own experiences.
Moodle HQ: Now switching to your participant “hat” – can you describe briefly what attending a MoodleMoot is like? What do you see or do from the first day you walk in through the doors of the conference venue to the last day when you walk out and finish a MoodleMoot?
Richard: I’d have to say that attending a Moot doesn’t start with walking through the venue door – it starts before that, when you register and you start accessing the presentation timetable and sessions online. Planning what you want to see, signing up for the first day workshop sessions, making those choices between the clashing sessions you want to be part of, anticipating the friends from the community or from previous Moots you might be meeting. And then you get there! You will register, take a look around the venue and jump right in.
Day one is workshops. Introduce yourself – you’ll be meeting people for the next few days and everyone has at least one common interest! Get your tablet, laptop, phone out and get ready – take photos, notes, tweet, sketches, whatever you do at conferences (I tweet – lots! Enough to make my daughter complain that her timeline is swamped every day I’m away).
Day two and three are the main conference presentations. Take the time to meet with the vendors as, even if you are not interested in their products, some of them have interesting views on edTech generally. Take in the posters, find the authors and chat about them if you see something that interests you and you want to know more. Take in the presentations – and if you’ve never been to a pico format session (presentations of 6 minutes, 40 seconds each), do it! Ask questions, chat to people around you.
Oh, and don’t forget the socials – there’s usually a drinks reception the first evening, the conference gala dinner and entertainment, ranging from a live band to last year’s comedian. But just as important, the coffee breaks and lunches. The presentations are vital, you will hopefully learn so much from them, but just as important is the social, community and networking side of actually meeting people and sharing experiences that make the whole experience of the Moot so much more than just being a conference.
Moodle HQ: Lastly, if you had to choose one major highlight of a MoodleMoot, what would it be? And… (OK that’s two questions but just in case your answers differ) what are you excited most about for the MoodleMoots you are attending in 2017?
Richard: I think most people can probably guess my answer to this one from my previous comments – the major highlight for me at any Moot is the community, the people, the networking. The rest of it is a wonderful experience, from the developer hackfest and the workshops, through the knowledgeable and thought-provoking presentations on a wide range of topics, but what sets a MoodleMoot aside from other conferences I’ve attended or presented at, is that openness and community.
For me, I’m also looking forward to hopefully presenting again (once I manage to write a presentation proposal) and helping out by chairing some of the sessions. But most of all, to meeting friends – old and new – and taking away more fantastic ideas to make our VLE even better for our users.
Thank you Richard for taking the time to chat to us about your MoodleMoot experience, as a presenter and a participant. You’ve highlighted some exciting and fun things people can expect from being part of a MoodleMoot.
Now the next MoodleMoot UK and Ireland 2017, which is the first conference to be organised by Moodle HQ, will be held from 10 – 12 April at Park Plaza Riverbank, London. Find out more about it or register your spot today!
If you would like to find a MoodleMoot near you, check out our “Find Your Moot” world map on the moodlemoot.org home page or subscribe to get updates.
See you at MoodleMoot soon!