Reflection on a keynote from Dublin eLearning Summer School


Today I was lucky enough to attend the “Bridging the Gap” Dublin eLearning Summer School 2012 held in the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) in Ireland.

This summer school is in its 10th year and has a wide range of great talks and workshops on a myriad of topics.

Full details can be found on the ELSS site

Some of the sessions will be streamed online – available on PC at and on iPhone at

But why am I blogging about this?

Well, the Opening Keynote, or should I say inspirational keynote was delivered by Ciaran McCormack from IADT (Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology) on “Preparing our teachers for the learners of tomorrow. Is third-level ready for this style of learner? ”

Throughout his presentation I thought about how this applied to the way I have seen Moodle implemented and used and hence why I have blogged, so bear with me as I mix my thoughts with the summary of points from the keynote.

The mix

His keynote focused on 3 topics or questions

  • Why do we need technology in the classroom
  • How to learn from children
  • How to prepare for them?

He compared learning from the past/today and the future, touching on the change from transmitter to facilitator and the need to leverage the technology that students are using at home to help cater for diverse learning types.

I felt this quite well mirrored the initial and more common usage of using the VLE for storage of lecture notes & presentations to where there are more social aspects built-in through co-creation and peer engagement and review.

He went through the Technology Adoption Life Cycle (Ruben R Puentedura) where initially the technology is implemented as a substitution – where is acts as a direct replacement for a prior activity with no functional improvement as such. This then progresses to augmentation where there is a bit of functional improvement but that this is where a leap across the line to the 3rd step of Modification is needed to allow for the task to be significantly redesigned and on to where the redefinition level enables creation of new tasks which were previously not possible.


On this I reflected on where Moodle adoption, rollout and usage that seems too often go in line with this.

Most of the Moodle courses or modules I have seen could be described as “supporting face to face delivery” where they are not complete courses in their own right but are used to support the classroom or lecture hall delivery of a course. Taking a look at the typical progression that a teacher might go through as they learn to use Moodle (taken from ) you can see how these could also follow the SAMR model to some extent, but I feel it’s much less black and white.


Sample Moodle progression SAMR Mapping


Putting up the handouts (Resources, SCORM) SubstitutionThese could be handed out in class on paper printouts, or could be written down dictated from the lecture.


Providing a passive Forum (unfacilitated) SubstitutionThese could be handed out in class on paper printouts, or could be written down dictated from the lecture.


Using Quizzes and Assignments (less management) SubstitutionThese were probably delivered on paper and could be still.


Using the Wiki, Glossary and Database tools (interactive content) Augmentation
I have always felt that a wiki is a multi-page whiteboard or an editable flipchart, so this is where the online usage can provide the same feature but does provide functional improvement


Facilitate discussions in Forums, asking questions, guiding Augmentation
One could argue whether this is augmentation or modification. In a class a discussion can have only one person talking at once where in a forum many people can be formulating responses at the same time, altering the task from a sequential presentation to perhaps a multi-threaded discussion.


Combining activities into sequences, where results feed later activities ModificationHere the task is changed, it is not just a minor change but more reaction and possibly even on an individual basis with conditional activities.


Introduce external activities and games (internet resources) ModificationNot only have the tasks of the classroom gone online, but now new tasks and activities are being embedded in a wider learning eco-system.


Using the Survey module to study and reflect on course activity RedefinitionThis also fits to where the learning tasks can be altered through iterative course design where the content and activities are easily editable through the User interface based on feedback.


Using peer-review modules like Workshop, giving students more control over grading and even structuring the course in some ways RedefinitionThe tasks become reworked with easier peer level review tasks where students participate in grading which would have been much harder to try and implement, without the tools.


Conducting active research on oneself, sharing ideas in a community of peers RedefinitionThrough peer support new tasks outside of the current experience can be shared and adopted.

However nothing is that simple is it. A glossary can be used for both Substitution and Modification:

A digital glossary of definitions being provided to the students as content to read and consume is an online substitution for the paper based handout or book.

A glossary activity where students have to create definition entries in their own words for a selection of the terminology used in the course is the 3rd level – modification as the task is redesigned from just reading a given definition to creating one and reviewing and perhaps even rating others.

So perhaps we will see more and more students looking for higher levels of technology implementation within courses to facilitate using their experience in creating digital content.

So back to the keynote.

Ciaran carried on from the Adoption cycle into the whole area of User Generated Content. He explained that technology should not be the barrier, and that it should be manageable and achievable.

He went out to demonstrate some excellent projects including the FIS book club and in doing so have to read it, understand it, write a review, present it to someone, learn how to video it, record the video, make sure it makes sense and then publish it.

He also talked about how to facilitate this “allowing students to be digital creative”. He discussed through needing the studio, stage and community to make it happen.


This made me reflect back on Moodle 2 and the Official Mobile app which has upload video/audio/image built-in as a feature. Once you record a video/audio or take a picture it will upload directly into your Private Files area in your Moodle 2 site.

Where the App turns the world into the studio, the Moodle course and activities are the stage for publishing the content and the students in the course are the community where peer engagement and reflection are enabled through student discussion, rating and collaboration.

I wonder how many people are going to take advantage of the Media upload feature in the Official Mobile app and explore this aspect in Moodle, to take advantage of the easier submission and uploading of user-generated content as part of forums, glossaries, databases, wikis or assignments?

It requires the private files repository to be enabled on the Moodle site. So when you have every student with a private file space for storing files and have a large number of students, it could quite quickly use a rather lot of space. So some I know are considering disabling Private Files repository.

My argument to this issue is that if a teacher wants students to submit images, audio or videos as part of their course then these files will end up in Moodle anyhow. So is there a point in disabling a feature (Private Files) that could make the whole process easier?

Yes, Flickr, YouTube etc all exist for public distribution of content however if you want the student submissions to be in the protected virtual learning environment that means there needs to be space somewhere. So a good way to approach this is perhaps to promote the Private Files as a temporary space for students to store files until they add them to a forum post or assignment etc.

One other thing to consider is that as mobile usage is likely to increases with the access to and promotion of the Mobile theme, once iOS 6 lands it will facilitate media uploads through the Safari browser so that will also provide a route for more media more easily into Moodle.

Back to the keynote for one last time.

A key thought for me from Ciaran was that in this move from substitution to redefinition we need to have the courage to embrace the new options. However this goal was balanced by taking baby steps and by planning carefully which technology they think will help best.

Final thoughts

So to end with a Moodle thought, course design and development is mostly an iterative process where reflection on how things are going and planning the integration of the next activity is the natural cycle.

So if you have not done it yet, perhaps dust off the course curriculum or structure and look to where you can add something to take the next baby step forward in engagement with one of the many tools available.

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