Martin Dougiamas, father of Moodle

Great interview with Martin Dougiamas, father of Moodle, at Moodlemoot in Bamberg:

“Moodle is really a system of control. The web 2.0 is very much about complete freedom and openness and lack of privacy. And Moodle is obviously oriented to what institutions care about, which is about walls and protected spaces, and this just allows you to bring content from the wider world into these potected spaces do interesting things with them.”

“It’s for people who like islands. It’s for those people who need that. And it’s definitely not the solution for everybody.”

Interview audio at
tweetet by Spotlightverlag

Lost on games or just sold on Zapdramatic?

All you need to feel like an old fart is to spend a few hours spread over a few days trying to imagine what learners of English could get out of playing online games. This is really quite hard for me,  just learning to move around and react to virtual surroundings makes me feel like an utter fool. (I’m the dead one, or the one standing in the fire, or the one with the strange hair.) Anything you learn is hard. But other hard things, like learning to play the keyboard or straining on my mountain bike, make me happy. Multiplayer environments, on the other hand, give me nothing that text based communication doesn’t do much, much better … for me.

I keep thinking hard about Negroponte’s remark that we humans weren’t designed to write, and that learning simply can’t remain text-based. I loved his example of the boy who was able to show him how the computers in the lab work even though he “couldn’t read or write”. There are so many kinds of intelligence and learning:

  • reading the water and the sky to know what the weather is doing
  • tasting food to see if it has the right amount of salt and spice for everyone at your table
  • giving someone just the right kind of smile to establish your relationship.
  • finding just the right words to make someone feel better about him- or herself
  • being able to create the release of dissonance without forgetting harmony

Knowledge is so … subtle. I’m looking forward to Zapdramatic’s relaunch in April, including a new game for teens called “Sir Basil Pike Public School”on the dynamics of bullying. I really like Michael Gibson’s “Choose your own adventure” approach, perhaps because deciding which skript to follow is just a bit smarter even than anything newer that I’ve been seeing. I wrote about this series of games here last year, following up on the tip from Mark Powell, and my Moodle platform to host a forum is still there, and now there is even twitter so one could run a Zapdramatic game “course” using that … So you see I still want to get more of my learners interested in expanding their language and communication skills this way.

British Rail and buzz

Going to IATEFL next week, and buzzed about it, too. Yesterday I gave up trying to book a train on British Rail and decided to go by bus from Heathrow to Cardiff after all. Why? The interface kept asking me to make decisions for the system about which options were best for me. Hey, that’s what the system is supposed to do, isn’t it? By the time I’d figured out that you have to select the going and the return trip from the same price category (there are about 8 categories), and can’t just select the two cheapest ones, I’d sworn to boycott British Rail for life. Sometimes systems turn us into fools. (Kate held my hand on the phone.)

The pre-conference buzz includes Pecha Kucha and Wordle. Teachers have picked up on the presentation practice and the web application and are using them for teaching. I liked them when I first saw them, and am curious to learn about how others use them. I also hope to find out more about using games in teaching. Nik Peachey posted a case study on twitter about using Guitar Hero in class, which sounds really great, and Lindsey Clanfield had guest blogger Kyle Mawer present how he uses free online Flash video games like Runescape, Growcube and Motas to teach teens English. I’m not much of a gamer – very clumsy, not much fun – but I’d like to see what kids get out of it. Overall, there are great experts out there, and I’m just going to try to be a sponge and see who they are, what they do, and try to figure out what I could turn around and use. After all, my students are getting younger.

PS re Wordle: Mike Hogan has posted something on Auntie Web:

“You can also create “wordles” of phrases by adding ” ~ ” between each word you input … I recently got my students to create their own word clouds on telephoning phrases for homework. Not surprisingly, they all did it!”

And Jamie Keddie has a new article in Guardian Weekly:

“Although never intended as an educational tool, the site has become steadily more popular with teachers and learners. The word cloud can be used as a warm-up before reading or listening. Students can be asked to ­predict the genre or subject of the source text by looking at a word cloud created from it. Does the word cloud suggest a newspaper article, song lyric, joke, poem or dialogue? This ­approach has the advantage of activating key vocabulary. For productive language skills, word clouds can be used to ­reactivate short texts that students have already seen before ­going on to reconstruct them.”

He loves Brazil

I saw a dear friend today who travelled to Brazil with her 10-year old son late last summer. One of the stories she told has added a bounce to my step all day:

When they landed and wanted to go through customs, there wasn’t a guard in sight anywhere. So they settled down for a long wait at the airport terminal, and she told her son to play with his football. After maybe 20 minutes or so a man in uniform came round and walked up to her son – and started playing football with him. Everyone else just had to wait to have their passports checked until they were finished. – Do I need to tell you that her son simply loves Brazil?

But I’m also thinking very hard about Germany. Just think what would happen if a ten year-old boy started playing football inside Munich Airport. And what would people standing in line say if the customs officer spent half an hour playing ball instead of checking passports? There’s this phrase in German “irgendwo hört der Spaß auf.” Maybe we have to stretch our tolerance for “Spaß” just a little over here…

Hot rod

Thanks, Rod, for this video about a new kind of hot rod (hehe, sorry, couldn’t resist), the fastest street-legal electric car. “The beamer (=BMW) lost against the zombie.” I just wonder: this racing uses up a lot of electricity, so it’s not the “greener” car at this speed, is it?

PS: This is a great song from 1960 by Johnny Bond, though I remember it being sung by Comander Cody, called “Hot Rod Lincoln”:

Now you’ve heard the story of the Hot Rod Race
When the Ford and the Mercury was settin’ the pace?
That story is true, I’m here to say
‘Cause I was a-drivin’ that Model A

It’s got a Lincoln motor and it’s really souped up
That Model A body makes it look like a pup
It’s got eight cylinders, and uses them all
With an overdrive that just won’t stall

With a four-barrel carb and a dual exhaust
And four-eleven gears you can really get lost
It’s got safety tubes, and I’m not scared
The brakes are good and the tires are fair

We left San Pedro late one night
The moon and the stars were shinin’ bright
Things were going fine up Grapevine Hill
We was passing cars like they was standing still

All of a sudden like the flick of an eye
A Cadillac sedan passed us by
The remark was made “That’s the car for me!”
But by then the tail light was all you could see

Now the fellas ribbed me for bein’ behind
So I started to make the Lincoln unwind
Took my foot off the gas and man alive
I shoved it on down into overdrive

I wound it up to a hundred and ten
Twisted the speedometer cable off the end
Had my foot beat clear to the floor
That’s all there is and there ain’t no more

Went around a corner and I passed a truck
Crossed my fingers just for luck
My fenders clickin’ the guardrail posts
The guy beside me was white as a ghost

I guess they thought I’d lost my sense
And telephone poles looked like a picket fence
They said, “Slow down! I see spots!”
The lines on the road just look like dots

Smoke was comin’ from out of the back
When I started to gain on that Cadillac.
Knew I could catch him, I hoped I could pass
But when I did (I knew) I’d be short on gas

Went around the corner with the tires on the side
You could feel the tension, man! what a ride!
I said, “Hold on, I’ve got a license to fly!”
And that Cadillac pulled over and let us by

Now all of a sudden the rod started knockin’
And down in the dips she started a-rockin’
I looked in my mirror; a red light was blinkin’
The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln!

They arrested me and they put me in jail
And I called my pop to go my bail
And he said, “Son, you’re gonna’ drive me to drinkin’
If you don’t quit drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln!”

Two Englishmen are standing on a corner…

… when a woman drives up. She asks, “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” “No, sorry, I don’t.” “¿Habla español?” “I’m afraid not, sorry.” “Parlez-vous français?” “Unfortunately, no, not a word.” Frustrated, she drives off. So one guy says to the other, “Hey, maybe we should learn a foreign language.” “What a waste of time,” says the other. “That woman speaks three languages, and what did it get her?”

This lovely video was recommended by britzel on twitter: