It’s been a long time I have written a blog entry here, due to my activities with Mahara and doing blog entries rather in Mahara.
Last week there was the annual German Moodle Moot in Leipzig and for the very first time it finally had also got the Mahara name in the title as you can see from the picture of the programme brochure. So this is a good opportunity to bring my blog to life.
Even though I am – in real life – a double granny now, I have grown into the role of the German Mahara Granny, probably being one of the first Mahara users in Germany, starting with the MOSEP project in 2008 with a teacher training and working with one of the first Mahara versions with quite some bugs that drove me crazy. At the time no one could help me with Mahara so I had to make my own experiences , supported by a colleague who knew the system well and also by the young Nigel McNie in catalyst headquarter in Wellington who was very helpful via skype. Later I had the big pleasure to meet legendary Penny Leach in Bamberg Moot, even doing a aMahara workshop together – we did have of fun!
Writing an own ePortfolio is an absolute must if a teacher wants his learners to work with Mahara. One of my English classes in Heidelberg had to write a report on their practical training of several weeks and were not very enthusiastic using Word for their report. That’s where Mahara came in handy and I did not have to “sell” it to them as there was a real purpose to use it. We had been using Moodle for our courseroom so they were familiar with all kinds of embedded web 2.0 objects and quite enthusiastic that with Mahara they were in control to use all that by themselves, embedding youTube videos, pictures, audios and everything digital that was related to their work experience. Here is an example of one of my students Sunny who solved his language problems ( not writing too well in German nor in English) by “outsurcing” his daily reports into Joomla picture gallery . To help them with their ePortfolio I also wrote a journal and created a page to be part of the project. This went so well that I felt encouraged to have them start “Learning Diaries” for their English assignments from the Moodle course. For the first time they had their own platform where they could show their learning and the rest of the class could read and comment it. For me it was much nicer as each page turned out to be different from the others. BUT I was still alone struggling to get other teachers join us at least by giving feedback.
I started giving Mahara Workshops at various occasions and mostly for teachers but also students but even though there was a lot of enthusiasm Mahara didn’t have a breakthrough due to lacking support of school administration, blocking by authorities and fear of change. Change of mindsets was the biggest issue, teachers not being very happy when they loose control. And control you have to give to the learners when you work with ePortfolios, as the owner of the Portfolio is the LEARNER and not the institution as with a Moodle course.
By the time I retired 3 years ago I had won over a few colleagues with their students but still no support from school administration . I was wondering whether in Germany the potential of ePortfolios for students’ learning would ever be recognized.
Looking back today one of the most exciting events for me was my first Mahara workshop I was giving as a PreWorkshop at MoodleMoot Elmshorn, 3 years ago. Against all odds, the workshop was booked and during the conference I had organized a whole track on Mahara and I could feel the growing interest. Now in Leipzig after many other workshops and presentations I had given in Czech Republic, Luxemburg, Switzerland and also at various events in Germany I could see the seeds I had planted had become trees in flowers with quite solid branches. It was a big pleasure for me to welcome my Czech colleague Linda Pospisilova from Pardubice University who had come to the Moot even though she does not speak German. She presented her project with Mahara together with Katja Aiko Murato Arend from Leipzig Language center. I always remember Katia asking about Mahara in Elmshorn and since she has been working with her students in Portuguese. Both Linda and Katia have come a long way with Mahara.
A very big part of the Mahara success story is due to Kristina Hoeppner from Catalyst in Wellington who is not only responsible for the Mahara documentation but the heart and soul of the Mahara community and always ready to help on various channels. Her “Mahara Schatzkiste” PreWorkshop for admins and advanced useres was a big success and booked out! Kristina had the longest journey after Moodleman Julian Ridden who had come the second year to the MoodleMoot giving a Preworkshop on Moodle Themes but also presented on “Moodle ist häßlich” and together with Sam he did a session on turnitin that had been cancelled by another presenter. Looks as if the 2 of them had some fun!
It was also a pleasure to have Samantha Taylor from Solent University, well known in the Mahara and Moodle network in person talking about “Moodle and Mahara sitting in a tree” and giving loads of useful food for thought. Here the audience is waving to Sam’s boss in Southampton.
Here you can read about Sam’s first German MoodleMoot and can find her presentation
On the right you can see lef -Moodlefairy Mary Cooch - the Moodle pendant to Kristina on the left – who has entertained us with the Moodle story in perfect German in her keynote and in an orange dress!
After all the foreign Mahara and Moodle family members my special thanks and mention goes to my colleague and friend Christine Dülfer who has helped a lot with her homemade cantuccinis to get over the evils of technology in our common Mahara Preworkshop. Christine did several sessions on her student projects with Mahara at a vocational school in Hessia and she has infected a great number of students and teachers with her great concept of well planned portfolio work. It is always a pleasure to work with her. As she has been working in steacher training she is definitely going to persuade lots of colleagues to try the ePortfolio way of teaching and learning.
Another highlight of best practice was the session held by students who presented their work with Mahara at Oskar von Miller Schule in Kassel. At OvM they have had a great team of teachers enthusiastic of creating new ways of learning for their students. If any school or department would like to get started with ePortfolio OvM School is a must to visit before!
There would be many more sessions to mention but as I concentrated on the Mahara ones I can recommend the other blogs on the Moot you can also find posted on twitter #mootde14.
My overall impression – and others confirmed – was that the focus has shifted mostly on Learning and how technology with all its new features and possibilities can serve this purpose but not being the main focus of the conference.
My last big thank you goes to the organisation team of eLearning Team Uni Leipzig, thank you Konstanze, Kamilla, Sven for the efficient and perfect organisation!
There is a lso a picture pool on flickr with cool pics of Leipzig and the conference.