Earlier this week, Cara and I attended the monthly Key Instructional Contacts (KIC) meeting hosted at TIES. KIC is an informal gathering of area district IT staff, tech-savvy administrators, etc., usually to hear a presentation about a tech integration topic relevant to K-12 education. I’m tempted to call it a rag-tag group just as a gleeful rhetorical indulgence, but it would just feel wrong.

The topic was Moodle, the much-buzzed open-source course management platform that’s taking Blackboard and WebCT by storm. The nerve of it, being free AND robust at the same time! We were there as quasi-secret agents to learn from others’ experience about the feasibility of setting up a Moodle server in our own shop. And whether we’d be in over our heads with configuration and maintenance.

The answer is. . . maybe. Our initial and official reason for being interested (aside from plain old curiosity) is course development. We’re thinking of creating a course about teaching online, and Moodle has to be considered a mandatory stop on any tour of course management systems, especially since odds are good—and increasing all the time—-that Moodle is what our students will be using in their districts. You may be partial to Blackboard, but you at least have to stop in and say hello to Moodle. It’s garnered enough votes to be considered a major party candidate.

Since our Moodling purposes are pretty humble, we’re leaning toward not going the full start-up route, at least initially. If our aim is to give students a flavor of the interface, environment, and possibilities, we could accomplish that simply enough by renting space on someone else’s Moodle. That’s the pragmatic side speaking. The excitable side thinks we should just dive in, set it up, and learn it from the inside out, since we’re as likely to need to know Moodle for our own teaching as our students are for theirs.

Worth noting: The room was packed, including a high-powered quartet from a west metro district who were taking notes and asking questions with a vengeance. Judging by the headcount, I’d venture to say the Moodle wave has begun to break.

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