Open Thinkering


Tag: weeknote

Weeknote 23/2020

Note: these weekly reflections of mine are by their nature introspective. Any small hardships I experience as a privileged middle-aged white man are nothing to those experienced every day by those whose skin just happens to be a different colour to mine.

Last week, I sent my resignation to Martin Dougiamas, Moodle’s Founder and CEO. This was mostly because, with a two-month notice period, I have done what I came to achieve: to take MoodleNet from zero to v1.0 beta.

This week has been… difficult. I have had to deal with one of the most challenging situations of my professional life.

I’ve tiptoed around this issue, but I’m actually very disappointed with the way Moodle has dealt with a tweet Martin sent out on Wednesday that could be construed has having racist overtones. People make mistakes, but you can judge people by their reactions as well as their actions.

He has since apologised and deleted the tweet, but has done so in a way that many people, including members of the MoodleNet team, don’t think goes far enough. It seems like the kind of apology that you make when you want the problem to go away.

I would not be so unprofessional as to repeat things I have seen on Telegram and statements made to me during internal meetings. But I am glad that I am leaving Moodle.

I am proud at what the MoodleNet team has achieved despite an extremely difficult working environment. I hope that they stick around, if they feel able, and I wish whoever becomes the next MoodleNet Product Manager the very best of luck.

I really enjoy innovation work, which is what MoodleNet has been for the majority of my tenure. It’s been a rollercoaster, for sure, but I have enjoyed:

  • Taking a couple of pages of rough notes given to me when I started, then doing deep desk research and interviewing the community to come up with a white paper, a vision for the project.
  • Hiring and working with Mayel de Borniol as Technical Architect. It has been a pleasure and privilege to work with someone of his calibre over the last couple of years. As, of course, it has been with subsequent additions to the team.
  • Asking Outlandish, a fellow member of the CoTech network to run a design sprint leading to a prototype which we put in front of real educators.
  • Creating an MVP which successfuly tested MoodleNet’s value proposition.
  • Getting ready for a content sprint in preparation for the release of Moodle LMS 3.9 (which integrates with MoodleNet)

Perhaps I should write a retrospective of 2020 up to this point, just as I did for 2018 and 2019.

The past year has had me more in ‘manager’ role than ‘innovator’ role, which is another reason that I decided to wind down my role at Moodle. After all, just because other people tell you are good at something doesn’t meant you enjoy doing it.

So what’s next? We Are Open Co-op! Work is really ramping up, especially now we have a new impetus with Jen joining us last month. I’m leading things from our side with some help we’re providing for the Social Mobility Commission. The project finally cleared contract hurdles, so we should be able to get our teeth into it properly next week.

I’m also continuing to help my co-op colleagues with the work we’re doing with Greenpeace’s Planet 4 project. This week I’ve been mostly focusing on finishing off the recommendations on how the team can better prepare for the upcoming Day of Action around open source contribution.

On Thursday morning I spoke on behalf of the co-op at the University of East London‘s Mental Wealth Staff Development Day. My morning keynote slot was on Digital Literacies for a Post-COVID World and there is a backup here if the slides aren’t embedded below:

Next week is in flux, but I’ll be splitting it between winding down my MoodleNet work and ramping up my co-op work.

Header image of huge mural painted onto the newly-renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza next to the White House in Washington D.C.

Weeknote 22/2020

I think everyone finally had enough this week. Look at what’s happening in the UK. Look at what’s happening in the USA. There’s nothing ‘united’ about either country right now. It’s all kicking off.

Even closer to home too, in our working lives, I’ve seen people, including myself, less willing to put up with, for want of a better term, crap, from outdated people and processes. It’s time to do better, and be better.

This week has been busy. Very busy. The kind of busy where you start work at 08:00, stagger out of your home office for a 15-minute lunchbreak, and finish at 16:00, an empty husk of a man who has seemingly been at work for a month instead of a day. Then, with your eyes completely fried, you wonder what to do until bedtime.

It’s amazing to me to think that this was actually a four-day week and that we spent the second Bank Holiday of May on the beach and eating fish & chips.

MoodleNet will reach v1.0 beta next week. We’re running a Content Sprint to get resources into the Moodle HQ-run instance in time for the launch of Moodle LMS 3.9. Why? Well, because it features integration with MoodleNet, and we want to ensure there’s stuff there.

Of course, the digital commons will grow as more people use MoodleNet, on HQ-run, and other federated instances. Once we’ve got the content on a stable version of the HQ production server, we’ll switch out attention to finally starting federation testing.

Although the report is coming in very late, it’s been good to have a preview of the report from the security review we commissioned. That shows that MoodleNet is actually already more secure than many other federated social networks. That’s down to the talented team it’s been my privilege to put together over the past couple of years.

Over an above my Moodle work, there’s been loads of We Are Open co-op work to do. It’s getting to the stage where I could pretty much work through the co-op full-time, which is amazing. Just last year the opposite was true.

There’s been much wrangling over the project initiation documents for two related pieces of work we’re doing with/for Catalyst and the Social Mobility Commission. That should be resolved so that we can start work properly next week with the 10 charities we’ll be supporting through digital transformation.

Over and above that, for the work we’re doing with Greenpeace Planet 4 team, I’ve been reviewing best practice in terms of onboarding new contributors. It’s actually very eye-opening seeing how volunteers start contributing to some open source projects because of the way they’re welcomed, and some, well… despite that.

Due to all of that busyness, I didn’t write anything for Thought Shrapnel this week other than my link roundup, which I entitled Saturday shruggings. There’s been plenty of stuff rattling around my head, especially since deciding to lie on the front lawn re-reading Montaigne’s Essays but nothing has yet coagulated in my brain into something coherent.

I might as well share here five particular sections that have got me thinking, as it could be a while before I get to any form of synthesis:

We are never ‘at home’: we are always outside ourselves. fear, desire, hope, impel us towards the future; they rob us of feelings and concern for what now is, in order to spend time over what will be — even when we ourselves shall be no more.

Michel de Montaigne (‘Our emotions get carried away beyond us’)

Those who strive to account for a man’s deeds are never more bewildered than when they try to knit them into one whole and to show them under one light, since they commonly contradict each other in so odd a fashion that it seems impossible that they should all come out of the same shop.

Michel de Montaigne (‘On the inconstancy of our actions’)

I have an open manner, readily striking up acquaintance and being trusted from the first encounter. Simpleness and unsullied truth are always opportune and acceptable in any period whatsoever… All I want to gain from doing anything is the fact of having done it.

Michel de Montaigne (‘On the useful and the honourable)

I have my own laws and law-court to pass judgement on me and I appeal to them rather than elsewhere. I restrain my actions according to the standards of others, but I enlarge them according to my own. no one but you knows whether you are base and cruel, or loyal and dedicated. Others never see you: they surmise about you from uncertain conjectures; they do not see your nature so much as your artifice. So do not cling to their sentence: cling to your own.

Michel de Montaigne (‘On repenting’)

But thought I do not have all that great a mind. I do have one which is correspondingly open, one which orders me to dare to publish its weaknesses.

Michel de Montaigne (‘On high rank as a disadvantage’)

I’ve also been reflecting on Acts chapters two and four, which actually form the basis of Christian communism. It’s pretty clear to me that Jesus was anti-capitalist and anti-establishment.

So next week is a big week in many ways. Lots of decisions to make and things to do. When all this is over, I wonder if I qualify (financially, morally, otherwise) for a sabbatical?

Photo taken at Beadnell last Monday. The beach was virtually empty.

Weeknote 21/2020

It’s Bank Holiday weekend. Today, we travelled the furthest we’ve been in the last nine weeks to go for a walk along part of Hadrian’s Wall. It was wonderful.

I took Friday off to ensure I could have a longer weekend to spend with my family. That means I worked Monday and Tuesday for Moodle, and Wednesday and Thursday for We Are Open Co-op.

We’re so close to getting out the v1.0 beta of MoodleNet now, as I showed in a screencast at the bottom of an article I wrote for Thought Shrapnel. The team is looking forward to getting finished the small changes required in the next week orso.

On the co-op front, we’ve been getting ready to start some work with 10 charities, funded by Catalyst and the UK’s Social Justice Commission, which need some help in pivoting their face-to-face programmes to online provision.

Whereas many people in my life have been less busy over the last nine weeks, it’s been the opposite for me. I’ve finally found my bearings again, and feel like I’m getting back on track.

Usually, working from home is great so long as it’s interspersed with travel. The lack of it, as well as the stresses and strains of having the children around, has affected my levels of energy and motivation.

Now that we can see ourselves coming out of the lockdown in the next few months, it’s easier to plan, to have horizons, to think about what comes next. And what comes next is not more of what went before.

Next week I’m off on Monday, then working for Moodle on Tuesday and Friday, and the co-op as usual on Wednesday and Thursday.

Photo of tree at Sycamore Gap, near Twice Brewed, Northumberland.

Weeknote 20/2020

For people who read these weeknotes on a regular basis (hello mother!) I realise that I discuss things without readers necessarily having any idea what they might look or feel like.

So, despite there still being a number of bugs and errors to fix with MoodleNet, and despite the staging server being full of test content, I thought I’d just record a quick screencast walkthrough.

Five things to bear in mind:

  1. MoodleNet is federated, meaning that you can search for communities, collections, and resources across instances.
  2. Communities curate collections of resources, and engage in discussions.
  3. Resources may be added to collections via link (like a bookmark) or via upload (with a Creative Commons license)
  4. MoodleNet is integrated with the upcoming v3.9 of Moodle LMS, meaning resources can make their way to courses via a simple workflow.
  5. Admins are currently the only moderators of each instance, but in future, every community will have at least one moderator.

We’ve obviously got some refactoring and work to be done on the search page, but I’m pleased with the progress.

Ivan, our UX designer, is already working on improvements to the user interface for upcoming versions of MoodleNet. For example, in the screenshot below you can see notifications, community activity, and better previews of collections.

Mockup of potential new MoodleNet UI

In my three days on MoodleNet each week I’ve always got plenty to do. Mainly it’s prioritisation, as with any team things get pulled in different directions. So I’ve been sorting our OKRs, getting ready to onboard a new part-time team member, and re-organising the next few milestones.

In my We Are Open Co-op work this week, we finished off one piece of work with The Catalyst for Action West London, and then started scoping out some new work for the Social Mobility Commission. All of it at the moment is about helping organisations with an emergency pivot to digital provision.

We also managed to squeeze in a co-op half day, which was mainly focused on the new version of our website, which should be ready soon. I’m pleased that my wife, Hannah, an aspiring UX designer, had a hand in designing it!

I’ve had a chat with a bunch of people this week about my career, and also had a ‘maintenance’ therapy session. Both have given me a lot of clarity about what I should do next.

Also helpful in that regard was the first session of the Homeward Bound course facilitated by Dougald Hine on Thursday evening. That was also the day my wife and I celebrated 20 years of being together, which now constitutes more than 50% of our lives!

For Thought Shrapnel I wrote a post with a quotation from Edward Snowden as its title: Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say. It’s about surveillance culture post-pandemic, and is the fifth in a blogchain I’m writing about how western societies could look after all this ends.

I also put together my usual link roundup, this week entitled Saturday shiftings. There’s a range of links in there, including the new Unreal 5 game engine through to how to host a party in a Google Doc…

Our family went for a long walk on Saturday, which was enjoyable. We discovered a ruined building with a colourful history which I didn’t know existed before this weekend!

I’ve realised that I’m tired because I’m not only trying to keep everything going, but have more work on at the moment. Where I would usually have taken a couple of days holiday in the last couple of months, I’ve just been soldiering on.

It’s not like all of this is going to finish with a bang; it’s going to be more like an extended whimper. So I should probably stop putting off taking holiday as we probably won’t be going anywhere exotic this year!

You’ll never guess where I’ll be next week? Yep, in my fortress of solitude (a.k.a. my home office) working on MoodleNet and co-op stuff. It’s a good job I have a supportive family and interesting work on.

Header image of Chibburn Preceptory taken during our family walk on Saturday.

Weeknote 19/2020

I think this was the week when it began to sink in how long all of this is going to affect us for. I’m not sure if it was going through the playable simulations in What Happens Next? or realising the extent of the incompetence of the UK government, but either way, the world seems different than it did last Sunday.

Two days on MoodleNet, two days for We Are Open Co-op, and a day’s Bank Holiday — the latter moved from the usual first Monday of May to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (or ‘VE’) Day. The way some people here were talking about it, I think we need to remember that it was was fighting alongside allies to defeat fascism, rather than some kind of victory over Europe.

I enjoyed working on the co-op stuff this week. We were wrapping up a short project through The Catalyst, which paired us and another organisation with a charity making an emergency pivot to digital. I think there will be plenty more work in a similar vein in the coming weeks and months.

On the MoodleNet side of things, I did a debrief with Johanna Sprondel after her MA students at Macromedia University in Germany worked on a draft crowdfunding plan. I was impressed with what they came up with, and enjoyed working with them over the last few weeks.

Moodle News this week published an article I (mostly) wrote entitled 3 tips for first-time remote educators. Other than that, my time was mainly taken up with management, team and 1:1 meetings. My role at Moodle has largely gone from one that involved a lot of innovation to one that now involves a lot of management.

I’ve agreed to keynote a UK university’s internal staff conference (whatever ‘keynote’ means these days!) I get confirmation that it’s definitely going ahead in the next couple of weeks, and then I can start planning a talk on post-pandemic digital skills.

The most enjoyable thing this week was the socially-distanced quiz we had with neighbours. I live on a row of eight terraced houses, with one detached house at the end. We all share a back lane. In the glorious sunshine on Friday evening, we ate, drank, chatted, and answered questions that we’d each come up with. It was marvellous, and really lifted my spirits.

On the Thought Shrapnel front, I published an article entitled Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony in which I cited Buster Benson’s ‘Codex Vitae’ and came up with 10 aphorisms of my own. I also put together my usual link roundup, this week entitled Saturday seductions.

Next week will be a new normal week, working on Moodle stuff Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, and co-op stuff on Wednesday and Thursday. It will be 20 years on Thursday since, at the university ball, I plucked up the courage to kiss the woman who became my wife. I am a lucky man.

Photo of a tree in Bluebell Wood, near where I live.

Weeknote 18/2020

This week I ended up working alternate days for Moodle and the co-op, which felt a bit odd, but worked out well. Highlights included:

  • Celebrating the fourth anniversary of We Are Open Co-op and welcoming Jen Kelchner as our sixth member.
  • Working with some German MA students on their final version of the MoodleNet crowdfunding plan.
  • Finding a tree with a branch just the right height and thickness for me to do some pull-ups on (yes, really!)
  • Watching The Matrix (1999) with our 13-year old son and then getting a bunch of recommendations of what to watch next
  • Getting really close to starting federation testing for MoodleNet.
  • Revisiting the debate that I co-kickstarted in 2011 around the purpose of education in this Thought Shrapnel article.
  • Eating our daughter’s chocolate puddings and son’s sticky toffee pudding cake.
  • Finishing the MVP of the co-op’s new free email-based course on running successful virtual meetings.
  • Helping a London-based charity with their emergency pivot to online delivery
  • Completing the amazing novel A Gentleman in Moscow which is from my crowdsourced lockdown reading list.
  • Walking in the local woods, where the bluebells and wild garlic are both out! Elsewhere, the cherry trees are also in full bloom. Beautiful.

Next week, I’ll be working for Moodle on Monday and Tuesday, the co-op on Wednesday and Thursday, and taking Friday off as it’s a Bank Holiday in the UK (moved from the Monday to celebrate VE Day, apparently…)

Photo taken during a walk this week.

Weeknote 16/2020

This week has been an somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster for me. Today, after a morning spent in the sun doing exercise (running around the local sports pitches) and in the garden (weeding!) I’m feeling great. Earlier this week, I was so anxious that I got in touch with my therapist to request we restart sessions.

The trouble is that the ‘eustress‘ that keeps me on my toes and able to work two jobs (Moodle/co-op) can easily boil over into, well, just ‘stress’. I’ll admit that this is largely self-inflicted; there are both benefits and drawbacks, it would seem, of being your own worst critic.

This week has been a shorter one due to the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, and I’ve decided just to focus on the positives in what follows.

First off, yesterday morning was spent building a new PC with my children. We had a great time doing it, and it worked first time(!) so I was very happy about that. It didn’t cost me that much, yet it’s benchmarking as at least twice as fast as my laptop.

Another thing that’s gone well is reconfiguring the MoodleNet team. I’ll share more about this once it’s been shared more within Moodle HQ, but I’m happy that it looks like everything is going to come together. To my mind, how you do something is just as important as what you do. I’m not a consequentialist.

Third, We Are Open Co-op is not only about to onboard a new member (more about that next month when we announce!) but we’ve got a lot of work on. We’re part of the Catalyst programme, where organisations with digital skills are partnered with other organisations that need them. From next week, we’ll be helping out a charity quickly pivot their activities online.

Next, I really enjoyed advising Adam Procter with the work that’s coming out of his PhD thesis: nodenoggin. He’s set up a limited company, snagged relevant domains, and got an initial business plan for supporting the Open Source project.

And finally, just a comment on family relationships. I’ve never spent more time talking to my parents and sister on the phone or Google Duo than during this pandemic. It’s great. And while I get to spend a lot of time with my wife (because we’re both usually based at home) we’ve developed new rituals and routines that we’ll probably continue post-pandemic. Things like spending half an hour at the ‘pub’ at the bottom of our garden on a Friday after I finish work. (It’s actually just a picnic table.)

On the Thought Shrapnel front, I’ve been messing about with OBS and my green screen, as well as compiling my usual link roundup:

Finally, a couple of things have helped my mental health this week, which I’ll share. This quotation popped up via Momentum:

Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.

Walter Anderson

The other thing was that I gave up reading 84K and instead started reading A Gentleman in Moscow. Both were recommendations that made it to my Lockdown Reading List, but the latter not only feeds my interest in Russian history, it references Montaigne’s Essays and has a wonderful lightness to it.

Next week? The plan is to do a code freeze on the backend of MoodleNet, to give the front-end team chance to catch up and get things in place for federation testing. I’ll also be working on the co-op stuff mentioned above, and supporting my family as the ‘Easter holidays’ end…

Photo from an epic family game of Risk on Sunday afternoon.

Weeknote 15/2020

When I go into my office, close the door, and get on with my regular work, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s a global pandemic going out outside. That doesn’t last for long, of course, as there’s always something that pops up to remind me.

One thing that I’ve noticed the longer this situation goes on is the my internal monologue is changing. I’m assuming that everyone has one of these, but I can’t be sure, having never been anyone other than me.

My internal monologue is more like a debate: one side of me is accusatory, the other acts in my defence. In so doing, it’s easy for me to come up with excuses: “If I had more I time, I would do this” or “if this barrier wasn’t in the way, I would do that”.

The truth is that, as Aristotle said, just like everyone else, I am what I repeatedly do. No matter how hard it is for me to realise, I am not the person I used to be, nor have I turned into the person I thought I would be at this age.

I can remember Chris Brogan speaking at an event years ago. He introduced himself as ‘a typist’, as he said that’s what he spends most of his time doing. However, he quite rightly went on to point out that what matters is the stories we tell ourselves and others about what we do.

I’ve working from home for eight years, meaning that even before the pandemic, I already spent zero hours commuting, compared to the average of 219 hours per year. On top of that, I now don’t have to take my children to their many and varied activities, and I’m unable to swim, or go to the gym.

Not only does my life feel quite sad, small, and hollow, it’s also shown demonstrated to me that I’ve long since stopped doing things that I used to consider part of my identity. For example, I don’t read philosophical books in my spare time; I play FIFA.

Coming on the back of a series of therapy sessions, then, this enforced period of time at home is forcing me to reflect on the kind of person I am and the kind of person I want to be. It’s hard to break out of rhythms and routines that you’ve formed over years; it’s much easier to dig deeper into them, forming a rut.

So I’m trying to do things differently. I mentioned last week that I was reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. By the time I finished it, that book had really affected me, and I asked on Twitter for more of the same. My network didn’t disappoint, and I’ve shared the collected list here.

Another thing I did today was to pick up the guitar that’s moved from house to house with us over the last 18 years. I received it for my 21st birthday, and after a few lessons, gave up when I couldn’t figure out barre chords. But, on the recommendation of a few people, I’m trying Justin Guitar which (so far) seems excellent.

On the work front, with it being a long Easter Weekend I did two days for Moodle and a day and a half for We Are Open Co-op. We did a full ‘co-op day’ on Wednesday which we spent planning and syncing-up, and then I worked on Greenpeace stuff on Thursday morning, knocking out a blog post about 10 reasons why people contribute to Open Source. (If you’re reading this an are a contributor to open source projects, there’s a survey in there we’d appreciate you completing!)

On the MoodleNet side of things, I met up with the German MA students who are helping us with the crowdfunding campaign, and went to a bunch of other meetings including management ones, team ones, ‘Moodle Daily Drop-ins’, and even one on mindfulness.

It’s my job to ensure that the ‘self-organising ducks’ of the MoodleNet team have everything they need, aren’t in conflict, and know what we’re heading towards. Mostly, that involves small nudges, but occasionally it requires intervention. Striking the balance requires judgement, and mostly I like to think I get it right, although that’s not always the case.

Thankfully, both with Moodle and the co-op, I get to work with people I’ve chosen to spend time with. That’s a real privilege, especially in these darker times.

I have to say that, throughout all of this, my family have been absolutely wonderful. Hannah, my wife, is the most reliable and resilient person I’ve ever met, and has, as ever, organised our domestic life so we haven’t missed a beat. Our children, now aged 13 and nine, have, on the whole, been a pleasure to be around, and have dealt with what must be a weird and disorientating experience without much fuss.

We’ve also been using Google Duo and Houseparty to talk to my parents, my sister, and my wife’s side of the family. I’m so, so grateful that the pandemic hit at a time when we have a easy-to-use applications sitting on top of a mature technology infrastructure. It’s made everything bearable.

Next week will also be a shorter week due to the Bank Holiday, so I’ll be working for Moodle on Tuesday and Friday, and the co-op on Wednesday and Thursday.

I’d quite like to break out my greenscreen to do something interesting, so perhaps I’ll rope in the kids to do something. The barrier to entry for everything seems a lot lower at the moment, which I think is great and absolutely as it should be.

Photo taken on one of many walks this week in and around my home town of Morpeth.

Weeknote 13/2020

This week was the same as last week. I’m tempted to leave it there, but of course the devil is in the detail, and the interest is in the nuance; the gaps and the cracks are what make us human.

I think you can read a lot into the fact that I dusted the desk in my home office on Friday morning. My office isn’t overly-dirty or untidy, but suffice to say that I managed to move around enough dust that I sneezed myself through my next video conference.

For me, Lent is now receding into the distance, despite the fact that, at the time of writing, there’s still two weeks until Easter. After all, when part of my family’s homeschooling curriculum involves baking cakes, and my wife buys me a bottle of whisky ‘just in case’, it’s fair to say that all bets are off.

Talking of my wife, I’m sure you can imagine the look on her face when an Oculus Go arrived at our house this week. Initially, I thought her shock was from me having bought something made by a company now owned by Facebook. It turns out that I was mistaken! Instead, she was concerned about the frivolous nature of VR and me buying another screen to look at.

I informed her that I didn’t pay full price but, instead, bought it from an eBay seller who had rarely used it. However, instead of being pleased by my cost-saving, she pointed out that buying something that works by attaching it to your face during a pandemic is… well, I don’t think I caught the end of her sentence. Back in the doghouse.

Like many people, I get emails from Google Maps showing me where I’ve been over the past month. I sincerely hope they’ve switched this service off for the foreseeable, as otherwise it’s going to be rather depressing.

My pandemic routine, such as it is, is like a parody of my normal day. Up at 06:30; breakfast with the children while my wife gets ready; start work in my home office at 08:00; work until 12:00; lunch; start again at 12:30; finish at 16:00. Rinse and repeat.

This means, on average, I walk 652 steps over the course of the working day. So it’s imperative that I do some form of exercise. I’ve been running; either hill sprints or my usual route around our town’s bypass, which is around 6.5km. It was just a little dispiriting when I left my smartwatch charging when heading off for a run the other day. I know the thing is having actually done the steps rather than record them, but I don’t like my smartphone to be yet another thing to be disappointed in me.

I went to visit my parents last Sunday for Mother’s Day, and then during the week to deliver some items that they hadn’t been able to get. Talking through a pane of glass, with the window cracked open slightly, felt like either they or I was in prison. It was pretty surreal, as is everything in this situation. It’s like being part of an alternative reality game where the daily arrangement of Joe Wicks’ shelves gives clues on how to escape.

Other than that, my only non-exercise activity was taking my children up to a WWII ‘pillbox’ that is less than a mile away from our home. I’m trying an enquiry-based approach to teaching them History, starting with an era neither of them have studied yet. They’ve come up with some great questions so far, which we’ll dive into over the coming weeks.

There’s something completely different about walking and talking, and being out in the open air when teaching and learning. I know it’s not ‘saleable’ but perhaps not everything needs to be? I think education is potentially going to look very different post-pandemic, especially if the lockdown lasts months instead of weeks.

We bought a picnic table to go on the patio at the end of our (small) garden. When it arrived, my wife was concerned it was too small, that it was one meant for kids. In the end, everything turned out alright and, after we put it together, we enjoyed a beer while wearing coats and hats. It’ll be good when the weather gets a bit better and the kids can do some of their schoolwork outside.

There’s not much to be said on the work side of things. The stuff I’ve done for the co-op would require a lot of context to make any sense, but we’re continuing to do work for Red Hat and Greenpeace.

With MoodleNet, we’re now very close to having a version ready for federation. There’s a showstopping bug in some of the code we depend on from another project that needs fixing. But other than that, we’re talking small tweaks and configuration. It’s pretty exciting being this close to releasing something for testing that we know is going to be so useful to so many educators.

Next week, let’s see… yes, I’ll be at home. Doing pretty much the same things as I’ve done this week. I’m all for routine, but this is ridiculous!

Photo of WWII pillbox taken by me on Thursday.

Weeknote 11/2020

Never has this quotation been more apt:

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Wow, what a week! My wife and I returned from Belgium on Sunday night, thinking everyone was being more than a bit over-cautious. By today, the next Saturday, we’re effectively tinfoil hat preppers.

Shortages in local supermarkets, handwashing drills, a new freezer in our outhouse, stockpile lists, and we’re seriously considering keeping the kids off school. I’m running outside instead of going to the gym.

I can’t even really remember what I’ve done this week apart from read the news and think about the impact of the pandemic on society. I’m not particularly anxious, it’s more that my brain goes into overdrive thinking about the “what if?” scenarios.

Apart from a couple of presentations on MoodleNet using the slide deck I posted here, I’ve mainly been sorting out GitLab issues and making sure the team is alright. We’re a fully-remote team based in Europe, with two in Italy, two in the Netherlands, and then one in France, Czechia, and Greece.

My co-op colleagues seem to all be alright, but of course any in-person work we were planning to do is a bit up-in-the-air at the moment. Who knows when all this will end?

I cancelled a trip to go walking in the Peak District with a friend this weekend, next week’s FutureFest has been postponed, and likewise next month’s MoodleMoot UK & Ireland. If things return to whatever the new version of ‘normal’ looks like, there are going to be a lot of events in the second half of the year.

One good thing that’s coming out of all of this is that people are being forced to figure out how to do things online. Virtual events, online learning, remote work are all things that should be commonplace in 2020. And in some sectors, and in some organisations, they absolutely are. But in others, all this is brand new.

I’ve worked from home for the last eight years now, with a dedicated home office that’s separate to our house. It contains all of the kit I need, and I’ve got a super-fast mesh network which makes our home wifi fast and stable. It’s easy to take all of this, plus the experience I’ve gained over the years for granted.

The great thing about remote work is that you have to measure results by outcomes, not how hard it looks like people are working. You have to have trust, and processes, and be able to convey human qualities like empathy at a distance.

I wrote something for the We Are Open blog about remote working for leaders and managers. Our co-op is definitely standing by for any organisations that need help in this regard.

It’s now a decade since I was responsible for technology at a large educational organisation. On Twitter, which I can’t seem to turn off at the moment, I thought out loud what I’d do if I had to pivot to online learning from a base of no current capacity.

As I auto-delete my tweets every 30 days, I used Thread Reader to ‘unroll’ my thread. Check it out here.

All of this has made me think that the best technologies are the open, mature, and tested ones. Which is why I wrote an ode to email, explaining why it’s the original robust, decentralised technology. I also reflected on sharing educational resources via bittorrent.

Next week, then, I’ll be at home. Perhaps with all of the rest of my immediate family. We’ll see.

Image by Volodymyr Hryshchenko