A Week of Just In Time Learning

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There is nothing like starting your week off with an e-mail from a teacher that simple says:

“Moodle is not working…do you know why?”

And then spending the next four days worried that you can’t fix it. It has been one of those weeks that I’ve relied on ‘just in time learning’ and my network of information to help me through what was a database disaster.

I wish you could monitor learning and knowledge over time. Because my graph for the past four days on how Moodle works and mysql databases must have doubled. Of course I can’t tell you what I learned, because:

1. I don’t remember it
2. I no longer need that knowledge
3. I probably couldn’t explain it right anyway

It’s been an interesting week and throughout it I have tried to reflect on how I’ve used my networks to learn, share, keep motivated, and try to figure out the problem.


As soon as the problem with Moodle was reported I headed straight for moodle.org where the free support forums are filled with issues, errors, and solutions to problems that others have ran across while using moodle. This network led me all over the web following links, reading postings, and trying out suggestions as I went. I soon found that learning to search within the forums took skill; understand how someone else might have phrased a question or answer and then sifting through the results was at times stressful. I soon realized that we do not teach students how to search effectively enough. We do cover searching in class…but it is a skill that we should practice frequently.


I used twitter to share with my network of followers what I was doing, what was happening and how I was feeling. This networked helped me in a number of ways:

1. They are educators, they understand how a system failure like this affects the learning process, and I could feel they understood my frustration and stress.
2. My twitter network also turned into a learning network as three different followers offered support. Chris Craft even chatted with me and helped look for answers on his own (Thanks you Chris!).
3. My twitter network also helped to keep me motivated by responding to my twits with motivational twits of their own, or just by simple stating “I feel for you.” Knowing that someone else understands your pain is always helpful.


I also had a personal network. Those people around me who could lend an ear, make a suggestion, or just listen to me talk through what I had tried and what I was thinking. My wife has come to understand that when a system like this crashes I am best to be left alone for hours days on end until I figure out how to fix what is broken. I also called upon other techno-geeks in the Shanghai area as we were having a meeting for the Learning 2.0 conference and I brought up the troubles I was having. They gave me some good suggestions, a pat on the back, and sent me home motivated to try something I hadn’t thought of.

In the end, Eagle Net is back up and working, but what I had to do to get it to work should not be tried…in fact I discourage it as it’s long, stressful, and I probably couldn’t do it again if I tried. Let’s just say lines and lines of database files were involved.

These networks made up my just in time learning for the week. Now as I reflect on this process I’m starting to think about what this might look like in a classroom. How do we help students to tap into their personal networks to learn the information they need when they need it. It’s an interesting concept I think as this is a short term memory skill and is much like cramming for a test. You learn everything you think you need to know for a short time period and then hours later you can’t remember what you read, or even knew. How does this differ from the long term memory we focus on in the classroom? We try hard to teach students to store things in their long-term memory. We want them to remember what we taught them in September for that test in May. However, is that how the real world works? Do we learn skills to remember them forever, or do we learn them when we need them and for a specific purpose, only to learn something new and different tomorrow?

At our school we are moving to a ‘just in time learning’ model for technology, where students learn a tech skill because they need it to complete a specific task or project. The idea behind this approach is that the students become their own network of knowledge, helping each other out using the skills they know, remember, and are building. Instead of teaching technology skills in isolation, they are taught within curriculum areas and on a need-to-know basis.

So maybe something useful did come out of Moodle crashing. The opportunity for me to reflect on the just in time learning process and how in a networked word with information at your fingertips knowing how to do it is a skill we all need.

[tags]21st Century Skills, Moodle[/tags]

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff,

    Thanks for sharing your learning process here. I’d sure love to know what went wrong, as I’m responsible for our Moodle and it continues to grow. Any info you could share about the problem would be much appreciated. Can it be prevented? Was it unique to your system? Should I be worried about our installation?

  2. Pingback: Personal Learning Networks at The Illuminated Dragon

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  5. I had to laugh when I read about your Moodle problems, as I’ve had way too many of these myself. Of course, it was always something that I did in the PHP; nothing wrong with the source code, but the “emergencies” always come at the worst possible time. Hang in there; 1.9 is more robust than ever!

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