The Moodle Podcast

Moodle CEO & Founder, Martin Dougiamas, talks to Abby Fry about his vision for an equitable global education ecosystem

March 16, 2022 Moodle Podcast Season 1 Episode 4
Moodle CEO & Founder, Martin Dougiamas, talks to Abby Fry about his vision for an equitable global education ecosystem
The Moodle Podcast
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The Moodle Podcast
Moodle CEO & Founder, Martin Dougiamas, talks to Abby Fry about his vision for an equitable global education ecosystem
Mar 16, 2022 Season 1 Episode 4
Moodle Podcast

In this podcast episode, CEO and Founder of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas, shares his vision for a more equitable global education ecosystem with open education at its core .  This is an empowering call to action for all those involved in education to collaborate and strengthen education as a common good to make a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

Visit Moodle at

Show Notes Transcript

In this podcast episode, CEO and Founder of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas, shares his vision for a more equitable global education ecosystem with open education at its core .  This is an empowering call to action for all those involved in education to collaborate and strengthen education as a common good to make a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

Visit Moodle at

[00:00:00] Abby: Hi everyone. And thanks for listening to the Moodle podcast. Today, I'm having a conversation with Martin Dougiamas, a name many of you will be familiar with. Martin is of course Moodle's founder and CEO. It's great to be talking to you on the series, Martin. Welcome. 

[00:00:18] Martin: I'm glad I finally get to get on this podcast. 

[00:00:20] Abby: Well, I've been looking forward to this chat for quite a while to give our listeners an opportunity to learn more about what drives you and perhaps what your vision or hopes are for education. It goes without saying of course, that you are a trailblazer in ed tech from the first release in 2001 Moodle now has over 300 million users worldwide. It's one of the world's leading LMSs and actually now an ecosystem of products and services. If I could've met you back in your early thirties, say around the first releases in the early two thousands, would you have seen this was possible?.

[00:01:04] Martin: It wasn't my plan , to be here that's for sure. Originally I was, as they say in open source development, scratching an itch. So I had a problem, a local problem that I was trying to solve. I was at my university trying to help the people around me. But trying to also look at general principles.

So I always knew it'd be more applicable for other people. I just didn't know how much I originally, I thought I'd probably become an academic and Moodle would be my project in the evenings, you know.

[00:01:36] Abby: I know that you grew up in a really remote Western Australian town, really on the edge of the desert or in the desert, even. And your first years of school were through distance education. So when the internet came along, did that, do you think that sort of opened up the sense of possibility for you?

[00:01:54] Martin: Yeah, I didn't realize that at the time, but in retrospect, I was really well-placed to understand and think about the internet because I was used to talking online with people from the seventies and doing my schooling online. And for me, that was normal. That was natural. And when the internet came up more in the eighties and nineties, I felt very comfortable there. I started exploring it deeply. I got into all the nooks and crannies of the internet and really studying what people were doing. I had a lot of friends that I talked with daily all around the world when I was 17. That's normal now, but it wasn't normal back in the eighties. 

[00:02:40] Abby: Yeah, clearly without doubt you are an early adopter that's for sure. I know when you were learning by distance education, you were learning from a school, I think is now called SIDE. That is a public educator. And so do you think that is well contributed to your belief that Moodle should be an open source platform? Why did you release Moodle as open source?

[00:03:08] Martin: I have always been scientific minded, let's say. And and I was always reading a lot of science fiction and I'm always thinking about things on a global scale and, in science fiction, it's often galactic scale. So you think a lot about principles and what works and what is technology for and where can we take it?

And I ended up at a university in the nineties and at a university I'm dealing with a lot of academics. And, I love the academic tradition, which is very much about sharing and openly sharing. And everyone builds together and we're all searching for truth out of the universe in some way.

And the scientific process is about establishing points of truth we can rely on and then build on. So yeah, that's all very natural and I'm half Greek as well. We've got the tradition of Socrates and Archimedes and so on. There's a lot of that there too. Maybe.

[00:04:05] Abby: I like that. I haven't heard you talk about that before this sharing tradition that came from academia, and then, you've translated that into the way you've developed the Moodle technology or the Moodle platform....

[00:04:17] Martin: If I can go deeper, I think there is a physics side to it as well. A piece of software is literally a pile of electrons in a certain order, the ones and zeros are really just on and off states there, and they're represented with electrons. You can take that pattern, which represents a piece of software or an image or a movie or a piece of text and duplicate it infinitely without any actual cost. Electrons are free, essentially, they're everywhere. So you can duplicate digital stuff very easily. So it completely changes the economics of making stuff. Whereas we used to have to make records to distribute music, pieces of plastic or CDs, and we'd have a very advanced factory to do that. And then someone would have to put it in boxes and ship it around the world and put it in shops So you ended up paying for an album or something. And the distributors get most of it. The artists get a little bit, but in the digital world, that distribution process and replication process is essentially zero and it's the same in software and everything else. 

So it does mean we need to rethink how we produce things. And open source is a much more natural way of producing software, as long as the person who writes the first software is adequately paid. It's important for someone to get paid for work, I really believe that, but once it exists, , if it's not costing anyone anything to distribute, it seems unfair to pay for distribution.

Which is, like what a license fee is or something, or if you're buying a software package and you're paying a hundred dollars for it it's like a proxy for all of the work we did to make that thing. But it's not very accurate. So, um, Yeah, I think open source is a very compatible method with how the world works in reality. And also I find it's very human. It's all about sharing. It's about working together about collaborating, about recognizing that we all build on top of other people's work all the time. And that we're a society where a community.

[00:06:18] Abby: I like your analogy to music. And I'm thinking, about the development of platforms such as Spotify, in which there's a subscription model. And I'm thinking about that in the context of Moodle and its sustainability. Was that something that you had to nut out along the way? 

[00:06:37] Martin: Yeah, it's really hard to find out how to get that first person paid the person to write the software, to, to build, it's more than just developers. It's primarily developers, but there's also a lot of management and a lot of, running organization that needs to happen.

So getting everyone paid that was always the issue and it became very clear to me early on that it made sense to be paid for your time and a lot of people were asking me for my time to help them with the software. 

So they're saying, "oh, I've got Moodle. It's great. I don't know how to set it up. Can you help me with that? Can you give me advice to consult on stuff?" I was like, yeah, sure. So you start charging for your services and that service-based thing makes a lot of sense. And a lot of open source projects have come to the same conclusion and built service-based sustainability models. So yeah, you get the software, use it for free, take it, do whatever you want with it. But if you need help from us, we'll charge you and that's fair and appropriate. So then it becomes a balance of how do you balance your service activities with your research and development activities?

You have to find the right balance. And I went both ways. 

So I was doing all development and I was living on a scholarship in the beginning which I managed to get through for my PhD. Wasn't very much money, but it was enough to survive on. And yeah, things were pretty tough trying to do that.

And then going the other way I found myself doing only services and the software stopped moving. Like I couldn't drive it forward. I was just helping people all the time and it got static. The balance was to decide what do you outsource? And our current model, which is primarily around various companies that do services so we outsource that in a sense, and they pay us royalties, which helps sustain the developers. And that's been a pretty good model for the last 20 years. 

Yes, that makes sense. And I know that's allowed you to commit to your mission, which is about empowering educators and their role in improving the world. So you have this vision, obviously, Martin, about wanting to contribute to education. Does that suggest to me that you think that there might be problems with the existing education model?

I think education has functioned very well in, in various places for thousands of years. Where the problem is, it's not so much education as the affordances or the tools we use for education. It's the education technology fundamentally. 

Lots of talk about lectures, not being very efficient. And, you went to uni, you went to lectures and, or didn't go to lectures. As a lot of us, didn't always a lecture is not the best way to learn. And And so, you know, you have tutorials and you have all these methods and processes that happen and that kind of technologies in the past of, a classroom and a white board and a notepad.

So now the technologies that we use are computers and phones and watches and internet servers and web pages. And it's how does an educator use all that to do as well as, hopefully better than they were doing before. And that was the itch that got me started, was watching all the academics in my university struggling to use anything.

There were bits and pieces of solutions. It was obvious that the internet was super powerful at finding information and news. And it seemed to be very applicable towards education, but it was very difficult to take advantage of it. There wasn't a way to easily start using it to replace a face-to-face course.

And I could see there was way better ways. And so I started to build them because it was more obvious to me. I could see possibilities and the best way to do it. And the most fun way to do it is to actually start making code, to see those things in real life and see what people think. 

[00:10:44] Abby: I think it's interesting the way you called, whiteboards and chalk and overhead projectors as technology, of course they are. And now the internet provides obviously an evolution of that technology. There still seems to be a sense that perhaps online delivery will never be as good as traditional delivery. And I wanted to get your thoughts on that. 

[00:11:09] Martin: Well, I think the most perfect way to learn is a one-on-one situation with a real expert. So if you have an expert, who's sitting with you looking into your eyes and you're doing the thing. Almost the apprenticeship model actually is the most effective way to learn anything.

And that's why we have a lot of, we still use that for, if you want to learn an instrument, probably the best ways to have a teacher who walks you through it and gives you that. And the reason is you get this instant feedback from somebody with deep experience who can help you construct all this knowledge level by level. And that instant feedback lets your brain adapt quickly. 

So lectures and things were always bad because you're trying to deal with a thousand brains at once sometimes, and it's just not good.

So when you move online you actually have more opportunity for this direct interaction with everybody because for example, you're not sitting in the back of a room, you know, even if it's just a recorded lecture you can see them much closer. You can see their face, you can stop and start they're more interactive. So even that little change has advantages. You could watch it again tomorrow watch for the exam. again. So that's just video, but when you've got collaborative software, you have the ability to be getting feedback from the whole class all day long.

And it's more like a social media experience where you have a lot of people talking about the subject and you're engaged in discussions. And so it's more like a tutorial at university perhaps where you get that kind of more interactive, collaborative experience. And then something I did research quite a bit of was the learning capability of writing. So being forced to write about something really makes you learn that topic. If someone's gonna read it and maybe a lot of people are gonna read it you feel very motivated to get it right and you feel very motivated to get your own head in order, so that truism of "the best way to learn is to teach" is related to that. And online in a collaborative environment, you're able to provide that opportunity to everyone in the class, because you can say, "all right, everybody, we're going to have a discussion about this topic. And I want you to to start a discussion and reply to discussions" and in Moodle's forums, there are settings all about exactly that. You can actually shape the type of interaction you want to see as a facilitator, and that forces all your students to engage. And so it's all about getting the brain working on the topic because you're there to help them learn. Right? 

[00:13:40] Abby: Absolutely. It's not feasible that we teach students in schools or universities or different kinds of settings in a one-on-one way. So the internet provides you this opportunity. You're talking about to learn socially and I guess differentiate that the way a student may absorb content and engage with the content through different types of senses as well, perhaps audio video, or kinds of things that might suit some people more than others.

[00:14:08] Martin: yeah, absolutely. I've seen great assignments where the whole class has asked, in a Moodle database activity you set it up as a teacher and say, I want everyone in the class to go out into their environment with their mobile phone and take photos of some flora and fauna in the region. Maybe it's a biology class, zoology class or something. And and then post it here in this collective database with your research about that animal or plant. You know, now we have a database we've collected as a class of all this stuff in our areas. And now let's take that one step further and let's look for trends and let's look for commonalities and or differences.

So you're able to bring in a lot of the world directly. That what I just described would be very difficult to do in a physical classroom. You couldn't have everyone bringing in their photographs. I guess you could print them out and put them on a wall or something, but the affordances of digital just make it all so much easier.

And and yes you also open things up to everybody feeling like they have the same opportunity so even if you're disabled or you're a quiet shy person or you have a learning disability of some kind , the digital technology in between you and the class means there's lots of opportunities for improved accessibility for you.

If you're a quiet, shy person, you might feel a lot more comfortable writing on a forum than actually speaking to a whole class. And if you are blind your computer can read things to you. So there's so many benefits there, as well, that I really feel online classes can be much better than most of the classrooms from the last 50 years.

[00:15:49] Abby: That makes a lot of sense to me. And I'm also imagining that digital technology also afford the insights so that those insights can help you improve your delivery subsequently. And that's really hard to get in a traditional setting. 

[00:16:04] Martin: Yeah very true. Um, And you're also, let's not forget if you're on the internet, your part of the world. You're not in a little room in a suburb somewhere. You are now on a world platform. 

So say you're teaching English literature. There is a very real possibility of the teacher reaching out to a famous poet and saying, "Hey, would you come and speak to my class? Join us in a call about your poetry. We've been studying your poetry, come and talk to us about it". And that's something, that's an amazing opportunity. You're able to bring the world into your classroom if you're that kind of teacher who thinks of that opportunity.

[00:16:41] Abby: Do you think connectivity issues are a barrier for online education?

[00:16:47] Martin: Oh, for sure. We just passed 50 or 60% of the world having access to the internet overall however, the trend is clear. We are moving towards total internet for everybody. There are a lot of people working on those problems on the connectivity problems. Bandwidth is always going up. Technology's always improving. A lot of the countries that are very behind now are going to leap frog forward, straight into six G or something. And they'll have internet quite rapidly. I was in some remote parts of Africa and most of their Internet's on mobile phones, but I saw an ad. It said they had WhatsApp for sale. They were selling Whatsapp by the road. They were actually selling you a phone, but the phone was just a way to get WhatsApp because they were just a way to be part of conversations. It's interesting seeing all that coming online.

[00:17:35] Abby: Absolutely and also people can come into connected environments and then download content or activities and then engage with those subsequently and then come back into connected environment. So I guess that also provides an online environment, more depth of coverage. 

[00:17:55] Martin: Yeah, exactly. The Moodle mobile app is designed with offline capability in mind and you can download a whole course onto your phone when you do have internet and then use it when you don't and it syncs up again next time you do so that's a good way around. Yeah. 

[00:18:16] Abby: So technology is key and I know that you feel very strongly about the open source core of Moodle LMS. And that is something that will always be retained because you think it is key to an ecosystem that can allow people to engage with education across their life in a more equitable way. And that's certainly been mirrored in the most recent UNESCO report in which they've talked about a social contract for education being underpinned by two principles, really, one the right to education and two, this idea that you should be able to access education in a fair way. Have you got a vision of a system that can support that? 

[00:19:06] Martin: Yeah, surely it's in all of our best interests that the very best education available is available to everybody and it's free. That's the perfect scenario as a species. If we want to evolve and be successful, we need to try and create that. So that's holy grail. 

Now there's a lot of practicalities in between, but if that's what we're trying to do, then what we don't want is a huge paywall in front of everything. We don't want everything completely locked up behind expensive paywalls because that will exclude people.

We don't want lots of fragmentation either. If every teacher is using a different technology, it makes things very complex for the users, for students for teachers who are moving around an education system, maybe they're, going from one school to another or they're going between industries or whatever it is.

 If the technologies we use are changing continuously it just adds a lot of barriers. Um, It's already hard enough for people to keep up with the pace of mobile phones and all sorts of technologies. So, \ Why would we want to load more on top? And the only way I can see to standardize things to the degree that we have done in other areas. Look at the internet itself from a hardware level. If we're having a phone call over the internet or sending an email, we never have to worry about the pattern of the bits that my computer is sending, not matching up with what your computer expects and, closing the call to break or email, not to be able to read.

We have made very good standards so that all of the computers in the world are connected into one network. And you can reliably send information from any computer to any other computer. Images, texts, everything. Things like web browsers, somebody can make a website these days using a lot of advanced technologies for animation and motion and perhaps you've got booking forms and all of that stuff, and you can reliably expect it to work on a browser. So the concept of what a web browser is, has been standardized, and there are a lot of technologies in there that HTML and JavaScript and others that we've all by consensus converged on because in the past, there were lots of other options. People came up with all sorts of different things, but no, we've HTTP and all of these things we've standardized on, and that means now that we have a much more useful infrastructure to work with.

So the challenge now is taking that up to higher and higher levels. So in the applications space, to get that consistency I was talking about for an education environment where you can just jump in and know how to use it. As a teacher, maybe you've got a lot of stuff you've prepared, your particular course materials or whatever. You should just be able to use it straight away. I've got five or 10 years of stuff. I want to use it in my course tomorrow. 

And as a student, if you've done some work and proved that you've learned something through assessment, you want the results of that assessment to be something you keep for the rest of your life, I think, you want your history to build up -your CV, so to speak of learning all that recognition of your learning. If it's sitting in 20 different systems, you can't show it to anybody you want to centralize it and say, here is my learning. And that makes the interface better for whoever you're showing it to, it could be an employer or anything.

Um, That's the space where we need to standardize things. 

And right now a lot of the innovation, or at least the implementation in that layer of the space of the apps, is being driven by very large companies: google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, these kinds of companies are setting the standards for applications just by their size. And what I don't like about that is that their sustainability models tend to be, they're very much for profit companies, so they're doing it for profit and that means the decisions they make tend to be for profit. Like the board of Facebook is not sitting around that much, talking about providing any communication infrastructure for the world that helps to solve problems.

They are talking about how to make more money and that means more advertising and how to satisfy their advertisers, who give them that money, which means how do they extract more data out of people? How do they influence people? How do they use algorithms to control the conversation? And that's led to all these problems of where you can't rely on the data. You get filter bubbles, where you just are fed more of the same or you fall into a filter bubble of bad information let's say or harmful wrong information. So there's a lot of bad sides to that and there's no opportunity for us as the users to really impact that. A lot of this stuff comes on your phone, if you buy an Android phone, it's full of Google stuff, you need a Google account. You need to get into that ecosystem. 

You want an apple phone, you have to get an apple ecosystem and fall into that. And we lose our agency we, we become consumers. And this takes us away from where we started talking about academia of how it was open sharing, collaborative. "We all have input. We're all helping drive this forward." It makes us much more into consumers and it's this new level of capitalism starting to control us, it's a layer between us and everything and that is where I get very concerned, particularly when it comes to education, because I'm sure we've all seen dystopic, films and books and, 1984 even, um, but if the infrastructure is controlled by big for-profit- minded entities and I want to say, I don't think, there's many evil people in the world, but the structure of a large corporation can be quite evil because nobody's to blame, right? We're all, oh, we're just all doing our thing and decisions get made and stuff happens. But in those dystopias if the infrastructure is driven by that kind of thinking, Surely they're going to affect education. 

[00:25:25] Abby: w Exactly if the infrastructure is owned by a few, the content is also direct, potentially directed by a few. I think that's what you're implying which is fundamentally against the principles of education. 

[00:25:38] Martin: Yes! We're no longer citizens, we're consumers and it boils down to that for me. How do we keep everyone's involvement in society? How do we make people really citizens . Something I'm really thinking a lot about now, and this year particularly, is what is the core curriculum for adults? What should it be? How would we build a core curriculum for lifelong learning? I'm not saying everyone has to learn the same thing, but what are the core things that everybody should know? That's really interesting. I don't have the answer for that, but I think that's, that is THE problem. That is the thing we need to work out. Who do we want around us? Do we want everybody to be completely unaware of each other? all specializing in different, weird things and not able to talk, what's the common basis of knowledge that we all need to be able to have a useful discussion about politics or, um anything 

[00:26:32] Abby: It sounds like a common basis of knowledge and a common system or a shared system is what you're touching on. What kind of a system do you think can work in education technology that is shared and therefore protects the most people in our world? 

[00:26:50] Martin: So there's a few layers. 

So at a lower level , it needs to be easy to move content around. You need to be able to choose content and choose to use it or not. But the fact that it's in one format or one system or another, shouldn't be what makes you choose it? It should be in a kind of open format. Open education resources is very important that we're able to shift things around, not worry about copyrights or things preventing us from using it. It should just use it . first of all, we've got to free up that area. 

And then on a higher level, there's some notion of quality of that it's backed by science or evidence. That the stuff we are learning has some acceptability. Science is a process of trying to find these points of truth. It's not the only process, but , we should definitely somehow rate information or identify quality information. Because if you don't know anything about a topic and you go, oh, search for that topic on Google, you will get all kinds of stuff.

 Let's say vaccines, right? So you go, oh, I want to know about vaccines. You're going to get a panoply of opinions and feedback. And so as one little brain trying to work out what should I think about vaccines? You are now faced with this gargantuan task. So why should every single person have to be put through that for every single topic? It doesn't seem efficient. You don't wanna go too far where you have one company going this is truth everybody, because that way you get dictatorships and all kinds of stuff. It is a really interesting problem that I think educators have to work out together. And so back to your question, it was about , how does the technology help that.

[00:28:37] Abby: Yeah so you've sort of talked about open educational resources being a system in which teachers, perhaps, as well as individuals can share quality content to allow them equity of being able to access that content and also reduces duplication of effort. That makes sense to me. 

[00:28:57] Martin: Yeah. Once you have the content shareable, then you need to share chunks of content courses or collections. I still believe there is a real big place in the world for very skilled people. So someone who's a master at something, someone who's mastered a topic. And back to this one-on-one idea, if somebody who's really good at a topic is able to explain it cogently, maybe they're an active researcher they're still looking into it all the time. At universities you have these people and they have research programs. And, once you get past your undergraduate you get into post-graduate. You want to align yourself with a team or someone who's leading a research effort into something. And you get a huge boost personally in your own education, because you're now following someone who's ahead of you and dragging you along with them. 

Most of the world has had gurus for thousands of years and you get these evolved individuals who've spent a lot of time thinking about something and they're very good at explaining it. We are natural followers, and it's built into the way we operate. So this is back to our mission. How do we identify these good people to follow and how do we empower the teachers to improve the world? How do we extend the reach of these really good teachers to reach more people effectively?

A university is very often built around a campus and buildings and that old technology, as we said, we've now got digital technology. I would like to see as a student, the ability to go “I'm interested in this topic and this person who lives on the other side of the world is simply the best person at this. Can I get in their classroom? Can I come along for the ride with that person for a while?” And maybe it's for a couple of years. And I move to someone else and maybe I'm following five or six people at once or 10 or whatever, but I build my own curriculum of people who I really believe in. And so we've broken up the idea of a university as a room to being a place that supports these people financially, somehow to do work globally. 

[00:30:59] Abby: Yeah, I like that vision. And you talked earlier about recognition, so you know, this idea of carving your own curriculum and then being able to access content and resources or educators maybe curating that. Then I think you commented on the idea that people would need to be recognized for that. And perhaps it could be a more fair or a more globally recognized perhaps system of doing that, Martin.

[00:31:27] Martin: Yeah. So the recognition side is very important, I think. Now we're getting into, what do you do with all this stuff you've learned? You want to be a useful member of society. You want to get a job somewhere, be involved in an organization. And I must say I don't like the idea of people just being trained to be workers. We're getting back to that corporate approach of "well education is to train workers" -these are people we're talking about. These are people with spirits, with their own motivations, their own life, their own families, citizens of the world, like all of us, So now, you've learned a lot of things you've followed your passion, you've got some knowledge, how do you contribute to society? And that may be joining a company as an employee, maybe volunteering. We all have many ways to participate. How do you prove to the group that you're joining that you know, some stuff essentially, that's what it boils down to. 

So you can show them your LinkedIn um, your LinkedIn page is a whole bunch of stuff you've carefully curated to put you in a certain light for a certain purpose. There is no checking of that. My own LinkedIn for quite a while, I had that, I was the CEO of LinkedIn. And nobody picked me up on it or changed it or, you can lie all you want on LinkedIn.

But wouldn't it be good if as you were doing your education stuff, that there was a universally recognized way of recognizing that someone's assessed you and go, "you know what? This person really knows their stuff". I'll say the word badge here. Because that's the technology that's most trying to do this, to give you this badge or a recognition that "you now know something But it's only one piece of the problem.

If you come to me "Martin, I want to show you what I know. And here are my 2000 badges I've accumulated over my life. And they're all different shapes and sizes. And one of them says Harvard on it" and I go, "yeah, I know Harvard. That's a pretty famous university" and you go, "oh, no, it's not that university. It's some tiny training center" . And I go, oh, okay. 

So like, there's a lot of knowledge I need to be able to even comprehend what you're showing me and that part needs to be worked out . If I really want to understand it, I want a system that puts a lot of green ticks next to those things and it indicates clearly "these ones are important. These ones are verified by that institution". That's not a lie. It's not something you just made up in Photoshop. It's literally issued by this organization and that organization has certain standing in society. So that whole mechanism doesn't exist. It's like a trust network. And in computer science, there's a lot of work on this sort of trust network in the context of digital signatures. You could make your own cryptographic key and it's not worth anything until you go to a key signing party and you physically front up with a bunch of other people who identify who you are and sign your key. Because they're trusted people -now you have more trust. And so you build a network of trust. That's how you collaboratively start using this information. Ideally if I think what would be the perfect thing as an employer? 

"Our organization needs somebody to fill this gap we have, and this is the shape of the gap. These are the kinds of skills we need." Wouldn't it be great if I could put that into a system and the system goes "here are 10 people who fit that gap really well" . And I could trust that. I could trust that completely and go "okay, I'm going to talk to these three". The whole recruitment process would be so much simpler. 

[00:34:55] Abby: It certainly would.. 

[00:34:58] Martin: I think it would also allow us to be more flexible. We could do more work here for three months and work there for six months and work there for 10 months because it would be slotting in to situations like consultants do. Just the right person for the right time. It frees things up a little bit more. And it's not such a heavy process to join an organization. Yeah, I think ultimately that's where it goes to with the recognition that we were able to use it to drive our society. 

[00:35:29] Abby: Very interesting. That's taking it just that one step further again. I'm also thinking about when you talk about this, all that data sitting somewhere. So I'm now thinking about the infrastructure and the security of that data. Is there something that you envisage to protect our privacy? 

[00:35:47] Martin: Yeah, absolutely. There's a huge problem with internet now that all the servers are owned by somebody. Everyone has to own a server. So you might say, I'm going to put my life's recognition data into this and it's a company that maybe tomorrow goes "you know what, I'm going to charge you a hundred dollars a day to use that data" or the company fails and disappears and the server goes off the internet. We're at the mercy of other organizations all the time that may come and go and that is obviously a big problem.

So how do we have a place that doesn't change that is reliable and probably the closest things that are approaching that? So one is blockchain - a way of distributing a ledger of data around a lot of servers and that's a useful concept. 

But the other one I like for more data than blockchain can support is BitTorrent. The BitTorrent system has been around for quite a while and has lots of variations. Files are out there in chunks being copied around from machine to machine and floating around lots of machines.

And when you download a file from the BitTorrent network, the bits and pieces of that file might come from a thousand machines and be pieced back together for you into a single coherent file. Yeah let's leave aside the legalities of copyright on movies and whatnot. But the BitTorrent system is this system that works that way and it's really useful.

So that kind of a federated distributed approach can work. We know that and something I would like to see is education institutions buying into the concept of supporting a big global cloud of space which would store data, but also have compute time. It would also have the ability to run applications up there. Software can run in this cloud as well. And if every institution just contributed one computer, you could instantly have hundreds of thousands of computer running this cloud because everything's copied around the network and duplicated even if maybe half of those institutions tomorrow decided to switch off their machines: everything would be retained. So we have a space that just lives on the internet that is shared. And in that space, I want to see us develop these systems of recognition, the systems of the teaching classroom systems, the something that's an agreed, open education technology that's open to everybody, that is focused on education and provides some trust.

I could easily imagine uh, with even current technologies that you would store all of your badges and data and things in this cloud, and it would be encrypted completely. And that encryption key would sit on your personal device. You would have a device or a key to unlock it so nobody can access it until you decide to share it to them. That's quite possible with computer science techniques that are going on right now and it is happening in pockets here and there but how do we get everyone together to build one big system we can all rely on?

 So look, I'm sick of waiting for someone else to do it. we are starting the open education technology association, and that association will be anyone who's working in ed tech products who is interested in this kind of idea to come together, meet regularly.

Talk about how we move from where we are now to this vision. Defining the many details of that vision together to involve the people who have money. E.U. In particular is investing heavily in projects like this in infrastructure, software projects and hardware projects. Because that's a very European thinking how do we make this utopia for ourselves?

I find in the U S and I'm generalizing a lot here, but in the U S in general, it's more of a market approach. We'll let companies compete with startups and all try new things, and the best ones will survive. And they have that kind of approach. China is trying to build infrastructures, but there's a lot of issues with China and the west right now and China's stated explicitly that they intend to build all their own software separate from everyone else. I don't know if that will succeed but it's interesting and communication can be difficult between the west and China, just from languages in general.

 Other parts of the world are still catching up. There's a lot of good things happening everywhere, but I don't hear about a lot of money being poured into building stuff like this either. They very often fall prey to the marketing, which comes from the US and, buy this app and buy and get this device.

So yeah, I find Europe is the most compatible with this kind of thinking. So that's where the Open Ed Tech Association will be in Brussels. It's just being created right now. 

[00:40:59] Abby: And individual people, how do they become involved with Open Ed. Presumably they can join some associations or is there things, let's say a teacher, in a university currently, are there things they can be doing now that is in their own way, contributing to the open education movement and this kind of vision that in a small way occurred or the beginning of 

[00:41:24] Martin: That's a great question. If you've listened to this so far, this podcast, then you've already got your head in the right space, I think. If you're involved in any education anywhere, whether you're a teacher, admin somewhere, or anywhere in that system, try and think about what is the future of your organization and the future of education in general and what do we want and just try and make small decisions that lead there.

It's not about whether, if you're choosing a platform to use next year, it's not only about does this platform have this feature over that one or do I like the interface more of this one over that one, it's also about, what you're supporting with your time and money? What are you supporting in the world that's important?

 And there are ways to get tools that work and support things that you like. And I think, those kinds of ethical decisions where we're making them all through our life in everything. I think we should all be thinking about how we choose to bring our shopping home from the supermarket, for example, right? So that's an ethical choice." I'm not going to use a plastic bag". And that applies for all our choices of procuring anything. 

[00:42:35] Abby: That's a really nice analogy, actually. And in the end, educators, you are in the business of teaching or training because you care about imparting learning or knowledge. So that sits well. I think to think about the system you're supporting, when you do that. 

[00:42:54] Martin: I hundred percent agree. I've got, youngest children just out of teens and if they're fed a lot of marketing about, this is good. That's good. And you are a consumer. It's very deadening to the soul that, oh, I have to get a job so I can afford a house. What is life for? And instead there's such a, there's a way to impart positivity that the world is going to be in my hands. I am now deciding what the world is. I can be active, I can join in. I'm part of the solution. And I think educators should be showing that, by how we build our systems and how we run our schools and empowering people to be part of society, that's the most important thing.

[00:43:40] Abby: Yeah, that's lovely. I really want to hear you talk just quickly about where you think learning management systems will be in say the next five to 10 years. Obviously, the COVID pandemic has more and more educators coming to grips with how to use existing learning management systems and improve their online teaching skills. So there's so much happening, which is awesome at the moment, but where are we heading? Have you got a vision of what a learning management system might be? I don't know, 2030?

[00:44:10] Martin: The general gist is I think Moodle and other learning management systems have mostly targeted the decision-maker at an institution. It's learning management from an organization point of view,: "we want our teachers doing these things and our students doing those things". And all the information comes together and we achieve efficiencies and stuff like that, which is fine, because I think the first step to using the internet for education was going from a brick and mortar school or a university and transferring that online to an extent. And that's a much easier on-ramp if the structure of the software looks like the structure that we had in our organization 

I think the future is going to be much more individual- centered. And we really need to think about the individual because , at one point it's the student, the learner needs to have that place that they own, where they, their recognition flows back to where they subscribe and follow and join in with education activities around the world.

They need a base somewhere and the teacher also needs a base as a guru learning their craft and getting better and better at their thing. And becoming a better and better teacher their cloud around them needs to, they need to own that. I don't think it should be owned by the institution. I think that's quite counter-productive if you move from one university to another and you aren't allowed to take any of your course material. Cause that belongs to the institution. That's just nobbling everybody. That seems really counterproductive. So I feel like we gotta let students and teachers own their own stuff and then interact through a common infrastructure so that we agree on to make all that efficient. So that's the general direction. 

[00:46:01] Abby: Well that sounds very exciting. I look forward to seeing the infrastructure and platform that can support that vision that's for sure. 

[00:46:09] Martin: Yeah. And it's gotta be fun to o. It has to be as fun as games. It has to be, because those things are super exciting, you know, or streaming video ... entertainment has all kinds of interesting dynamics with your brain that work, that we love, we're drawn to it and they've been honed through years of research on making them more addictive.

But wouldn't it be great if you said, look, I want to learn this thing and it was as fun as that, like it should be. So yeah, I think the entertainment side of it is really important. Let's make the world a great place.

[00:46:44] Abby: Entertainment at the core of an LMS. I like the sound of that. Absolutely. 

 Thank you, Martin. It's been really illuminating and I in fact have learned a lot, so I really appreciate your time and thanks.

[00:46:58] Martin: Thank you. 

[00:46:59] Abby: Thanks everyone for listening. If you would like to get involved, perhaps in the open education movement, please visit us at and you can navigate to our resources on open education.

And I look forward to the next time. Thanks everyone.