Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Magnificent Mandy the Marvelous Moodle Monkey

First of all, I wish to make it clear that "Moodle Monkey" is not my phrase, and that it has been cleared by Mandy herself for use in this blog. It does not apply in the sense of a thousand simians hammering randomly at a thousand typewriters for a thousand years and producing Shakespearean text. There is nothing accidental about Mandy's work: she nails it on the first take, no mulligans or do-overs for her. Like Mozart, her manuscripts are unsullied by false starts or corrections or additions.

Rather, it applies in the sense of deftness, of rapid, sure movements, of total confidence in unzipping the banana file or dropping the instructional coconut right on the head of the new wiki. There is also a generous excess in these moves: asked to find a few grammar web sites, Mandy gives you 15 or 20. Need this in two days? You get it in an hour. She even eats from the big Costco bag of salty tidbits only the stuff Renee and I find less appetising; she leaves the nuts, bless her east coast heart.

There is, too, at least one anti-monkey side to Mandy: her magnificent sense of order. Curious George, she is not. Chaos is not caused: it is reduced and quickly eliminated. It is infinitely comforting to know that our rough-hewn artefacts will be edited, cleaned up, converted into the appropriate format and installed in exactly the right place. Items are labeled, catalogued, saved, cross-referenced and installed with rapidity and precision. MOODLE could well stand for Mandy's Optimally Organised Digital Learning Environment.

In the end, though, the most marvelous thing about Mandy is her fearlessness. Anxiety can be infectious and at the beginning of this enterprise my own nervousness was definitely seeking a playmate, a friendly ear into which to pour my stuttering reservations and darkest terrors. And Mandy is no fan of the Moodle, no delighter in things technological, no Internet thrill seeker. Yet when (t)asked to join the team, she grasped without hesitation the proffered digital liana and swung off into the on-line jungle with courage and determination so catching that one could not resist following.

I am reminded of Garry Kasparov's comment: "I don't know we can exist, knowing there exists something mentally stronger than us." He meant computers. This, of course, was after he, once world chess champion, was defeated by a computer. Well, the antidote to this particular form of existential angst would be Mandy: she is definitely mentally stronger than the Moodle, she knows this and she knows this will always be the case. Kasparov lost, in the view of several commentators, not because the computer was a stronger player but because it never became nervous or agitated; in the face of such an implacable opponent, the human grand master eventually lost his cool and made mistakes. Mandy is marvelously cool: her lack of fear of everything on-line is accompanied by a slight but detectable disdain and the combination seems to guarantee that she eventually wins every face off.

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