For the online learning world



Nostalgia is an emotion. It is a belief that the past represents a utopia of happiness. It is comforting.

If we look at this old camera which is an Ensign Selfix 20 that I picked up in a charity shop:

Ensign Selfix 20

there are thoughts about its journey through time. The case has a smell that draws you into the past and makes you wonder what it was like back then. It actually dates from around 1936 (Ensign Selfix ’20’ -> www.earlyphotography.co.uk/site/entry_C826.html), representing the technology of the time. The version I have is an improved one from the initial model, thereby demonstrating the actions of a feedback loop in progress. When it was purchased and used for the first time, what did its owner think? Were they happy? Were they frustrated? Did they start running for the typewriter to post the manufacturer a review with a star rating? Or were they just pleased to have a piece of technology that could capture those moments in time to look back on and be nostalgic about?

This is my ZX Spectrum 16K, it is the very first computer I ever owned:

Issue 2 ZX Spectrum 16K

its is not the first I ever used, that was a Commodore Pet. I feel nostalgic about it because it represents the start of one element of my life story. It too has its faults (ZX Spectrum | Cheap as Chips pt.1 -> www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTEMnYnLlpQ), it is a compromise with the cost, capability and availability of the technology of the time. But it worked as did the Ensign Selfix 20. It did the job it was designed to do with the expectations of the time.

At any given moment we have expectations based upon the knowledge we understand. As time progresses our expectations change as the old is replaced by the new. Sometimes the new feels not as good as the old and that is when we become nostalgic. But, here is the thing, was the technology of then really as good as remember? Or were we just dreaming and in reality thinking ‘This is great, but I wonder what the future will bring?’.

The Collapsed Topics course format was the first ever Moodle plugin I ever wrote. It has a story of its own beyond the scope of this article. I created it initially for Moodle 1.9 and then backported to 1.8. Here is a screen shot from 1.9:

Collapsed Topics in Moodle 1.9

and here is one from 3.3 (on my Shoelace theme):

Collapsed Topics

it has evolved as I have evolved and learnt new techniques associated with new capabilities both technological and functional. The evolution has been driven by desire and need as new knowledge of learning methodologies arrives. But at its heart it is still about using toggles to show and hide information as required with no distraction from what is currently needed. It still does the job I intended it to do, and I hope you feel it does it well.

Therefore I come to the key point, does the Moodle of today represent the past dream of the future? Or has it gone in a direction that we don’t want? Are we feeling happy with what we have or are we being nostalgic about the past thinking it was better than our current future?

Does Moodle:

Calendar Boost

need to change?

Gareth Barnard
Latest posts by Gareth Barnard (see all)

Gareth Barnard

Gareth is a developer of numerous Moodle Themes including Essential (the most popular Moodle Theme ever), Foundation, and other plugins such as course formats, including Collapsed Topics.

One thought on “Nostalgia

  • stuartrmealor

    Funny eh, we all have a nostalgia button, and different things press that button. I always liked “the 60’s” even though I was too young (honestly!) to remember it. Is nostalgia just a trend, a marketing ploy, or a part of the human condition I wonder? Although when I see a horribly out of date Moodle site I generally feel a sense of panick about security and not nostalgia! lol


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