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Monday, December 29, 2014

Thoughts on Content Development and Curation for the New Year!

The past couple of years have been a BIG transition for me in terms of my content/curation habits, so before 2015 is upon us, I wanted to share some thoughts about that.

Latin Days Officially Over. For about 10 years, I spent most of my content development time on Latin. That was partly because I had some projects related to fables and proverbs that were really important to me personally, but it was also because I hoped that I could persuade my school to let me develop an online Latin course. Those hopes led nowhere, unfortunately; the Classics department really has stuck to the vow made by the department chair back in 2001 that "Laura Gibbs will never teach Latin in this department again!" (after I resigned my job as a professor there); the departmental resentment has not lessened over the years, even though that department chair is long since retired. Over the course of those years, I wrote five books for Latin students and teachers: one book I did for a traditional publisher, but the other four books I self-published so that I could give them away for free.


You can read about my book-writing process here; it was very much a combination of content development and curation interwoven: Websites, Blogs, and Books. I also created a long-running blog and built up a big readership there: Bestiaria Latina. The blog is the one Latin project that I have kept up with, but I'm no longer doing any new Latn content development (just the occasional new Latin LOLCat) — instead, I recycle the thousands of proverbs and fables that I worked on in those years, reusing them there at the blog.

It was a really hard decision to give up the Latin but finally, two years ago, I did give it up. I was a bit adrift for a while, doing some work on English proverbs, but not really sure which way to go. Then, I came up with the idea of redoing my Myth-Folklore class with the UnTextbook, and that has led to a fabulous new phase of content development that should easily last as long as my Latin phase... or even longer! Plus, I learned a lot from all the Latin work that I did which has let me make really fast progress, learning from old mistakes as I start these new projects.

New Projects, New Tools. Another thing that has happened over the past decade is the explosion of new tools to help me do a better job with all my content development and curation. When I did my first Latin proverb book back in 2005, I had GoogleDocs to help me (spreadsheets rule my world!), and I had just started blogging, but I did not have the amazing digital libraries online that I do now; all my current projects are powered by online libraries like Internet Archive and Hathi Trust. Most important of all, I am now involved in some great social networks online, so that I no longer feel like I am working all alone. It's ironic: when I lived in Norman (where the University of Oklahoma is located) I actually felt far more alone and isolated than I do now, when I am living over a thousand miles away from Oklahoma in very rural North Carolina, but connected to so many inspiring and helpful colleagues online at Google+ and other social networking sites.


Re-Use and Wider Audiences. Luckily for me, it is very easy to repurpose the kinds of content I create (fables, proverbs, etc.) because the content comes in such small pieces! By re-using that content in different spaces (Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc.), I am able to reach more people. In addition, that process enables me to curate the content at the same time, correcting errors, adding links, and so on. Over the years, I've learned some really good tricks for keeping track of what content I've used and where I've used it. The main way I do that is with Blogger blog post labels, since Blogger has turned out to be my main content hub. Blogger is where I create new content and then, as time goes by, I update and republish that content while also sharing it again in whatever social networking spaces I am participating in. For 2015, it looks like those spaces are going to be Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest. I like the fact that I can use these different spaces to reach different audiences. Google+ is where I reach my own colleagues online, while Pinterest and Twitter are good ways to reach my students, connect with my school (that's why I started using Twitter), and also encounter complete strangers — Pinterest is really a new world for me that way!


Plans for 2015. My main content development project for 2015 is the upcoming Indian Epics UnTextbook, which will occupy the summer. By having decided on my summer project already, I can get my students this spring to help me find the right materials to focus on. So, I am busily seeking out new India-related books for the students to browse and comment on (growing list of books here), and I am also starting to post some Indian stories at a new blog: Ocean of Stories. Plus, just for fun, I am also doing a Doctor Who project: Doctor Who Quotes.


In terms of content re-use for the coming year, I will be republishing one of my LatinLOLCats every day at the Proverb Laboratory blog. I'm also trying to make better use of the images at my Indian Epics Resources blog by republishing those images and sharing them via both Pinterest and the Twitter stream for Indian Epics. Another re-use project is revisiting the free Kindle books that I originally collected to use in my Class Announcements two years ago; now I'm updating those Kindle book listings with additional bibliographical information based on the availability of the books at digital libraries like Internet Archive and Hathi Trust. These public domain online books are the engine that will be driving all my content development in future years, so I'm excited about revisiting these free Kindle books as a way to refocus and then expand my digital bibliography efforts.

The Evils of the LMS. As you can see, I have not even mentioned the LMS that I am supposed to be using for sharing content with my students (we use D2L BS at my school). From my perspective, the LMS is the worst possible content repository that I can think of: to put content in D2L would be like nailing it inside a coffin and then burying that coffin deep in the digital ground. Ugh. Sadly, as long as my school keeps promoting the LMS while failing to promote other kinds of tools for content development, sharing, and re-use, we are — in my opinion anyway — failing in our mission as a PUBLIC university.

So, I'm expecting great things for my own content efforts in 2015, but will we see any change at my school in terms of faculty and students breaking out of the LMS and taking advantage of the open Internet for connecting and sharing...? Sadly, I doubt it. But Jim Groom is coming to give a keynote address at the University of Oklahoma's January Academic Tech conference — and that's something I wish I were in Norman to see! If anybody can shake things up, it would be Jim Groom... so maybe he will manage to shake loose some of the cobwebs and help us break out of the darkness into the light. What a great 2015 that would be!

I'll include here the video of my favorite session from Connected Courses which features Jim Groom, along with other folks who have great ideas and energy to share about using the web as our shared educational space: Connecting to the IndieWeb Movement.


Happy reading and watching in the New Year, everybody! :-)


Friday, December 26, 2014

Pinterest: Curiosity, Collecting, Connecting!

Pinterest for Spring 2015! Because I am a total teacher nerd, I wanted to spend this lovely holiday Friday by playing with Pinterest, learning more about how to use it well, and then figuring out how to help my students play and learn with Pinterest this Spring. The result: I just finished writing up the Pinterest assignment for Orientation week in my class, along with some extra Tech Tips to help students make good use of Pinterest. I am really excited to see what will happen with Pinterest next semester. For Fall, I had encouraged students to use Twitter or Pinterest, and Pinterest was by far the preferred option. So, I will get things off to a good start in Spring by having every student create a Pinterest Board. Then, for the rest of the semester, students can continue to use their Board for extra credit... and I really hope that they will. It is a great tool for pursuing anything you are curious about, collecting the results, and then sharing what you found with others!

Pinterest Expertise. The Tech Tips I wrote up are meant to help people make really good use of Pinterest. Luckily for me, Pinterest is a really simple tool that does not have a lot of options — which is good! Someone can become a true Pinterest expert with just a tiny investment of time. Here are the tips I wrote up for my students today:
  • Pinterest for Discovery and Learning. This is absolutely the most important of the tips. I really hope I can show people who powerful Pinterest is for SOCIAL discovery and learning.
  • Pinning Blog Posts. This is actually two tips in one: I really need to help my students understand what it means to link to a blog post, as opposed to a blog homepage, archive page, label page, etc.
  • Pinterest Buttons and Bookmarklets. This is a productivity tip: for me, having a browser button is a big part of making sure that I use Pinterest multiple times every day... it's right there in the browser bar.
  • Editing Pinterest Pins. This is another two tips in one item: it's about editing pin descriptions but it is also about Pinterest search, which really depends on good descriptions.
  • Share Pinterest Pins on Twitter. I cannot believe I did not have this integration turned on already: DOH! This is something actually way more useful for me than for my students, but for the students who are active Twitter users, this could be a useful tip indeed. 
  • Pinterest Board Widget. It was the popularity of this tip last semester which made me focus on Pinterest this semester. Hardly any students added a Twitter widget to their own blog, but lots of them did a Pinterest widget!
I really enjoy writing up these tips because my goal is not so much a do-this-then-that type of tutorial. Instead, my goal is to relate the tool to the kinds of learning activities that will be really rewarding in the context of my classes. So, the tips are partly about using Pinterest, but they really are about LEARNING with Pinterest, i.e. using the tool to further learning goals of the class overall.

It's Personal. I mean this in two senses... two good senses! Pinterest is a "personal" tool that I use every single day, so my motivation in sharing this tool with my students is really to share the fun and excitement that I experience from using Pinterest; Pinterest really IS fun in a way that other bookmarking tools like Diigo are not. Pinterest is also "personal" in the sense that it is a tool for meeting people and for connecting with other people who share your interests. That's why writing up the Pinterest for Discovery and Learning tip was the most fun of all, showing students how they can follow a pin to a person and then see what interests they might share with that person. For the kinds of topics that we study in my classes, there are some really passionate people out there who are using Pinterest as a way to share what they love. I hope that this tool can become a new way for students to connect and share with one another, and also to connect and share with other Pinterest users.

Inoreader and Pinterest. Using Pinterest is also a part of my increased use of Inoreader in my classes, but the RSS that Pinterest supplies is dodgy at best, so I have not told my students anything about Pinterest RSS. It's VERY weird: there really and truly is Pinterest RSS for any given Board, and Inoreader has made it super-easy to subscribe to a Board — just paste the Board address into the Inoreader add box, and Inoreader will then discover the RSS for you (Inoreader is so fabulous that way!). What's weird, though, is that at least once a week, and sometimes more often, I get pin-bombed, with the RSS feed for a Board I am subscribed to suddenly having a couple dozen new pins from some OTHER Board. The pins are NOT at my Board (thank goodness!), but they do show up in the RSS for the Board.This is pretty distressing because the pins are totally random (there's truly no rhyme or reason to where they come from, although they do all come from the same Board; thank goodness I have not had anything actually porn-like... yet). Worse, once they are there in Inoreader, there is no way to remove them since Inoreader assumes (rightly so) that a feed is a feed and users should be marking things as read/unread, not actually removing items.

My efforts to get Pinterest customer service to acknowledge this problem went nowhere because... they deny even offering RSS at all! How weird is that?! I should note that the guys at Inoreader were great about helping me to troubleshoot this problem, but in the end all they could say was that there is something wrong with the Pinterest feeds, and apparently they have seen similar problems with eBay feeds.

So, I will be subscribing to my students' Pinterest Boards, and I will probably be resharing pins in a class Pinterest feed which will be really fun to make... but that will have to be manual. Because of the pin-bombing, I cannot afford the risk of automatically resharing my students' pins since the pins might not be from my students at all! I am really curious, in fact, to see how intense the pin-bombing will be when I am subscribed to 100 Pinterest Boards in Inoreader as opposed to the 10 or so Boards I am subscribed to now.

My Pinterest Routine. One thing I definitely need to ponder before the semester starts is my own Pinterest routine. In the Fall, I got in the habit of pinning every new Storybook to a board dedicated to that purpose, and I also pinned a lot class-related resources that I found as I was doing research related to the students' projects. Those were good routines, and I will carry on with both of them for sure. Now, though, with the Pinterest-Twitter integration (I just started using that today!), I think I will be doing a lot more with Pinterest, creating some more substantial overlap between Pinterest and Twitter. Last semester, I used Pinterest to archive a lot of content from Twitter, but next semester I need to think about how I can use Pinterest to generate an even more rich and stimulating Twitter feed for my classes. Plus, of course, I will be using Inoreader to watch my students' Pinterest Boards, and that is going to be really cool!

Commercial Services. One more note: I learned some great things about the Indie Web movement from Connected Courses, and that is definitely something I want to learn more about in the coming year. At the same time, I just cannot let myself pass up this great opportunity to help my students learn how to use Pinterest as a really fun and surprisingly powerful research tool. The reason that the Pinterest discovery process is so great is because there are billions of pins. The sheer quantity of data there is what allows Pinterest to make really good guesses about other websites I might want to look at. There are all kinds of people out there using Pinterest, pinning all kinds of webpages. Pinterest apparently has about 70 millions users now in 2014, and they have pinned 30 billion items at 750 million boards. Wow.

So, lots to ponder, lots to do: all good stuff! I'll label this for Connected Courses (because it's #notover)... and also for OU CTE (Center for Teaching Excellence), hoping that maybe 2015 will be the year that CTE creates a blog hub where those of us who are really keen on technology and teaching can start sharing ideas online at last!

And to those of you who are Pinteresting, happy pinning, everybody! :-)


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

More on the Power of Random: Random Storybooks

Because of the crazy school calendar (spring semesters starts sooooo early: too early!), I am actually doing a little schoolwork this morning to get ready for the new semester... but I saved my favorite of all new-semester tasks for today: updating the random Storybook widgets that automatically display Storybooks at random in my different class blogs and websites. You can see the updated widgets in action all over the place:
There might even be some other places where the widgets are on display, places I don't even remember... and that is the power of distributed widgets: I don't have to go update the individual places where the widget is embedded. I just update the widget script in one place, and it is automatically updated everywhere.

So, for example, here's the 400-pixel version of the script that features Storybooks from both classes:


I create these scripts using an amazing tool built years ago by Randy Hoyt, a former student: RotateContent.com. This free tool takes any HTML table and converts it to a javascript that either displays the table cells at random (as I've done with these scripts) or based on a calendar (either a perpetual calendar or a fixed-year calendar, as you prefer). When Randy created this tool years ago, I never suspected I would still be using it eight years later: javascript was definitely a good choice because it is still going strong! You can also choose to create PHP versions of the scripts if you want instead.

In terms of the nitty-gritty, I have one giant HTML table that lists the Storybooks for both classes, Myth-Folklore on top and Indian Epics down below. There is a title linked to the Storybook online, plus a quick little blurb written by me, along with a screenshot of the coverpage, 400 pixels wide. I then cut that table in two, creating a separate script for each class. Then I copy those scripts and manually replace the 400 pixel widths for the 200-pixel version I use in the blog sidebars, giving me two different versions of each script. I publish those new javascripts, and then everything runs automatically, with class-specific widgets or with the meta-widgets that randomizes the already randomized widgets as above. The actual creation of the scripts takes just a few minutes; the part of the task that takes some time is making the screenshots and writing the blurbs for each semester's Storybooks as I add them to the HTML table. But it's fun, as I said: I'm always so proud of the new Storybooks that go into the script every semester!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I think randomization is the most powerful tool we have for scaling in online classes, whether small or medium or massive. So, for example, I use random blog groups and random project groups to make sure that there is good student-to-student interaction in class every week, and I built some magic crystal balls to help students as they choose items each week from the Myth-Folklore UnTextbook. Random also works for the archive of student Storybooks. I really want each semester's new students to be aware of past student projects, but just showing them long lists of projects is not effective. So, instead of expecting the students to come to the Storybooks, I bring the Storybooks to the students: the random widgets display a new Storybook each time they visit the class homepage or look at the class announcements, along with each time they visit the class support sites, etc. It's non-stop Storybooks ... one at a time, randomly.

Of course, I never know just what Storybooks will capture their attention, and that's fine: the power of random means they see all kinds of Storybooks and, sooner or later, they are bound to be intrigued enough to click on a link and learn more. That's my hope anyway... and the power of random means that 24 hours a day on all those webpages and all those blog posts, there are wonderful Storybooks waiting to appear by magic, bringing their stories with them.

Random: it really is a superpower! I continue to be baffled that MOOC platforms and LMS software (like the D2L BS used at my school, or our MOOC wannabe platform, Janux) do not make good use of the power of random in order to scale course content and interactions. Random is great: it means we can all get to know each other and we can see all kinds of content all the time ... but just one person or thing at a time, not all at once! Massive stuff, but on a human scale. It works! :-)



(Cartoon by Sumanta Baruah)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Some Thoughts on Blog Hubs: What are they for anyway?

Adam Croom was kind enough to do a quick hangout video that provides a walkthrough of how the FeedWordPress plugin is integrated into the create.ou.edu network (Domain of One's Own pilot) that we are running at my school. Although I was not invited to use create.ou.edu for my classes (only a few faculty were included in the original invitation), I do have an individual account there now, and I am going to play around with FeedWordPress this spring to see how I can use it for my classes. So, even though my students are not using WordPress at create.ou.edu, I can still go ahead and set up my own WordPress blog as a syndication hub and subscribe to my students' blogs (hopefully via an OPML file, since that sure will be easier than subscribing one by one). I'd definitely like to learn more about how this WordPress approach to syndication works. In fact, seeing Adam's demo got me to thinking about how a WordPress hub could complement Inoreader since they really are very different. Just as a broad generalization, the WordPress hub looks like it will be great for design and presentation, while Inoreader is more of a data management tool, admittedly not so strong on presentation and design.

Hubs and goals. For my classes, the data management side is what is really essential, so let me explain how that works in terms of the goals for my classes. Overall, I have two big goals: one goal is for me to interact with my students via their blogs and the other goal is for the students to interact with each other via their blogs. Obviously, those goals are very similar, but there is one factor that makes them very different: scale. Each student interacts with just a few other students each week... but I like to interact with everybody!

Random for students. Here's how that works for students: each week the students interact with other students in class via randomly assigned blog groups and randomly assigned Project groups (three people in each group, all totally random). It's really simple to do this: I have a list of the students' blog addresses and also a list of their Project Comment Wall addresses (raw HTML with clickable links), and I use an online randomizer to randomize those lists each week. I then divide the randomized list up into sets of three and, presto, groups! It takes me about 10 minutes each week to set up the blog groups and the Project groups for both classes: easy-peasy. Thanks to the power of random, every student gets comments every week, while slowly but surely they all get to know each other, even in my big class (Myth-Folklore has around 50-60 while Indian Epics is around 30). They also have some free choices in the blog commenting and Project commenting, so as they make friends in the class, they can also follow the same person's work from week to week too.

For all that interaction to happen, I don't use a blog hub; the list of links and the randomizer is all I need. The power of random is the essential factor here: I don't want expect the students to be monitoring ALL the blogs (that's my job; see below). Instead, I just want the students to read blogs at random, and that way I can feel confident that the overall level of interaction in the class is really high AND well distributed. Also, since the students do such a great job of customizing their blogs (choosing a design, adding content to the sidebar), I really want them to interact in those individual blog spaces, not in the generic sameness of a syndicated hub.

Systematic for me. My situation, though, is completely different. I cannot afford to just interact with the students at random... because I really am a very hands-on teacher. And yes, I am pretty obsessive, ha ha. I want to see EVERYTHING that is happening in my classes, partly because I want to make sure everything is going well and also because I totally enjoy all of it — I love seeing what my students are creating every day! So, that means I am watching 80-90 blogs (and that may actually be close to 100 this semester since I am seriously overenrolled), with about 5 posts per student per week. I don't comment on all those posts of course, but I do like to glance at them, and I comment as needed and as time allows (my main way of interacting with students is through their Projects, though - which are separate from the blogs). In particular, I need to comment when there might be a problem with a blog post (for example, some students try remote linking to Pixabay images, etc. - little technical glitches like that). I also like to keep an eye on the comments, and there are hundreds of comments every week — very fun to watch: the students are so positive and helpful with all that. Here's what that comment stream looked like last semester for example.

So, when I say that Inoreader provides the blog hub for my class, it is the blog hub for my use mostly, not so much a blog hub that the students use (instead, the students are just using the random groups to visit blogs, and also finding their friends in the blog directory).

Inoreader for assignments. There is one way, however, in which Inoreader really is important for my students, and that is in the way that it can push out SPECIFIC assignments based on the assignment-specific tags that are automatically assigned to incoming posts. Every folder and every tag in Inoreader becomes an RSS feed of its own with an HTML clippings view. That means I can share the HTML view of a given assignment back with the students. In terms of helping students to get an idea of how each assignment works, this is so valuable! Some students are good at reading instructions, but other students do so much better when they can see concrete examples of an assignment... and Inoreader lets me share a stream of examples back with the students for every assignment.

You can see how that works here in the very first blog post assignment for the class: Favorite Places instructions. As always, I provide detailed instructions (yes, insanely detailed instructions...), but I also provide a link to student posts. Right now the link is going to student posts from last semester, but as soon as I get a few of these favorite places posts from Spring semester, I'll change the HTML clipping stream that is embedded here, and that way students will see the latest posts from their fellow students in the class: Favorite Places posts. Being able to see those posts from other students is a great supplement to the actual instructions and, even more importantly, it shows how everybody's post is just different from all the other posts. There's no right/wrong and no sameness about this experience... instead, it's just a fun and friendly way to start getting to know each other as the semester begins.

So, I love how tags and folders let me re-use specific assignments this way in Inoreader. One of the things I want to explore with FeedWordPress is whether I can get that same assignment-level specificity without having to do a lot of manual work. Right now with Inoreader, there are automatic rules that tag the individual assignments as they come in, and that tagging process is about 99% accurate; every once in a while I had to manually add a tag because a student used a very funky post title that my Inoreader rule did not recognize.

With assignment streams on the fly! I can also go through on the fly and add specific tags to instantly create a content stream as needed. For example, in the first storytelling post of the semester, students choose whether to do an Aesop's fable of their own, a nursery rhyme, or an urban legend type of story. The nursery rhyme is probably the most unusual since nursery rhymes do not always have a story plot in the traditional sense. So, right now at this very moment I am going to go through and quickly tag all the first week storytelling posts that used nursery rhymes last Fall (I didn't use that tag originally; I'm adding it now), and that tag-stream will be a resource for students this Spring who want to try a nursery rhyme story ... (pause for about five minutes where I quickly go through last semester's first week storytelling posts, which is easy to do thanks to the tag in Inoreader) ...


And here it is: the Inoreader tag "rhymeF14" that I can now share with my students. Click on that link and see the stories! That's the HTML clippings view for that tag.

Pretty nifty, isn't it? You can see what wonderful stuff the students are doing, already in the first week of the semester. Some students, of course, are hesitant in the first week of class since they might not have done any creative writing since back in elementary school. All they need, though, is just a little encouragement — and seeing other students' work is the single best form of encouragement there is, IMO. Just look at Sir Eyes-Egg Newton, for example: wow! It makes me want to go play with some nursery rhymes right now myself! Here is Sir Eyes-Egg in the Inoreader stream:


And here is Sir Eyes-Egg in a blog of his own (the titles of the posts are links to the original blog posting, so you can see the blog context any time you are curious):



Very happy! So, that's a take on how I use Inoreader: it is great for managing the day-to-day and week-to-week blog posts as they come in... while also being flexible enough for me to do little projects on the fly like this, collecting a specific content stream to reshare for some ad hoc purpose, all in just a few minutes. I could not have dreamed up a better tool for the things I like to do in creating these online classes. And I promise more to come as I get ready for Spring and, even better, when the students themselves start blogging!

How to follow my Spring 2015 Inoreader adventures

For people who are interested in following my Inoreader process for managing the student blog network in my two classes, I'm going to try to document that in EXCRUCIATING detail this semester ha ha. Last semester, I found Inoreader just in the nick of time for class but too late for any real documentation. This time around, though, I want to do a good job with this for all kinds of reasons:

* documenting for myself: I know I made some strategic mistakes in Fall semester, so I want to do better in Spring, and I also want to leave a trail so that I can do even better next year too!
* documenting for others: I am sure that Inoreader is a very powerful tool for any teacher who wants to engage with students using blogs, but it's not necessarily obvious just how to do that - I'm still figuring it out as I go along!
* documenting for Inoreader: I am so impressed by the support I've received from the nice people at Inoreader, and I hope that by sharing with them exactly how I am using this amazing tool, it can add to their understanding of the user experience.

So, here is how I will do that:

Google+ posts. Google+ is the quickest, easiest place for me to post during the workday, and it's also my favorite place for dialogue/sharing online. It's my "thinking out loud" space, so it will be the main place I post these observations for now.

Twitter #InoreaderS15. When I post at Google+ or post here at my blog, I'll use the #InoreaderS15 hashtag.

OUDigitools. When I post here at this blog, I'll use the InoreaderS15 label too.

Teaching with Inoreader. Slowly but surely, I'll add more material to my Teaching with Inoreader site, although in the hectic days of getting ready for class, I may be slower to write things up there.

Inoreader. And, of course, Inoreader will let me tag all these items and push them back on in a single stream which you can subscribe to by RSS — a stream that will combine my blog posts, tweets, and Google+ posts all in one place (yes, Inoreader really is amazing!). Here's how that RSS feed looks in Firefox; I wish all browsers rendered RSS in such a pretty way:



In addition to the RSS feed from Inoreader, you can also see it as an HTML clipping page: whoo-hoo! I've set that up to display 100 items on the clipping page, so it really should give you the whole thing at a single glance, all in once place (this way of compiling related content on a single page is another one of my favorite things about Inoreader).

Is anybody else having an Inoreader adventure this spring? If you want to use that hashtag to share your documentation also at Twitter, that would be super, and if you are blogging somewhere, let me know and I'll snag your blog posts and pop them into my InoreaderS15 stream from Inoreader.

RSS: it really IS a superpower! :-)





Friday, December 19, 2014

Post for Adam Croom with OUCTE label! :-)

Perhaps a first post in a CTE blog hub...!!!


Thanks for this, Adam! I watched your presentation, and it was cool to see how the FeedWordPress plugin is working there at create.ou.edu. I'm guessing that before they get into the nitty-gritty, faculty probably need to think about just why they are aggregating and syndicating, having some specific goals for their classes in mind as they get started.

For example, faculty who have blogged but who don't use an aggregator (Feedly, etc.), would need some help understanding different aggregation strategies, and faculty who don't already blog a lot themselves might not even understand the idea of syndication to begin with. Especially since we have not had a good blogging tool in our LMS at OU (D2L is terrible), I'm guessing many faculty might be embarking on this venture without a lot of experience, yes? Building a class around student blogs and a blog hub is something that would be new, so before they get into the technical, I can imagine they might want/need some guidance and also some examples of the courses, the types of course assignments, how blog content gets used and re-used, how students interact with one another via their blogs, how faculty interact with students via the blogs, and on and on. Even if my classes were not included in the create.ou.edu pilot, I am glad to share my documentation of them as example of classes where student-created content forms of the core of the class, with blogs as the main focus for interaction.

Last week I wrote up this post to show how I am using Inoreader and you'll see that it is definitely different from FeedWordPress (Inoreader is a really high-powered aggregator like GoogleReader was, but with lots of syndication options also). Seeing your demo here makes me think I might be able to make good use of BOTH FeedWordPress AND Inoreader. Is it possible to add a bunch of feeds to the WordPress syndication blog via an OPML file? If I could do that, I might indeed experiment with that WordPress plug-in, since I could add all my students' feeds quickly and easily even though they are not at create.ou.edu (Inoreader gives me a nice OPML-export option that would allow me to quickly port all my students' blogs over).

Also, I'm still not sure what you want to do about creating a syndication hub for people to share ideas about teaching... it would be AWESOME to have a space that was pulling in content like that, esp. if we could recruit people to participate. Is this something that can be done to the CTE blog to bring it back to life? Or is this a new project we should start? I would be glad to use OUCTE as a tag at my blog so that this feed would pull in the relevant posts:
http://oudigitools.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default/-/OUCTE

In fact, I'll post this over at the blog now with the OUCTE label so that the feed address will be valid if you want to give it a try! Just let me know! Is there anybody besides Stacy who would be up for participating? I'm guessing if we could get even just five or six people to start, blogging once a week or so, then we would have something that would be worth visiting!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Power of Re-Use and Randomization: Students Advise Students

One of the things I like best about teaching and learning in a digital environment is how easy it is to reuse and recycle useful materials. I'm also a big believer in the power of random as a way to manage abundance: either an abundance of people and/or an abundance of stuff. So, I had a lot of fun with this little project today, which is a good example of recycling AND randomizing: I made a giant list of advice that students in past classes shared with future students, and then I used RotateContent.com (a randomizing javascript tool built by a genius former student) to display bits of advice at random!


Student-to-Student:




Students from the past are obviously the best possible advisors for students in the future, so I really want to maximize the use of this material. Here's an overview of how it all came together:

1. In the past I had a blog post where I asked students to leave comments for future students; this semester, I asked students to write up that advice at their own blogs, and I collected those posts using Inoreader. The students' blog posts contained feedback for me AND advice for future students, so I went through the posts to find advice for me and advice for students and I wrote up this page with the advice for students: The Voice of Students Past.

2. Since the total list of advice is so long, I created a randomizer to display bits of advice at random. I included that random advice on the class website page, and I will probably add the advice randomizer on other pages at the class website too! You can see the randomizer in action at the top of the post; reload the post to see more random bits of advice.

3. More reuse: I will include the advice randomizer in the daily class announcements. Students see the announcements whenever they log on to D2L, for example, so that will be another way to keep the advice appearing and re-appearing!

4. And even more reuse: I need to go through the advice list and extract Twitter-sized pieces. That way I can share advice through our class Twitter stream each day too.

ADVICE: It's something we all need... and good advice bears repeating. I'm glad to have this way to share and re-share advice from past students with the new students this semester! Content reuse, content recycling: waste not, want not. :-)



News Round-Up: December 17

Warning: This is OLD NEWS since my schedule is still out of whack from being out of town (and offline!) all last week; the news items below are from before I went out of town. But even old news can be good news, so here it is: better late than never! Click here for more news round-ups and there are some quotes and graphics round-ups too. :-)

For those of you who are curious, I do use the magic of Inoreader to manage this whole process. Here's how: Archiving the Ephemeral.

And now, the (not so new) news...

Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2014. Audrey's always-fabulous year-end blog posts are now appearing; so much goodness — The Indie Web, Data and Privacy, CCSS, Competencies and Certificates, MOOCs (of course), School and Skills, The Business of Ed-Tech, Buzzwords...and more to come! And don't forget THE BOOK: The Monsters of Education Technology... and you can see Audrey plus Kin Lane and Martha Burtis here in a video from D'Arcy Norman: The Business and Politics of EdTech.

The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn't feel like victory by Martin Weller. Another book I really want to read... free download: thank you, Martin Weller!

Reclaim Innovation. This brilliant piece by Jim Groom and Brian Lamb is making the rounds again; you may have seen it at Educause back in the spring. READ IT AGAIN.

Notes on the University as Anxiety Machine. And if you're wondering why innovation is so slow to come to higher education, Richard Hall's notes here about the university "anxiety machine" are very much worth reading.

Us ‘n Machines. And here are some powerful thoughts here from Alan Levine on technology tools and the complexity of our online spaces and relationships.

Connected Learning Principles. Connected Courses has turned out to be a hugely important part of my fall semester, and this piece on "Connected Learning Principles" is a great summing up: interest-powered, peer-supported, academically-oriented, productive-centered, openly networked, with a shared purpose!

Learning that Connects. For more on those principles, this is a great piece by Mimi Ito on connected learning which develops those principles in compelling detail.

... And here is my favorite video of the Connected Courses series: so much good stuff here! Connecting to the IndieWeb Movement:



IndieWeb Advocates Launch Known. This GigaOm article about Known makes a good follow-up to the video!

Rhizomatic Learning – A Big Forking Course. After my great experience with Connected Courses this fall, I am hoping to join in on rhizo15... whatever shape that takes. Dave says the discussions will begin in February/March, and there's a mailing list here you can sign up for. I signed up!

How (Not) to Design a MOOC: Course Design Scenarios From Four xMOOCs. Great thoughts here from Debbie Morrison. Much of it boils down to this: courses worked when "the learner was a viewed as a contributor, not a recipient."

POTCert Week 13: Personal Learning Networks. And for a great take on course design, I really enjoyed following Maha Abdelmoneim's blog for the POTCert event this semester!

Dip Your Toes into the Shallow End of the Pool. Here's a great New Year challenge from Mark Barnes, making just ONE small change in your classes to see what happens. I especially like this one: Throw out traditional grades for one assignment.

Reflecting on Reflection: A Habit of Mind. Very nice piece by Terry Heick. I would guess that we can never create too many opportunities for reflecting on our work as teachers, students, learners, makers, etc.

Community-Building Cheat Sheet. And from reflecting to connecting: lots of good ideas here for classes-as-communities.

6 Rules to Break for Better, Deeper Learning Outcomes. The emphasis here is very much on independent learning, e.g. "Don't quietly wait to be told what to do."

Veronica Valenzuela: Experimenting With Code to Open Up Learning Pathways. And here's a learner story compiled by Howard Rheingold about how Veronica Valenzuela is indeed breaking all the rules to achieve some in-depth learning!

Specifications Grading. Robert Talbert is retooling his classes with specifications grading, so I've linked here to his G+ stream where he is sharing lots of information about the process! See also his resource wiki for flipped classrooms here: InvertedClassroom.

Common Core Testing Ignores Common Core. I'm almost as exhausted by CCSS as I am by MOOCs, but this is a rousing article about the absurdity of CCSS from "Curmudgucation" ("A grumpy old teacher trying to keep up the good classroom fight in the new age of reformy stuff").

Meaning and Standardized Writing. Another great piece from Curmudgucation: "One of the most unsuccessful initiatives of the Great Education Makeover is the attempt to reduce writing to a skill set that can be assessed by a standardized test."

Make Some Noise: Voicing Our Written Words. Great thoughts from Chris Friend here on writing and audio.

Uniform Behavior. And on standardization, here's a post from Steve Wheeler with a fantastic video: Deindividuation and Conformity in the Classroom.

A scaffolded approach to PERSONALised student PPDP. Very nifty item here from Sue Beckingham about reflective blogs, professional portfolios, etc.



Blogging for Learning: Mulling it Over. And a wonderful post from Silvia Tolisano about blogging for documenting, reflecting, sharing, and connecting!



Why Digital Assessment Will Kill the Percentage Grade. I wish I could share Joseph Gliddon's optimism here. Sadly, it's all grades grades grades at my school... even when there are so many great alternatives, as this post documents!


Experiences in Self-Determined Learning: Moving from Education 1.0 Through Education 2.0 Towards Education 3.0. And here is a great series of reflections by Jackie Gerstein about self-determined learning!


How to Use Google tools in Project-Based Learning. And as infographics go, this is a pretty good one!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Doctor Who Quotes: Co-Learning and Co-Blogging

One of my fun projects for the holidays is a Doctor Who quotes project, which you can see here at this brand-new blog: Doctor Who Quotes. I'm reading through the scripts of Doctor Who episodes and pulling out lists of quotes, and then turning some especially nice quotes into graphics using Quozio and similar tools (details). Here's an example of one of the quote graphics I've made so far:


So, as I was working away on this over the weekend, I realized that it could be a perfect project to fold in with the Tech Tips for my class. As I explain here — Tech Tips — I encourage students in my classes to learn how to use different web-based tools, especially meme makers and other content generators. That means I can share with the students the quotemaker tools I am using for this Doctor Who project, and they can look at my Doctor Who quotes to see just which quotemaker tools they might like best.  In addition, they can see me using a blog for an online project, much like what they will be doing in class. Co-learning... and co-blogging!

And, of course, it's a way for me to share my own interests and eccentricities with the class in a fun way. There are always a few Doctor Who fans in the class to start with, and I'm guessing pretty much all the students have heard of Doctor Who. With the shows being so readily available at Netflix, I might even be able to tempt some students into the Whoverse.

Meanwhile, between now and the start of school, I'll focus on the different quotemaker tools so that I can get those lined up for the students to look at and choose from as Tech Tip options. If anybody reading this has some favorite quotemaker tools to suggest, let me know! There are so many of them out there, each with its own pluses and minuses. I don't really even have a favorite yet, although I am a long-time fan of Automotivator, a "motivational poster" style of quotemaker. Here's a Doctor Who quote made with the Automotivator ... and cue TARDIS sound effects in the background for this one! :-)

Happy Thoughts about Inoreader and Blog Hubs

There has been a nice chain of Connected Courses blog posts and Twitter convos about the notion of "blog hubs" and the technologies of connection (see Alan Levine's Over Easy to pick up on the chain of posts). That emerging conversation is very good timing for me as I review my use of Inoreader as a connecting tool for my class blog network next semester. I discovered Inoreader in the nick of time last semester to make good use of it this Fall, and now for Spring I hope to do an even better job. Alan's post invokes the idea of "information flow" — It’s not necessarily the “easy” syndicating that compels me, it’s a glimmer of a new. novel way of thinking about the locus of our activity, and how the web mention technology offers a more than singular information flow — which is exactly why Inoreader is important to me. Right now, my students all have their blogs and most of them also have a website-based project... and the key for me is to get all that information flowing from one person to another so that we can all be learning from each other and helping each other by providing good, timely feedback.

FLOW FOR INSTRUCTOR

Overview of student blogs. I need a quick way to look at all the blog posts as they are published to make sure everything is going well, esp. at the beginning of the semester. Some things I keep an eye out for:
- questions or concerns students might express that need a response from me
- problems with images and image citations (that is something new to most students)
- other technical problems that might come up (formatting links, blog post labels)
Best of all, of course, I am looking for students having fun and doing great stuff so that I can chime in with enthusiasm! Inoreader is a fantastic tool for this; I subscribe to all the students' blogs and I check Inoreader periodically all day long for new posts as they come in. I set up Inoreader to label them as "incoming" and I remove that label as I glance through each post. I comment as much as time allows.

Overview of blog comments. Keeping an eye on student comments is important too, and because I can subscribe to the comment feeds at my students' blogs as well as to the post feeds, I am able to use Inoreader in the same way for comments as I do for posts. Last semester, there was never a problem with a comment (as a rule, students are incredibly helpful and supportive in their comments), and I am delighted to report that there was no spam at all. Yet even though I am confident that all is well, it is incredibly important to me that the comments should be a good experience and that spam should be dealt with immediately, so I really do keep an eye on the comments as they come in, just to make 100% sure. Plus, it is fun and very energizing to see all the good comments students are leaving on each other's blogs.

FLOW FOR STUDENTS

This is much more variable as students have different needs and desires. My goal is to create a rich network of sharing that will satisfy that range of needs and desires. I want students to feel part of an ongoing, active, exciting class writing experience all semester long... and Inoreader is a big help with that.

Sharing assignment-specific examples. This is my favorite thing about Inoreader! As student blog posts come in, Inoreader can label them automatically by assignment (assuming students include key word in blog post title which they mostly do, and I can manually add the assignment label when that does not happen automatically). Each Inoreader label is an RSS feed of its own, with an HTML clippings view. That means I can redisplay the student assignments... which is the absolute best way I know to help students who are feeling uncertain or confused about an assignment. Especially for creative writing, seeing other people's creativity is a perfect way to unleash your own creative powers! Here's an example of how that works for a really important assignment, the first storytelling assignment they do in class: Week 1 Storytelling posts.

For each assignment, I am able to use Inoreader to provide an RSS/HTML stream of posts for that specific assignment. Here is a screenshot of the Inoreader tool that configures the HTML clippings view for any given label/folder:


Class "bundles" of blogs. This is something I will be doing in Spring that I did not do last Fall. Inoreader allows you to create blog bundles, so I will make a bundle of the blogs for each class, and that will allow people to see the overall blog flow in much the same way that I do. For example, here is what a bundle looks like for the Indian Epics class: Indian Epics Inoreader Bundle.


That is the "card view," and you can click on the link and see the different "views" in Inoreader even if you are not an Inoreader user. Of course, Inoreader prompts you to log on and subscribe, and since the free version of Inoreader is a powerful tool, I will be encouraging my students to sign up and use it next semester, hoping to get them excited about using Inoreader to subscribe to and manage online content. I'm really not sure how many students will be interested in following the class this way or in broadening their web horizons, but I definitely intend to teach them how to do that if they want to give it a try!

Of course, Inoreader is not the only way that information flows in the class. My daily class announcements (a blog) are a key component of the information flow, as is our class Twitter feed along with the class Pinterest Boards (both my Boards and the students' own Boards too). What's great, though, is that because Inoreader can harvest the class announcements and Twitter and Pinterest, that means it can re-distribute that information over again. I'll write some more about that in another post.

So, yes, there is lots to say, and I've got a site going where I will be documenting my Inoreader use in detail for the coming semester (Teaching with Inoreader), but I wanted to get these examples out there as my contribution to the discussion of what is easy/hard about blog hubs.

The technology side of Inoreader is very easy: the students set up their blogs, and I subscribe to their blogs and to the comments, putting them in folders (details). I set up the rules that automatically assign labels to different assignments. Inoreader automatically creates RSS feeds and HTML clippings for all folders and for all labels. None of that takes any real time or effort, so I think that qualifies as easy.

Here's what is not easy: deciding to do all this! Because, yes, it is extra work and extra responsibility to set up a class this way and design the assignments with sharing as both the process and goal. So, the technology is easy... it's the actual teaching that is hard. Or, rather, it can be hard. I wouldn't say this is really hard for me because I love it so much; being able to interact with my students like this is a complete pleasure, allowing me to be the kind of teacher I always wanted to be but could never manage in the traditional classroom. I feel really lucky to have discovered Inoreader since it has given me new ways to pursue those goals with new opportunities for my students to share their work with one another. But I hasten to add: I was taking this same approach back when I first got started with student blogs and websites over ten years ago, using Bloglines as my aggregator. So, as long as we have the open Internet for sharing, I know the class can succeed, but I am also glad that Inoreader is helping me find new ways to keep up with my students while helping my students keep up with each other, seeing all the great stuff that goes on all semester long in the class!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Students as Co-Creators of the Next UnTextbook!

So, things are really rolling along already with the Indian Epics UnTextbook... what a great 48 hours this has been! I wanted to post an update here because the latest development is something inspired by Connected Courses AND powered by blog technology, so I thought that would make a good #ccourses post.

Here's the latest: as I started to set up the Indian Epics Online Book Library in my Indian Epics Resources blog (more about that blog), I realized that I could involve the students as my co-creators right from the very start! When I did the Myth-Folklore UnTextbook, I did not have enough lead time to do that (I got the idea in April and created the UnTextbook over the summer). This time, I have all of spring semester to select the materials for the UnTextbook, which means the students can be part of that process — and since I use Indian materials in my Myth-Folklore class, that means I can involve the students in both classes, which will in turn create more bridges between the two classes also. The students already interact with each other through their blogs and projects, so this will be yet another way to build more back-and-forth between the two classes!

Here's the basic idea: in a happy frenzy of biblio-sleuthing, I have already found over 100 full-text books that could contribute to the Indian Epics UnTextbook, in addition to the dozen Indian books I already use in the Myth-Folklore UnTextbook. You can see that list of books here: Indian Online Books. These are all full-text, public domain books available from online providers like Hathi Trust, Internet Archive, and Project Gutenberg; there are even 22 books that are available as free audiobooks from LibriVox, and 23 books that are available as free Kindle ebooks. I'm using Diigo to track things right now, as you can see.

Some of the books are extremely long and difficult for a non-specialist to work with, so I will be the one responsible for sorting through those materials and extracting the materials that can be useful in the UnTextbook. The literal translations of the Puranas, for example, are something that would be kind of mind-boggling for the students... but I can seek out the good materials there and write the notes that will make those stories work.

There are plenty of books on the list, though, which are written for a general audience, and those are the ones I need the students' help with: it will be very useful to hear from them which of these books most grab their attention! So, as I wrote up the individual blog posts for each book, I will include an overview and some specific feedback questions for the students, making it possible for them to spend some manageable amount of time (maybe 15 minutes or so), doing a check on the book to see what they think; it will be a perfect extra-credit type of assignment to use in both my classes for those students who enjoy the reading part of the class and want to learn more. Here's an example of a book blog post that would pertain to students both in Myth-Folklore and in Indian Epics:  Indian Idylls of the Mahabharata by Edwin Arnold.

As you can see there, I am asking them to respond by commenting at the blog with their thoughts about the book, giving them some specific items in the book to focus on. By having this happen in the open at a blog, students will get to see each other's comments, which will increase the value of the reviews. In addition, because these are blog comments, I can subscribe to the blog feed for the comments and use Inoreader to syndicate those comments all together so that students can see what other students are commenting on overall and perhaps make their reading choices based on what they see in the comments stream.

Being able to involve the students in the project like this from the very start will make for a much better UnTextbook. I am very good at finding the online books that could be included, but of course the students are the ones who are experts at deciding which books would be the most successful. Since I am already familiar with Indian literature, that means I am very much swayed by my own personal obsessions (and yes, I have some serious obsessions when it comes to Indian literature, ha ha). As a result, I am in some ways not the right person at all to be choosing what goes in the UnTextbook: the students should be the ones doing that! I can share my enthusiasms with them... but that doesn't mean they will enthuse in the same way.

So, extra credit is an important part of how my classes work (that's the most important safety net for helping students keep up with the course given their hectic schedules), and what an awesome form of extra credit this will be! It will both deepen and broaden their reading experience in the class, it will help them to connect with one another at a new blog space, AND it will give them a forward-looking sense of helping to make this a better class for future students!

YES!!!

So, I am very happy with how the Myth-Folklore UnTextbook happened last summer... but having the students' help with this project right from the very start, the Indian Epics UnTextbook is going to be even better!

If you are interested in following this project, I'll be posting about my progress over at the Anatomy of an Online Course blog, with the label Indian Epics UnTextbook.  And hey, you can even subscribe to just that RSS feed, thanks to the magic of labels and RSS: Indian Epics UnTextbook RSS.

So many things to love here: I love Indian literature! I love the public domain! I love RSS! And I love getting to share all of this with the students so that we can keep on learning more together!

HAPPY.


Drona trains the young warriors, from the

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Connected Courses as Catalyst: So Many Good Things!

I just finish writing up a post at my Anatomy of an Online Course blog about something huge that will happen in summer 2015: just as I was able to build a public domain UnTextbook for my Myth-Folklore class last summer, I now see how it will be possible to build a public domain UnTextbook for Indian Epics next summer. I am super-ultra-extra-excited about this, and the blog post already contains an outline of how that will work: An UnTextbook for Indian Epics!

So, what I wanted to talk about in this post is how Connected Courses was a catalyst for this next UnTextbook, both in a very specific way, but also in a more general way too. First, the specific thing that happened yesterday:

Because of Connected Courses I have ended up rebuilding my Twitter and blog networks, with the result that I am reading so much more and getting great new ideas all the time. One of the blogs I have been learning a lot from is David Wiley's blog at OpenContent.org: Iterating Towards Openness. There was a post there yesterday — Evolving Open Pedagogy — which invited people to comment, and I left a long comment there, focusing on how I had been able to create the public domain UnTextbook for my Myth-Folklore class with all kinds of great benefits to the pedagogy of the class overall, using the constraints of public domain to actually get me to think more creatively and deeply about the class than I might have done otherwise. I also remarked that I was still using copyrighted books for my Indian Epics class, although I would far prefer to be using openly licensed materials, public domain being the easiest of all to use of course.

And that comment nagged at me all day.

So, when evening rolled around, I decided to take a look through what I could find at Internet Archive and Hathi Trust, just to see what options might be available for Indian epic reading materials. And... it was INCREDIBLE. I posted book after book over at Google+, and then realized I was probably driving everybody crazy, ha ha. By the end of the evening, I had over 100 books bookmarked in Diigo, and I tossed and turned all night pondering just how I could present this material to the students in a way that would give us a sense of reading the epics together while also letting each person go their own way. You can read the results in the blog post. Happy.

And now, the general observation:

Thanks both to the beautiful serendipity of the Internet and also to the special role that Connected Courses has played for me this semester, I have become way more connected than I was before. In some ways, I have been a very bad student in this course because I really have not treated Connected Courses as a course at all (no, I don't do all the readings; no, I don't make all the makes)... instead, it has been an occasion for connecting — connecting with new people, connecting in new ways, and thinking about "connected courses" and "connected learning" as concepts that have finally given names to what I had always done but had never been able to label.

And so, it is true: the more I connect, the luckier I get, as in this graphic from Terry Elliott's blog:


What seems like a very long time ago, back on September 10, I posted my first blog post in this blog with the label Connected Courses. Below are the LatinLOLcats who graced that first #ccourses post with their presence. In the intervening two months, those blog posts, now numbering 58 (!), document a whole series of discoveries and breakthroughs, of which this new UnTextbook is definitely the most exciting.

So, I don't know what to say except THANK YOU, CONNECTED COURSES!!! All of you, the people who made this happen, have given me what feels like the best semester I have ever had as a teacher: I am so grateful.


Plurimum possumus:
Together we can do so much!!!

~ ~ ~


Unus nihil, duo plurimum possunt.
One can do nothing; two can do many things.

  





Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Monsters of EdTech: Un-Fathomable

Reading Audrey Watters's The Monsters of Education Technology.

More of these posts. #ccourses

2. Un-Fathomable: The Hidden History of Ed-Tech.

As someone who studies the history of literature, folklore, culture in general, I always want to know where things came from: where they really came from (often impossible to know though) AND the stories we tell about where things came from. So I really enjoyed this particular essay, and I share Audrey's despair at people who foreshorten the history of education and seem oblivious to history's real intricacies. As things are organized in the book, this essay is even more hard-hitting after the great history investigation that Audrey already provided in the first essay, the kind of history investigation that is just not Salman Khan's style.

And I laughed out loud at this one: "The first rule of the history of online education: you don't talk about Fathom." Ha!!!

Audrey contends that edtech is really undermined because we refuse to talk about past failures, and I think she is absolutely right about that. Academia, in particular, suffers from a curse of perfectionism. In some ways it is a strength, but it can also be a terrible weakness when it means we cover up failures rather than highlighting and learning from them. At my school, every project is declared a total success from the moment it is launched. Even if quietly disappears later, well, we just never speak about it again. Not good.

I recently documented the branding propaganda around my school's latest venture,  "the very first television network-branded online course for credit," and the marketing fluff for that venture sounds just like the marketing fluff that Audrey documents for Fathom and similar projects of the past, and the fluff which you can read right now at Coursera et al. Neither the propaganda or the technology are anything new.

Audrey also reviews the history of the LMS, a history that I have lived personally. And just when I think I cannot get more depressed about the LMS... I do indeed find new depths of LMS depression.

Audrey closes with questions that are incredibly important at my school right now, questions we really need to be discussing at length and in public (we are not): "Why are we building learning management systems? Why are we building computer-assisted instructional tech? Current computing technologies demand neither. Open practices don’t either. Rather, it’s a certain institutional culture and a certain set of business interests that do. What alternatives can we build on? What can we imagine — a future of learner agency, of human capacity, of equity, of civic responsibility, of openness, for example."

And what a great discussion that would be!

In closing, here's a history resource I would like to add, for those of you interested in the history of education, not just edtech. It's a book about the history of religious education in the U.S.: Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn't by Stephen Prothero (2008). Ignore the second part of the book, which is a Hirschesque venture into random-factoids-as-literacy (ugh). The real value is in the first five chapters of the book where Prothero documents the history of religious education in the United States. FULL OF SURPRISES. In particular, you will learn that it was Protestants who got religious education kicked out of the schools to start with. Why? Because they did not want equal time given to the Catholic religion of America's new immigrants (Irish, Italian). So, when you hear Protestants complaining about how godless American education is, you can laugh to yourself about how they did it to themselves.

... Next chapter, next post, coming soon. This is such a good way to think about some important stuff as I wrap up this semester and this year!

And for the slideshow, here is the original talk presented at Audrey's blog:
Un-Fathom-able: The Hidden History of Ed-Tech #CETIS14

Monsters of EdTech: Hidden History of EdTech

It's very quiet at work this week (long live dead week!), so I am reading Audrey Watters's The Monsters of Education Technology.


In the same way I am a big believer in re-use of content (one reason I love the digital world), I am also a big believer in re-reading, something we do far too little of in our hectic, time-short lives. Audrey's new book is a perfect opportunity to do some re-reading; since I had read most (but not all, as I see) of these big posts at her blog, the book allows me to revisit those posts, putting them into my current content of "now" (December 2014), and also seeing more closely the connections between one talk and another. YES! I'll tag the posts here as Audrey MoET. And I am guessing all of these will be relevant to #ccourses. :-)

Audrey closes the introduction with the question of whether we will see something more monstrous or more marvelous in the future. I feel poised on exactly that fulcrum at my school, where on the one hand I feel more and more marvels happening as I open up my own classes and see other open classes at our Reclaim Hosting pilot... but I also see more and more monstrous things happening, as when we spend millions of dollars on the Janux LMS boondoggle. If you ever wondered why the word "boondoggle" must exist, Janux is why.


And now, with thoughts of both monsters and marvels... on to the first essay!

1. The Hidden History of Ed-Tech. The theme here is "tension between new tools and old practices: "developing new technologies is easy; changing human behaviors, changing institutions, challenging tradition and power is hard." SO TRUE. I've seen technologies (Blackboard, D2L, whatever) change at my school over the past 15 years; I have not seen the culture change at all. Favorite new reflection from this essay: "The personal computer isn't 'personal' because it's small and portable and yours to own. It's 'personal' because you pour yourself into it — your thoughts, your programming."

Ahhhh, if only..... and I definitely would say that "personal" is an important dimension of my classes too. So, I will hang on to this word "personal" as I read through the rest of the book, seeing what forces are about personal-as-in-sharing-ourselves as opposed to the impersonal forces working against that.

And now... on to the next essay: Un-Fathomable.

Here is the first essay as it appeared at Audrey's blog:
The History of the Future of Ed-Tech

The blog comes with pictures! I like pictures. :-)