Saturday, March 10, 2018

Final Reflections for #CCCWrite

So, this week the Final Reflections post totally escaped me! I had kept up with doing a post each week for #CCCWrite... until the last one. I've tagged my other #CCCWrite posts here, and what's great about the blogosphere is that the door is always open, so I'm going to catch up now with the final post.

Which means, first of all, a HUGE THANKS to Michelle for setting this up. Having this as something to do each week was something that really meant a lot to me; I came here to take care of my dad on hospice six weeks ago, just as #CCCWrite was getting started, when the hospice nurse told me my dad had days or maybe a few weeks to live. I thought I would be here two or three weeks, and then I would be home, using #CCCWrite to keep me focused while dealing with the sadness of losing my dad. And he was indeed so sick when I got here, barely able to stay awake, totally ready to die. Hence the hospice prognosis.

But here's what happened instead: it's now six weeks later, my dad is so happy with the people helping him at home, cooking good food for him, watching movies (SO MANY MOVIES) with him... that hospice has now revised its prognosis to weeks or even months. I'm going to stay another two weeks to see if this steady-state carries on, and if it does, I will go home for a while, who knows for how long, until hospice calls me back again.

Of course, the lesson is that all you can say for sure is TODAY, one day at a time. And in all the chaos of having suddenly brought myself here for an uncertain stay, it was so nice having the #CCCWrite prompts to help me to think about what is going on. My first post was about We All Need Help, and I have learned that lesson in a new way, navigating the world of hospice and homecare and HHAs and PCAs and  CNAs and RNs and APRNs and on and on and on. A new world to me and, now that I understand better how it works, a world I can navigate on my dad's behalf (he has no real idea who all the people are as they come and go, but he likes them very much).

So, my main goal for the Club was just to keep up in this chaotic time, and I did (almost). And I am glad I did. Because...

... my unexpected outcome is something awesome: I am going to InstructureCon this summer, thanks to the fabulous people at Instructure, and my mission is to work with them on how to create more/better opportunities for people to connect and share, building digital trails at the conference and beyond the conference that can amplify all that InstructureCon energy outwards and onwards. And why did this happen...? It happened because of the discussions I had with people at Instructure after the blog post I wrote about (not) going to conferences as an adjunct.

To me, those are the kind of great "chain reactions" that can happen when you put your thoughts and hopes online, brainstorming out loud about the problems you face, asking for help, and sharing the solutions that you find. And as I get ready to think about this conference adventure during the summer, I will be able to go back and read people's #CCCWrite posts about their conference experiences, and that will give me insights I can use as I plot and plan for the InstructureCon adventure to come.

At that conference, I will finally, after all these years, be meeting Michelle Pacansky-Brock in person, which is very exciting... and in the meantime, I'll be seeing her online, along with other people I've connected with during this experience. My participation in the Club was pretty limited because of "circumstances beyond my control" (in fact, it gave a whole new meaning to "beyond my control"...!), but even with that limited participation, #CCCWrite has propelled me forward towards an incredible new  opportunity, and I am very (VERY) grateful to Michelle for being the #CCCWrite catalyst.

Blog on, everybody!!!!!!!!!

And here's a graphic for our journey: I didn't even put this panda on there; someone else did! But I like having the panda, of course. :-)

From Anne of Green Gables: I'm just as ambitious as ever. Only, I've changed the object of my ambitions. I'm going to be a good teacher-- and I'm going to save your eyesight. Besides, I mean to study at home here and take a little college course all by myself. Oh, I've dozens of plans, Marilla. I've been thinking them out for a week. I shall give life here my best, and I believe it will give its best to me in return. When I left Queen's my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla. I wonder how the road beyond it goes--what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows--what new landscapes--what new beauties--what curves and hills and valleys further on.

More Quotes from Children's Literature.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


Instead of writing about un-plugging from the Internet as per the #CCCWrite prompt, I want to write about un-driving. Un-plugging from the car motor.

Being plugged into the Internet is how I read and listen to music and have conversations with friends and learn learn learn. It's all good. Cars: not so good. They do get you from here to there, but with nothing but stress (for me) along the way. I just do not like being in a car. I love public transportation. Trains. Buses. But best of all: sidewalks.

So right now, one of the best things going on in my life is that I do not have to get in a car. I have not been in a car for over a month! I'm in Austin, caring for my dad who is on hospice (end stages of lung cancer), and he lives downtown. So, this is one of the worst times of my life... but one of the things keeping me sane is that I don't have to get in a car. Zero car. All walk.

Groceries? I walk to the Target on the UT campus. It's a tiny Target, but that's fine; it does have a tiny grocery store, with almost everything we need, and for what's not on the shelves, they will special order anything Target carries and deliver it to the store for free. Butter-pecan-flavored Ensure? Yep! They can get that, and my dad is happy.

Pharmacy? There's a tiny CVS in the Target, or a bigger CVS up the street. Random stuff in the middle of the night? The 7-11 is open 24/7.

And even more important: WALKING FOR SANITY. I can walk to the capitol; it's lovely (this is the side I approach it from):

I always make sure to salute the pioneer woman (I like the way her sculpted dress is always blowing in the wind):

The UT campus itself is a pleasure to walk (my dad's in a condo literally across the street from campus):

I only expected to be here some days, maybe a couple of weeks, not a couple of months (as it now appears), so I am very lucky that I was wearing my all-time favorite pair of walking shoes when I arrived:

So, it is unplugging FROM THE CAR that is keeping me sane right now.

Being able to walk places was so great for my dad until he got sick, and being able to walk instead of drive is the key to my sanity at the moment. It's a practical thing. And a spiritual thing.

And yes, I sing along with Girish and all my other favorite kirtan singers while I walk, even when there are people around. The unofficial motto of this city is "Keep Austin Weird," and I figure that my out-loud kirtan contributes to the good weirdness. Feel free to sing along to the video if you want! :-)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

My Beautiful Graduate Seminar OMG What Did I Just Do? Mistake

Inspired by Michelle's impromptu video for this week's #CCCWrite post, I made a Flipgrid. If you want to give Flipgrid a try, here's the topic: Beautiful Mistakes. Feel free to add your video... and then you can embed it in your blog if you want too!

Here's how to embed in a blog:
1. Click on your video at Flipgrid (here's mine for example).
2. Click the share icon in the top right (the paper airplane; at least, I think that is what it is).
3. Choose embed.
4. Copy the code, and paste it into the HTML VIEW at your blog. I also change the width to 100% so that it will fill my post space but not run off the sides.

One of the things I really like about Flipgrid is how the videos can appear in blogs too!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

CCCWrite + LoveLearning: Thank you, tech people!

After a long and in some ways unbearable week (my dad is very ill), I was so glad to get up this morning to find two delightful blogging prompts offering me an escape from my dismal now: there is the #CCCWrite prompt from Michelle about digital tools in our professional lives, and also a #LoveLearning prompt from the Canvas Community crew for Valentine's Day about thanking folks who have fostered our love of learning.

I'm going to combine those into one post here, so instead of reflecting on the digital shift in my professional life in terms of the technology itself, I want to remember some of the people who, very early on in my digital life, helped me to get started. I now take for granted that I am constantly depending on others to propel me forward (WE ALL NEED HELP), but back when I was first getting started, I was stuck in the "aloneness" that was so typical of academic life back before all these new ways of connecting and sharing became available to us on the Internet. So, here are seven  people (lucky number seven!) from my very early days to whom I am extremely grateful:

The anonymous Berkeley IT person. Yes, this is terrible to say, but I cannot tell you the name of the IT man at UC Berkeley who led a workshop in what must have been October 1998, teaching a room full of us newbies how to use Netscape Composer to publish a webpage in our teeny-tiny webspace at ~socrates on the Berkeley computer system. That afternoon changed my life. It was a Friday afternoon, and I went home to my apartment on Shattuck and Delaware where I stayed up all night and most of the next night publishing ... webpages. My life has not been the same since!

Susan Smith-Nash, a.k.a. elearning queen. Also back in what must have been 2001, I had my first experience with a fully online class, teaching an online humanities course developed by Susan Smith-Nash, who was at that time building amazing new online programs for the College of Liberal Studies at OU. I am very lucky that she built her courses as lovely websites for students to use and explore, with students pursuing their own research interests in creative ways. At that time I didn't appreciate how remarkable that was, and my whole trajectory as an online teacher is very much based on my good fortune in starting out with an open / open-ended approach.

Dave Hoecker. In what must have been early 2002, I was working in the IT department at the University of Oklahoma, and Dave Hoecker, web genius extraordinaire, was going around the office telling anybody who would listen about something called RSS. I will confess that I didn't get it: what was the point of this exactly...? And I can still remember the conversation very vividly because I really did not get it but at the same time Dave's enthusiasm was overwhelming. I realized it had to be important, even though I didn't even understand what it would be used for. And here we are in 2018, where RSS is the magic pixie dust that makes my online classes hum happily along. #RSSForever

Rob Reynolds. My boss in OU IT was the remarkable Rob Reynolds, and I also remember a conversation we had related to RSS that has stayed with me all these years. This conversation was actually after Rob had left IT to start a company that was building an LMS, so it must have been around 2002 or 2003, and he was trying out some ideas, one of which was to have an RSS aggregator in addition to email in the LMS. And much to my shame I have to confess that I remember saying to him, "But why not just email?" OMG: can you believe I really said that??? I am now one of the great foes of email and a believer in feeds of all kinds... but I knew that if Rob was wanting to move beyond email to RSS, there really MUST be something important here. If it was something that both Dave and Rob were thinking, then I had to keep thinking about that too until I got it. Now: I get it!

Alan Levine. I first connected with Alan Levine through a tool he built way way way back in the day called Feed2JS, which took RSS content and rendered it in HTML by means of a javascript which you could easily add to any webpage. Because, yes, once I figured out the power of RSS, I wanted to use it everywhere, and Feed2JS was a perfect tool for my purposes. Of, course now I know Alan as a guru of DS106 goodness and all kinds of other projects. But back in the day (WAY back in the day), he was the Feed2JS guy, and he made my webpages come to life!

Randy Hoyt. Inspired by Alan's Feed2JS I had learned the power of combining RSS with javascript... and I realized I wanted to do more with javascript content. What if instead of RSS content delivered by javascript, I could deliver content-based content via javascript? Why couldn't I put content in something like iCal and have it display, day by day, on a webpage via RSS...? That was the question I took to Randy Hoyt, a genius student programmer (who now designs... board games!), and thanks to Randy, that awkward idea I had about iCal and javascript turned into the amazing tool that he built (this must have been around 2003?) called, which is still going strong today: Randy figured out that we could use any HTML table to be the content source, and it could be date-based or randomized, with the content displayed anywhere javascripts are accepted online. Now it is 2018, and I still create new scripts every week with that tool, running all the randomized content in my classes that way, plus all the random content in my Canvas Widget Warehouse etc. etc. etc.

Kerry Magruder. And the reason I was even thinking about iCal at that time was because of Kerry Magruder, an Apple evangelist and open-content guru in the History of Science Collections at OU. When I first arrived at OU in 1999 and starting telling people about my interests, their immediate reaction was always: "Oh, you have to meet Kerry Magruder!" And they were right: already back in 1999, Kerry Magruder had a vision for open content on the Internet that was a thing of beauty. Now, almost 20 years later, you can see the results of his Herculean efforts at a whole constellation of websites that share the contents of OU's History of Science Collections with the world. The best place to start is probably Galileo's World, a year-long exhibit of beautiful science and beautiful art in both physical and digital forms: Kerry and I were also developing some fully online courses at the same time back in 2002, and many of the best features of my courses were ideas that I took from Kerry; to this day, I am so grateful that there is a lot of Kerry in the courses I teach.

Of course there are lots more people I could mention, but when I just let my mind wander over those early days, those are the faces and conversations and moments that remain most clear. Now in 2018, so many of the people who are helping me in my work are people I have never met in person but, as you can see from this list, back in the early days of the millennium I was very dependent on people I knew IRL, and I am so lucky that the University of Oklahoma had all those remarkable people who were my teachers. Yet it is also testimony to the power of blogs that Alan Levine, whom I knew as CogDogBlog, was a hugely important person in my learning even way back in the day. I hope I was bold enough to have left comments on Alan's blog back in the day to thank him for what he was doing... but luckily I have also had a chance to get to know Alan in other spaces and places since then to express my gratitude IRL.

But we can never says thanks enough, so I will say THANK YOU here to all these folks, and all the many others: I am so grateful for all that you have taught me about the amazing digital world we are building together!

Gratia gratiam parit.
Gratitude multiplies (= thanks give rise to thanks).

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Week 2. Thoughts on NOT attending conferences

I am really looking forward to reading what others say in response to this #CCCWrite prompt... although I had to ponder for a few minutes whether it was even worth writing something because I am one of those people who does not get travel support from my school. And, as Michelle mentioned in the prompt, conferences are EXPENSIVE.

People talk about the "digital divide," and it is very real... and in the academic world, the "conference divide" is also very real. I know, because I'm on the other side of that divide.

Last summer, I paid out of pocket to attend a conference, and I was glad I did (I went to Domains2017 and met many good online friends in person for the first time ever!), but I could do that only because the conference organizers worked hard to keep the registration fee very low; it was just $199 (but then of course there was all the airfare and the always-expensive hotel; the whole thing cost a lot of money, or what was for me anyway a lot of money).

The other conference I really wanted to attend, InstructureCon, had astronomical (for me) costs for registration and for lodging; there was no way I could attend (early bird pricing for InstructureCon this summer, just the registration: $650... OMG!). People from my school do go to InstructureCon every year, but I am not one of them.

And that's what I want to write about here: my thoughts about NOT attending InstructureCon, thumbs up and thumbs down.

Thumbs UP: Power of Twitter. I am so so so so grateful to people who tweeted during presentations, especially Linda Lee (look at this fabulous stream of her #InstCon tweets). I am glad to say that there were a lot of people who tweeted during sessions, and some people were so kind as to ping me for items they knew I would be interested in (and there was a TON of stuff I was interested in). As my contribution to the conference remotely, I made an InstructureCon Twitter widget. Of course. An #InstCon Twitter Widget in Under 5 Minutes

Thumbs UP: Live Streaming. I was able to enjoy presentations by Josh Coates, Jared Stein, and some others thanks to the live streaming that was available. I blocked out time to do that, and it was time well spent. When I was watching the live streaming AND participating in Twitter convos at the same time (thank you, Phil Hill!) that was really fun.

Thumbs DOWN: Keynotes without streaming. Given that I was hugely interested in all three keynote speakers (Jewel! Sheena Iygenar! Scott Barry Kaufman!), not being able to watch streaming for those speakers was so frustrating. I repeat: SO FRUSTRATING. I guess when you negotiate with people who are on the speaker circuit, they make that a condition of presenting. But hey... remember books, people? Because I was not allowed to watch those keynote speakers, I opted to read books by all three of them. And so for the grand total of $35, I was able to learn far far far more than I would have learned from listening to them speak at the conference. These books are all excellent, with so much wisdom not just about teaching and learning but also about life. Highly recommended!
Jewel: Never Broken ($11.99)
Sheena Iyengar: The Art of Choosing ($9.99)
Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire: Wired to Create ($12.99)

Here's a slide from Scott Barry Kaufman's keynote:

Thumbs DOWN: Privileging face-to-face. I know the word privilege is being invoked in a lot of contexts, but that really is the right word for the problem here too. I don't just mean the economic privilege of being able to attend a very expensive conference; I mean the fact that people invest so much time and effort in that face-to-face event, while not investing time and effort in the kinds of interactions we can have online at the Canvas Community. Don't get me wrong: I love the Canvas Community, and I am so grateful (SO GRATEFUL) for the huge investment Instructure makes in the Community and the awesome team that Scott Dennis has put together. It is now one of the main places that I hang out online every day. But as someone who is very active there, I did not see much of a bump in Canvas Community activity during the conference or afterwards. Canvas is software for learning online, right? So it's a weird sort of irony: people are going to an expensive face-to-face conference to learn about Canvas (and by expensive I mean the expense of money AND time AND energy), while not taking full advantage of the online Canvas community.

Why is that........???

Those are sincere question marks, because it is something I do not understand. I totally had fun at the Domains conference, but the people I met there are people I do interact with online, many of them every day. So meeting them face-to-face was totally fun, yes, but it didn't really change our working relationship at all; the basis for our working relationship is our ongoing online connection.

With Canvas, though, I know that many Canvas users (and many InstructureCon conference-goers) do not participate in online learning networks, relying on face-to-face events on their campus and on conferences for their professional development. That is definitely the case at my school anyway, where PD is almost entirely about face-to-face workshops and conferences. What would it take to shift some of that time and effort from face-to-face to online learning...?

I personally see so many benefits to making that shift, and just for examples of how powerful it can be, here are links to post streams at this blog which reflect my past participation in some great networked learning online like Connected Learning (that was a hugely important experience for me!), Rhizo15, and HumanMOOC. And now the Reflective Writing Club!

And yeah, ultimately I am being selfish here... because I know I would be learning more and having even more fun online if more people were bringing their knowledge and experiences to the online space. We can connect up and share without expensive airline tickets and hotel reservations when we are learning together online. :-)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

CCCWrite 1. If I knew then...

I was on planes most of today, staring out the window into the clouds and pondering Michelle's first prompt for the Reflective Writing Club. And I got an idea... for a story. I limited myself to 1000 words which was a great exercise for me, as that's the max. story length I set for students in the stories they write in their blogs each week. So, here's my story (and yes, it is shamelessly inspired by Ouspensky's Strange Life of Ivan Osokin... highly recommend!).


She had gone for a quick lunch at her favorite Chinese restaurant, ordering her usual: ma-po tofu. Extra spicy.

Also as usual, there were some college kids at the booth behind her, whooping it up and making a lot of noise, all in good spirits. It was mostly college kids who frequented the place, along with some office workers and grocery shoppers. Such as herself.

The waiter gave her a smile as he refilled her water and gestured with his head towards the booth. "These kids!" he snorted conspiratorially. "Everything is just a joke to them. What are they going to say when they have to go work for a living? Someday they are going to be old like you and me! Ha!"

She smiled back and said, "Oh, if only I had known back then what I know now. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble!"

The waiter rolled his eyes at her sympathetically as he walked off to get her check. He returned with the check, plus the fortune cookie.

"Good fortune today," he said enigmatically before heading back to the kitchen.

She cracked open the fortune cookie indifferently.

She read the words on the slip of paper: TALK TO THE BUDDHA it said.

"That's an odd one," she thought.

And then, she felt it. Something. A shift. The light shimmered, and a loud humming filled the room; the clamor of the college kids faded into nothingness, and instead there was the hum. Rising and falling. Hum. Hummmm.

Next, she saw the Buddha. Staring at her with crinkly eyes. It was the fat ornamental Buddha perched precariously in an alcove behind the cash register. She had never really paid attention to him before, but now she felt him looking right at her.


She glanced back down at the slip of paper, and then back at the Buddha. "You've got to be kidding," she said, not even sure if she had spoken the words out loud. The rising and falling hum somehow absorbed the words as she spoke them.

Abruptly, the humming stopped, everything went dark... and there was the ornamental Buddha, now floating in mid-air, radiating a soft golden light in the darkness.

And he was speaking to her.

"I heard what you said there. About if only you had known then what you know now. I can help you with that, if you want. Send a message."

He paused. She was speechless. He repeated, "I can send a message."

"Send a message... to whom?" she sputtered. "I don't understand."

"Send a message," he said, "to yourself. Back then. You can tell yourself what you know now. Provided it fits in a fortune cookie. That's the deal: I can send a message, but it has to be in the cookies."

"You're being serious?"

He laughed. "Of course I'm being serious. What's the message? What do you wish you had known then that you know now? Keep it short."

That was easy; she actually knew what the message would be. It was something she had been thinking about a lot lately.

"WE ALL NEED HELP," she said. "That's the message. That's what I wish I had known." She had learned that lesson the hard way. The very hard way.

"Your wish is my command," said the Buddha.

And then she saw herself, maybe ten years old, in a Chinese restaurant, one she remembered well, with her parents and her brother.

She saw herself saying, "WE ALL NEED HELP. How is that a fortune?"

Her brother shouted, "Stupid, it's not a fortune. Now listen to mine!"

And then.......... she saw herself again. She was in high school. She remembered this restaurant too. And that boy she was with. That boy she had loved.

"WE ALL NEED HELP. That's what it says."

He looked at her kindly. "I imagine that's true."

She had hoped he would kiss her later. But he never kissed her.

And then............. again. It was college. Her study buddies, all laughing around the table, adding "in bed" to the end of every fortune like it was the funniest thing in the world.

"We all need help," she saw herself saying, answered by a chorus of gleeful shouts from her friends: "IN BED!"

And again. .......... And again. .......... As the scenes flashed by, one after another, she realized that she had eaten a lot of Chinese food in a lot of Chinese restaurants.

And then, she began to remember. She really had gotten that message in a fortune cookie. Not just once, or twice... but all those times that she was now witnessing. A dozen times? More?

And then, she saw the Buddha again. Smiling. "Do you remember now?" he asked.

"I do... remember. You sent me the message all those times. I just didn't get it."

"Well," he replied, "to be precise, you sent the message. I am just the messenger."

"But I didn't get it," she said. "I mean, I got the fortune cookies, I read the words. But ... I didn't get it."

The Buddha smiled again. "But do you get it now...? Say the words, and you'll be back on your way."

She wanted to ask him some more questions, to try to understand what had just happened, but he repeated again, "Say the words."

And she knew it was time to go. "We all need help," she said. The Buddha smiled his biggest smile. "Yes," he said, "we do."

And then... she was back. In her now. The kids in the booth behind her burst out laughing: "...IN BED!"

"Ha!" she thought. "Some things never change."

She approached the cash register, eyes fixed on the Buddha, perched precariously once again in his alcove.  "But now," she said to herself, "I get it: we all need help."

"Did you say something?" the waiter asked as she handed him the check.

"We all need help!" she replied cheerily.

He nodded in agreement.

And then he added, "Good fortune today, very good fortune."