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!
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).