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On Teams “Of Tech and Learning”

David Kampmann was kind enough to have me on his new podcast #OfTechAndLearning. I didn’t realize until the interview that I was actually the first guest to jump on with David, which is a really cool honor. David is a super nice guy who I had the fortune of first meeting last April at et4online in Dallas, so it was great to reconnect with my South Dakota brethren.

We mostly spoke about the OU Create project and what it’s meant to me personally as an instructor as well as what it means as a community leader as well. I love these kind of opportunities because they give you a chance to reflect on how you got to where you are. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without leadership like our Provost, Dr. Kyle Harper, or my colleage, Mark Morvant, who were both incredibly supportive very early in pushing this initiative forward.

One of the comments that David made was that “the whole team at the University of Oklahoma does a really good job of innovating,” which, I believe, is essentially the highest compliment you can receive in any leadership capacity. Certainly, I was deeply inspired by the team that Jim Groom had cultivated at the University of Mary Washington and wanted to figure out how we could build a similar knowledge base in Norman. When I attend OpenEd14, I spent a couple days with UMW DTLT in Fredericksburg afterwards and thoroughly enjoyed watching the powerhouse that was Jim/Martha/Tim/Andy/Ryan live and in action. They spoke so intelligently about Domain of One’s Own and the complexities around it. They, and this was over a year ago, could explain how containers inside Amazon Web Services worked. Who does that?!

I have been able to watch with my own eyes a team here start to cultivate a similar fire. Keegan is doing our OU Create Faculty Trainings as well as the very innovative online game-based FLC (GOBLIN) along with John Stewart, who is really supporting our Digital Humanities efforts and getting into API territory. Anoop Bal has taken real pride in the This Week On OU Create blog, the Twitter account, and is championing our first OU Create awards show, the “Creaties” (more to come there soon :-)).

Perhaps the most impactful project that is not necessarily OU Create-based but it a close cousin is the Learning Management System evaluation. Mark Morvant, now wielding a deep knowledge in WordPress,nearly single-handedly built out an entire website to show all sides of the issues. I highly suggest you take a look around the website and see the care that’s gone into it. It’s not just a site announcing that something is happening. He has openly shared a sizeable body of information dating back multiple years on the progression of this conversation. You’ll find faculty needs assessment survey results that we handled in 2014, an earlier business case written by OU IT, a newer recommendation put forward by the Provost’s Advisory Committee for Learning Technology, several examples of LMS transitions at peer institutions, video resources including recordings of “closed” demos and conversations that took place on campus, links to 17 (!) town hall meetings that run the gamut of various groups (faculty, students, whole campus, single colleges). You’ll also see places for both students and faculty to give feedback for/against the proposal and add additional comments as well.

What I’m most inspired by is how Mark is carefully listening to each and every point that comes through those forms. Every time I walk in his office, he wants to run by me the latest concern. It’s not just coming from private forms though. He’s taken his roadshow to both Twitter and Google Hangouts to have a fully open, transparent discussion on the LMS.

Every administrator needs to take a page out of the Mark Morvant playbook. This is how you put in the real work to make sure you reach everyone and every voice is heard. It doesn’t happen by having one on-campus presentation nor does it happen in a (1) Twitter chat. It takes rolling up your sleeves and a real desire to get out on the streets (physical and digital) to raise awareness.

I’ve been spending a lot of time, both during and after the #IndieEdTech gathering last week, in trying to find a way to better explain Indie Ed(-)Tech. I am seeing now that I used the wrong word on how to approach the answer. I was saying we need to “define” Indie and that’s the incorrect approach because Indie is a people, not a thing. Indie EdTech is an umbrella term that speaks to various pockets of communities within edtech which are pushing against the current approaches to edtech (scalable, centrally controlled, surveillance) towards agency, autonomy, and data control. But, ultimately, they are scenes with their own definitions and approaches to solving these larger issues. Let me be clear: the LMS is nowhere near Indie. But Mark’s approach very well might be. He’s using open web to build transparency and conversation. He’s out there pounding the pavement with posters to make sure voices our heard. If Indie approaches couldn’t be taken inside of institutions/technologies with long histories of being closed  or void ofconversation, well, I probably wouldn’t have a job. It’s a lot about how much to care about lending your ears to those around you.

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