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I have to be honest. I’m really struggling with carrying on business as usual, particularly in the online space, due to the events that took place during the first weeks of the new presidency. Even more so, I struggle with how to be a valuable participant in the conversation. And so I struggle with what and how to write, even the simplest of event recap blog posts like this one (I’ve had to come back to this a handful of times to properly finish it).

As I reflect on my post-election actions thus far, I notice that I’ve become a bit of an internet recluse and being purposeful in expanding my vehicles for listening. In that, I’ve found Twitter lists to be really helpful as a way to gain new perspectives in mass. This White House Press Corps Twitter list has been a go-to. I’ve also subscribed to two separate lists: Republican and Democrat Congressman. And on a personal note, I’ve found myself staying farther away from social media when in the presence of my family in order to keep my mood in check. My social media apps are very strategically hidden from myself on my phone. My go-to nightly read is the NYTimes Evening Brief. I very highly recommend reading everything Maggie Haberman writes as her sources seem to be really close to the White House action and her coverage is really, really really good.

At the same time, I think about what happens if I stop blogging about work, education, and education technology. I certainly don’t think the world is a better place because of my writing, but I struggle with what would happen if I turned that part of my brain for a bit. If I stopped sharing my thoughts. And then I get even more scared that I’m feeding the beast by keeping my mouth shut. I’d be allowing external forces to deeply control what I do and do not share.

So I continue to blog. Not because of my ignorance to the world around or my lack of willingness to acknowledge it but because it is a vehicle for my sanity. Though these events put so much into a bigger perspective, I will not allow them to overshadow what I still feel like is work worth doing and words worth writing.

And so I blog.

You’re a mad person if you hadn’t been more appreciative of the friendships and relationships in your life lately. A couple weeks ago we held our annual Academic Technology Expo (ATE). We were fortunate enough to have two people here in Norman who I deeply respect. Gardner Campbell from VCU keynoted the event and Jeremy Dean from was also willing to brave an impending snow storm to visit campus as well.

I’ll work backwards and start with Jeremy. I invited Jeremy because we had two faculty panels that dealt with My team and I have been big supporters of since we heard about it. I’ve written about integrating it into every WordPress instance as a plugin and John Stewart has done great work with building the Collector, a Google Spreadsheet that interacts with the API. Jeremy and I connected first on Twitter and though we didn’t meet in person until OpenEd17, I knew very quickly after multiple nights of drinks and story swapping, that we we were kindred spirits.

I blogged a few months back about having Ben Scragg stay at my house for the Ohio State football game slash meet with our team. I’ve loved being able to open up my home to in-town visitors and offered up the guest room again to Jeremy if he wanted to come participate in the conversations. He obliged and hung out with the Crooms. Like Ben and myself, Jeremy is a dad of little girls and I can’t be thankful enough to how genuine and loving the people in my small, little network are. My oldest, who is five, mentioned this morning the Dragons Love Tacos book she received from “Mr. Ben” and the sticker book she received from “Mr. Jeremy.” No joke, the tiny remembers them by name.

Our late night conversations revolved around how to best support the others endeavors. After conversations like delete your account, I’m reminded that higher ed needs to be better at identifying the good/bad and supporting the ones we believe in. Higher ed doesn’t seem to understand 1. how to build/share the appropriate tools it needs or 2. convince the right people to build them in a way that promotes values of accessibility, openness, networks, etc etc. People like Carol Quillen and Kristen Eshelman at Davidson College, along with George Siemens and others, have discussed a concept like this as the radical middle.

What if ed tech companies and higher ed institutions began not by negotiating a contract but by identifying a shared purpose with respect to teaching, learning or research?

There’s a sense of optimism in that concept that demands a type of path be forged.

And then there’s Gardner Campbell. I got the honor of introducing him at ATE and had to give recognition to his article A Personal Cyberinfrastructure, which was highly influential in many things–not the least being my eventual Masters thesis. Paired with Papert’s work and Mimi Ito’s Connected Learning framework, Gardner’s article guided much of that research project. That phrase though… “Personal cyberinfrastructure.” So good!

I was in the fortunate position of already getting a tasting of Gardner’s talk on Insight at OpenEd. A couple times in the past few years, I’ve got the opportunity to see how a talk evolves. For instance, I saw Jim Groom’s thoughts evolve from an et4online keynote to the eventual keynote at ATE 2015. Jim’s ATE talk was the best version of a Jim talk I had seen and the way he was starting to frame out domains into the analogies of transportation (“How Automobiles, Super Highways, and Containerization helped me understand the future of the Web”) was brilliant and also ties nicely into the idea of “infrastructure.” In the blog comments of the link above, Alan Levine refers to this talk as the Grand Unified Theory of Reclaim, and I couldn’t agree more.

But back to Gardner. I was curious to see what the post-election version of this talk was like. How would he adapt a talk that was originally attended for open/oer to a general institution audience? Well, he did it in a great way, thinking more about the concept of insight itself, thanks to a good friend Mo Pelzel, who referred Gardner to a book called Insight by BJF Lonergan after OpenEd.

One of my favorite adds was, not surprisingly, a quote from Alan Kay:

Slide from Gardner’s talk

But, more importantly, I think he rightfully challenged the traditional view of what the outcomes of a classroom should be. I’m fascinated by the perspectives of very personal insights taking places within a broader network.

I urge you to think about how these networks can actually be ways of re-describing the world in revelatory modes.

Equally as important to me was the opportunity I got to spend with Gardner sharing meals, sharing my home, and seeing Norman. As I mentioned, the weather was terrible, but that didn’t stop us from making a quick trip to the local record shop, Guestroom Records.

I wasn’t actually aware of what an avid collector Gardner was before he arrived though he’s enough of a collector to already be familiar with Discogs, the site I use to catalog of collection, and the basis for my Vinyl subdomain. While at Guestroom, I actually happened to find a very rare pressing of the Postal Service record I had been hunting for for some time somewhat shockingly. Gardner unfortunately struck out on finding anything that he didn’t really want. At dinner the night before Gardner asked me if there was any record where I had multiple copies of it. Indeed, I own about five copies, four separate pressings of one of all time favorite records, Dog Problems by The Format (if you’re feeling the need for music criticism in your life, this Modern Vinyl podcast on the album is really rich). As a parting gift and token of my appreciation, I gave Gardner one of my duplicates that also happened to be unopened.

I can’t say enough thanks for the opportunity to bring Gardner back to my community or for the conversations we got to subsequently have about the possible futures of digital learning. I’ll particularly cherish those for a long time. At the moment, in a time of so many unknowns, there are a lot of directions it can go, and it’s only more important that perspectives like Gardner’s continue to be shared. I know I’ll always be listening.

If you want to see the full presentation from Gardner, check it out below.

It also feels good to be blogging on this side on 2017!

OU Create Thus Far (2016)

A couple weeks ago I was having coffee with my friend Rob Reynolds who works outside of OU but uses Reclaim Hosting for his education technology business projects. He asked me a really good question which was “How do you specifically measure the success of OU Create?” I’ve learned that this is a really tricky question in education technology. Yes, we need to measure what we are doing. Yes, we need to prove our value, so-to-speak. But what does this mean within technologies whose goals are not necessarily to “improve X” or “be adopted by X% of faculty”?

A danger I find in edtech is that there are mechanisms you can build into your technology in efforts to build whatever narrative out of the data that you want to build. It is believed that we can answer these types of questions by tracking clicks, surveilling our users, and then “discovering” the answers within the data. And this entire premise runs counter to what we believe is a core reason for why OU Create exists–to provide a space where users can learn about data, data ownership, data privacy, and data transferability.

Here’s what my answer was to Rob’s question and here’s how I hope to answer this question. With any new technology or technology paradigm, we need to be more like R&D than we do IT. To me that means that the more we are investigating new questions–to continue to be in a mode of inquiry–the better. This is something I’ve come to realize I’ve always believed, but have just recently started to learn how to articulate after spending time with good people like Kristen Eshleman and Amy Collier.

What’s needed, according to Dave Snowden, are “ways of measuring success without knowing in advance what that success may be.”

“So how do these new questions arise?” you ask. I believe that you have to continue to have your ground to ear and be in constant communication with your community.

In nearly every talk that I gave on OU Create this year, I’ve said that the platform does not do exactly what we had expected it to do when we adopted it. In fact, it does much more. We started OU Create with the thesis that it could serve as a platform for students portfolios and open courses in a very similar manner to how University of Mary Washington originally did it. But it is, after doing this for a few years, indeed, much more nuanced than that. And if I was to make one specific goal for OU Create in 2017, it would be to, better communicate that.

This post, a sort of end-of-the-year wrap up, is a step towards trying to pull together a better aggregated story as to what has and is happening with OU Create–though it’s really only a start. Yes, it still leans on metrics, but please don’t get distracted by those too much. They are merely a tool that serves as an anchor. Below the numbers I’ve linked to relevant blog posts, which I’m personally more interested in. I’d rather build towards stories and relationships than numbers. But numbers do make it easy to build an infographic… So one of those is at the bottom too.

Big Bucket Metrics

We had 1,691 domain orders in 2016. In total, we’ve had 3,767 orders since August 2014, so 45% of our user base joined this year.

Many of our users install applications on top of their domain to run it. The top five applications are WordPress, Drupal, Omeka, DokuWiki, and OwnCloud. Those five are followed by Scalar, MediaWiki, Moodle, Joomla, and Grav. It’s important to note that not all of our users utilize the applications in Installatron. We have many users that are using static HTML sites.

12,017 of our 24,466 all-time blog posts came in 2016. In 2015, we had 9,323 blog posts and 3,126 from August to December of 2014. I’m curious as to the amount of active bloggers, but this appears to me like people are doing different activities than blogging or else we would have seen bigger blog numbers. This is one metric that tells me that Domains is more than blogging on WordPress.

But that brings to me something anybody who gets in this space has to learn. The answer to the question of “What is everybody doing?” is “We don’t know.” And we’re proud that it’s that decentralized. We can give insight to what we come across but we don’t always have easy ways of coming across it. As an example,within the last few days we’ve discovered an open course called American Gangster: From Jay Gatsby to Jay Z that utilizes and someone utilizing OU Create to host their own self-organized ListServ.

The Creaties

In April , we held the first annual Creaties, an award show dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the very best work on OU Create. Winners took home awards in categories such as Best Portfolio, Best Course Site, Best Wiki, and Best Community. 102 sites and posts were nominated, 2,683 online fan votes helped produce 31 total winners.

Further readings:

Creaties Website
Blog post: Welcome to the Creaties
Blog post: Recapping the OU Creaties


This year we focused on building more robust support for OU Create users. In January, revamped support documentation was rolled out using Documentor. This documentation is Creative Commons licensed and is currently being utilized by Middlebury College, Coventry University, and Georgia State University. In February, we began supporting users with Freshdesk, an online customer support and ticketing solution, which notifies support staff automatically through an integration with a CTE Slack Channel. This year we responded to 112 support tickets.

Further Readings:

OU Create Support Docs
Blog Post: Integrated Customer Support and Slack

This Week on OU Create

In 2015, we started a blog that curates what our team considers the “best of” that particular week. Anoop Bal, who originally started the blog, left us for grad school (which is totally awesome) and, after a brief pause in publication, we’ve continued the blog with his spirit. This year we wrote 19 blog posts and highlighted 80 different users.

Further Readings:

This Week on OU Create Blog
Blog Post: The New (and Improved!) OU Create
Blog Post: This Week on OU Create is Back.

Student Projects

Student projects are difficult to summarize because there are too many to make a coherent statement about them. Students used OU Create this semester to build photography blogspromote their music, promote their businesses from OU’s Integrated Business Core, chronicle study abroad, publish a student-run newsmagazine, run for campus office, build digital exhibits, maintain open lab journals, build databases about campus amenities, build digital mapping projects, host secret dinner societies, write movie reviews, etc etc etc. One my favorite parts of students on OU Create is the way in which they’ll weave in and out of academic work. Some of it starts in a class and ends up in a very different space and that’s really fun to watch.

For the infographic, we’ve highlighted the course Making Modern America: Discovering the Great Depression and New Deal as well as the Global Engagement Fellows. The first, which we often refer to as simply New Deal, had students build out an Omeka site that contains 967 artifacts (or “items”), both historical and modern. Global Engagement Fellows blogged from 32 different countries this year.

We also highlighted a project in which we partnered with the Graduate College to do their first workshop series which focused on Digital Identity.

Further Readings:

New Deal Omeka Site
Global Engagement Fellows
OU Create Graduate Workshop
Blog post: Talking Digital Identity and Scholarship with Graduate Students
Blog post: Exploring My Own History via a Class Omeka Project

Faculty Development

This is another “bucket” which is hard to tell the complete story as nearly everything in which I’ve discussed previously in this post has some level of faculty development. We hosted four unique workshops for faculty that focused on OU Create and specific uses for them whether that was a way of teaching or, since we are currently migrating to Canvas, how to use OU Create inside of Canvas.

We also do classroom visits where we’ll show up to any classroom and either talk about OU Create or help students set it up. This year we did 34 of those.

We started doing more one-on-one consultations as a partnership with the Vice President of Research whose office has an initiative to assist faculty in build public presence of their identity, specifically as it related to Broader Impacts.

Tangentially, and not included on V1 on this infographic, John Stewart and Keegan Long-Wheeler ran two really excellent Faculty Learning Communities around gamification. The first, GOBLIN, is about gamification and is an OER available on OU Create. The second had faculty learn storytelling strategies and use Twine in conjunction with OU Create to build seven text-based games.

GOBLIN Faculty Learning Community
Experience Play (XP) Faculty Learning Community
Blog Post: Research and Support Sites in OU Create
Blog Post: Teaching Digital History Methods with OU Create
Blog Post: Creating a Digital Museum of the Tulsa Race Riots
Blog Post: Twine and Serious Gaming
Blog Post: GOBLIN as an OER
Blog Post: A Brief History of GOBLIN Faculty Development
Blog Post: Anatomy of Slaying GOBLINs

I’ve likely left out a lot in this post, but promise to continue building on top of this structure, so stick around for more. If you’re interested in chatting about Domains or OU Create, feel free to contact me. Also, considering coming to Domains 17, a conference we are hosting in OKC with Reclaim Hosting on June 5 and 6, 2017.

And here’s the fancy infographic (download high resolution version). All of the inspiration for this goes to Laura Gogia who has been doing some beautiful infographics on open dissertations. If you see ways to improve this or have questions, please let me know.

Infographic credits: Created with the free infographic vector kit from Medialoot and with icons from the Noun Project by Lil Squid, Wilson Joseph, and Joost Har.

Featured image: flickr photo shared by kurichan+ under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

This transforms the road.

This will be my last blog post on the series I’ve been doing over the book We Make the Road by Walking, which included three chapter posts (1, 2, 3), a technical post on my quote generator, a co-authored post with Amy Collier, and a Twitter bot. In the end, I’ll have written roughly 12,000 total words on #HortonFriere, so many thanks to Bryan Alexander for organizing this online book club.

HortonFreire was the right opportunity at the right time. It became, more than anything, a way for me to channel my energy towards something that felt productive within my professional community. Recently, Alan Levine wrote a blog post about building a neat animation web tool based off of my annotation spreadsheet, which pulls in all of my book highlights. I replied with this comment:

I’m thinking more about building as a way of processing or as a way of contributing.

I like when I get to both contribute and stretch myself through little projects. It’s only icing on the cake when someone as talented as Alan builds on top of it. There should be a name for all projects that Alan and I both contribute it. I’m still mulling it over but I like the sound of “Adam Levine” at the moment.

Alan’s quote animator. We Make the Read by Annotating.

Doing the co-authored post was also one of those moments and probably the most ambitious project I did within #HortonFreire. Please take the time to read it if you haven’t. In one fell swoop, we covered openness, scaffolding, grief, politics, participatory inquiry, and the future of infrastructure–aka our “roads.”

I was really connecting with Amy and her blog posts so I DMed her about having a virtual call in a similar format to the book and releasing it as a blog post. It gave me an opportunity to ask Amy some questions about her thoughts on the book while also thinking through written conversation as a medium. John Stewart and I were having a conversation about what’s the biggest difference between a podcast and a book like this. I have to admit that I’m a real big fan of the conversational style if only because it makes something like “critical pedagogy” much more approachable. It de-academicitizes something that I’ve come to think of as a very complex topic.

Amy and I used Skype for the phone call and I used a tool that David Kampmann turned me on to called Call Recorder for Skype, which makes a stereo recording of both inputs and outputs. I then took the audio file in to Audacity so that I could dial back the tempo which makes it a little easier to transcribe.

I will say that it’s pretty funny to listen to your own conversation at 70% speed. Eventually you get use to the slow pace of it and forget that you’ve sped it down. It mostly just sounds like you are just really struggling to find your words.

Screen Shot 2016-12-15 at 4.04.20 PM.png


Our conversation was right around 45 minutes long at full speed and it took me maybe 90 minutes to transcribe it all in a Google Doc. I then gave us a few ground rules which was to only lightly polish the transcript although ach party was allowed to rewrite a single sentence if they wished. If you read it, you’ll notice that the sentences aren’t always perfect but that’s the point. I really was hoping it would reflect the natural flow of a conversation and I think it lives up to that.

Reflecting on this now, I do feel like we rushed through a lot of moments in order to fit everything into the 45 minute time slot. There are a couple of areas where we probably could have expanded on a bit. But I can now see how these books can come together rather quickly. I can imagine it would only take a handful of three hour conversations to build this.

The next question was where to publish it. We both agreed that a neutral space would be best. I found a tweet that said you can co-author Medium articles that are in Medium publications, but this seems to not be true as I never figured out how to do that. I was also curious in the new tool which is a publishing platform that doesn’t require a login, but that still is a bit too beta for me to trust. We landed in using Github pages and a Jekyll Boostrap theme.

What’s neat about Github pages is that anyone could fork the site, add their own blog post, and do a pull request to our repository. This means that anyone can add their own conversations as blog posts to the blog if they so chose to do so. It gives some kind of visual of what a federated social media network of transcribed conversations could possibly look like. Because there’s probably a market of like 11 people looking for just that.

I also made my first Twitter bot. Once Alan had released his project, I had the itch to build one more thing. It felt like a natural progression to go from quote spreadsheet, to quote generator, to Alan’s full blown webpage, to a textbot. I had a read a couple articles about Twitter bots that were Python-based. I’m still inimitated in that area so I went hunting for an easier solution. Thanks to Tom Woodward, I’ve become addicted to the Google Spreadsheet to Power Everything model and googled “Google Spreadsheet Twitter Bot.

As luck would have it, I landed on a post from Zach Whalen from Mary Wash.  Zach has his students create Twitter bots with a  Google Spreadsheet. There are four different flavors of bots you can create including one that pulls from your Twitter profile via Martin Hawksey’s TAGS tool as well as a Markov chain algorithm text generator, which has you paste in a text corpus and then puts together a sentence string based on pairs of words in the text. One of the neater pieces of the tool is that you can generate a preview that will show you potential tweets, so I pasted in my collection of now 100+ annotations of We Make the Road and hit go.

Screen Shot 2016-12-15 at 4.21.33 PM.png

Terry Elliott, who was actually the person to invite me to first annotate the text using, made a comment about whether you could tie the bot directly to the tag.

This seemed like an intriguing idea, so I took Zach’s code that was tied to Hawkey’s TAGS tool and rerouted it to my spreadsheet. I did indeed get it to work although for some reason the sentences are nearly as complex.

Screen Shot 2016-12-15 at 4.26.41 PM.png

So, for now at least, I’m sticking with the Markov generator. Feel free to follow @HortonFreireBot for your daily #HortonFreire zen (thanks @HortonFreirebot for writing the title of this blog post and other things I agree with)

I don’t know what it means when you decide that you believe bot gobbly gook. But I’m at a point where I don’t know what sources to trust, so create your own.


I’m excited to follow more posts as others continue their way through the book. While this is my latest “official” post, I’m excited to participate in an ongoing conversation. Now alls I got to do is write a couple end of year blog posts. What’s it mean when you are ready for 2016 to be over but you also don’t want 2017 to come?

Archiving the Open Web Learning Process

I’ve written previously about Nathan Gerth and the work he is doing at the Carl Albert Center, which houses a congressional archive. Nathan continues to really push me on thinking about how institutions can utilize web infrastructure. His OU Create projects like CAC Rockets and PIPC Votes are some of the best non-traditional (read: non-Wordpress) ways I’ve seen the platform used. PIPC Votes is a site that scrapes House of Representatives voting record sites and makes the data freely available:

This newest version now scrapes information from the Clerk of the House nightly and codes the “vote type” (e.g. amendment, final passage, moving the previous question) variable using a python script rather than relying on the judgment of individual coders

And his passion for digital curation is infectious. Lately, I’ve been thinking more about domains as an opportunity to not just be an artifact of learning in the way a digital badge tells you learning “happened.” I see so much benefit of thinking beyond their use as a portfolio of final work. Rather, I’ve been thinking about them as a continuously evolving artifact of the learning process. And it’s through this process of media making that students build toward a digital identity. Domains are not static, literally (mostly) or figuratively, thus they can manifest themselves very differently across a student’s tenure. I witness students change navigation, look and feel, writing style, etc. based off of how and where it’s being applied. A student might use it for a class in a very specific way, dip out of that voice for personal use, and then maybe dip into an entirely new voice for another class. It might evolve into separate spaces or applications that serve different needs. Some of my favorite work of my personal students leave the web as they leave the institution. Sometimes to be replaced by a more stripped down landing page or just permanently removed. However it may happen, these moments and the spaces in between can be like little snapshots taken at a moment in time.

So this has me thinking about how we can begin to capture these evolutions that take place. My first thought is Wayback Machine, the world’s gift to web nostaglia, which allows you to time travel through a domain and many people are already familiar with:

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 4.08.19 PM.png

2005 version of

I wrote in September about meeting with Middlebury’s Special Collections folks and hearing about how they are using’s service Archive-It to archive student work. This led to me having a discussion with our David Corbly, Director of Repository Services, of OU Libraries who runs OU’s own Archive-It solution. It seems to me that this is a good start but potentially unable to fulfill the large need of archiving as many sites as we have on OU Create (Archive-It is rather expensive for what it offers).

So I came back to Nathan to think through exploring other options and he came up with an idea that is very, very captivating. He is teaching a Digital Curation course in the Spring in our School of Library and Information Studies and is planning on having the students in the course prototype multiple techniques for doing this work both on the front-end side (scraping like Archive-It) as well as some back-end work with non-OU Create data.

Another great idea Nathan had was to have the students also propose strategies that OU could take in better preserving university web. It reminded me of a story when I was doing marketing work on the OU Research Campus and part of it was exploring the history of the campus. It was a naval base for a few years during WWII and was trasnferred back to the university afterwards.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 3.50.30 PM.png

Move to Oklahoma propaganda

What was fascinating to me was that I could read through boxes of meeting notes and historical records of the campus. The story of the campus had been preserved quite well. Nathan mentioned how much of that type of information such as university processes and forms are getting transferred to the digital space. Universities sometimes have university archivists, but we unfortunately don’t have a dedicated office (though the bulk of it is done quite well through goodfolks in our Western History Collection) . So building the foundation of a digital archiving strategy could be very productive of the institution by making these historical records more accessible. Part of that strategy would likely include recommendations towards some more complex questions about archiving such as what is inevitably publicly accessible. I am also fully aware that this can’t be a project that I, nor any one person, could conceivably support long term, so the idea of proposing some broader recommendation is very appealing.

But I look at how we are thinking about using the classroom as a space for testing potential endeavors and I can’t think of many better learning environments. Students are learning through the process of attempting to capture learning. It really is a beautiful thing. This is what gets me up every day. Its the reason teams like ours exist.

I hope I’m doing justice to Nathan’s vision. The archiving space and its complexities are spaces I’m just beginning to understand (and probably poorly… apologies to all digital archivists if this post reads a dumbdowning of your work! Give the new guy a break! ;-) ). I’m just grateful to find someone who is equally interested in preserving the bits and bytes of the web. Neither of us are making promises that any of this will work but I can vouche that I’m personally eager to explore. :-)

Featured Image: Frozen Out by Trusty Rusty via Attribution Engine. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

Some Visual Thinkery

I’ve followed Bryan Mathers and his Visual Thinkery work from afar for a little bit. I honestly don’t know the first time that I ran across Bryan’s work but I’ve always enjoyed the aesthetic and focus on open. In fact, I currently have two stickers on my laptop that he designed including one from Audrey Watters and Hack Education:

Bryan has also been integral in helping Jim Groom think through Reclaim Hosting as an independent record shop; part of which was reworking the Flaming Lips cover of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots cover for our OU Create project:

Yoshimi Create

So when I saw there was an opportunity to not only support Bryan but grab a collection of stickers, I was quite excited.  Special thanks to Alan Levine for bumping the crowdfunding project back up in my stream.

I supported his Visual Stickery Indiegogo at the £50 level today. I’m fairly used to supporting little art projects here and there (one of my favorite things to do is do an advanced search on Kickstarter by location and just fund local artists) and not receiving anything for months (or possibly at all). But apparently part of my package was my own custom drawing, which I wasn’t even aware of AND Bryan did in a matter of hours.

I immediately started to think about how I could put this image to good use. I’ve had a comic book caricature of myself I purchased for five bucks on Fiverr for a little bit and felt it was about time to stick something else there. I took Bryan’s pen drawing and quickly ran it through Adobe Illustrator’s Image Trace tool to clean up the lines a bit.


Then I swapped out the now messy version of his signature for a cleaner version and stuck it at the top of the ol’ blog:


Thanks Bryan for the doodle and thanks for what you do! To everybody else, please consider supporting Bryan and any independent artist at whatever level you can.

Searching for Student Voices at #OpenEd16

I’m currently on a plane headed back to Oklahoma from OpenEd16. OpenEd brought the end of my pause from social media and a rejuvenation thanks to fellow attendees. Over the two OpenEd’s I’ve attended, Vancouver and now Richmond, the community has brought out the best of me and I deeply appreciate that.

The last activity that I participated in at the conference was facilitating a student panel on March’s Indie EdTech gathering and Indie EdTech projects including BYU’s APIs, Georgetown’s HowToCollege, and the EdSurge Independent, all of which seek to increase student agency. As Erika Bullock has previous said about the Indie EdTech conversation:

The room was full of professors, administrators, undergrad and grad students, techies, activists, entrepreneurs, and the conversations we had were engaging and challenging because of the many voices contributing throughout the weekend.

One thing I deeply appreciated about OpenEd this year was the student experience being at the center of the keynotes. Gardner Campbell focused on learning, insight, awe, and wonder. Sara Goldrick-Rab spoke about how the costs for education are simply too high, our financial aid systems are too complex/not meeting needs leading students to work multiple jobs, drop classes, and often live without adequate housing and food.

Both keynotes struck me in very different ways. Gardner took me on a journey of thinking what is possible in learning through struggle and insight. Sara was frankly a gut punch. I left her talk feeling helpless. And then I started to look around only to realize that the very voices that I would hope we could see amplified through open education simply aren’t represented in our conversations.

I’ve spent the last few months occasionally working alongsisde–not above–students. The HowToCollege project brought me to Georgetown for a couple of weeks this summer where I worked with Erika Bullock. Andrew Rikard and I started (and stopped) producing a podcast. Both attended the IndieEdTech gathering last March.

As I was attending a session that was led by my colleagues John Stewart and Keegan Long-Wheeler on gamified faculty learning communities (GOBLIN), an interesting question was asked about how you could possibly develop games at the quality level of the video games “are students are used to playing and expect” without spending millions of dollars on graphics.

A couple of agreeing questions trickled in. And then from the back of the room Erika answered the question by saying that she had a class project where they created games out of pen and paper based off of film narratives as a class assignment.

My my, how far off we can get. Video games ONLY if we can make them with EA Sports-level graphics that can be viewed on a virtual reality headset. But this happens so often because so often we put words in the mouths of students. Students only want virtual reality right? Because native!

But I digress. Unfortunately, this was the first I had heard a student at least identify as a student and give a perspective.

In fact, when Erika first arrived, we were grabbing lunch and she looked at me and said “Are their any other undergraduates here at all?” My guess is there were but we didn’t give them enough space alongside are conversations about open pedagogy (teaching) and textbooks (which, let’s be honest, starts with faculty).

By the way, I’ve come to recognize these more by hearing colleagues like Andrew Rikard advocate for this. It’s worth too recognizing the way he has opened many people’s eyes, including mine, to student voice and #stuvoice.

How could we partner with students to begin to tackle the very clear problems that Sara laid out about higher education? Where are they at our conferences? Where is their voice in our conversation?

So I want to press the panic button immediately. Let’s design course materials (I really hate to call what she does a textbook) alongside our students like Robin DeRosa is doing. Let’s take all the data about our students that we are so preciously holding onto and put it in the public for students and others to build on top of like BYU is doing. Let’s give them spaces to house their own data and build digital identities like Domains of One’s Own. Let’s fund student-developed projects like the mentorship platform project Erika is leading. Let’s have students have cross-institutional discourse about higher education like Andrew Rikard is doing with the EdSurge Independent. Let’s submit proposals so that we can present alongside our students. I promise. It’s the most rewarding presentation you’ll ever give.

Last, let’s stop treating them like lower tied citizens of our community and let’s treat them like equals. Because they deserve it. Let’s recognize how we are minimizing their voice in our conversations. And then let’s fix it.

What “open” will we get at #OpenEd16?

A year ago, I wrote a post about scraping the OpenEd abstracts. As the conference unfolded, there was a sizeable conversation around the amount of “OER-ness” happening at OpenEd. In a subsequent post, I provided a chart which showed how many abstracts contained the word “OER” in which I concluded that this wasn’t a new development for the conference. Below I’ve updated the chart to include this years data.

Year Total Sessions Abstracts Containing “OER” Percent “OER” Abstracts Containing “Textbook” Percent “Textbook”
2012 69 42 60.87 9 8.74
2013 103 67 65.05 27 26.21
2014 100 83 72.17 32 27.83
2015 123 84 68.29 39 31.71
2016 161 115 71.43 57 35.40

According to abstracts, which is obviously all I have to work off of at the moment, it’s very possible that we’ll see the same level of OER discussion that we’ve see over the passed few years. Also consistent is an 11.6% increase in the word “textbook.”

Now it’s important to say that I don’t present this data to necessarily make much a statement about OER but rather to continue to conversation. In fact, I do this out of curiosity more than anything else. I’ve pulled a few of the top abstract terms (plus some) and done a similar simple count.

Count Percentage
Number of Abstracts 161
Open 141 87.58%
OER 115 71.43%
Students 91 56.52%
Learning 88 54.66%
Faculty 66 40.99%
Support 65 40.37%
Access 60 37.27%
Textbooks 57 35.40%
Research 53 32.92%
Open educational resources 51 31.68%
Adoption 42 26.09%
Data 36 22.36%
License 23 14.29%
Pedagogy 18 11.18%
Open Access 17 10.56%
Open Source 14 8.70%
MOOCs 11 6.83%
Open Pedagogy 9 5.59%
Analytics 8 4.97%
Theory 8 4.97%
Open Content 5 3.11%
Open Data 3 1.86%

Abstracts can certainly steer the conversation, but they don’t necessarily dictate them. Inevitably, the conversations will be whatever you wish it to be. Whatever “open” you feel like you prefer, I encourage you to wave your flag proudly. Also, if you would like to look at the data set, here’s the CSV file. You can also play with the data on Voyant Tools.

Featured Image: Open by Late Night Movie via Attribution Engine. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

Muhlenberg is the Word

A handful of blog posts have came out recently on Muhlenberg’s Domain of One’s Own project bergbuilds including a posts from Lora Taub (post) and Tim Clarke (post) at Muhlenberg and Lauren Brumfield (post) at Reclaim Hosting.

Lora’s post encouraged folks to get involved in this years OLC Solution Design Summit, which is actually where I first met Lora. I wrote this in April:

If they pull off their idea (I’m hoping someone from their team will write a post), it will be one of the more innovative approaches I’ve seen in holistically engaging a community in domains and digital literacy.

I continue to stand by that statement. Muhlenberg is utilizing their domains as a central space for students to think broadly about digital learning and digital scholarship as a student’s pre-orientation experience. From what I remember, students even move in to their dorm room early to partake in the week-long session

As someone who’s graduate experience was deeply impacted by a similar experience and as someone at a university that’s about to launch two residential colleges, I’m thinking more and more about how these types of experiences. Too often, digital is positioned as in conflict with the residential experience. I don’t want to hear another person lament about students learning at home in their pajamas, as if that’s vitriolic. I don’t want to hear another false argument about digital natives. I would rather see us explore, together, head-on the opportunities and challenge that digital space brings. If anything, let’s embrace the way that the two worlds have deeply merged.

I do believe that a good place to start building respect with the students by offering and supporting them with their own space. What better way to fully actualize the digital verison Virigina Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own then a Muhlenberg-type of project? From Lora:

In fact, our tagline for this entire pre-orientation experience was, “A Dorm & A Domain” — emphasizing that a Muhlenberg experience is as much about staking out an online presence as it is setting up a dorm room or learning your way around campus.

Both Lora and Tim both touched on the ways which they’ve felt supported by the broader domains community as they’ve launched this project. Tim had these nice things to say:

To inform these efforts, we reached out for assistance to Adam Croom who kindly shared his afternoon with us fielding far ranging questions. It’s difficult to quantify Adam’s helpfulness, but it’s essetial to try. At the close of our online meeting, Adam encouraged us to continue to reach out, even offering to provide a clone of Create OU Support for us to customize. Adam’s efforts to work openly and to share everything from support documentation to learning community reading lists and curriculums will save us at Muhlenberg weeks, perhaps months, of effort. But more important, Adam’s, and Martha’s, and Tim’s, and Jim’s, and Lauren’s engagement with us will make our efforts better.

I have to say I really like this idea of working together. I’m always the first to say that what we are doing is, if anything, the opposite of innovative. One of the best things about the community is how much everybody wants to see the other person succeed. Create is only what it is because UMW is what it is and Emory, Davidson, BYU, VCU, Middlebury, CSU Channel Islands, Georgetown and many others are what they are. And the different ways in which institutions have reimagined it for their specific community is really, really gratifying to watch. It’s like, oh I don’t know, the web; small pieces loosely joined.

Some day I’ll probably stop gushing about domains and the web. But, until then, I’ll take my people over anybodys!

This Week On OU Create is back.

Last year, we launched a blog titled and a similar Twitter account @OU_Create to highlight some of our favorite OU Create content, mostly blogs from OU students and faculty, thanks to the good work of Anoopdeep Bal. I’m not sure I even know the full details, but the best answer is that we focused our highlighting attention on the Creaties and moved the This Week blog to the backburner. Then in July we had some staff turnover that caused us to hault the account altogether. BUT we are back on the horse!

The Week from 10/14 – 10/20 on OU Create

The way that we do this is fairly simple. Every newly installed application gets plugged into our Community syndicator which runs on FeedWordPress. Though not every site has an RSS feed, we are currently syndicating 3,310 sites. We get these URLs by pulling them directly out of the Installatron database file and bulk subscribing to the newest posts. Then we read them (I use Reeder to do so), share our favorites in a Slack channel, and then John Stewart writes up a weekly roundup. Anddd that’s about it.

My thought is that the only way to know your community is to be of it and in it. We are proud to publicly offer a way to see the public work that exists within it as well. I’ve always liked to the think of OU Create as the best representation of a digital common area for the community and it’s fun tosee how people are still thinking up new ways to use the space.

For instance, Darren Purcell (who is has one of the most richest faculty OU Create spaces if I do say so myself) is using it in a freshman-level Geography class to teach students about mapping and GIS tool. I just saw a post today where Lexi McLane had used ArcGIS Online, a cloud-based mapping platform, to show high school graduation rates at a macro and micro level. It shows national, state, and regional (in fact her own hometown).

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 12.27.59 PM.png

Not only is it personally contextualized but she was able to start to understand the influence how race and economics affect graduation rates:

Through the maps in my story map I compare areas with lower rates to areas with lower incomes and see a clear trend. Also groups with higher averages such as white and asian groups, are typically associated with higher income groups. The maps in my story map also show higher incomes around counties with high graduation rates.
I was surprised to find that the school I graduated from had such a high graduation rate when drop outs seemed so normal throughout high school. Also my high school was primarily hispanic and economically disadvantaged, meaning it should have some of the lowest graduation rates based on the national statistics. However, in 2014 Olustee Public High School had a 95 % graduation rate, putting my high school above the national average. – Lexi McLane

Another project I saw pop up this semester is the OU Integration Business Core program. IBC is a set of four courses students take in which throughout the courses they do market research and launch a product. The profit generated is then donated to a local company. All of the companies have a WordPress landing page (they use an OU purchasing tool for actual orders) and two of the companies are using OU Create:


I’ve said this time and time again, but I love the flexibility of the web to serve such vastly different needs. Both of these projects fall widely out of the scope of a traditional eportfolio, our original idea for OU Create, but show the creative ways for which the technology can be exploited by the users. Oh, and support these IBC projects if you know what’s good for you!