A Reclaim Hypothesis

On Friday, I wrote a post on my excitement about OU Create now being available campus wide. Jim Groom was then kind enough to reflecton what my email meant within the narrative of Reclaim Hosting:

This email feels like another giant leap in Reclaim’s short history, and we could have only gotten to this point because we work with some seriously awesome folks who want to empower their community members to share far and wide.

Something in which I argued at #ET4Online 2015 was that one of the best parts of the Domain’s of One Own project is that it has been largely facilitated in the same manner as the open source community. Open source goes much farther than merely a license to freely use (I’m looking at you OER). Rather, it’s a community willing to contribute to each other’s work in a focused manner that builds a better product for all. From my count, Jim dropped 24 people in his post that were integral in the narrative, all of which (someone correct me if I’m wrong) are connected to an institution. I say that’s good news for edtech: we can commit to working together on building infrastructure that we believe in. Jim wrote later:

When I read Adam Croom’s post today yesterday (I spent a lot of time writing this) I simply meant to draw attention to it and note how they had realized the half-baked vision of the next generation tilde spaces for higher ed at an institutional level I would have thought impossible last June.

Personally I see OU Create/Reclaim/Domains in two ways:

Domain of One’s Own is a philosophical choice.

I think this is an important point that needs to start being made explicit within education technology. Let’s acknowledge the biases that are involved here: There is a belief with domains, and one that I fully subscribe to, that the learning experience must be fully owned by the learner: this conceptual idea is manifested with domains in the physical ownership of the data (which is also important to most). This idea was recently commented on by Andrew Rikard (see: Student Voice: Do I Own My Domain If You Grade It?) by a student at Davidson:

The first type of ‘Domain’ took audience into account, considering the implications of public scholarship, representation, and student agency. The second, in many ways, mirrored the traditional pedagogical structure by assigning papers or short answer assignments to be posted online through blogs

Andrew has a very good point. Domains can be used just like an LMS too if you don’t full subscribe to the philosophy behind the initial idea. And I’ve seen his example at our OU too. Faculty have asked me how students can do private drafts which they can then help them revise before it’s published. My answer has always been that Domains might not be the proper technology for that type of project because that’s not exactly it’s intention.

But I think this argument of ownership can be made towards any assignment. When a student is doing an assignment and the main motivation is the grade, learning is, at best, a biproduct. We need to continue to refine assessment models to a point where they aren’t the focal point of a class. Domains help students prioritize sharing their learning with one another, metacognition, and digital scholarship.

Domain of One’s Own is also a practical choice.

At some point, the spaces that were given to university community members, commonly referred to as tilde spaces, became rather useless. I chalk this up to two reasons (both of which are completely anecdotal):

  • High barrier to entry. Most required some basic knowledge of HTML and FTP. Learning a coding language isn’t appealing to everyone wanting to have an online presence.
  • An inability to evolve with the web. Between 1998 and 1999, Blogger, LiveJournal, and Xanga all launched. This evolution from static web pages to blogs with dynamic editors brought a new era to web publishing. It was now easier than ever to write and disseminate. The tilde space could have became this, but they did not. Instead, most institutions adopted some version of a centrally-controlled and limited blogging platform such as edublogs. Since users were given less control and there was a proliferation of commercial options (Tumblr, Typepad, WordPress, Medium) that gave them more control became available, the university solutions became less attractive. As users splintered to several solutions, the ability to have a community-centric web platform became less likely.

I’m interested in if anyone agrees or disagrees with the ideas above. Please let me know if you do.

OU Create for us has became a practical tool for our community as much as philosophical one. It is indeed an infrastructure that makes building full websites possible to a much greater audience. It also gives us enough to slack to build in a plethora of digital literacy components. This complexity is highly valuable in serving a range of needs.

And that’s why, though I’m philosophically not as interested in subdomains as fully-owned domains, I still understand the practical value on being able to offer some version of the technology to everyone. And everyone getting the opportunity to play with these tools is absolutely something I can philosophically get behind. 🙂

Cover photo credit: João Silas