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OU President David Boren: "Technology in Higher Education"

4 min read

Email sent on: August 14, 2012
 
Dear Faculty Colleagues,
 
This is an exciting time in higher education.  Technologies that enhance educational experiences are advancing at a rapid pace.  Exciting opportunities to apply these technologies to research and instruction abound. 
 
The University of Oklahoma is a leader in the application of new technologies.  I am aware of programs in each of our colleges that are at the forefront in the exploration of learning innovations.  For example, last semester our Gaylord College of Journalism was one of eight programs nationally to be awarded Apple's Distinguished Program Award.  This fall, students will experience the first set of classes offered in our new Active Learning Classroom in the Stephenson Research Center.
 
Our direction for implementing emerging learning technologies is clear.  We embrace online classes as a way to educate students who are simply not physically able to participate in the dynamic learning experience in our classrooms.  However, technology can never substitute for the learning that takes place in our classrooms, laboratories and studios.  When distance is not a consideration, we should not adopt technology to replace classroom learning but, rather, we should use new technologies to enhance the overall educational experience for our students.  Students should be encouraged to be present for lectures and class sessions through attendance policies while also accessing technology enhancements.    We must continue to emphasize the importance of personal interaction in the classroom and in other forms for discussion.  “Virtual” experiences alone cannot create the strength of community which is so needed in our society.  
 
I am aware of the actions of other excellent universities that are placing course content on the Internet for the world at large.  While we also answer the call to broadly advance the frontiers of knowledge, I am very excited about the opportunities brought by new technologies to individualize and improve the educational outcomes for the students who fill our classrooms.  While some digital strategies make course content available to an ever greater population of learners as in mass production, we must challenge ourselves to use technology, through videos and dynamic online course materials, to make more time available in the classroom/laboratory for discussion, student engagement, hands-on experiences, active peer learning and undergraduate research.  In this digital age, an OU education can be more unique, more individualized, and more powerful than ever.  Our role as a leader in the implementation of emerging technologies and commitment to dynamic classroom instruction will distinguish our digital initiatives from those of our peers.
 
This fall, the Provost and I will meet with every dean to explore opportunities to advance our digital programs in this spirit.  To mention one initiative I hope to discuss, I think opportunities exist to use open-content on the Internet and additional presentations by our own faculty to reduce our reliance on some expensive textbooks.  We can lower student costs while creating a learning experience that is designed for our OU students and that unlocks the unique expertise, interests and personalities of each OU faculty member.  In fact, I am starting to work on additions to my own course materials for my political science class in this spirit as a way to enrich experiences and reduce textbook costs.  I will also name a task force to coordinate and advance our academic and administrative digital initiatives.
 
I hope that you enjoy the rest of your summer.  I am excited about the return of our students and the beginning of another academic year.  I hope to see you at freshmen convocation to welcome another class of truly outstanding students.  Thank you for all that you do to strengthen our University.
 
Sincerely,
Description: Description: Description: David                                                                              
David L. Boren
President

Becoming an Image Detective for @cogdog and @mdvfunes

2 min read

Alan Levine is searching for a comic so Mariana Funes can properly attribute the comic on her Daily Stillness site. Me, personally, I just kind like putting my sleuthing skills to the test so I'm happy to go huntin'.

Alan tried using Google Image Reverse Search to recall the photo but didn't uncover enough to merit an actual source. I took a different route and just started typing words into Google search. First, "Chasing Money Comic."

 

Nope. Then I tried "Life Chasing Money Comic"

Still natta. Next was "Life life life money." It seemed too simple, but I happened to land on this:

It's the first result! Even more bizarre, "Life life life comic" doesn't surface it. Crazy.

So the image I found is from Pinterest. My guess is that either Pinterest reads the words on an image and indexes those or the user had written it in the metadata. I honestly can't figure it out as the Googe link doesn't work.

The major difference was the version I found had a "Laughing Colours" logo and an artist signature, which I imagine someone had Photoshopped out by the time Mariana got ahold of it. Laughing Colours is sorta a meme-centric site. I didn't figure I would find much there as those tend to be deep like Pinterest. So I tried to decipher the artist name in the lower right hand corner, which I guessed was "U+Kal Gaurab." Put that into Google and found this image...



Which is a similar comic style, but has the name in print. Oh, it's just "Utkaul Gaurab." Silly me... I was getting too cute with the whole plus sign. Next, I search the artist's name and find that he's got a comic Facebook page:

I go to the Mobile Uploads album, scroll all the way down, and viola! There's the original source.

I feel pretty confident that Utkal is the originator as his site has several similar styled comics and his Facebook site carries some authority with 11,000+ likes. Mystery solved.

Source : fycarmensandiego.tumblr.com

Source : fycarmensandiego.tumblr.com

Cloning a Docs Wordpress Site

3 min read

I've been helping a few different universities setup clones on the OU Docs site. I was doing some work for Middlebury College and they were asking for a documentation site. Ours was running, but just barely, on an instance of DokuWiki, so we went through some options of what to do:

Option 1: Transition to a flat file CMS. Pros: This could seemingly be forkable by any institution, especially if we used Jekyll has the CMS. But the downside is that it doesn't have the friendliness of a WYSIWIG editor.

Option 2: Transition to Wordpress. Pros: it's very easy to use and manage multiple users. Cons: Most of the better plugins were premium and we had a hard time finding an open source one.

We've opted for Wordpress and as long as the premium plugin is purchased, we can still share our data very easy. With a couple of really handy plugins we can also quickly convert mentions of the platform "OU Create"and URLs "create.ou.edu" over to anything else.

Because Amy Collier allowed me to share what was built for MiddCreate, I've been able to help three other institutions stand up similar instances of documentation. It's certainly not a perfect model (I think in a perfect model there's a central documentation site into your bank a la federated wiki and they get auto-white labeled) but it's proved to be scalable enough. Below is a tutorial for how an exact replica of our site and custom tailor it to your institution.

Instructions

1. Install Wordpress

2. Install the Sparkling Wordpress theme.

3. Install Documentor (a premium plugin). I've bought a multi license which gave me five sites for $35. Not too shabby.

4. Import an XML file containing all previous Docs. You can get this by going to a previous document site, going to Documentor > Manage and clicking Export (I'm always happy to share).

5. Create a page titled "Support" and change page template to full-width (no sidebar)

6. Add shortcode [documentor 1] to page and Publish.

7. Change front page to static page "Support".

8. Install Text Replace plugin

Add following code under Settings > Text Replace

middcreate.net => NEWSITE.net
middcreate => UNIVERSITY Create
MiddCreate => UNIVERSITY Create
Middlebury => UNIVERSITY
Middcreate.net => plymouthcreate.net

9. Install Velvet Blues Update URLs plugin

10. Go to Tools > Update URLs

11. Go to Appearance > Menu and add new menu with custom link that takes user back to home page

Yearning for Incompleteness.

11 min read

This post is a contribution for an online book club reading of We Make the Road by Walking by Paolo Freire and Myles Horton. Here's the reading schedule, my notes from Chapters 1 and 2 and 3. You can also check out my quote generator.

Chapter 4

As an undergraduate, I studied Advertising in the the College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The advertising program, like many advertising programs, is built around the concept of the advertising agency. Thus, the core of your curriculum is situated around understanding the different departments of a traditional ad agency: research, media buying, and creative. Industry changes faster than higher education curriculum and other than large agencies, most  now focus on a very specific niche. I've always found these niche boutique shops much more appealing--much more entrepreneurial--than large agencies.

Unfortunately, I wasn't looking far enough ahead or simply unaware of what exactly an agency fully did to recognize that my curriculum was built to feed agencies until it was too late. At earliest, you take your first Advertising course in your third semester. Mine was my fourth semester and it only took a few weeks for me to realize I had no desire to work for an advertising agency and it was quite possible that I would never use me (I now am teaching the same advertising courses I took so it's now fair to say this is inaccurate). But I can still vividly remember that moment--sitting in the back of the 100 person class--where I felt that advertising wasn't for me.

This was later confirmed in my favorite course of the Advertising sequence which is called Contemporary Advertising Problems and it plays the role of the ethics/critical course and is arguably the only theory based course of the curriculum. It was taught by an adjunct professor who owned a mid-size agency in OKC and had taught the course for years. The semester I took the course, the owners of the Seattle Supersonics, OKC tycoons, decided to move the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City and rebrand the team the Oklahoma City Thunder. Roy asked us to raise our hand on if we liked or disliked the team name. To my surprise, I was the only one to raise my hand. From the beginning, I was imagining the type of theatrical atmosphere you could create in an arena for a team named afterwards a very large bass-y weather noise. Now, to everyone else's credit, the Thunder logo still seems very uninspired, which makes a great case study for why you shouldn't groupthink creative work.

Anyways, the second thing I remember well from this course was a story Roy told us. Oklahoma is now home to several large casinos. These were just starting to really get built while I was in school and Roy told us a story where he had decided that his agency would not compete for casino bids even though they were bound to be very large clients as he had an ethical dilemma with promoting gambling. I don't know if this was due to personal reasons or not--and really all arguments about the specific issue aside--I really respected that he had decided would turn down work that he felt he couldn't promote in good conscience. I then begin to really think about if I could truly design/promote/sell anything that anybody asked, and I knew that the answer was definitively "no." I was definitely never going to work for an agency.

I share this story because it's a story of a youth at a crossroads discovering his boundaries and that sums up a lot of my view about my collegiate experience. Chapter 4 of We Make the Road by Walking focuses a lot on teaching but it's also about having a position. Much of it is about those positions being brought into the classroom and whether or not that breeds an authoritarian environment. It was a major moment for me to be awoken to the ethical struggles of the sector and to be ok with turning my back on it and I'm thankful that there were people who weren't afraid to expose me to that.

And so I try to bring that into my own classes. Nearly every semester that I've been in the classroom, I've had "the talk" with the students. And it goes something like "Look. I know much of your curriculum is based around the appearance of the outcome of you eventually working for an advertising or public relations agency. The truth is that, particularly if you are going to stay in Oklahoma, you won't be doing that. You might not even be in the field at all. This course is about creativity and the lens is ad/pr but it's also about you being able to recognize your own creative potential. You'll learn valuable skill sets but you'll also learn how to think with design."

For some strange personal reason, I feel like it's part of my duty to tell students it's okay if you never enter this field.

2016 has been (understatement) a lot of feelings for me. As it will be mentioned over and over again as we end the year, we lost a lot of wonderful people. For me, the biggest emotional hit was Seymour Papert. When I'm asked who my educational hero is, I always (and will always) say Papert. His way of thinking about technology and education--that the child should program the computer, not the computer program the child--was ahead of its time and may only ever be actualized in small pockets.

In Papert's book The Children's Machine he contrasts what he calls Schoolers and Yearners. I've paraphrased it below:

The parable sets up the question: Why, through a period when so much human activity has been revolutionized, have we not seen comparable change int he way we help our children learn?

People on one side, the Schoolers, are taken aback by my question... Many become indignant... Education today is faced with immediate, urgent problems. Tell us how to use your computers to solve some of the many immediate practical problems we have, they say.

On the other side of the great divide are the Yearners, who respond by citing impediments to change in education such as cost, politics, the immense power of the vested interests of school bureaucrats, or the lack of scientific research on new forms of learning. These people do not say "I can't imagine what you could possibly be looking for," because they have themselves felt the yearning for something different. (2-3)

Papert lays out this dichotomy of people sold out to the educational system who work tirelessly only to maintain the system and people for whom the system will never serve because there is a burning desire for something more.

And here is where I--somewhat dangerously--find myself in both camps. Someone who is coming to trying to find ways in which the system will allow for yearning to prevail. Papert acknowledges this as well.

Another important class of Yearners operates as a sort of fifth column within School itself: Large numbers of teachers manage to create within the walls of their own classrooms oases of learning profoundly at odds with the education philosophy publicly espoused by their administrators; some public school districts, perhaps those where Yearners have moved into administration, have made spaces for Yearners within the School system, allowing such programs to deviate from district policies on method and curriculum (3)

The field of open is no stranger to the idea of yearning thanks to Gardner Campbell. Gardner talked about ecologies of yearning in his keynote. He said this on the ecologies of open:

Open is not simply a quality to adopt or a direction to pursue. Open is attitude towards systems and the desire those systems empower and focus.

I can't think of a better way to describe a quality that we need on both the student/non-student sides of the institution than "yearning." All other words are just synonyms or adjacent. Wonder. Awe. Love.

Freire uses one that I like: "humility."

One of the virtues we have to create in ourselves as progressive educators is the virtue of humility. (195)

He talks about this knowledges inability to stay static; that it's a process. He talks about incompleteness.

I am humble because I am incomplete (194)

That last quote is probably my favorite so far of the entire book. I want to embrace my incompleteness in order to yearn for humility. (Side note: I read up on Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem for this blog post and I'm not going to build that in to this post, but I secretly hope someday Mike Caulfield will because he's better at thinking than me).

Very rarely do I sense a lot of tension between Horton and Freire. In fact, I often sense the exact opposite. It feels like a deep sense of love and reverence for another. But this chapter seems to subtly bring out some of the differences between them. For instance, Freire talks about teaching as a vehicle that comes through content whereas Horton seems to talk about a process of eliciting it from students:

My system is to make him thirsty, so he'll volunteer to drink. (148).

And there's an interesting moment in their conversation where I feel like "Third Party," is trying to confront an issue. Freire is very much open about being incomplete and learning from his students where Horton, as an organization, feels the strong burden to make change when he sees it, which can come across authoritarian. This negotiation--hold so firm to beliefs while also embracing humility and incompleteness--it brings me back to me wrestling with myself as an advertising undergraduate student.

MYLES: Well I think you have to divide that into principles. When I say what I believe, I'm talking about prin­ciples such as love and democracy, where people control their lives.
THIRD PARTY: Your vision.
MYLES: My vision. Now the strategy for my vision, the ap­proaches and processes, I've learned from other people.

Amy Collier wrote a post about the burden you can face when yearning within the school--being critical--and it's beautiful in it's honesty and openness. I, too, think a lot about being on the wrong side with my ideas. When progressive agendas fail, whether they are political or institutional, I think it's important for me to remember the incompleteness and not falter from my vision, to use Horton's words.

If I was smart, I would end my blog post there because I've already written too much that nobody is going to read it, but I wanted to capture one last thing that I took away from Chapter 4 and that's Myles Horton about the three traits of progressive education:

I think if I had to put a finger on what I consider a good education, a good radical education, it wouldn't be anything about methods or techniques. It would be loving people first.

Next is respect for people's abilities to learn and to act and to shape their own lives.

The third thing grows out of caring for people and having respect for people's ability to do things, and that is that you value their experiences. (177)

I'm not any good about writing about love and education so I'll leave that to those who know better than me. There's also a line about being involved at a micro and macro level.

We were part of the world but we had to start locally. (179)

I'm continually more and more interested in how to promote localized movements and sharing those broadly rather than trying to collectively do something similar. Maybe I should have written about that before running out of steam, but I'm open to suggestions on how to organize that. I'm also still thinking through Kate Bowles' post on lenses and Mastodon so check that out. Onward and upward, .

We Make the Road by Walking - Chapter 3

7 min read

This post is a contribution for an online book club reading of We Make the Road by Walking by Paolo Freire and Myles Horton. Here's the reading schedule and my notes from Chapters 1 and 2.

I took the day off after the election. I wanted to spend it with all of my girls. I have two young daughters, one of whom has started in the public education system this year.

Every culture has negativeness and positiveness, and what we have to do is to improve the positive and to overcome the negativeness. (134)

I live in whatever the opposite of a swing state is. When it comes to presidential elections, you can bank on Oklahoma turning red. Now to all my U.S. friends in more liberal areas of the nation, I want to be very clear that it's actually fine to live in red state. I've done it my whole life and I love my home. But it can feel hopeless knowing that their are certain conversations that aren't worth having with people because, to them, the world is very white or black, whereas most of the world I inhabit is the space between.

I remember I learned a lot from being a father. (138)

When Katie and I found out we were going to have our first daughter, I was turning to male mentors I had to ask what it is like to be a dad. One guy here at OU gave me really good insight that I will never forget and that I continue to pass on to other people becoming parents. He told me that when you become a parent, your life changes instantly because every single decision you make requires a new question to think through. Every question and every decision you make has positive and negative consequences on this new person who is dependent on you and it will change the way you think.

And it, indeed, changes the way you think. As a parent, I want nothing more than for my children to grow up in a world where they love themselves, love others, and love learning. I want light to be in abundance.

You also learn so many lessons about life through being parent. You learn that you are a very flawed, selfish person. And you learn that even though you want to control each and every outside force--it's nearly impossible.

Chapter 3 from We Make the Road by Walking is titled Ideas. I love the title in that its bold. I also hate it in the same way I hate getting a calendar meeting invitation cryptically titled "Brainstorming." It's a bit vague and, for goodness sake, please tell me one meet where it is okay for us to turn off our brains. But ANYWAYS much of the chapter focuses on political and social organization. And while presidential voting in Oklahoma was predictable, there were other issues personal to my heart at stake for our state as well--specifically in education.

On November 8, Oklahoma voted on State Question 779, which was a penny sales tax that would fund state education. Of the money raised, 60 percent would provide a $5,000 salary increase for every public school teacher. The rest would be divided between public schools (9.5%), higher (19.25%), career and tech ed (3.25%), and early childhood ed (8%).

You see, Oklahoma ranks 48th (soon to be 50th as both South Dakota and Mississippi are raising pay) in K-12 teacher pay and our teachers have not had a raise in eight years. In fact, this issue isn't even a Republican or Democrat issue. Democrats actually controlled the Oklahoma Senate until 2005, yet we dropped from 41st to 48th between 1980 and 2000 and the Republican-controlled Senates have kept us there. The state legislature in its totality has failed at providing adequate pay for teachers for decades.

Of course, a penny sales tax doesn't necessary look the prettiest on paper. They're regressive, which means that the tax increase will affect low- and moderate-income households more than wealthier households. Plus, Oklahoma sales tax is already high and this would make it the highest in the nation. But, according to the initiatives biggest supporters, it wouldn't and it shouldn't have ever got to this had the state legislature figured out a way to fund education. This felt very much like a last ditch effort Hail Mary.

The only way teachers have to demonstrate to the students that they are serious sometimes is to ght-to ght in order to get a better salary and then to begin to become more competent. (60)

It was ambitious and a long shot and everyone knew it from the beginning. But momentum began to build and with it came hope in the eyes of teachers with many of them signing on. State Questions require a little under 125,000 signatures to make the ballot. It received 300,000. Early polling showed it at about 60% to pass.

And then it failed. 60% no / 40% yes. The state of public education is no longer just a failure of the Oklahoma legislature. This is now a failure of the state to either put forth the correct plan or pass this one. I, too, share in this failure.

It's the structures of society that we've got to change. We don't change men's hearts. (103)

The day after Oklahoma decided to not give teachers a raise but did decide to elect donald, I took my daughters to school, and had to look the teachers in the eyes.

Every day at my daughter's school they have a school-wide morning assembly. The Friday of election week was Veterans Day and a handful of the fourth graders were sharing poems about freedom. They had been learning about similies and metaphors. "Freedom is  _______." I felt a little heartbroken but also moved.

I pulled out my phone to quickly type out some of the lines and immediately a student read: "Freedom is the feeling of victory and hardship."

It's so true. And, as much as I want that perfect environment to magically materialize for my girls--as much as I want them to see with their own eyes that they can be and do and love so long as they love--I know that it's also true that, as a wise fourth grade once told me, freedom is equal parts victory and hardship.

That day I felt an immense amount of guilt for not campaigning harder for the state question; for not campaigning with the teachers. For believing for it in my heart but never publicly letting it leave my mouth. This is a feeling I've felt so much more as I've grown older and is arguably my largest personal struggle. Why--so often--do I allow myself to be controlled by fear? I could have done something to advocate for it and I let my pride get in the way.

Reading Horton has given me courage. It reminds me to speak out and to stand up. It reminds me to look at my community as a place where their exist people like teachers, the most undervalued public employees, need me to speak up.

It is cultural and historical, and if it is cultural and historical, it can be changed. And if it can be changed, it's not unethical to put the possibility of change on the table. (132)

Not all hope is lost. It would be hard to imagine State Question 779 will be the last teacher raise proposal in history. It would be hard to believe that ground can't be made in education both locally and nationally. And you better believe that I won't miss the opportunity to particpate--to organize--again.

I also want to add that has given me much as well. Specifically, more thanks for Bryan Alexander for organizing, Kristen Eshleman for organizing the Twitter chat, John Stewart for giving me someone to talk through it out loud, and Amy Collier for giving me the drive to write better. And thanks to anybody that's reading this. It's working.

This was supposed to be my notes for Chapter 3. #HortonFreire

2 min read

But it's not and I'll tell you why. The thing is I'm really good at distracting myself by making some type of resource, like a graphic or spreadsheet, to help me process. But what I'm really doing is just delaying the whole processing part.

The format of my first  (we officially have a hashtag) post was mostly commentary on everything I highlighted in Chapter 2, and, well, I highlighted much more in Chapter 3. So rather than sticking with that format, I decided to type out all of my highlighted quotes into a spreadsheet. My thought was that this might help me see themes and maybe I could share the resource with others as we tend to want to use the same quotes as it might saving others some typing time.

But I've learned a thing or two from hanging around ol' Tom Woodward and Kin Lane. And that is that a spreadsheet is also a database. And that got me thinking that maybe there were people who wanted to participate in reacting to but didn't want to commit to a full book (it's a stretch I know). And MAYBE a random quote generator could be like a blog post prompt. So I took the spreadsheet data and converted it into JSON using an online tool nicely titled Mr. Data Converter. Then I found this code set on CodePen that is an HTML/CSS/JS framework for a random quote generator (very handy!). So I played with the formatting of the JSON a little bit so that I could easy insert quotes into the Javascript. And voilà!

It's small, the number of use cases are slim-to-none, and the world would have probably done just fine without it. But it's there. The page is live at adamcroom.com/hortonfreire. The code is on Github if you want add quotes or fix my spelling errors (thanks Alan and John, for already doing so).

I guess that Chapter 3 post will have to wait until tomorrow...

We Make the Road by Walking - Chapters 1 & 2

12 min read

"History gets in your way. History gets in your way." -Myles Horton

These are the two sentences that end the second chapter of We Make the Road by Walking, which is a transcribed dialogue between Myles Horton and Paulo Freire. For the uninitiated, Horton is best known for his role in cofounding Highlander Folk School, which focused its energies on civil rights and desegregation during the Civil Rights Movements and provided training for many movement activists. Paulo Freire is best known for coining critical pedagogy and his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

I am reading this book as part of an online book club that's being thankfully stewarded by Bryan Alexander. You can read up on background and reading dates here. I'm not exactly sure if this is the proper way to be involved, but it's how I intend to capture my thoughts.

I should probably mention I'm not reading this book to not just be a part of the book club. A few weeks before the election I took a semi-purposefully timed break from social media. A lot of it was an excuse to escape; to reconsider the media I was consuming; to re-shuffle the deck so to speak. I remember joking in graduate school that I would be so happy to just read fiction again, but the problem was I never actually did that. The break would give me that opportunity. I found an early 20th century American lit syllabus online and selectively worked my way through the books I had yet to read.

Since the election, I've found myself in a very different headspace and I believe it's fair to say that it's one I wasn't foreseeing. My hope was that the election season would end, both teams would shake hands and say we'll see you next season and we would go back to deciding whether the dress is blue or gold. I was deeply mistaken. For the passed couple of weeks, I've struggled with how to best work, act, and discuss in this "new" environment. A lot of this is for reasons I'm currently uncomfortable completely discussing publicly.

And that's why I am here. Hemingway is out the window and instead I've been currently working through other books that I hope will help me better critically evaluate the world around me and the role educators (I fear blanketing the conversations with education and will stick with the self version, educator, for the moment) hope to play. It is here, through my own reflections of the works of others, that I hope to both struggle and make sense of the level of weariness, guilt, burden, (insert other emotions) that I currently feel. I feel more motivated than ever--more of a sense of purpose--to be working in education.

It's also fair to say that because of these recent events I'll be reading through this book from a very specific perspective or lens, or as Freire would say, "in a historical space, in a context with some special historical, political, social, cultural elements." I was at OLC Accelerate a couple weeks ago watching a panel discussion on Gender Equity in Higher Ed. There were too many powerful moments to distill the conversation into a sentence, but, as Carl Moore from the University of the District of Columbia said, "I've put on the glasses and I can't take them off anymore." Me too, Carl. Me too.

With this in mind, I apologize in advance if some of my reflections read as if they are overly appropriated for the current climate. I mean to write these only as a way to document my current thoughts and know all well and good they could potentially be in no way beneficial to anybody else including future selves.

I should probably setup how I plan to respond. I'll likely be pulling pieces out of the book and commenting directly on how I see them applying to what's currently happening within education and education technology and sharing my reactions. Bryan has been kind enough to write some reflection questions for each chapter (see the questions for Chapters 1 and 2 here). It's possible that I'll touch on those and it's also possible I'll shy away from reading them as well for fear of them steering my own thoughts. I truly hope that my reflections are raw.

So thank you, again, Bryan for organizing. Thanks also to Allison Salisbury, who at the same afformentioned conference, encouraged me to join after mentioning she's read this book multiple times. I promise to not provide a 600-word qualifier for every chapter post, so thank you for putting up with it this one time. :-)

On place

Much of the conversation between Horton and Freire focuses on place. In one instance, Horton outlines how Citizenship Schools came to be in Johns Island, South Carolina, through way of Esau Jenkins, who was passionate about building literacy in his town since it was required to register to vote. Jenkins would leverage the long bus rides as a place to teach reading to a captive audience.

Horton spent time there setting up the first Citizenship School (these would later spread and help thousands of Blacks register to vote) where students would learn to read by first reading the Declaration of Human Rights. This was a suggestion by Bernice Robinson, who really set much of the success of the schools into motion. She remembered the Declaration of Human Rights poster being hung on the wall in Highlander. She wasn't a formally trained teacher and though she only had a high school education, her ability to follow her intuition with teaching was beyond her years. The way Horton recounts her first talking with her students is very beautiful:

"I'm not a teacher. I really don't know why they wanted me to do this, but I'm here and I'll learn with you. I'll learn as I go along" -Bernice Robinson

The declaration is a document worth visiting if you've never read it and revisiting if you have. Back to the Citizenship school: it's a beautiful story of how, as Freire puts, of how people learned to "read the world" as well as the words. As someone who is just finished teaching their daughter to read through sounds, gibberish really, and not narrative, it's timely for me.

Before telling this story, both Horton and Freire recount their formative years (the chapter bears this title) and both point to a similar first experience with learning teaching. I'm going to skip to learning part and jump to teaching. Neither learned much about teaching or pedagogy before taking the role of teacher. Horton led community conversations in Ozone, Tennessee as well as Vacation Bible Schools. Freire taught Portuguese. Horton describes these first teaching moments like so:

I was trying to find something that would fit, something that would be relevant. I wasn't looking for a technique or a method. I wasn't, and you know I still am not. That's not what I've ever been interested in. I was looking for a process of how to relate to people. Finally, it just became very clear that I would never find what I was looking for. I was trying the wrong approach. The thing to do was just find a place, move in and start, and let it grow.

There's a lot I see in that graph. Mostly, teaching not as a technique but as an human interacted situated in a place and time. I've spent time trying to think through the term of independent edtech (or indie edtech) as an approach of leveraging open tools to serve a local need, much like independent artists serving a local cultural need; as a way of serving your community. This has manifested itself best in the work that I've been doing alongside a student at Georgetown to build a community tool.

I've come to thinking about a localized approach to education technology from both my background as a musician as well as someone attracted to the new urbanism movement, which I've watched mostly from afar. New urbanism focuses specifically on real estate development and urban planning through the lens of building a sense of community and the development of ecological practices. The principles of new urbanism remind me a lot of the principles of indie web. Both have diversity, connectedness, and community at their core. Eventually, I'll write more on this, but these really are the intersection of my fundamental beliefs of good communities.

The other piece to what Horton is saying is time as a necessity. One thing that I've seen particularly conflated by the media is desire to speed up time to success/demise. Models like the Gartner Hype Cycle, Clay Christensen's Disruptive Innovation, or "fail fast" models, build in a desire too often to look for the conclusion. If it's growing incorrectly, rather than letting it grow, they say, kill it off now, build toward a different market indicator. I deeply fear the trusts we lose in rarely nurturing ideas in favor of the ever-churning news cycle.

Freire: I learned like Myles, no? He said some beautiful things. He said, more or less, it took time. Yes, it took time. One of the things that men like us, like lots of other people we know in the world--one of the things that we can do in order to help the younger generation is to tell them our stories and to speak out-- Myles: How long it takes. Freire: How long it takes. Maybe they will shorten their time to learn.

I think about this a lot in leadership. How long something takes to happen versus how long we have to enact it. Presidents get four years minimum and I don't know if that's a blessing or a curse. In education, we have grown comfortable to experimenting, even researching, sixteen week semesters. I should also note Freire's sexist phrasing above (again, I can't not take off the glasses). This is a documented criticism of Freire.

There is also some language that Horton uses that makes me think about the need for humanness versus algorithmic intervention. He makes this strong statement:

Third Party: Do you see... pockets of hope now? What are they? Horton: As you've heard me say, I'm not out in the situations where I know well enough what's going on. Finding the pockets is not an intellectual process. It's a process of being involved... I had to spend a long time down in Johns Island before people would really confide in me and talk to me so I could get a feel of where they were. I'm sure that in all times in history there are little places where things are beginning to develop, but I don't think you can arrive at that intellectually or by making surveys or taking polls or things of that kind.

It's an important point that Horton makes. You can't build models that produce trust.

On truth and history

The last point that I want to think about is stories. I'll briefly say this is where Horton and Freire do really well working off of one another. Horton tells these stories that have magnificent impact but come across so humbly. Freire then has the ability to counteract with almost a grandiose statement that sounds much like a universal truth. It happens multiple times within this Formative Years chapter. His critique, if you can call it that, of the Citizenship Schools is as such:

When we think that these things Myles spoke about, the struggle for black to read and to write; when we read that this fantastic man Jenkins, a great educator in being a driver who created a school in the back of a bus in order for people to learn, it was yesterday. Yesterday. At the same time, in Brazil we had discrimination. I am speaking here not as a Brazilian but as a human being just recognizing how much we have to do still all over the world in order to try to reinvent the world.

One of my major criticisms of how higher education media is not just how it is covered but how it is then leveraged at universities to push agendas without any idea as to whether something 1. completely worked or 2. if it can be replicated locally, let alone anywhere else (See: Purdue's Course Signals).

There's a bigger story here though about how strong narratives can drive the mass. TED Talks are one example of a vehicle that is too often used to try to follow up anecdotes with horoscope-like "truths." As of today, the Electoral College results show that the system has produced for us a president who ran his campaign off of stories rather than experience.

Freire and Horton end this specific conversation questioning whether something like Citizenship School could happen again. Blacks in the sixties were highly motivated to become literate not just because of the opportunity to vote but to, as Freire puts it, "to know why to vote and for whom to vote."

The question was not exclusively to teach how to read and to write but to challenge future readers concerning how to use the right the vote.

Ultimately, Freire and Horton decided at the time (1990) there wasn't anything of national significance that could warrant a national campaign. I don't know whether to worried or excited about the period that we are entering into. In some respects, I do see that national campaign; one which is an attempt to return to "great"--whenever that was--and I don't know what undoings have to take place to get there. On the other end, I can also see a real resistance beginning to assemble itself to be at the ready. And it leads to me to consider whether if anything is ever progress or if we are as humans are one vicious cycle exchanging blows. 

The only way teachers have to demonstrate to the students that they are serious sometimes is to fight--to fight in order to get a better salary and then to begin to become more competent.

History gets in your way. History gets in your way.

Creating Application Templates in Installatron

2 min read

If you're a Domain of One's Own campus on Reclaim Hosting, occasionally, you might want to create specific "custom" installs for specific courses or groups to give everyone a specific look or functionality.. Luckily, Installatron, the application installer Reclaim uses, makes this a really straightforward process--though it's limited to applications that are under the Content Management category (Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Omeka, etc.)

The first thing you'll want to do is login to your WHM on your server and install that specific application in any location. Next customize it to exactly how you would like it to appear on a fresh installation. Say, for instance, you are working with Wordpress. You can customize the theme, plugins, and even pages to your taste.

Once you've customized it, go back to Installatron and you'll notice a star button next to the site. Click it!

Next file out the form fields that will give your template a title and description:

Now when someone goes to install that application they'll see the template under the "version" portion of the application.

Installatron also allows you to activate/deactivate templates (check box below) as well as set the default installation (star below) in case you would rather have users get a template rather than a clean installation.

Adaptive Learners, Not Adaptive Learning

1 min read

Content is the least stable and least valuable part of education. Reports continue to emphasize the automated future of work (pfdf). The skills needed by 2020 are process attributes and not product skills. Process attributes involve being able to work with others, think creatively, self-regulate, set goals, and solve complex challenges. Product skills, in contrast, involve the ability to do a technical skill or perform routine tasks (anything routine is at risk for automation). 

This is where adaptive learning fails today: the future of work is about process attributes whereas the focus of adaptive learning is on product skills and low-level memorizable knowledge. I’ll take it a step further: today’s adaptive software robs learners of the development of the key attributes needed for continual learning – metacognitive, goal setting, and self-regulation – because it makes those decisions on behalf of the learner. (Source)

Slice of Selfie

3 min read

A response to a KQED Teach Lesson:

  • Using your phone or digital camera, take 5-7 different selfies.
  • Remember to utilize a variety of angles and lighting in for each of your selfies-- they can be equally important as your facial expressions in telling your story!
  • When you have finished taking your selfies, put them all together using the Pixlr editor.
  • Finally, share your selfie story with us on the KQED Teach community.

    Reflection:
  • What was it like constructing media about yourself?
  • How does the various images relate to who you really are?
  • How does the concept of all media being constructed influence your thinking about your learning environment?
  • What are you still wondering?

This assignment, first of all, breaks most of the assignment rules. First, I found six selfies instead of taking them, I used Photoshop instead of Pixlr, and, to be honest, I think one isn't even a selfie. But let's play along like it's the work that matters, not the ability to stick to a rubric for just a second. :-)

But nevertheless here's six "selfies" merged together to give the illusion of one nice selfie. I purposely tried to find six "selfies" with varying aesthetics: hats, beard lengths, sunglasses, hairstyles (even more with a fancy headset!) Here's what I'm thinking about:

  • When it's six "selfies" instead of one, it's a lot easier to confront your own appearance. You focus less on specific features and care less about how the picture could be better. It's vein, but it is what it is.
  • Really digging the low light picture that I was able to find. I remember taking this on a plane because 1. I was bored and had no internet connection and 2. I appreciated how the window light only caught a portion of my face. I purposely placed the picture in Slot 4 to contrast the image with the portion of the image that was specifically light (also the picture with the most beard!)
  • Angle seems like an important attribute to bring up here. According to selfie listicles, angles are a big deal. They even occasionally cite Farhod Karimov as a researcher who says angles matter (but Google Scholar says he only researches trustworthiness in e-commerce but whatdoiknowyaknow)
  • It's helpful to remember that media is inevitably a constructive narrative. It's not neutral no matter how much journalists want to believe they can be neutral in the same way tech companies want to believe technology can be neutral. All is, to some extent, constructed either physically or mentally and that requires a human to decide the affordances of that construction.
  • I'm stilll wondering how to use Pixlr to import multiple images into one workspace. It's amazing how quickly I ran away from the tool I didn't know simply becaues I knew exactly how to do it somewhere else. Really. I didn't even bother to research how to do it because I felt more comfortable just bending the rules (see the top). I like the idea of a free online editor though so I plan to circle back and look into Pixlr a little further.

Cross posted on the KQED Teach site.

I Love Lucy and (Various) Shades of Grey

1 min read

A description on how the set of I Love Lucy was optimized for black and white television.

This knowledge of the contrast secret is further revealed in the décor of the sets. These are painted in various shades of grey. props likewise follow the ethical demands of correct contrast, as do the wardrobes of the players. Even newspapers, when they are to appear in a scene, have to be tinted grey. Such overall uniformity of colors or tones in the scenes make rigid demands on the lighting and has resulted in the careful illumination formula which Freund and his gaffers now regular employ in lighting the sets. (Source)

I'm Rivers Cuomo.

3 min read

This was originally written as an introduction post for the KQED Teach platform. The assignment was:

  • Create your first post on the KQED Teach community with your type(s) to introduce yourself!
  • Choose an image, animated gif, video, or other form of media found online that represents your motivation.
  • Briefly explain how the things that motivate you impact your teaching.

Hello! I teach Strategic Communications in higher ed and while it appears the Teacher Motivation quiz has been taken offline (I'm sure others have figured this out and solved it themselves, but I found a Slideshare). My courses focus on designing for publics and market segments with a focus on research, copy, and layout. My classes are fairly traditional digital literacy courses in the fact that they aim to give students a broad understanding of what a creative department within an agency specifically does and how they do it. A part of my job is to give students a basic understanding of industry tools (such as Adobe Creative Suite) though I like to also show some more online based tools (such as Canva). We also spend a fair amount of time blogging and coming to understand who we are both as creators and creatives. So I'd say this matches a lot of what is categorized as Demystifier (40%) + Alt (40%) + Spirit Guide (10%) + Professional (10%).

Demystifier:  As a teacher, you “pull back the curtain” to help students see how various forms of information and knowledge are constructed. You emphasize the practice of critical thinking, helping students ask good “how” and “why” questions.

Spirit Guide: You are a listener of your students, and want to make sure that everything you do in the classroom connects to their immediate needs to understand themselves and their lives. Students likely find you trustworthy, and may even confide in you in ways that they do not for other teachers. You know media is just one facet of student life, and you want to engage with it to help them through the highs and lows of life in all of its challenges and opportunities.

ALT: You are an inventive, perhaps “DIY,” teacher. You’re always ready to challenge students with alternative ways of finding, using, thinking about, and making media in the classroom. Whether you use open source programs on school computers, encourage students to start alternative clubs or magazines, or introduce students to media that’s “off the beaten path” of mainstream and mass media, you are likely a key proponent of broadening students’ understanding of the many different ways that people can communicate in the world.

Professional: You have high standards for your students’ work, and you may be seen as the go-to media professional in your school. You know how to push your students to understand and emulate the professional conventions that is important to being taken seriously in the world of media creation. To help students enter the real world of media creation, you bring other authors, professionals, and media-makers into your classroom to enrich the learning experience.

I also introduce my class via Kermit the Frog. All of this is to say, I'm probably Rivers Cuomo from Weezer. Part indie, dressed a little stiffer than I'd like, and I give you what you get: a dose of hits and a couple of really bad experiments.

Caption: Video created via gifyoutube.com from the Keep Fishin' video.

Media Literacy

1 min read

Basic Definition

Media literacy is the ability to ACCESSANALYZEEVALUATECREATE, and ACT using all forms of communication. 

In its simplest terms, media literacy builds upon the foundation of traditional literacy and offers new forms of reading and writing.

Media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens.

(source)

Customizing the Wordpress Installation in Installatron

3 min read

I got a question on how to customize the Wordpress packages inside of a Domain of One's Own instance so I thought I'd share how we do it. I recently wrote about how OU Create was "shipping with Hypothes.is" so I understand why some folks are interested in curating themes and plugins for their specific community. We don't auto-install themes (mostly to keep Wordpress installations light and quick) but we do have a handful of different plugins, most of which are security recommendations such as Cookies for Comments. Anyways, to customize Installatron, you need to login to WHM, navigate to Installatron, and then head over to Customize:

Here is the custom code we have in that box:

What you can see is that there are three specific functions that one call call in order to activate plugins/themes (there's also some specific code for MediaWiki, which is basically a useless applications at its core, and requires several different plugins to even be worth your time--I'm ranting because I sort of despise of MediaWiki!)

The first is that you need to register the zip file, usually located in the Wordpress plugin/theme library, though it's not mandatory:

$this->registerArchive("hypothesis","https://downloads.wordpress.org/plugin/hypothesis.0.4.7.zip", "zip");

Next, you'll want to install the plugin/theme into the correct directory:

$o->extract("hypothesis", "wp-content/plugins");

You'll want to change /plugins to /themes if it's a theme

Last, you'll want to decide whether you activate it or not. We have chosen to install Hypothes.is but not activate it, allowing the user to make that decision. But in the event you want to activate it, you'll want to tack it on to this array:

>$o->db_query("UPDATE `{$o->db_prefix}options` SET `option_value`=? WHERE `option_name`='active_plugins' LIMIT 1",array( serialize(array("cookies-for-comments/cookies-for-comments.php","wordpress-importer/wordpress-importer.php","subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php")) ));

As I said earlier, I'm a fan of customized approaches for different community needs. My recommendation is to pick a few specific tools or looks for your community (I always recommend Anders Noren themes) but only pick a few. Otherwise you'll installation file size will jump and really bog down the server and make users unhappy.

It's also worth mentioning that at OU we are standing on the shoulders of giants as this code as been adapted from the University of Mary Washington's Domain of One's Own installation, which was coded by Tim Owens and Martha Burtis. We aren't anything without that team.

Fresh Graffiti on the Wisdom Wall

3 min read

I've previously written about my love of the "wisdom wall," a technique I picked up from the good folks at CSU Channel Islands. Basically, you have students write advice to the next semester of students. I have them do this via Google Form and then add all of these to the class wiki. Well it turns out I forgot to check it in May and just now remembered it. This was a nice pick-me-up in the summer because students sometimes write funny stuff like this:

Go to class because it makes Professor Croom sad, plus he plays music so it's nice to work in class.

It's true. I do get sad in the Spring when students magically disappear towards the end of the semester. By the way, this person would never call me "professor" to my face. Why do students want to sound so formally when they submit assignments?! 

Ironically, the last entry is this:

Don't procrastinate. Start working on your project the day that it's assigned and build it continuously until the due date. You'll get your best product from working on the design at different points throughout the creative process (time wise).

Hey, some of us are just who we are! 

But then occasionally someone also writes something that's thoughtful and rather brilliant. Like this student:

I've thought about these 3 things since I started thinking about the summary of learning. I think students should hear it from someone who already went through the class:1.Make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to mess up and start over. Change your mind as many times as you have to because you’ll only learn if you’re not afraid to try everything. It’s okay if the right idea takes ten tries.

2.Don’t settle for good, don’t strive for perfect. I can’t remember which lesson mentioned this but at some point I remember hearing that you only know you’re improving if you realize how good your work actually is. Maybe you don’t know how to do better but at least you know that you can, that you’re not putting forth your best work. At the same time, this is still a beginner course, it’s okay if your work is not as professional as you would like it to be. Try your best and practice will eventually result in improvement.

3.Make time. I learned this the hard way and I would change it if I could. Make time to work on your designs outside of class time, make time to post on the blog, make time for the quizzes. Just make time. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Man oh man! Students got me all feeling the feels!

Human Scale Technology

1 min read

To me, the idea of human scale is critical. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that every idea must scale. That thinking is distracting, closes us off from great opportunities, and invites unnecessary complexity.

 
Turn down the amplifier a little bit. Stay small. Allow for human correction and adjustment. Build for your community, not the whole world.
 
At this scale, everybody counts. (source)

Don't Call This Gamification

1 min read

Reality Ends Here was an environmental game at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) where students would secretly enter a hidden, optional, and unofficial game designed to serendipitous spark collaborative media-making. Don't call this gamification.

Gamification is the application of points and badges and other representations onto real-world behaviors under the assumption that such application will motivate or “incentivize” said behaviors. We believe that gamification is a crude behavioral control system masquerading as innocent marketing. That is not what games are, or have been, or ever will be. We define a game as a set of rules and procedures that generates problems and situations that demand inventive solutions. A game is about play and creativity and surprise. Real play isn’t about motivating people to do things; it’s about channeling and challenging motivations that are already there in order to create new meanings and possibilities. Gamification is about “checking in” and ticking off boxes. Never confuse the two. At the very least, you will piss off any game designers within earshot (source).

A longer, more formal explanation exists in dissertation form. (Article)

Assignment Bank "Builds"

3 min read

I'm working on a new course for the fall called Ad Copy and Layout. It will be very similar to PR Publications but, of course, focused towards advertising. So, in a sense, it's sort of like I'm getting the chance to redesign PR Publications. I'm going to play the hits and utilize two of Alan Levine's tools he created for DS106 including the Daily Create (I'll be having students write a daily headline) and the Assignment Bank for weekly "challenges."

I'm currently working on the bank right now and it's coming along quite well. I plan to write a much more comprehesive post on the course once the Fall rolls around but just going to be jotting a few notes down in the meantime.

So, as I mentioned, the bank will be used for challenges related to each unit. Some units are more fundamental (design theory, copywriting) while other are more comprehesive (build a campaign, design a brandmark). Here's a preview of some of the copywriting challenges:

If you read the titles, you'll notice that some of them are very self-contained exercises like "Hire a Celebrity Spokesperson" while others are more bite-size chunks of lengthier processes. For instance, "create a product description document" would being a portion of the research process that leads into informing your copywriting.

One thing I was thinking about is for larger bank projects (design a billboard campaign), I could potentially want students to first go through the process of creating a product description document (another challenge). Further, students could want to rework a research and discovery chalenge that they would be valuable before getting started.

So here's my question: How could one build on top of the assignment bank the ability for instructors OR students to parlay different challenges together to make a challenge made up of several challenges?

An example: I could also create a bank of challenges that had a social component (work with a partner, utilize a collaborative document, etc.) and a student could do a "build" (thanks Keegan for suggesting this as the term for the concept) that equals product description doc + work with a partner + design a billboard campaign.

It would give a real modular plug-and-play aspect to the challenge bank and allow students to come up with ways of putting together assignments that I would have never imagined before.

I'm trying to figure out how this could technically work. Each assignment bank option has its own specific tag ("Challenge45," "Challenge56" etc.). I wonder if I could create a custom page type that showed how these are strung together (45 + 56) that could act as a way for people to see different Builds that have been completed.

As always, this is a very nascent idea, one where comments and suggestions would be highly appreciated!

Clinton and the Valley (Testing Known Syndication)

1 min read

This was originally posted at notes.adamcroom.com on my Known installation. If all works, this should end up at acroom.wikity.cc. Let's try some WIkity formatting:

The idea that Mrs. Clinton is less likely than Mr. Sanders to let government get in the way of the Valley’s creativity and enterprise is one of her strongest selling points. Another is her pedigree as a Washington insider.

Al Gore, Bill Clinton’s vice president, was the White House’s ambassador to the tech community and helped connect public schools to the internet. In the years since, battles over net neutrality, intellectual property and privacy have shown companies here the value of friends in Washington. This has helped raise millions for Mrs. Clinton, with more on the way. (source)

 

Cloning from a Jekyll Github Repo to Reclaim Hosting

4 min read

The tl;dr : My course site is now being hosted on OU Create via Reclaim Hosting as well as Github. This means I own it, first and foremost, but also have Github as a means of sharing the resource and as a backup hosting solution. To learn more, check out an earlier blog post, find my course site here, and the Github repo here.

--

Tim Owens wrote a very clear tutorial on how to now host Jekyll blogs on Reclaim Hosting. This was super news as I've been wanting to do this for two main reasons:

1. Add SSL which is not currently supported on Github pages. This is important to me as I drop the course site into our LMS which will not show the site if it hasn't been secured.

2. Not be solely reliant on Github for hosting. Would much prefer to have the site self-hosted with Github Pages available for both broader sharing and redundancy.

Below I'm going to walk through how I did it, mostly for my own memory, as this is arguably a very niche need. But happy to share for those who are also interested.

First, I followed Tim's blog post on how to enable Jekyll on CPanel. This is fairly straight forward. I'm iving the cliff notes here as Tim explains it better, but go to "Setup the Ruby app."

Then SSH into your server (I did this via terminal), enter your virtual environment (mine is source /home/anyhennk/rubyvenv/jekyll/2.2/bin/activate and then run gem install jekyll.

I then navigated into my my public_html via cd public_html and then made my way into the prpubs.us directory (cd_prpubs.us).

Next, I created the folder "ghsummer16" with the mkdir ghsummer16 command.

Now we get into the Github part. Tim was kind enough to enable git across the OU Create servers for me. This led me to then run through a handful of git commands:

First, git init to initial an empty Git repo.

Then, git remote add origin https://github.com/prpubs/summer16.git

Followed by git fetch --all (which fetched what I had identified as the origin). This led to the following code.

Fetching origin

remote: Counting objects: 372, done.

remote: Compressing objects: 100% (158/158), done.

remote: Total 372 (delta 88), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 209

Receiving objects: 100% (372/372), 22.83 MiB | 966 KiB/s, done.

Resolving deltas: 100% (168/168), done.

From https://github.com/prpubs/summer16

 * [new branch]      gh-pages   -> origin/gh-pages

 * [new branch]      master     -> origin/master

 * [new branch]      pr/1       -> origin/pr/1

Here, I screwed up and pulled the origin/master with git pull origin master instead of gh-pages (more on that later).

Now I needed to do the Jekyll build. First, as Tim mentions, run gem install bigdecimal to ward off errors message. Then run jekyll build.

Next (because I screwed up earlier) I switched to the gh-pages branch with git checkout gh-pages and another jekyll build command.

Next, I need to have a URL point to the _site folder within the directory. So I setup the subdomain jekyllsummer.prpubs.us to point to prpubs.us/ghsummer16/_site.

And finally I added SSL via Let's Encrypt which is built into the CPanel (free SSL cert!)

And I'm good to go!

Yes, this explanation is quick and dirty and doesn't give a lot of context. Sorry about that (that's why it's over on the notebook instead of the better blog :-). AGAIN, I highly suggest you first read Tim's post and use only as needed!

Quick Medium-Like Card Styling For The Blog

3 min read

As much as I lament the idea of Medium becoming the sole publishing space for the web, I am also unapologetic in how much I love the look and feel of it. And it's no secret that I've tried to mimick the style on my own self-hosted blog to get the best of both worlds; the clean, readable, mobile first astethic of Medium with the portability of my own site. While the blog spent six months on the Jekyll platform and was hosted on Github, I started to really miss the ease of the Wordpress editor (which is, smartly, continuing to be improved on with the release of WP 4.5 yesterday).

As I was surfing Medium today, I noticed the subtleness of their card style:

For now, let's ignore the "Write here..." front-end editor which I ALSO love but warrants a different post. Notice that Medium has a very light gray background color (fafafa). In fact, their CSS has it coded as "backgroundGrayLightest." Then for the card box they use white with a very subtle dropshadow to make it pop out. What's nice about this styling is it's very transferrable. Most objects exist in some "card" form. It might not be a perfect shaped, but a webpage (usually) the sum of rectangles. This is good news because that means you can mimick this look with nearly any other, so I thought, "Why not?" and gave it a go on adamcroom.com.

Looking again at Medium's CSS, I was able to pull this styling on the card:

 

background: ;
box-shadow: 0 1px 4px rgba(0,0,0,.04);
border: 1px solid rgba(0,0,0,.09);
border-radius: 3px

This is all very standard CSS and very compatible. So that's good news. The next thing I did was to identify what box I want to add the background and shadow. I usually do this work backwards using Google Chrome's Inspect tool. You'll notice as I jog through the code Chrome will highlight all of these hidden boxes that make up my the webpage.

 

This allows me to quickly identify the equivalent box around post summarys in my custom WP theme as .blog-simple ul .entry-header and drop in the exact same styling Medium uses to get this:

And this kind of stuff is what I love about the web. As Jon Udell recently pointed out, this feature to look at the styling has been critical in the history of the web:

The original 1996 CSS spec, for example, recommended that browsers enable users to override publisher-defined style sheets. CSS recognized that the needs of publishers and readers are in dynamic tension. Publishers decide how they want readers to see their pages, but readers can decide differently.

As a reader, I can manipulate Medium's styling. By being able to look at it, I can learn from it or even change it within the browser if I choose.

This is simple stuff and I've been doing this kind of tossed together poor man's way of coding for a long time, but I never grow tired of it.The beauty and simplicity of the web brings out the primal in me.

Actually, Donald Grump Invented the MOOC

2 min read

Arguably academia's most well known historian of MOOCs (known in some circles as the hMOOCs), Dr. Rolin Moe, has written an article titled Trump Invented the MOOC citing Donald Trump as the true innovator of the MOOCs. This turned MOOC history, as I previously understood it, on it's head. You see, I was under the impression that Sesame Street was the first MOOC (although popular edtech writer Audrey Watters argues that this is an inaccurate interpretation of the research). So this gumshoe is back to crack the case and I believe I have uncovered what seems to be a way in which I can cling to my MOOC creationist beliefs of Sesame Street while also accepting this new uncovered research from Dr. Moe. World, today I bring to you, Donald Grump.

It's really the only logical conclusion to a very convoluted debate. Grump, who debuted in 2005, long before the Downes/Siemens cMOOC, is characters in the Muppet Wiki like so:

Donald Grump is a Grouch who has more trash than any other Grouch in the world (and often brags to others about it). It is said that he has so much trash that it spills out of his trash can.

It's clear that Grump is not one to keep his trash to himself, but he is, in fact, charitable enough, to spread his trash broadly (some would even in say in a massive fashion). This philanthropic move is one that should be admired in Grouch history and arguably education technology history as well, should Roe's findings pass the test of time.

So there you have it. Watch Grump in action captured on YouTube with Elmo the Grouch:

Exporting from OU Create

1 min read

In my Create Promise blog post a couple weeks back, one of the pieces I said we would follow up on was documentation on leaving OU Create, our domain of one's own initiative.

To us, data portability is highly important. One of the bigger losses with institutional solutions is that students tend to lose access to them shortly after graduation. We want to make it clear that every piece of data from your domain, your CPanel, as well as the files and databases themselves, can be packed up and moved as you move. Additionally, Reclaim Hosting has made it "one-click" easy to simply transfer everything over to them allowing you to pay them directly. The good-and-wise John Stewart was helpful enough to write up some new documentation articles for us over on the OU Create docs:

We are also gearing up for end-of-year communication with students who will be graduating to make sure they are aware of all the options available to them. Last, we're open to suggestions on any new documentation articles that anybody thinks would be of value!

Using Known and RSS to Power an Email Newsletter

7 min read

I've busted out Known on a new subdomain. I used it in the past as a way to reclaim my tweets. At the heart of Known is the idea of syndication. It really is a very powerful application for those who wish to deploy the POSSE (publish on own site, syndicate elsewhere). One app to power all the other apps. Thus, I can orignate a status update and then send it to my social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And when I finally give up on Facebook (it's essentially already happened... and, Twitter, you aren't doing yourself any favors), one can turn off that channel and not worry about having to export their content. Something new comes up and you want to syndicate there? Hook it up to the hub and syndicate away.

I've decided that, while I liked that approach, I want to use Known a little bit differently this time around. It's going to be more of a space for me to file articles I'm reading and jot quick notes and thoughts. While many applications are focused around blogging or micro blogging, Known has support for photo, audio, video, and bookmark syndication as well. So you'll now find notes.adamcroom.com as my primarily space to see my public filing cabinet and adamcroom.com will serve as my space for concerte, long form writing (this will syndicate to Wordpress for instance :-) ).

Shortly after firing up notes.adamcroom.com, Jon Becker sent out a tweet that may or may not (probably didn't) coincide with that announcement thinking about Known as a bus for newsletters.

This is a really interesting idea that I was willing to play around with. I'm actually pretty fond of email newsletters (email is dead, love live email). Mostly because i don't spend that much time in front of Twitter and miss a lot of the activity (if only someone could algorithimically feed me what I wanted! ;-) ). So I appreciate Stephen Downe's OLDaily and Audrey Watters TinyLetter and Maria Popova's Brainpickings weekly digest. To me they are sort of like magazines, which was and still is one of my favorite mediums.

Known has a hearty amount of RSS integration at various levels across the platform, so subscription is fairly easy. You can subscribe to my entire Notes RSS Feed:

http://notes.adamcroom.com/?_t=rss

Or by content type such as Bookmarks:

http://notes.adamcroom.com/content/bookmarkedpages/?_t=rss

Or even my specific hashtags:

http://notes.adamcroom.com/tag/hashtag/?_t=rss

Once upon a time, one of my job duties was to create a daily newsletter for our department that featured important news and, in fact, I did this with a combination of both RSS and Mailchimp. At the time, I was working for the Economic Development department so I pulled together a list of 50-or-so publications on my RSS Reader (Google Reader and then later Feedly) that spanned local, state level, and national level news that related to higher education, technology transfer, economic development, and policy. I then leveraged an If This Then That trigger to move everything I favorited into a Delicious feed. The point of this was to create ONE mega RSS feed of my Feedly favorites.

Then I used Mailchimp's RSS-Driven Campaign feature to fire out a daily email.

Every morning Mailchimp would crawl the RSS feed and, in the event anything new had been added since its previous crawl, it would spit out a nice little email like this:

While this was simply a department level newsletter at first, we started to quickly have other folks around the institution subscribe to it as well. Which was pretty cool.

From Known to Mailchimp

Anyways, the new question is what does this look like with Known? I decided I would play around with setting up a newsletter based on my bookmarks, so one could get a sense of what I was reading if they really wanted to. Because I'm already curating, this removes any need for a fancy IFTTT hook. So I've gone ahead and generated a new Mailchimp campaign and plugged in my Known Bookmarks RSS feed as the feed source.

Mailchimp provides a few basic templates that populate items based on the RSS metadata and Mailchimp provides a nice page of their RSS Merge Tags. I've chosen a basic template for the newsletter:

I've made a couple of edits (such as remove the company logo) as well as changed one merge tag from "CONTENT_FULL" to "CONTENT" to make it a little easier on the eyes.

Now I move into Preview mode to see if it all populates and whadya know, we got a fully working automated newsletter:

So, as you can see, with bookmarks, *|RSSFEED:TITLE|* is what shows up as the title of the article. That works. I can also confirm that it properly pulls the link. Thankfully, Known's RSS feed properly pulls the link to the original article. So if you click "READ MORE," which corresponds with the Mailchimp RSS merge tag *|RSSITEM:URL|*, you will be directed to the original post and not my post on the post. In fact, it doesn't look like Mailchimp has the capability to link to the Known post itself as nothing matches up to the RSS Tag . On the flip side, looking at the RSS feed, Known doesn't seem to carry over any info from the original article other than the title and the link. Thus, the publish date is equated to when you publish on Known and the author is the Known author (not the original author). Thus, I recommend removing the author field from Mailchimp as to not confuse the reader on who wrote the post itself.

I've gone ahead and mocked up what gets added to the Known RSS feed as well as the Mailchimp RSS Merge Tag equivalent:

It does looks like *|RSSITEM:CONTENT|* pulls the Known content text box (not content from the original post). I use the context box to pull out quotes I found interesting, but one could also use it to contextual something, similar to what Stephen Downes does for the OLDaily.

Jon also brought up a very valid point on the "humanness" of an approach like this:

And I totally accept that. There is something about receiving this newsletter that feels a bit... sterile. As opposed to Audrey's newsletter which is clearly "hand" written and specifically curated for that audience. Yet while the idea of getting a weekly well-written letter from Audrey weekly is infinity better than robots, I still see value in the automated process as well if only opens up another choice for the end-user to decide the medium in which they consume the media. And to that end choice is, ultimately, the broader value of syndication. This is why data flow and interopability is so important (again--Twitter. Let's be honest that you only got off the ground because your open API allowed users to interact with Twitter in places such as mobile apps three years before you built your own acquired one). So, please, engage with my content however you see fit, be it via coming to my website, subscribing to the RSS feed, or the low tech approach of email. Or don't engage. :-)

For those of you who really want an autogenerated weekly email sent to you based off of my Known Bookmarks (or just want to see it in action), have at it!

Subscribe to Adam's Weekly Notebook Email

*indicates required
 

Testing Known Syndication to Wordpress

1 min read

Did this magic work?