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UMW Domains a Win for Open

Audrey Watters has been on an all-out tear over at Hack Education as she wraps up the year in edtech. Few, if any, in the field are sharper, more concise, and resolutely independent of the institutional and corporate entanglements that pervade this space. I’ll echo so many others who have recognized how unbelievably important her voice is as a result. That said, working independently, speaking freely, and calling out so many on their nonsense doesn’t always pay the rent, so to help ameliorate this UMW’s DTLT would like to provide a standing offer of a job for Audrey when she finally decides to settle down ;)

Until then, I totally support her writing things like what follows when ennumerating the many “wins for open” in her recent post  Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2013: The Battle for ‘Open’:”

University of Mary Washington’s “Domain of One’s Own” initiative (one of the very best things in ed-tech right now) has been picked up by other universities, including Emory and Davidson. Also, in addition to the Domain of One’s Own project, we saw efforts to “Reclaim Your Domain” and to Reclaim Hosting.

I know I’m biased, but I have to agree with Audrey 100% that Domain of One’s Own and its Reclaim tributaries are amongst the best things happening in edtech right now. And while I may have let myself get overly excited at the prospect of building on these initiatives independently over the next year as a Shuttleworth fellow, especially since I recently found out that won’t be happening, it doesn’t dull my enthusiasm in the least. Shuttleworth would have provided some nice start-up funds and a certain amount of geographical freedom for my family and I, but in the end that’s all it would have provided. The idea is still there, the people interested are still awesome, and the rejection by Shuttleworth just makes me that much more determined to make it all work.

I’ve had some time over the last week to consider what my plan will be for the coming year, and I’m doubling down on what we’re doing at UMW with Domain of One’s Own. We already have the infrastructure, the institutional support, and an amazing community of faculty, staff, and students. I’ve let myself get pulled in way too many directions this last semester between the idea of becoming a Shuttleworth fellow, entertaining  job offers, and negotiating structural shifts at UMW. That’s my fault, and I take full blame for the fractured attention to my work. But hope springs eternal, and it’s high time I put all of the distractions aside and start focusing all my energy on Domain of One’s Own. It’s what I want to do anyway, and I’m realizing I don’t need a fellowship or new surroundings for it to seem fresh. My work at UMW is not yet done, it’s time to recognize that and get locked in again!

But first I have to enjoy the next three weeks in Italy.

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Davidson Domains

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 5.15.26 PMDavidson College just announced they were awarded a Mellon Grant “to create a curricular model of digital studies that can be replicated by other small liberal arts colleges.” Pat Sellers coordinated the grant and Mark Sample will be the lead for developing the curricular model. I was particualrly excited that one of the centerpieces of the grant will include “Davidson Domains” which in many ways reinforces some of the work we’re doing with Domain of One’s Own:

Among these initiatives is “Davidson Domains,” which will provide every Davidson student a unique domain name and access to an open source platform like WordPress. The Web domain will serve as a foundation students’ online presence at Davidson and beyond. As students progress through the Davidson curriculum, they will learn how to add content to the domain from any aspect of their experience. Students might use it to display outstanding assignments, samples of internship work or research experience, and more.

This is awesome for Davidson, it’s also awesome for UMW Domains and Reclaim Hosting to help reinforce the value of some of the work we’ve been doing along these lines. External validation works wonders in-house, as I’m sure many of you know. It also helps establish that both the technical and curricular integration of something like Domain of One’s Own are not nearly as crazy as they might have seemed just a year ago. I want to believe we’re beginning to witness a subtle, yet profound, shift in thinking about how institutions can invest in a future of educational technology that is premised around networks that enable everyone on campus to help imagine what’s possible from their own online platforms. The secret sauce is working through how we can divine a sense of coherence as a campus community through syndication, aggregation, and generative juxtaposition. I really think that the fact  that Davidson Domains has framing their digital studies curriculum in this way further buoys my sense that this approach defintiely has legs.

It also reaffirms what Mike Caulfield noted on Twitter a while back ;)

Boss just asked me why she’d never heard of UMW and #ds106 if it was so influential. Told her UMW was like the Velvet Underground of edtech.