, , , , , , , , , , ,

Back in the Burg

I’ve been back in the Burg for the last 10 days working from Reclaim’s HQ on a range of stuff. As a result the bava has been a bit quiet given the push to get as much done as possible in a relatively short time frame. I’ve been able to get some of my stuff out of storage on the first day of my return, which has been on focus of the trip. I’ve been going through boxes of toys, books, movies, and more which is always a fun past time for me. I’m figuring out how to get my stuff overseas in the next month os so, but until then I am using CoWork’s unclaimed spaces as a temporary waylay station. 

This rip-up brought to you by Civic TV

Paint it Black

We have also been working quite diligently on making Reclaim Video a reality, which has been quite a blast. I’ll post more on that soon, but we did a pretty intense carpet and tile rip as well as began painting the store, which Lauren blogged about earlier today. Watching the space come together has been a dream come true—I’ve pretty much wanted to run a VHS store since I was a pre-teen, so this is pretty exciting.

Pioneer DVL-700

I have also been doing some shopping for VHS tapes, laserdiscs, game consoles, and more. I went to Fat Kat Records 20 minutes south of here in Ladysmith and picked up a ton of mint laserdiscs as well as a mint Pioneer DVL700. I even tested it out with a showing of Red Dawn …. WOLVERINES!

Red Dawn Title

When the Mongols could see each other they had worked themselves up into a pretty good frenzy.

I’ve also been a regular at the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus in Culpepper, VA, which has been amazing. I got to see Sense and Sensibility, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Last Picture Show, and Lawrence of Arabia , all of them in glorious 35mm. I even missed a few gems like Guess Who’s coming to Dinner, A River Runs Through It, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen—world enough and time!

Packard Campus February Program

But that’s alright, there’s always March!

Packard Campus March Schedule

I was a little sad to learn that Culpepper’s 1938 State Theater had closed after only being re-opened for two years. There was a major funding drive to get investors help refurbish and re-open Culpepper’s movie house at the tune of $13 million dollars, It was an impressive remodeling to restore it to its original glory. I had the good fortune to see Independence Day there in 2014. But that was then, since it has gone defunct and just a few weeks ago it was auctioned to the highest bidder for $700,000.

I was also able to rekindle my ds106 roots with a quick stop by UMW yesterday to record a  video for The End 106 with the great Martha Burtis. She’s a genius.

 And later that afternoon I actually got back in the classroom after a long hiatus to talk to to an awesome group of students in Eddie Maloney’s graduate course Technology Innovation by Design, which is part of Georgetown’s new Masters program in Learning and Design. It was a thrill to talk to student who want to think critically about the future of educational design, and I’ll write more about my approach in a follow-up post. I do miss the classroom, it is always a lot of fun for me—but damn I tend to talk a lot.

Anyway, if nothing else, this post serves as a roadmap for all the posts I need to write after taking a bit of a hiatus from the blog in order to dig in a bit while here in the US. it’s been quite nice to work alongside Meredith, Lauren, and Tim in CoWork—it’s been a welcome change to reconnect in person with the awesome crew that makes Reclaim so damn good.

, ,

Reclaim’s Fantastic Four

Yesterday was a special day, Reclaim Hosting grew to four full-time employees with the hiring of Meredith Fierro. Four is the perfect number for a super group, wouldn’t you agree? Needless to say, the costumes are on order. Meredith worked as an intern in Spring, a part-time employee over the Summer, and as of yesterday we made it official. Meredith will be focusing on support, and she is already bringing some of that Digital Knowledge Center magic to Reclaim. Our timing was perfect given this Fall has been quite busy, but I believe we’re handling it like, well, spandex-clad super heroes.

Read more

, , , , , , , ,

Muhlenberg College: The ‘Berg Builds

This post has sat in draft for almost three weeks while I finished traveling and decompressing from a month on the road. Like Cogdog, I have been a tired blogger these days, but unlike Alan I haven’t always been able to push through it. But maybe that’s not all bad, because during that down time there have been a number of other posts about the event at Muhlenberg by the people who are making it happen! Blogging is everything, indeed!  I would encourage you to check those posts out, and thankfully Lora Taub-Pervizpour provided an awesome round-up post with links to many of them.

Read more

, , ,

Some Hosting Advice for Reclaim

Hosting Advice feature on Reclaim Hosting

A month or so ago Alexandra Leslie of Hosting Advice reached out to us to find out a bit about who we are (i.e. Reclaim Hosting) and how we got started. Turns out they got wind of this small, niche hosting company that predominantly serves educators and students, and they were intrigued. While I was traveling in the UK they published a feature blog post about Reclaim Hosting that recounts our story—and I have to say it was pretty cool to read it. I think we’ve been so deep in the day-to-day of running Reclaim that it’s easy to forget there is a pretty cool story arc developing around this work, and it includes a broad community of folks that want to take ed-tech back from the venture capitalists, data fascists, and boring ass learning management systems.  Read more
, , , , ,

Coffee and #ds106 at FredXchange

CYw1qiyWcAAUQyn I am back in Fredericksburg for a few days for some business and house cleaning. I head up to NYC on Tuesday, so it will be a fairly quick turn here, but it's always exhilarating to spend some quality time with my pardner Tim Owens. Yesterday was particularly eventful because we we're invited to talk at an Open Coffee Event hosted at the Foundry, the new co-working space  in Fredericksburg brought to you by the good people of the FredXchange. 12407529_203904386621759_989721171_n The story of how this came about is another bizarre testament to the wonder of the web. Libby O'Malley, one of the movers and shakers behind FredXchange, emailed me out of the blue a few weeks back asking me if I wanted to talk with the folks at the FredXchange about the venerable and righteously right ds106. She informed me that she had found out about that international gem through doing a google search for "Digital Marketing Degree," and ds106 was mentioned as a free alternative in an article that was a top-hit . I think it may have been this article, but I'm not sure. Look ma, no SEO!!! Crazy, I told her I am in Italy living like a pimp daddy in the old country, to which she suggested I come in via Google Chat. As much as I love the internet, I hate remote presentations. They can be done well, but the amount of work it takes to create the conditions of a good remote presentation versus simply being there is staggering. That said, I did know I would be in Freddy for a few days and threw that out and she agreed. I'm glad she did. 12547195_217760811892155_1759698265_n I have been in repose in my mountain villa in Italy mustering as much thought leader mojo as possible. It's hard work, and I don't recommend it for the faint of heart. Being a visionary is extremely demanding, especially in a country that is steeped in the hairy legacy of Lucio Battisti. But ed-tech pioneers persevere, and I knew it was time to get back on the road after 3 months of intensive meditation. And what did I do? I got nostalgic about the past---but I blame that on my new surroundings. More seriously, I hadn't presented for a few months, which is a good while for me. It felt good to talk about ds106. It just never gets old, and once I get going I feel as passionate about it as I did in 2011. It was pure in my heart. Tim and I didn't have a presentation prepared, or even a plan really. We talked briefly about an outline on the car ride over. Early days of the Bluehost experiment at UMW -> UMW Blogs -> ds106 -> Domain of One's Own -> Reclaim Hosting. It's interesting to look at that narrative progression and to see ds106 at the center of the story. I think that's pretty accurate. ds106 galvanized a community, brought Tim and I into contact, and reaffirmed that the Domain of One's Own experiment wasn't all that crazy at scale. I took the first 10-15 minutes talking about the Blue Host Experiment, UMW Blogs, and the beginnings of ds106, and Tim took the last 10-15 minutes talking ds106, Domain of One's Own, and Reclaim Hosting. 10413901_1645532262375051_656298805_n-1 It was quite fun, and I really enjoyed being back in front of a group of people talking about this stuff with Tim. One of the things about my work with Tim that is so rewarding is that we truly do have an amazing partnership. We agree on the fundamental principles undergirding Reclaim Hosting: fierce independence and freedom online! What's more, we push each other to keep going further. Tim has an insane standard for the quality of work and support that defines Reclaim, and every day I wake up knowing that it is the goal. When people come to Reclaim they get the best ed-tech support anywhere. Period. I stand by that statement. Try me, I dare you. It was awesome to be back in Fredericksburg hanging with Tim Owens sharing the work we've done thus far and planning for what's to come. In short, taking care of dot.bizness.
, , , ,

Lunch with the Torrances

During a discussion I had with a group of faculty this evening about managing their own domains, one professor asked how he might approach blogging in his film class. Because I can’t help myself, I immediately mentioned to GIFs as a way to capture and analyze specfic moments in a film. A way to pepper a textual analysis with the visual manna. I quickly introduced the Video to Gif tool on Imgur to demonstrate how simple this could be for him and his students. While screen sharing to a room full of faculty I was able to create and embed an animated GIF in less than 3 minutes. THAT is technological progress!

This simple GIF of Danny and Wendy enjoying a wholesome PB&J before all hell breaks loose was created from this Shining trailer on YouTube in seconds. More than anything, this example underscores a domain isn’t necessarily a neat, packaged solution to digital pedagogy, but rather the place you chronicle and archive frequent, free-wheeling jaunts all over the web. And the more GIFs the better.

, , , , , , ,

The Un-education of a Technologist: From EDUPUNK to ds106

Below are the slides and a transcript of the text I planned to follow when I delivered my talk this morning at the EDEN Annual Conference in Barcelona. That said, I didn’t keep to the script because I get too excited and just ran with things. Let this be the record of what I wanted to say, not what I said

Into the Maelstrom

“Amidst the tumult, the academy appears oddly complacent. Open source technology, open access publication, open education have all had their successes, but none of these movements could fairly be described as having transformed practice. Models of publishing, reviewing and assessing research have not fundamentally changed. Innovation in teaching is at the margins, the essential structures of curriculum and assessment wholly unchanged. Educational technology, far from revolutionizing practice, seems primarily dedicated to perpetuating it: ‘clickers’ provide a sheen of interactivity in the cavernous lecture hall; ‘learning management systems’ promise to protect its users from the raging uncertainties of the digital chaos.” – http://unartist.wpmued.org/

 

This was the opening paragraph of an article Brian Lamb and I wrote for the Universities and Knowledge Societies Journal (RUSC) of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in April of 2009. We wrote most of it in late 2008, early 2009 and as the abstract notes in RUSC:

Two educational technologists and webloggers present a series of vignettes, contemplating the effects of modern networked communication on their practice. Recognizing their inability to construct a synthetic theory amidst the maelstrom, they curate a collection of observations and manifestos emphasizing themes of personal publishing, spontaneous collaborations, learning on the open web, and syndication.

The line “recognizing their inability to construct a synthetic theory amidst the maelstrom” is maybe one of my all time favorite research article abstracts ever Thank you RUSC! But one of the things that’s interesting as I return to this article almost seven years later (what is that in Web 2.0 tech years?) is how so many of the curated vignettes around personal spaces, the open web, spontaneous connections, distributed collaborations, and syndication still remain core to a vision of what a revolutionary publishing and pedagogical practice might look like on the web.

What’s more, I’m an optimist. I think we are getting closer and closer to realizing that vision, and thanks to folks like Audrey Watters we may even be getting somewhere with a more “synthetic theory amidst the maelstrom,” i.e. the ahistorical, techno-solutionism undergirding Silicon Valley is launching a full frontal assault on the education sector.

In fact, the vignettes we list in that paper are the building blocks of this talk which loosely traces the work I‘ve been doing since writing that paper in December of 2008.

The vignette about “A Space of One’s Own” is a take on a “Domain of One’s Own,” an idea we have been playing with at UMW since 2007 or 2008. Give every student and faculty member their own domain and web hosting, and make them the “sysadmin of their own education,” to quote Gardner Campbell. The idea of building a university’s technical framework around personal cyber infrastructures was really radical just seven years ago, and arguably still is. But we have evidence that is possible, and can be the basis of an entire curriculum around web literacy and fluency.

The over-wrought section on revolutionary syndication buses was the basis of how we would build the Digital Storytelling course at UMW ds106 (#4life). A course that built on the idea of a personal cyberinfrastructre by giving all students their own domain and web hosting, but re-wired the course space as something that bring all that work back together. But not as an example of a creepy treehouse like Facebook or your favorite LMS, but as a distributed network that modeled itself on the web.

And ds106 reinforced, at least for me, two other vignettes from that paper, namely “serendipitous collaboration chains” and “spontaneous connections.” As we noted Stephen Downes note:  “Who cares if a few universities exchange learning content among themselves (not that this really happens a lot anyway)?” The more interesting models is how various individuals and groups forge entirely new collaborations and spontaneous connections that form networks above and beyond the institutional vision of “sharing.” This is where MOOCs began to fall down as a centralized approach to sharing that strayed away from anything resembling the web.

Speaking of MOOCs, our vignette about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may be one of the very first articles in an academic journal that says the “M” word. This was almost 3 years before the hype, and the logic undergirding MOOCs as they were laid out here was rather different. it wasn’t about marketing, colonial education, or efficiencies, it was about trying to understand how pedagogies of and for the web can be radically different.

EDUPUNK

This was all written and imagined during a moment when EDUPUNK was still a thing. Less than a year earlier Brian Lamb and I had began to articulate our dissatisfaction with how LMS companies like BlackBoard were making claims about being open and innovative when they had done nothing more than start to integrate a few basic practices that were predominant on the web rather badly into their LMS. It was insult to injury, because that company had done little to nothing in terms of innovating on their product for years. Again, with stridency and righteousness:

…if we reduce the conversation to technology, and not really think hard about technology as an instantiation of capital’s will to power, than anything resembling an EdTech movement towards a vision of liberation and relevance is lost. For within those ideas is not a technology, but a group of people, who argue, disagree, and bicker, but also believe that education is fundamentally about the exchange of ideas and possibilities of thinking the world anew again and again, it is not about a corporate mandate to compete—however inanely or nefariously—for market share and/or power. I don’t believe in technology, I believe in people.

-From “The Glass Bees” on bavatuesdays

The only moment either of us presented on EDUPUNK was when Brian Lamb delivered a really compelling talk of these very ideas back in 2010 right here in Barcelona at Zemos98.

EDUPUNK also became a victim of its own very mild success as an idea, and was soon a logic exercised when it comes to neocon logic of dismantling higher ed. Stuff I was very uncomfortable with, and ultimately had to right my Dear John letter in 2011 to an idea I was really smitten with:

DS106

But EDUPUNK and I never really split, we just changed its name to ds106. In the Spring of 2011 ds106 provided a beautiful the moment when so many of the ideas Brian and I were trying to wrap our heads around (personal spaces, spontaneous connections, serendipitous collaborations, syndication hubs, MOOCs, etc.) came together. But not so much as a synthetic theory, but as a practical application of how teaching and learning can be part and parcel of the web. How we can “descend into the Maelstrom” by studying the action of the whirlpool and cooperating with it—the quote from Malcolm McLuhan quoting Edgar Allen Poe that Brian Lamb used to frame the whole idea of working within the chaos.

But I am getting ahead of myself, what is ds106? Digital Storytelling (also affectionately known as ds106) is an open, online course that happens at various times throughout the year at the University of Mary Washington and elsewhere… but you can join in whenever you like and leave whenever you need. This course is free to anyone who wants to take it, and the only requirements are a real computer, a hardy internet connection, preferably a domain of your own and some commodity web hosting, and all the creativity you can muster.

ds106 opened up questions about infrastructure, architecture, student agency, pedagogy, and much more all at once. It wasn’t just about technology, it was about how the technology affords new ways for us to collaborate, share, and learn with and from one another.

One of its many great moments of this experiment came during the summer of 2011, during what is now referred to as the “Summer of Oblivion.”

“The idea was to have a daily radio/TV broadcast by Dr. Brian Oblivion (featured in the animate gif above), a character from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome who only ever appears as a mediated pedagogical presence on TV. The idea was to update this for 2011, and have this be an online, mediated pedagogical appearance only on the web. Effectively I took on an alternative teaching identity. I wanted to push myself in this course to not only experiment with and challenge some of the ideas we have about the role of the professor, online learning, and mediated communication…if I am not pushing myself to explore and be consumed by this media then it would run counter to the whole reason for the course in the first place. So, there it is, ds106: The Summer of Oblivion—but this analyzing is paralyzing, let’s play this dang thing!” from https://bavatuesdays.com/ds106-the-summer-of-oblivion/

And it looked something like this the first few days:

The course ran as an alternative reality in some ways, what Ray Land calls a “pedagogy of uncertainty.” By the end of the first week Dr. Oblivion went missing, the TA (jim Groom) came in and became a tyrant banishing students, and the class started to rebel. It was magic. Here is one of the student created videos about the upheaval of course power:

The idea of the class was about sense-making online, taking control of your digital presence, and imbuing a broader range of digital literacies and fluencies across tools, but more importantly managing one’s presence online.

Domain of One’s Own

This gave way to the Domain of One’s Own initiative at UMW that provides every student and faculty member their own domain and web hosting, providing a platform for a broader, institutional wide digital fluency toolkit, not to mention a sandbox for broader web-based exploration for everyone.

This took on a whole different level of thinking when I met up with Audrey Watters and Kin Lane at the Reclaim Hackathon at MIT sponsored by the DML. The ideas there continue to drive the work at UMW and beyond. Thinking in more focused ways about how we provide students and faculty a technical and curricular framework that provides more control over personal data. Ideas of University and personal APIs, virtualized server infrastructure, Docker, and much more. This is the beginning of what has become my new focus—Reclaiming. It’s also why I started with the demo. Based on the work we’ve done at UMW, my partner Tim Owens and I are working on a model that provides individuals, courses, departments, and/or universities with cheap, virtualized infrastructure to run this locally.  A way of decentralizing IT and edtech support. That’s Reclaim Hosting, and that’s the future!

, , , , ,

Dockers

s02e09_container 01

The above GIF is from an episode of The Wire during Season 2. The docks are ubiquitous in season 2, and this particular image is a visualization of a cloned machine that captures the vanishing container—presumably filled with illegal cargo. I’m fascinated by the representation of technology throughout the series, but season 2 in particular is really interesting. There’s the highlighting of a cultural move to digital cameras, the increasingly popularity of the web, GPS, and much more that’s constantly being discussed, but there’s also the radical changes to the physical technology of the dock. The first part of the following video features the presentation from Season 2, Episode 7 about the automation of the port of Rotterdam.

Frank Sobotka refers to this as a “horror movie” noting the eroding need of stevedores, but more generally labor. The automated container technology becomes a sign of labor’s vanishing past.

containers

At the same time the container systems that have redefined the way shipping works have metaphorically come to servers thanks to Docker.

Docker

To the degree I fully understand it, Docker provides an open platform for building, running, and shipping distributed applications. In other words, you can get a pre-configured container through Docker that has the proper server environment for running a specific application. For example, if you want to run the the forum software Discourse or the blog engine Ghost (which is what Tim Owens has figured out recently for Reclaim Hosting), we have a server that has the docker engine installed which allows us to quickly fire up different application environments and run them for anyone who requests it.

Docker

And we are grabbing those application images from an open repository of virtualized possibilities that helps us avoid become overly dependent on a closed platform like Amazon Web Services, which is a major bonus. Additionally, Tim is playing with Shipyard, which allows you to manage various containers and resources on your server. What strikes me about all of this is how the metaphorical language of docks, shipyards, and containers helps me wrap my head around this technology. What’s more, it’s cool to see it both through the eyes of Frank Sobotka and Tim Owens—two of my heroes :)