Reclaim EdTech

Yesterday was in many ways the start of something new, fun, and cool at Reclaim Hosting:  the first team meeting of Reclaim’s emergent instructional technology team. I realized during that two-hour-marathon-meeting-that-did-not-suck thatI have been waiting near-on nine years for this moment. I have dabbled in being a successful businessman, arcade owner, and rising Karaoke starlet (most noble pursuits :), but at the end of the day I’m a lowly instructional technologist. It’s the work that gives me the most pleasure and satisfaction, so knowing that we’re going to have a team exploring and sharing what’s possible with teaching and learning on the web brings me great joy.

Shining GIF

What’s more, the team comes with experience. Pilot Irwin was running the Domain of One’s Own project at Carleton College after being a freshly minted college graduate, and a year on the frontlines showing faculty, staff and students the power of the open web for teaching and learning has made their transition to Reclaim Hosting seamless. Not only have they thrived as an account manager for existing schools, but have joined at a perfect time to get in on the ground floor of edtech at Reclaim. The whole idea of pushing hard on instructional technology was born from the realization that an instructional technologist with years of experience, such as Taylor Jadin, might not only be interested in working at Reclaim Hosting, but have a strong vision for how instructional technology at Reclaim can  reinforce and support the development of Reclaim’s existing university partners and those still unmet friends and partners.

Image of the borg

After talking with Taylor, Lauren and I knew we needed to make a space for him at Reclaim, and provide Pilot the opportunity to further hone the skills they’ve already developed at Carleton had the makings of a team. Then comes the third-wheel, old man winter bava! There’s definitely a selfish reason on my part for pushing edtech at Reclaim—I want a group of folks that I can explore alongside when it comes to both cPanel and Reclaim Cloud. I love tinkering with these next generation tools, and if we can continue to harness the power of open source technologies to liberate us from the edtech borg—then my day job continues to be all sweetness and light. I’m convinced the containerized infrastructure of Reclaim Cloud opens up a whole new world for edtech that by-and-large unexplored, yet as Taylor notes in yesterday’s meeting, is quickly becoming trailing-edge tech 🙂

Reclaim Container Ship

Anyway, the meeting was two hours long, exploratory in nature, and a whole lotta fun. We took notes, and I am going to capture some of those here for both reference and posterity:

  • Offering services for new DoOO instructional technology services -> one of the things we have been lacking given labor limitations with new Domain of One’s Own schools is targeted support beyond admin training. So edtech can start filling that roll of coming in after the training and getting a sense of how this will be rolled out across campus and then run targeted workshops for folks on campus to show them what’s possible
  • Workshops for the Reclaim Community -> This is already happening, next week, Wednesday, January 12th, Taylor will be running a community chat talking about how to create a community site for Domain of One’s Own to capture and promote the work happening on campus. You can sign-up here.
  • Proselytizing Reclaim Cloud -> 2022 is the year of Reclaim Cloud, I can feel it in my bones. And I want to get out in front of schools and show them what Docker makes possible and also how they can scale applications for larger instances of an application like WordPress seamlessly. There is much to do on this front, and it is work that excites me to no end cause it cause hand-in-hand with exploring possibilities, which I associate so closely with the best kinds of edtech
  • Document the work we do (writing, streaming, etc.) -> blog it, vlog it, tweet it, get it out there. We have to write, record, and generally share the work we are doing. It is a “central pillar” as Taylor notes, and I concur!
  • Professional development for edtech -> I loved this idea, and it dovetails beautifully with our Reclaim Roadshow work. We have been good at trying to offer folks training around Domain of one’s own instances given staff turns over, technology changes, and needs come up that weren’t apparent at the start. We can do more of this, but even beyond Domains. We could push on more white-labeled professional development around WordPress Multisite, Containers, Docker, etc. There is a lot here, particularly when it comes data science that many libraries are exploring, and it might be awesome to bring folks who are doing this on campus.
  • Edtech on Campus -> Another idea that was born of the last was running a Reclaim Today series wherein we talk with edtech groups at various campuses to get a sense of their mission, day-to-day work, and the principles and values that drive them. Super useful for us to know, and would be wonderful to hear folks share their visions.
  • Panel around hacking on WordPress -> WP4life -Taylor notes a panel around folks hacking WordPress to their will as a way to highlight cool work and re-enforce what’s possible, do love that.
  • WordPress Multisite Series -> This is something I have been thinking about for a while. I cut my teeth on WordPress Multisite, and I still love that app. So it might be fun to have a series wherein we talk with folks using WPMS and find out their experiences, maybe a look underneath the curtain at plugins, themes, and other mysteries. I would love a co-host on this one, so any interested takers let me know.
  • Everything but WordPress Series -> We are definitely geared toward WordPress, but there is a world beyond the W, so this series would explore other tools as a counterbalance to 40% and counting WordPress-powered web.

We also talked about the newsletter, that will be going out at the end of January, and I am supper excited about using Ghost for that, talking about the web beyond WordPress. It’s a good time to be a Reclaimer, and we look forward to further shaping and defining what edtech looks like at Reclaim Hosting, but that’s not done in a vacuum, so let us know what you might want/need. I have to say it’s been a long time since a two-hour meeting went so fast and seemed so fun, a good sign for sure.

The Limits and Possibilities of the House Metaphor for Domains

My last post was a recap of the “At the Scale of Care” presentation Lauren Heywood and I gave at the mighty OER20. A few days ago Lauren posted her own take on the presentation, and I really appreciated how her take dug in much more than mine on the limits and possibilities of the house metaphor to explain and explore Domain of One’s Own. Here is a small piece form Lauren’s insightful and nuanced take on the metaphor:

My understanding of what is known as the house metaphor is a house as a tool to understand how web addresses, websites and web hosting relate to one another. This metaphor can then be extrapolated further to explain that an individual needs to have some initial understanding of the “web-based plumbing, electric, interior design, etc.” if they are to make spaces on the Web and to make them “liveable”.

Once an individual has built understanding of how the Web works and how they can start building their own spaces, including making them “liveable”, it is at this point that the individual can build confidence and agency to realise the potential of Domains initiatives as relates to Virgina Woolf’s arguments in ‘A Room of One’s Own’ (1929).

For me that’s where the metaphor ends. 

I really love the way Lauren understands the broader vision of Domains as always already a project in providing possibility to students and instructors alike to build the web. It’s a mission, not a metaphor. So, I asked Lauren if she would be interested in having a follow-up discussion about the house metaphor for Domains on the mighty #ds106radio (always be branding, people!).

She agreed, and two days ago we had an hour long discussion that was pretty awesome. I know the great David Kernohan was tuned in…

And it was awesome to see my old, dear friend Shannon Hauser who is now an instructional technologist running Domains at UMW was tuned in. My worlds combined in some beautiful ways at that moment, and the radio was good!

So, in the interest of trying to both preserve and share some of the radio magic that’s been happening for me these last days, weeks, and soon months, here is a recording of that discussion.

I hope it encourages folks like Lauren Heywood, Alex Masters, and Shannon Hauser (a sampling of the next generation of edtech) to get on the radio, whether ds106radio or their own international broadcasting network. And we need to do the same at Reclaim Hosting with our ridiculously talented group inclusing Lauren Brumfield, Meredith Fierro, Chris Blankenship, Gordon Hawley, and Katie Harcraft. This is not a time for the established edtech thought leaders (and I have to incriminate myself here) to suck up oxygen, but to lift up the folks who will have to make sense of this field when the dust settles and the work on the ground still needs to be done. I hope we can build more inclusive, diverse networks that strive for that rather than self-serving platforms for the next Gates Foundation funding opportunity.

Blogging at Scale with Google Sheets

When you go directly from several weeks of work travel into the beginning of the semester rush at Reclaim Hosting, the necessarily gets neglected. But that changes now!

Back on August 22nd Tim and I sat down with John Stewart to talk about his ingenius work to use Google Sheets to enable near on 1000 students in University of Oklahoma’s biggest lecture classroom to blog at scale. Pretty brilliant to use Google Sheets as a kind of  WordPress Multisite stand-in wherein Google manages scaling the infrastructure for you. In this, the 8th episode of Reclaim Today, we discuss this experiment in detail, and I was really enthusiastic because it felt like a really creative and useful way to imagine getting a class using a simple form to blog up and running with very little financial overhead. Fast cheap, and out-of-control: edtech at its best.

You can read the first and second of the three post series John promised, and the video was recorded on location at Reclaim Video and comes in at a very manageable 23 minutes with a couple of the best looking ed-techs this side of proprietary. Here is the synopsis in case you need a more objective reason to watch:

Jim and Tim sit down with John Stewart of the University of Oklahoma to discuss a recent solution he blogged about in which he’s using Google Spreadsheets and APIs to drive a fast and scalable blogging infrastructure to support a course with 1,000 students.

And if you come away with nothing else, it should be mad kudos for John Stewart for a really creative, relatively light-weight  solution to a potentially expensive and resource intensive problem, the term innovation gets thrown around way too loosely but it makes resonates for me in this case.