Live from Jacksonville

For the 19th episode of Reclaim Today Tim and I sat down with old colleague and good friend Andy Rush, who in what seems like another lifetime was part of the UMW DTLT “dream team.” Fortunately we’ve been able to keep in touch on and off these last five years, where he has been keeping himself busy at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida working as a Course Media Developer doing what he does best: all things video. As you may have noticed, Tim and I have been playing quite a bit with streaming video for things like KaraOERoke, ds106.tv, and the like. We are interested in doing even more, and given we have a ton of office space given the construction work for Reclaim Arcade was scaled back significantly. So, what do you do? Take the empty conference room and build a ReclaimTV station.  And who do you call? Your friendly neighborhood New Media Speicalist: Andy “feel the” Rush! 

So, this discussion is basically broken up into two parts:

1) us reviewing the limits and possibilities of the high-end TV studio Andy helped design at UMW for the Convergence Center. It is without a doubt an impressive space, but one of the things the discussion comes around to is that video game streaming has highlighted the array of open source tools for streaming and fairly cheap hardware that allows you to build a quite impressive “TV” studio on the cheap.

2) at around the 30 minute mark Andy discusses how he created a flexible, cheaper studio with a few basic features like a good mic, lighting, and the Black Magic ATEM Mini switcher (or Mini Pro or Mini ISO) to name a few you would be well on your way to a pretty impressive setup. Hopefully Andy will blog a more detailed list of all the things he was playing with in this video, but if you go to around 45 minutes Andy begins his tour and takes you through and names each piece of equipment.

You pricing and mileage may vary, but if you already have a decent camera and a fairly robust laptop, you can probably build a solid studio for $1000-$1500, which would be a big jump for someone doing it on their own, but for an edtech group or wanna-bes like ReclaimTV, that is a very manageable range. So, I am sure Tim is already ordering equipment for our nascent studio, and we promised Andy we would have another chat when we were further along and he can update us on the next phase of his work this semester: building a kit that faculty and students can easily use that is not necessarily just one big button 🙂

Building with Howard: Creating a Learning Environment with Open Source Tools Pt 1

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure to sit down with Howard Rheingold—at least virtually—and go through the process of setting up a course hub using WordPress. The above video is the first part of a series in which we will work through building a learning environment using open source tools on a LAMP environment. This video focused on creating the central hub for Howard’s course Social Media Issues that he’ll be teaching this fall.  O ver the course of the conversation Howard and I covered how to 1) install WordPress using on your web server, 2) post content, 3) search, add, and activate plugins (in this case FeedWordPress), 4) add widgets, and 5) change the theme.

Howard’s interested in creating a dynamic course environment wherein students can establish and control their own online presence and have their work syndicated into a central course hub (not unlike the environments Alan Levine has been building recently for universities like Harvard ). By installing and activating the FeedWordPress plugin, we effectively enable the ability to add the URL of students’ sites (assuming they have an RSS feed) so that their posts can be fed into a central aggregation point for the class to view and comment upon each others work.

What’s more, this WordPress hub will have a series of pages that contain various information about the class, such as an about page, a  syllabus page, an FAQ, etc. It can include or link to social media conversations happening on the open web. For examples, you can embed a conversation from Twitter happening around a hashtag into the sidebar link out to class Tumblr, etc.

At the same time, the WordPress blog hub is just one facet of the course. We’ll be doing another episode tomorrow afternoon in which we plan on covering a few more of the affordances of  the hub and then moving on to integrating a wiki into the course environment. We’ll be demonstrating the open source application MediaWiki (which powers Wikipedia), and I imagine we’ll have a full session given it can be a lot more painstaking that WordPress.

I’m excited about this video series because it really brings me back to instructional technology work I was doing  in earnest at UMW back in 2006 and 2007. We were experimenting wildly with open source tools to see what kind of environments we could create for the campus community. This experimentation ultimately led to UMW Blogs and then ds106, and while these examples forced UMW to starting wrestling with questions of scale, the fact remains just about anyone can access and start experimenting with a wide array of web applications for the price of lunch.

I love that Howard is ready and willing to sit down and think through his course with me over the next couple of weeks.  This is distributed edtech at its very best, and hopefully sharing the process of building this course site will both inspire and help others to experiment as well.