SPLOTting a Path to Coventry

I spent most of last week working from the UK. Coming off vacation I was back on the road, and a couple of days in London was a nice transition back. In fact, I even got to see Phantom Thread in 70 MM at the BFI IMAX theater.

And the next day I was able to catch part of a retrospective of Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio’s work—most of which was new to me. I got to see his very first film, Fists in the Pocket (I pugni in tasca), and I was really impressed. The whole film was funded by his family and I believe shot on location at a relatives home, and it’s quite gorgeous—an impressive debut. The story focuses on a young man who is losing his mind, and the ways in which he rationalizes his increasingly psychopathic behavior for the “good of the family.” It reads as a full-frontal attack on middle-class, catholic values of Italy in the 60s, and uses a dysfunctional family as the vehicle. I must say the decaying mountain villa they live in felt oddly familiar 🙂 I like Criterion’s encapsulation of the film:

Fists in the Pocket was a gleaming ice pick in the eye of bourgeois family values and Catholic morality, a truly unique work that continues to rank as one of the great achievements of Italian cinema.

But it wasn’t all films and culture, I was working most of the time in preparation for a two-day workshop at Coventry University wherein I would be both exploring the Coventry Domains platform with technologists that support different schools/departments from around the university, as well as a deep-dive into the administration of Domains with the three-person crew at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL), namely Daniel Villar-Onrubio, Lauren Heywood, and Charlie Legge. As often happens with workshops like this, I often get more out of it than I give. As we were talking through cPanel, various application, and more, the conversation turned to SPLOTs given Daniel and Lauren have been doing an unbelievable job of promoting these small, focused teaching tools. What’s more, Coventry is the first school that has made SPLOTs available as part of their general Domain of One’s Own offering.

Daniel shared a couple of examples with me on how they’re using both the Image Collector and the Media Collector SPLOTs on one of their projects which provide excellent examples of how powerful these tools can be. The Open Web for Learning and Teaching Expertise Hub (OWLTEH) is a resource they are building for teaching and learning with the open web, and they are using both the Image Collector and the Media Collector as part of this site. The Image Collector in this case takes on the role of a catalogue of open tools faculty and students can use, it’s a resource that not only anyone can use-but also anyone can add to:

The other tool is the Media Collector, which is a similar, but in this instance it aggregates videos from a variety of sources (YouTube, Vimeo, Internet Archive, etc.) all in one place:

A slick tool that can not only collect and display, but also allow for communities to create and submit from anywhere—a quick and easy video aggregator for a course if you will.
And then there are the portfolio-based SPLOTs that are being used extensively to get graduate students up and running with a quick professional profile. There was continued interest in the various flavors of SPLOTs for this (Big Picture Calling Card, Dimension Calling Card (pictured above), and Highlights Calling Card) and one of the first of these will most definitely be Reclaim’s initial offering of a stand-alone SPLOT with it’s very own application installer independent of WordPress—though still built on it. 

But I want to return to the Image Collector SPLOT for a moment, just to highlight how these “tiny teaching tools” can really serve some interesting use cases. The above example for OpenMed is a straight up image collector that allows folks from the OpenMed project (which is project focused on creating open resources for various Mediterranean universities) to share photos, which comes in useful given there are numerous schools from across the Middle East and North Africa that are participating. Yet, Lauren showed another example of this same tool being used by an art professor for a project called WordBox.

What is WordBox? Well, it…

… is an activity to support participants to practice searching for discipline specific key terms, definitions and associated words. Submissions to the glossary space include commentary on how the definition was sourced and any benefits or negatives of using particular online spaces to source information. The idea is to learn from one another’s search practices and share experience.

So, a tool to define various key terms in the field highlighting process and sharing results in the form of a glossary. It’s a single assignment that becomes a long-standing resource, and it underscores brilliantly a focused application of SPLOTs, with added bonus of students not needing to login, leave personal data, or learn WordPress to simply share an image, some text, and a link.

Continued excitement around SPLOTs is timely given the day before heading to Coventry, Tim and I spoke with Alan Levine about starting to roll SPLOTs out as stand-alone application installers. Big Picture Calling Card will be the first, but hopefully more will follow given Tim is on an Installatron application installation roll. One of the big benefits of stand-alone apps is all updates Alan makes to the SPLOTs will get rolled out to users, through the current WordPress installation of SPLOTs there is no way to incorporate updates. Another thing we are working on is more documentation and examples, which hopefully this post will provide some fodder for 🙂

But when it comes to SPLOTs right now, nobody does it better than Coventry, they are an inspiration and everyone participating in the workshop could see the immediate value of having such tools in your back pocket as an educational technologist. 

Reclaiming SPLOTs


I already blogged this summer about my growing excitement about the possibilities for SPLOTs (which is an acronym for simple teaching tools) for Reclaim Hosting. But after a recent trip to Colgate University, I’m ever more bully on these tiny teaching tools. SPLOTs piqued a lot of interest during a workshop and presentation I gave at Deakins University and Charles Sturt University in July, so Lauren Brumfield and I decided to integrate them into the two-day workshop we were running at Colgate University around their Domain of One’s Own setup to see if we got a similar response. We did.

The response to SPLOTs amongst the small group gathered to administer and introduce the campus community to Colgate Domains was quite enthusiastic. We spent day one providing a system overview of Domains, with a deep-dive into managing cPanel, WHMCS, etc. Day two was focused on using Domains for teaching and learning, and showcasing some of the possible applications both within and beyond WordPress. It was during that second day where we decided to dig into SPLOTs—although we did introduce them briefly the day before when talking about syndication sites. Rather than having a pre-defined script around SPLOTs, we decided to wing that part of the workshop and have everyone in the room try and build a portfolio using the SPLOTs Alan Levine designed on StateU. In fact, this month it has been Alan’s turn to play the SPLOT Warrior, and I have no doubt he’s already got the revolution Down Under in full effect.

Image credit: Alan Levine

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