The mission of the new Master’s of Learning, Design, and Technology program at Georgetown University is “to give our students a deep foundation in the tools and theory of learning design, technology innovation, learning analytics, and higher education leadership, a foundation on which they can create engaging and innovative learning experiences for all students.” Working in and with Georgetown Domains is a key part of this engagement; the students learn about and create their domains during the opening week-long foundations course, and build on it throughout the duration of the degree, ending with a final portfolio on their domain of their work. In between, the students have the option of taking a one-credit course in Domains, as well as showcasing their coursework and projects on the site. For some, their personal Domains specifically and Georgetown Domains more generally have become the subject of their research and study. What this allows is for students to engage directly with the technology, as well as questions of accessibility, privacy, surveillance, and tools. They learn about and apply these lessons as they move through the program, perform and reflect on their research, and build their sites. But most importantly, this allows for students to own their own intellectual property, as well as provide the tools to apply what they have learned in a practical and holistic way. The e-portfolio requirement at the end of the degree highlights this commitment to students’ intellectual property as well as professionalization, while also providing an experimental and reflective space for students to connect their work. This short presentation will discuss curricular examples (Intro week, Domains course, Studio and Studio Capstone) of how Domains has been integrated into the program, sharing some student sites, projects, and portfolios.
For the past 15 years, I’ve included blog assignments in my classes as a default, routine, and generally low-stakes assignment. It began with a simple journal where students kept track of their progress through a video game, and through the years, the assignment has ranged from similarly simple logs or progress reports to the more ornate and decorous “features articles” where students seek to emulate magazine writing and engage with a public audience. At times, like when having a platform online was still a novelty and the adrenaline rush of Web 2.0-fueled activism took flight in the optimism of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, blogging totally made sense. As a classroom experience, a blog assignment helped students find their digital identity through written expression. By finding their voice digitally, students found themselves.
But while this will still happen, and while I still see brilliant writing from my students, the era when the exigency of a blog assignment can be reliably vindicated by an authentic external audience has ended. It’s time for something else, which means it’s time to re-evaluate what blogs have been and what we have needed them for in order to find the best ways to meet those goals through other means. In this short presentation, I will offer several suggestions.
This is, however, an aspirational proposal. I’m writing this between semesters as I reflect on the Fall — where blog assignments didn’t always meet my goals or in some cases arguably undermined other goals for my class — and thinking ahead to the Spring — when I hope to implement some new assignments based on this recent conviction about the ineffectuality of blog assignments. Therefore, by June, my expectation is that I will have something new to report: either finding success with an entirely new set of assignments and corresponding tools, or returning to the familiar embrace of blog assignments with a renewed sense of their value.
Most likely, I’ll be somewhere in between, but my hunch is that different forms of discursive content creation will help students take control of their learning and find direction for their digital identities. Whatever I find in the coming semester, I’m confident that I’ll be ready to share some insight into the intents, purposes, and outcomes of inviting students to do intellectual work on the internet of 2019.
Notes as they occur to me while I’m watching this video:
To me blogging is a means of thinking out loud.
Of course having a site doesn’t mean one is blogging. In fact, in my case, I’m collecting bits and pieces on my site like a digital commonplace book, and out of those collections come some quick basic thoughts, and often some longer pieces, which could be called blog posts, but really are essays that help to shape my thinking. I really wish more people would eschew social media and use their own websites this way.
We need to remember that a website or domain is FAR, FAR more than just a simple blog.
It kills me how many in the edtech/Domains space seem to love memes. It’s always cute and fun, but they feel so vapid and ineffectual. It’s like copying someone else’s work and trying to pass it off as our own. English teachers used to say, “Don’t be cliché,” but now through the use of digital memes they’re almost encouraging it. Why not find interesting images and create something new and dramatically different. (I can’t help but think of the incredibly unique Terry Gilliam “cartoons” in Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the phrase “and now for something completely different…”.
Zach uses the phrase “personal learning journal” but doesn’t quite get to the idea of using domains as digital commonplace books. He also looks at other social sites like Tik-Tok, Instagram stories, YouTube channels, and Twitter hashtags, but doesn’t consider that what those things are could easily be contained within one’s own personal site/domain. The IndieWeb has been hacking away at just this for several years now. What he’s getting at here, but isn’t quite saying is “Why can’t we expand the Domain beyond the restrained idea of “just a blog.” And isn’t that just the whole point of the IndieWeb movement? Your website can literally be anything you want it to be! Just go do it. Invent. Iterate. Have fun!
Zack should definitely take a look at what one can do with Webmention. See: Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet. I suppose some of the restraint is that most people don’t know that it’s relatively easy now to get one domain to be able to talk to another domain the way social sites like Facebook and Twitter do @mentions. And once you’ve got that, there’s a whole lot more you can do!
Perhaps what we should do is go back to the early web and the idea of “small pieces, loosely joined“. What can we do with all the smaller, atomized pieces of the web? How can we use these building blocks in new and unexpected ways? To build new and exciting things? What happens when you combine Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Blogger, Soundcloud, Foursquare, Flickr, Goodreads, Periscope, Lobsters, TikTok, Quora, Zotero, Flipboard, GitHub, Medium, Huffduffer, Plurk, etc., etc. altogether and mix them up in infinite ways? You get Domains! You may get something as cutting edge–but still relatively straight-laced–as Aaron Parecki’s website, which you might have to dig into to realize just how much he’s got going on there, or you might end up with something as quirky and cool as Kicks Condor’s site or his discovery/syndication channel Indieweb.xyz.
I increasingly find myself going to write replies to people on Twitter where I accidentally end up writing an essay, so I just decided to make a quick Wordpress so I can actually be vaguely effective in expressing myself? Anyway, here's a post:https://t.co/vKnEvXC89j
Should I post this in the CPLC moodle? I don't even know my dudes. Not gonna lie, I'm 10000% more comfortable writing this stuff on Twitter bc it feels less formal & therefore doesn't have to be "organized" or "actually good" & can just sometimes end up being surprisingly useful?
It’s threads/comments like these that make me think that using Micropub clients like Quill that allow quick and easy posting on one’s own website are so powerful. Sadly, even in a domains-centric world in which people do have their own “thought spaces“, the ease-of-use of tools like Twitter are still winning out. I suspect it’s the result of people not knowing about alternate means of quickly writing out these ideas and syndicating them to services like Twitter for additional distribution while still owning them on spaces they own and control.
I know that Greg McVerry, Aaron Davis, and I (among others) often use our websites/commonplace books for quick posts (and sometimes syndicate them to Twitter for others’ sake). We then later come back to them (and the resultant comments) and turn them into more fully fleshed out thoughts and create longer essays, articles, or blogposts like Jessica Chretien eventually did on her own website.
I wonder if it wasn’t for the nearness of time and the interaction she got from Twitter if Jessica would have otherwise eventually searched her Twitter feed and then later compiled the post she ultimately did? It’s examples like this and the prompts I have from my own website and notifications via Webmention from Twitter through Brid.gy that make me thing even more strongly that scholars really need to own even their “less formal” ideas. It’s oftentimes the small little ideas that later become linked into larger ideas that end up making bigger impacts. Sometimes the problem becomes having easy access to these little ideas.
All this is even more interesting within the frame of Jessica’s discussion of students being actively involved in their own learning. If one can collect/aggregate all their references, reading, bookmarks, comments, replies, less formal ideas, etc. on their own site where they’re easily accessed and searched, then the synthesis of them into something larger makes the learning more directly apparent.
In fact, I’d argue this blog has been largely a collection of writings concentrated on me working through the thoughts of my own digital identity and the tools that help shape it. The whole bit is highly meta. ❧
Ik onderzoek weer hoe ik deze pagina’s beter kan gebruiken als een commonplace book, een plaats waar ik allerlei gedachten, ideeën en losse flodders kan plaatsen met minimale barrieres. Het is een rode draad in mijn blog-ontwikkeling en ik denk dat het een belangrijk element wordt op de IndieWebC...
[Rough English translation for convenience]
I am researching how I can better use these pages as a commonplace book , a place where I can place all kinds of thoughts, ideas and loose pieces with minimal barriers. It is a common thread in my blog development and I think it will be an important element at the IndieWebCamp barcamp for me.
While I do like the way that WordPress makes it easy for one to create link previews by simply putting a URL into the editor (as in your example), I’ve generally shied away from it as it relies on oEmbed and doesn’t necessarily put the actual text into your site. (Not all websites will provide this oEmbed functionality either.) I mention this because a lot of the benefit of having a commonplace is the ability to easily search it. If your post only has a title and a URL, without careful tagging it may be much harder to come back and discover what you were searching for later.
I’ve started an article on how I’m using my website as one, but still have a way to go before I finish it. A big portion of my workflow relies on the Post Kinds Plugin and its available bookmarklet functionality. There are also a lot of nice Micropub clients like Omnibear that making bookmarking things quick and easy too.
In the erstwhile, I ‘ll note that on my own site, I tag things relating to my own commonplace (thinking about and building it) as “commonplace book” and for examples of other peoples’ commonplaces, I usually use the plural tag “commonplace books“. These may also give you some ideas.
With respect to the Medium article which you linked, I’ve seen a recurring theme among bloggers (and writers in general) who indicate that they use their websites as “thought spaces”. Others may use similar or related phraseology (like “thinking out loud”) but this seems to be the most common in my experience. Toward that end, I’ve been bookmarking those articles that I’ve read with the tag “thought spaces“. Some of those notes and websites may also give you some ideas related to having and maintaining an online commonplace book.
For centuries, authors and thinkers have kept commonplace books: focused journals that serve to collect thoughts, quotes, moments of introspection, transcribed passages from reading — anything of purpose worth reviewing later.
Why keep a commonplace book today? When we are inundated by information through social media and our digital devices, it’s easy to overlook what drives and intrigues us. Keeping a journal helps, but keeping a focused journal is better, even if that focus is on self-fulfillment.
I’m stealing this quote from my modern friend Ryan Dawidjan who has been pioneering this concept of open-access writing and blogging without a publish button. For a long time he has maintained a quip file called high cadence thoughts that is open access and serves as a long-running note of his thinking and ideas.
It’s a less-performative version of blogging - more of a captain’s log than a broadcast blog.
The distinction will come down to how you blog - some people blog in much the same way. For me however blogging is mostly performative thinking and less captain’s log. So I am looking for a space to nurture, edit in real time and evolve my thinking. ❧
I like the idea of a blog without a publish button. I do roughly the same thing with lots of drafts unpublished that I let aggregate content over time. The difference is that mine aren’t immediately out in public for other’s benefit. Though I do wonder how many might read them, comment on them, or potentially come back to read them later in a more finished form.
Campfires - mostly blogging for me, though I know some folks gather around private slack groups too. My blog functions as a digital campfire (or a series of campfires) that are slower burn but fade relatively quickly over the timeframe of years. Connection forming, thinking out loud, self referencing and connection forming. This builds muscle, helps me articulate my thinking and is the connective tissue between ideas, people and more. While I’m not a daily blogger I’ve been blogging on and off for 10+ years. ❧
When I received Chris’s comment, my first response was that I should delete my post or at least the incorrect part of it. It’s embarrassing to have your incorrect understandings available for public view. But I decided to leave the post as is but put in a disclaimer so that others would not be misled by my misunderstandings.
This experience reminded me that learning makes us vulnerable. Admitting that you don’t know something is hard and being corrected is even harder. Chris was incredibly gentle in his correction. It makes me think about how I respond to my students’ work. Am I as gentle with their work as Chris was to mine? Could I be more gentle? How often have I graded my students’ work and only focused on what they did wrong? Or forgotten that feeling of vulnerability when you don’t know something, when you put your work out for others to judge? This experience has also reminded me that it’s important that we as teachers regularly put ourselves into situations in which we authentically grapple with not knowing something. We should regularly share our less than fully formed understandings with others for feedback. It helps us remember that even confident learners can struggle with being vulnerable. And we need to keep in mind that many of our students are not confident learners. ❧
I’m reminded here of the broad idea that many bloggers write about sooner or later of their website being a “thought space” or place to contemplate out in the open. More often than not, even if they don’t have an audience to interact with, their writings become a way of thinking out loud, clarifying things for themselves, self-evolving, or putting themselves out there for potential public reactions (good, bad, or indifferent).
While writing things out loud to no audience can be helpful and useful on an individual level, it’s often even more helpful to have some sort of productive and constructive feedback. While a handful of likes or positive seeming responses can be useful, I always prefer the ones that make me think more broadly, deeply, or force me to consider other pieces I hadn’t envisioned before. To me this is the real value of these open and often very public thought spaces.
For those interested in the general idea, I’ve been [bookmarking/tagging things around the idea of thought spaces I’ve read on my own website](https://boffosocko.com/tag/thought-spaces/). Hopefully this collection helps others better understand the spectrum of these ideas for themselves.
With respect to the vulnerability piece, I’m reminded of an episode of The Human CurrentI listened to a few weeks back. There was an excellent section that touched on building up trust with students or even a class when it comes to providing feedback and criticism. Having a bank of trust makes it easier to give feedback as well as to receive it. Here’s a link to the audio portion and a copy of the relevant text.
Listening to the students talk about feeling unsure and vulnerable when they first encountered open educational practices made me think about my own learning. As a mid-career academic who has changed jobs and even disciplines, I am a confident learner. I have received lots of praise and other kinds of positive reinforcement for my ability to learn new things. If you have read previous posts on my blog, you might know that I am really interested in developments in the IndieWeb movement and am trying to write about some of my experiences with using IndieWeb tools to build my own web site. I’ve been building my own sites for years and so I have a lot of confidence in my ability there as well. Working on the IndieWeb stuff has been challenging because there’s a lot of new language and new concepts as well as some aspects of web development that I have not engaged with before. I often feel vulnerable when I write my posts about the IndieWeb because my understanding of how everything works is emerging. In other words, I don’t get it all yet but I’m still writing publicly about my work.
This site is where I can riff on ideas, be wrong, and learn from those mistakes. Of course I try to be correct, and I always write what I believe to be true, but the greatest value most often comes from someone messaging me to point out a body of research I missed or angle I misinterpreted.
In this vein, please don't hesitate to let me know what you think! The whole point is to share what I know and to learn the rest. ❧
In addition to collecting the quote above, I’ll also note that Devon’s site now has an RSS feed (which I’m positive it didn’t before), so one can now follow her writing there directly.