This past Thursday I delivered the above presentation to the kind and awesome folks at the University System of New Hampshire’s 3rd Annual Academic Technology Institute (a.k.a #usnhati on Twitter). The event is an intensive, 4-day intensive event that brings together select faculty and technologists from the four public campuses in New Hampshire’s Higher Ed system (namely the University of New Hampshire, Keene State University, Plymouth State University, and Granite State University) to learn about a wide range of concepts, practices, applications, and tools in relationship to teaching and learning with technology. What’s more, they bring in people in the field like myself to frame larger issues, ideas, and hopefully provide some inspiration. I was the last of the three invited presenters, and I had to follow in the all-too-capable footsteps of Jessamyn West (whose talk I sadly missed on Tuesday) and Bryan Alexander (whose talk I did catch Wednesday morning).
For a little context, I gave a talk at this event last year. What’s more, I had the added bonus of hanging out with Mike Caulfield for a few days, and sadly that was not possible this year given he’s a left coaster now—a lot can change in the short span of a year! I’ve never been asked to speak at the same event/conference twice in a row, and I take this as the highest of compliments in regards to speaking engagements. An added bonus is that it puts more pressure on me because many of the attendees (particularly the technologists) heard me talk about UMW Blogs and ds106 last year. Given this, I loosely framed out an idea for a talk about the “Coherence of the Web” I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. But that ideas evaporated after embedding myself in the faculty’s discussions for a full day. I decided to do something different all together. Rather than a packaged presentation based on my own thoughts about what they might be interested in, I went home Wednesday night and created a presentation based on the immediate concerns I heard them speak about that day. Most of the concerns they had were related to the difficulties of creating real and sustained engagement in online and/or hybrid courses. And given I knew that Jessamyn had covered the issue of open content and Bryan had framed out the various possible futures for higher ed, I figured I would speak specifically to the real and practical pedagogical challenges I’ve faced and adjusted to while teaching ds106 on both face-to-face and online environments. I didn’t want any one platform or course design, such as #ds106, to represent some monolithic solution to online learning, but rather it was a shared object of attention for looking at the particular challenges and concerns we all face when teaching online.
So, given I’m currently flush with the experience of the recent iteration of ds106—the ds106zone [cue Serling’s voice]—I figured I would introduce some of the concepts that drive the class architecture of participation and community and then focus more specifically on how an open, online class like ds106 fosters a sense of community over time through approaching online courses as part and parel of the web more generally. What was really cool was that I made a point of featuring the creations of open online participants as well as credit-seeking UMW students so that this talk could act as both part of the ds106zone as well as a presentation to the folks at #usnhati. I love that sense of blurring purposes! And thanks to the great David Kernohan willingness to cross-cast the session from Adobe Connect onto ds106 radio (I love that guy!), we have a clean audio recording. What’s more, you can get a stream the Adobe Connect version of the talk here.
I have to say that I ‘ve never gotten such positive feedback from any talk I’ve given to date. Now that might be attributed to the fact that the USNATI folks are so warm and have a naturally kind disposition coupled with the inspired work of the ds106 community. The latter certainly gets me excited. But I think having the time and willingness to embed myself in the event and listen for a day or two made all the difference. I’ve been guilty of parachuting in and out of conferences (though I try hard not to make a habit of it), but there is no question that treating your work as an invited guest as an honor that should be requited by spending the time and energy to hang out, talk, listen and engage the people you are enabling you to be there always make it better for everyone involved. I had a blast, and a special thanks to Scott Robinson and Jenny Darrow for all there work putting it all together, major kudos!