Open Education in Italy or, an Introduction to the Introduction

I’ll be blogging from behind for the next week or so, but let me start by sharing some good news for Italian colleague and friend, Fabio Nascimbeni, who published his freely available book on Open Education in Italian. It’s an excellent overview of the recent history of Open Education, MOOCs and all. Fabio uses the book to frame the cultural, political, and policy-driven moves towards open education in the US, Canada, and the UK in an attempt highlight lessons learned and hopefully helping to avert the re-packaging of learning object repositories as the disruption Italy needs in the brave new world of Open Education.

Il libro “Open Education” di Fabio Nascimbeni è online

Fabio asked me to write an introduction to the book back in April, and if you are keeping score that coincides with the moment Italy was in full lockdown, so my introduction is in many ways a time capsule of a moment. I was feeling rather raw, and the prospect of Italy (or any country, really) avoiding some of the glaring mistakes the Anglo-centric open education world made seemed not only useful, but quite pressing given schools went online en masse in a country that has yet to fully invest in online learning for K12 and higher education.  There is no question part of the massive COVID-19 aid package the European Union will provide significant funds to invest in online education, and I think the argument Nascimbeni makes quite astutely is that some of that money should be invested in an open ecosystem of resources that can be freely shared not only within Italy and the EU, but globally. And, guess what, there is this little technology platform called the world wide web that may just make that possible and fairly affordable 🙂

I have to give special thanks to my special lady friend, Antonella, for translating the book for me so I could write a cogent introduction, and also to Fabio for providing me the space to rant and then translating it into Italian. I’m ashamed to say my Italian is arguably worse than when I arrived here 5 years ago, but maybe I can blame that on the virus as well? For posterity, I am including my untranslated introduction to Open Education: Oer, mooc e pratiche didattiche aperte verso l’inclusione digitale educativa below, but be kind given I was writing this under the duress of a 3 month lockdown or, even better, learn Italian and read Fabio’s book!

As I write this foreword I’m looking out the window of my office onto the verdant hills of Trento. That’s remarkable because for the last three months that was the only view I had of the outside world. From my medieval perch I would hear the daily rounds of the local authorities reminding us that we were not to leave our homes for all but three reasons: groceries, medicine, and last and worst of all: a trip to the hospital. The woman’s voice coming over the loudspeaker admonishing Trentini to stay inside was oddly reminiscent of Jamie Lee Curtis’s introduction to the post-apocalyptic plot line of John Carpenter’s film Escape from New York. In that 1982 cult classic Manhattan island is transformed into a maximum security penitentiary wherein all prisoners who went in would be left to fend for themselves within this fortressed, police-patrolled island for the rest of their lives; the ultimate criminal battle royale. Who knew that a few short weeks after first hearing the Italian rendition of Jamie Lee, COVID-19 would no longer be seen as that cultural anomaly that happened to the Chinese or the Italians, but would cascade across the continent and then the Atlantic Ocean to become a truly Global clusterf**k. Soon enough the actual Manhattan island (much like Wuhan, Milano, and Brescia before it) would become the site of the post-apocalyptic plotline of the Corona Virus. 

And while I sat in my office wondering if there would still be food in the local Conad* tomorrow, I could hear my children logging on to their now entirely remote school life to do their often improvised lessons. It took a few weeks to find a rhythm, but schools went online and learning happened in the unlikeliest of places, much like plants find their way through the concrete cracks. It’s as if the whole world woke up to online learning in an instant and professors everywhere were tasked with figuring it all out and making sense of this brave new space for teaching and learning. Surely mistakes were made and ultimately the pundits will discount the online school experience, but at the same time much was learned from the last three months of being forced online. And despite the fact that local school systems were caught in a battle of comparing apples and oranges that they could never win, a seed of possibility was planted that even without time for preparation and the lack of adequate resources school did continue in this online form. 

Already, as Italy begins to emerge from the social and economic ravages of COVID-19, the question of returning to the face-to-face classroom are front and center. Yet, as I write these words, both North America and the United Kingdom find themselves ever deeper in the clutches of the deadly virus with no end in sight. While the outbreak in those countries came just a few short weeks after Milano was announced “ground zero” in Europe, the devastation has been exponentially greater in the Anglo-Saxon speaking world. In the UK and the USA the pandemic has been transformed into a social experiment wherein the country’s elected officials are breathing death. Those incompetent sociopaths continue to insist on privileging the market over humanity at all costs: which in the United States of America at the point of writing this is 130,000 souls. What a devastating cost to remain open for business at all costs. 

Several in Italy have lamented the country was too strict; the general lockdown too draconian. Yet, when I look to friends and family back in the States I appreciate more and more those regular, disembodied visits from the local authorities reminding us of our house arrest—a sacrifice the US leadership was (and still is) not willing to make and as a result the human and financial losses were even more deeply compounded. 

“But hey, wait!” you might be thinking at this point, “isn’t this supposed to be a foreword to a book about Open Education Resources in Italy, so why the hell are you talking about COVID-19?” Well, I would argue, our moment has only made Fabio Nascimbeni’s study of the Open Educational Resources movement, with its beginnings in North American and the United Kingdom, that much more vital. 

As every country is forced to rethink its relationship to online learning, whether or not face-to-face classes resume in September, the history of open education Nascimbeni so adroitly chronicles in this text should be read as an oracle for how Italy can frame its policy for open education resources and online learning. If for no other reason than to learn from the arrogance of the movement’s Anglo-Saxon beginnings. The backdrop to the narrative of open education in the US is a primary and secondary educational systems that are chronically underfunded by the government, while post-secondary higher education comes with an exorbitant price tag. The push to promote open education in Italy should be a movement to ensure education remains a public good that is well resourced and shielded from the ruthless logic of the market. The path to privatization in the US education system has converted “students into customers,” a shift that is presently wreaking havoc on this sector as COVID-19 has forced so many American universities to justify their exorbitant costs in an online world—the customer demands their money’s worth! 

As Nascimbeni points out in chapter four, historically open education in Italy has benefited from little political attention, resulting in the absence of an overarching public policy for the promotion of this approach within the higher education system (see ch 4, pg. 111). This is what we call in the US the proverbial “catbird seat,” or an enviable position that provides Italy with a unique advantage. Being first may get you fanfare, but it also means most of the mistakes and mishaps that are inevitable in a burgeoning field are readily apparent for all to see. And this is very much the case in open education, particularly in light of the global pandemic that has made remote alternatives for teaching and learning of the utmost importance. Even before COVID-19 there were numerous initiatives taking root at the local (and often individual) level, despite the lack of political attention. The shift in attention was already changing in 2019, as Nascimbeni notes, thanks to the convergence of several factors signaling an increased investment of resources and consequent adoption of policies in open education in Italy, in particular UNESCO’s recommendations regarding the adoption of supporting policies for OERs in its member states. What’s more, if this was already the case before the Corona Virus, we can be certain it will be a top priority in its wake given the role remote education has played to battle the paralyzing effects of the pandemic. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, the internet is a hero in the COVID-19 story and Italy must invest in a broad national program to train and support its students and teachers using the open web as the educational platform of the future.

Why? Well, another factor from 2019 that Nascembi discusses is the ideological fracture within the US OpenEd community which was evidenced by David Wiley’s decision to discontinue the Open Ed conference. For almost twenty years it was the lifeblood of that movement, but rifts around the increased embrace of commercial logic in a movement that was defined as a free, open alternative to corporate publishers’ wanton greed meant an increased polarization of the community. What’s more, the move from grant and public support to a growing private, commercial solution for open education left the movement rudderless. There is an important lesson to be learned from the open education movement in the US, such movements are often driven by the belief that people are helping to create an alternative to the commercial interests that everywhere prey on the field of education, and once that spirit is compromised the sense of a movement bigger than its respective leaders is lost. And as we enter the second month of protests around the world calling for social justice from systems that continue to value power and money over human life, building the open education movement in Italy on a ground of justice, equity and a true alternative to the dominant system would be well-advised. 

And finally, another sign of the times is the corporate turn of everyone’s darling open education platform, Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs), in 2019 with the Australian multinational SEEK’s investment in Coursera, arguably the premiere corporate MOOC platform. The hijacking of the spirit open education in North America and beyond is nowhere more apparent than in the story of the MOOC, which Nascimbeni recounts beautifully. What started as a Canadian vision of free, connected learning through the networked learner became the basest form of Stanford-branded techno-solutionism that replaced soul with scale and spirit with profit. The MOOCs have taken so much of the oxygen of the open educational movement over the last seven years that it’s hard to imagine it without them, but at the same time their current manifestations are so denatured from anything resembling open and accessible that it points to a larger issue in the field: what does open mean if not freely shared to make the experience that much more accessible for all? 

What open education means for Italy should be the question that should be struggled with before galvanizing a movement or making strategic partnerships with corporations who will sell you a solution and, as a result, compromise the vision before it’s even fleshed out. Italy has a unique opportunity, and Nascimbeni lays it out brilliantly in this book: there is no better time to define what open education means for its future while learning from the mistakes of those from the not so distant past.

*Conad is a chain of grocery stores throughout Italy.

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Notes on Installing PeerTube on Reclaim Cloud

Most of last week was eaten up by playing with PeerTube on Reclaim Cloud. Tim installed on a VPS through Reclaim Cloud following this guide, and he said it wasn’t too bad, just a lot of copying and pasting of commands. He also figured out how to store all the videos and serve them through Amazon’s S3 according to these Nginx rules, which is quite slick.

I, on the other hand, went the Docker route and documented that process already on the Reclaim Hosting community forums. I ran into some issues with the CLI  tools working with my instance (which led to my re-installing PeerTube at least once) which was a bummer for me because the CLI tools enable you to migrate entire YouTube or Vimeo channels (including metadata) in one fell swoop. I kept getting  413 “Payload Too Large” errors when videos over 95 MB were uploaded. It was frustrating. I even posted an issue to the PeerTube Github, but it turns out the Proxied DNS status through Cloudflare was causing the error. Took me longer than I care to admit to figure that out, but once I did all my videos from Vimeo came over easy. So, today’s pro-tip is if you are running your DNS through Cloudflare and using PeerTube’s CLI Tools, make sure the main domain is not proxied, you want DNS Only.

I want to spend a moment just recording my process with the CLI Tools element of PeerTube because it is a separate setup than the actual PeerTube server. You need to install Node.js version 10.22.1 using NVM, the latest version of the package management tool Yarnffmpeg, and Git. All the links in the previous sentence are to resources for Ubuntu 18.04 which is the VPS I used to create a separate bavatube CLI server. It is far more practical to have these running on your desktop/laptop, and to do that I used the Homebrew package manager for the Mac. I will avoid trying to link to the resources given it is a rabbit hole, but in short I installed Node.js version 10.21.1 on my Mac using NVM as well as the latest version of Yarn.  I ran into issues with the following error:

Error on CLI video Import: "ENOENT: no such file or directory,"

This was a result of my not having ffmpeg installed on my laptop, so learn from my mistakes. You can install ffmpeg using Homebrew as well, which is nice. So, I now have the CLI for PeerTube both running on my laptop as well as on a VPS on Reclaim Cloud. The latter was a result of the former not working, but it has been convenient for testing so keeping it for a bit. You can almost track my entire process via the PeerTube tag on my Pinboard given I have been using social bookmarking a lot as of late, and it is super useful for keeping track of all the sites I use to figure something out.

node dist/server/tools/peertube-import-videos.js -u '' -U 'username' --password 'mypassword' --target-url ''

Once I had it working the above command effectively copied every pubic video from my Vimeo account into rather quickly using the youtube-dl codebase, which right now is the greatest command ever.

Anyway, consider this post simply notes that I wanted to get down here before I lost track of my process. Now for the one-click installer of PeerTube on Reclaim Cloud…YEAH!

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I recently said something along the lines of….

The nice part about a, as Tim reminds me, is there are no copyright trolls. Small can be very good for a video community. Plus, I have already spent my time dealing with the Youtube copyright crap, and I have no interest to go back there. Everything I have on Vimeo is backed-up locally (and remotely); I basically have my bug-out bag by the door ready to go at anytime. If they delete my videos, it would just mean finding another home for them, and maybe that is exactly what we’ll do with ds106tv  ?

And that is exactly what Tim did when he got the open-source video platform PeerTube up and running for I took one look at it and immediately knew it was the alternative I’ve been looking for for some time now. What’s more, you gotta love their motto:

Our aim is not to replace them [YouTube, Vimeo, etc.], but rather to simultaneously offer something else, with different values.

One of the coolest things about PeerTube, other than it being free and open, is it’s premised on a decentralized, federated network of a variety of instances (not unlike Mastodon). So, for example, I can federate my own instance,, with and folks who come to either can explore what’s on both. Even better, there’s the ability to provide redundancy so we can back-up each others videos in the event of server issues, take-downs, etc. It’s everything ad-revenue and premium video sharing services are not.

But it gets better, it also has the youtube-dl open source python library built-in so that you can migrate your videos off services like YouTube and Vimeo. But as the above Tweet from the Electronic Frontier Foundation makes clear, the youtube-dl code is currently under attack by the MPAA and RIAA for enabling copyright circumvention. In fact, trying to takedown open source code is an already established tactic, back in May the MPA did the same thing to the open source software Popcorn (a Netflix clone). But in that case the developers of Popcorn appealed to Github to re-instate their repo:

The developers submitted a DMCA counternotice explaining that the MPA’s request is not legitimate. The code is owned by Popcorn Time, not the MPA, and Popcorn Time asked GitHub to restore access.

“The code is 100 % ours and do not contain any copyright [sic] material please check again,” the developer wrote.

The app’s developers made a good point here. The identified code (not the built app) is not directly copyright infringing and it contains no direct links to copyright-infringing material either. This means that a DMCA notice may not be the right tool here.

Faced with both requests, GitHub has now decided to restore full access to the Popcorn Time repository.

Let’s hope youtube-dl gets as lucky as Popcorn did back in May, but at the same time you begin to understand that in many ways Github is just as arbitrary and liable as Youtube to remove and block access to our culture, this in the form of code, based on power plays by monied interests. It’s the same mistake of consolidating resources, and by extension power, in the hands of a few monolithic sites (rather than federated across many) that gets us back in the hole.

In fact, the Youtube-dl makes archiving videos you want to save from around the web unbelievably convenient for copying videos in seconds.

It”s been over 8 years since I lost all my videos on YouTube thanks to copyright claims and the unilateral arbitration at the hands of for-profit platforms, so it is nice to finally have a really tight alternative. I have been playing with it for over a week given I wanted to make sure the Docker installation works on Reclaim Cloud (it does!), along with the CLI tools that make migrating an entire Vimeo or YouTube channel to PeerTube absolutely painless. I did this yesterday and brought over over 275 videos, and all the accompanying metadata—so good.

I think the thing I appreciate the most about PeerTube is the way it lets you explore your own and others videos. Tim has been uploading all of his videos to and we are working on federating my site with his (it is actually simple to federate instances, but I deleted my previous instance so there have been some caching issues) and I have been able to discover so many of the old gold DTLT Today episodes, not to mention ds106 gold, and more.

I think the larger plan is to give people account on to upload videos for the course we are designing, or even better, help them spin up their own PeerTube instance to see what its all about. To that end I need to work on a one-click install for PeerTube on Reclaim Cloud, which should be very doable, as well as a more in-depth how-to for the peerTube CLI given wrapping your head around that really makes this tool amazing for migrating a large amount of content in a short period of time. is already paying dividends and it is still months away from starting. #4life

Posted in, ds106tv,, DTLT Today, reclaim, video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


I’m gonna try and make this post short and sweet because the conversation above says it all. In episode 24 of Reclaim Today Tim and I were once again joined by Andy Rush to  brainstorm the design and structure of an open course we plan on running in the new year called (#ds206video). Yeah, we are piggybacking on the venerable ds106 community, and figured it might be a good time to create a special topics course for folks to learn and share working they are doing around producing, creating, and streaming video. If the course is half as fun as the above discussion, it is going to be a blast, and it has been quite a few years since I have had the time and energy to work with folks to build out an ecosystem, and this post comes a few days late because I spent much of the last 3 days playing with Wiki.js, Peertube, and Discord, which will be at least 3 facets of this open course. I have a lot more to write about this, but I am still knee-deep in Peertube, which is a brilliant open source P2P Youtube alternative, that I have been looking for for the last 8 years:) There will be much more to come on the experience, but if you are interested join the Discord chat and get ready to co-create a community TV station around! #4life

I think the time is nigh, and if nothing else, Tim’s 20 second intro to the above video is not to be missed, click play and FEEL THE RUSH!

Posted in ds106tv,, reclaim, Reclaim Today | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Some Notes on Docker Up and Running (Day 1)

Earlier this week I participated in a 3 hour class offered through O’Reilly’s Live Online Training platform to push myself to get more familiar with Docker. The course was called “Docker: Up and Running” and was taught by Sean Kane, who happens to be an architect at New Relic which is an application Reclaim Hosting has become huge fans of as of late. The push to get more familiar with Docker has been precipitated by the launching of Reclaim Cloud this summer for sure, but also by the fact that I finally have a bit of free time to dig in more deeply (thanks Lauren!). I have been nibbling around the edges of Docker just figuring out enough to get by (or asking Tim), but I was hoping this course would provide me with a more fundamental understanding and I was not disappointed.

I will not go over the details of day 1 at length, but I do want to highlight a couple of things that helped me to conceptually think through Docker and containers more generally. First off, when describing the value of containers Kane noted that for him, more than security, isolation, etc. (which were all factors), the real power of containers generally, and Docker specifically, was repeatability: the idea that so many people across multiple environments, can get software up and running with one command. This helped me tremendously. I know it, but I have not been able to articulate it like this, and I appreciated him doing so. This is the power behind Reclaim Cloud, a platform that provides folks the ability to launch and host an application that before would be a one-off, bespoke environment that was virtually impossible to replicate or migrate easily. Whereas applications using containers are not only eminently portable, but endlessly repeatable. Which is why it has been fairly easy for us to spin up a whole bunch of one-click applications in the Reclaim Cloud marketplace based on existing Docker containers. This idea allowed another session I sat in on a couple of weeks back, Scaling a Data Science MOOC with Digital Ocean, to make sense beyond the specifics of the Data Incubator example. The idea of using Kubernetes to orchestrate an environment with 20K+ Jupyterhub containers is premised entirely upon this core idea of repeatability at the heart of this new era of infrastructure. How do you quickly spin up 20K+ identical applications specifically for one course? Using containers.

The other bit that might seem obvious to some, but was a terminology issue for me, was distinguishing between images and containers. The image is the core application that can be repeated innumerable times, in other words the image you pull on your server and then run as a container. It is this distinction between the static image and the running container wherein the difference lies. And the way it which you optimize an image has everything to do with how quickly you can get x-amount of containers up and running, which becomes a crucial question of efficiency when you are scaling a course to 20K+ Jupyterhub containers. Optimizing a manifest file for an environment will be the difference between several seconds and several minutes of creation time. With this, the Docker infrastructure started to make some more conceptual sense to me, and that was worth the time because I can often find myself get lost in the command line details of an issue rather than seeing the whole of the environment.

docker container run -d --rm --name balance_game --publish mode=ingress,target=80,published=80

Additionally, a few highlights from day 1 was pushing an image of the Docker Balance game to my own Docker Hub page, which I then used the following command in a Docker Engine instance on Reclaim Cloud to get running online. That felt pretty awesome, and if you are so inclined you can play the Docker Balance game:

I’ll write about Day 2 once I work through that video given I was not able to watch that one live given a couple of meetings and other demands. But having sat-in day 1 live, I am certain watching the Day 2 archive will not impact the experience at all, which is an interesting realization pedagogically—at least for the delivery of this course.

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Talking Digital Identity with GO-GN

There is no better feeling than when some of your plodding experimentation starts to come together after several months of work.

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of presenting to the GO-GN network about digital identity. I asked Martin Weller and Beck Pitt if I could experiment a bit for this talk with some various video shots via OBS, and they were more than willing to let me run wild. In fact, they were even accommodating 🙂 They gave me a test account for their video conferencing application, ClickMeeting, which quite frankly was one of the best I’ve used yet.* I did a preliminary run at this setup with my “5 Questions about EDUPUNK” video last weekend that  I posted about earlier this week. The primary difference was that this was in front of a real-time audience and if I messed up there were no do-overs. Dear reader, I nailed it!

My discussion of digital identity might be broken up into two parts: 1) I play the hits and talk about my blog, narrating your work, and the now venerable ds106, but part 2) was a bit of a departure wherein I discussed the possibilities of streaming video for new ways of building and imagining presence. I was lucky that both Meredith Fierro and Katie Hartraft did the heavy lifting by modeling Tik Tok-style narratives and being far more insightful and thoughtful than I could ever be! It was a lot of fun for me, and I was more nervous about this presentation than I had been about one in a long while, which for me is always a good sign I am stepping out of my lane and trying something new. For me the form was the message, I was spending 45 minutes presenting my story via dynamic, streaming video. It wasn’t The Wire or anything, but it was mine in ways the typical video conferencing video box never could be. I didn’t stream it to out of respect for the GO-GN network, given they invited me to their space, so no need to push folks elsewhere, but I could have quite easily. What’s more, I could record a hi-quality version of the video I can then use for my own purposes. Something like this….

One drawback of this version of the talk is that I didn’t capture the ongoing chat (though I could have), and I didn’t capture the audio questions Martin asked towards the end. I edited the above video to account for that, but GO-GN has the more complete version up on their Youtube account, embedded below:

Now riddle me this, which is the official document? Textual historians are gonna be working overtime for the next few centuries 🙂 A couple of interesting notes about the version on Youtube is that with it came copyright claims that made monetizing it impossible. Fine by GO-GN and me, but it does get to an issue that came up in the talk regarding the lack of de-commodified green spaces for video on the web . The nice part about a, as Tim reminds me, is there are no copyright trolls. Small can be very good for a video community. Plus, I have already spent my time dealing with the Youtube copyright crap, and I have no interest to go back there. Everything I have on Vimeo is backed-up locally (and remotely); I basically have my bug-out bag by the door ready to go at anytime. If they delete my videos, it would just mean finding another home for them, and maybe that is exactly what we’ll do with ds106tv  🙂

Anyway, I am getting off topic here, this entire process has gotten me even more excited about working with Tim and Andy Rush on a special topics ds206† course, namely #ds206video. And while we still have to iron out a bunch of details, I did mention this development in the above video, and Andy and Tim are officially on-board. It will be a multi-week open course around working with OBS, streaming video servers, hardware, video editing software, etc. with the idea of helping interested folks bolster their video game. I’ll hopefully have a lot more to say and blog about this anon. But for now let me try and document what I did for the “Like <3 and Subscribe to Your Digital !dentity in the Time of Corona” presentation.

In fact, it was quite similar to the process I blogged about for the EDUPUNK Q&A, so I will try and keep this a bit briefer with the understanding you can refer back to my previous post for details (at some point I’ll try and come up with a more cogent tutorial).

Like with the EDPUNK Q&A I had 3 main scenes:

1) The Console Living Room:

2) Reclaim Arcade

3) Slide presentation mode

Each of these scenes is composed of pretty much the same inputs/shots as the OBS screenshots in the EDUPUNK Q&A post. Only difference is I deigned to change my shirt, or at least the unbuttoned button-up. What’s more, I added five video shots this time versus the four I used in the EDUPUNK video. Katie and Meredith’s Tik Tok videos were Media Source inputs of a video file I had in a folder on my desktop. Nothing else special, other than making sure in Advanced Audio Preferences for the videos I could monitor to hear it as well as the audience (see “Brian on Crack” example in EDUPUNK Q&A post). For the Buggles’s “Video Killed the Radio Star” video I included my webcam in that shot so I could be goofy and sing/dance along. This was as easy as adding another video capture device, my webcam, but I made sure there was no audio for me on this.

The coolest bit was Katie filmed her 2 minutes discussion of her story around her viral Star Wars Tik Tok against a green screen, so I could add the Yoda image cleanly behind her using the Chroma key in Filters for her video. That was a new process, and remarkably easy in OBS.

Finally I mapped my Stream Deck with the 3 primary scenes: LR (console living room), Full Screen (Reclaim Arcade shot), and Vinylcam (which is actually the presentation mode). The other five video scenes are in yellow and I order them to my liking, but can also label them to make sense for me.

The last bit which is different from the EDUPUNK Q&A video was I used the OBS Virtual Camera plugin for the Mac, it has been around for a while for Windows but a new development for Mac this Spring. This plugin let’s me choose everything I output from OBS as a camera input for an application like ClickMeeting or Zoom or any other video conferencing tool that supports it (this is why I needed to test ClickMeeting well in advance). It is super slick. When I chose the OBS Virtual Cam as my camera for ClickMeeting everyone can see my OBS app as the output. That worked brilliantly.

In fact, I tested everything again that morning so that by 2:30 PM when I was ready to test in the room I was sure everything worked—did I tell you I was nervous? Well, while the virtual video output was fine I had a bit of a scare when Paco, who was awesome, let me know the audio from the videos was not coming through. Oh no! I was racking my brain until I remembered I needed to use the virtual audio output from the Loopback application I use to mix sound together from various applications. Once I switched my audio from just my mic to the virtual sound output I named OBS Audio I was cooking with gas with only 5 minutes to spare, whew! After that, it was show time and I am pretty stoked we could pull it all off! Let me know if you need some comedy relief at your next online event 🙂


*The big test ClickMeeting passed with flying colors was working with the OBS Virtual Camera plugin, but more on that in the post above.

†A few years ago Alan Levine and I toyed with the idea of doing a ds206 course ( wherein we started thinking more intensely about various aspects of managing your digital identity and resulting work online. I think the idea of doing it as a course through a university (which was on the table at the time) was a bit more than either of us wanted to commit to given other demands, so we shelved it.

Posted in digital identity, ds106tv, Instructional Technology, presentations, reclaim, video | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

5 Questions about EDUPUNK

Two days ago Alex U. at the University of Montreal sent me an email asking if I had time to answer a few questions about EDUPUNK as a learning model for a presentation due Sunday.* I immediately offered to video chat with the class given I’ve been wanting to explore some of my live video capabilities with the new rig. Turns out that wouldn’t be possible for logistical reasons, so Alex asked if I might be able to put together a quick video. I jumped at the chance given I’ll be talking to the folks at GO-GN on Wednesday about digital identity live via video, and I’m always looking for real world opportunity to test out my live video presentation these days.

Above is the video I created for Alex to share with the class which came out better than I thought it would, quite frankly. Below is a quick explanation of my process so I don’t forget how I did it. Narrate your process, people!

It’s probably no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I have been knee-deep in video and radio broadcasting since lockdown here in Italy. It’s been a blast, and I finally feel like I have things locked-in enough to comfortably stream a presentation live using OBS with a mutli-scene setup. So, here is what I did for the above video. I already had two basic shots I use for most of my stream videos that have me first appear on the TV in the Console Living Room:

And then a fullscreen shot in Reclaim Arcade:

A point worth noting here is that I now have a green screen that allows me to add the arcade image background seamlessly. But, even better, I was able to add a transparent background, thanks to the green screen, to my presentation of images and video so it looks like I am layered on the content. There is a connection when doing this that seems so much more unified than being within a picture-in-picture frame.

As you can see above, the slides are behind me and I can talk to my points as if I am there. I did this by capturing one of my two monitors with a full screen browser that has Google Slides open in presentation mode so that I can advance through images while talking quite easily (Tim mentioned a setup he heard about where someone used the iPad to swipe through slides which would probably even be easier). I’m pulling in the audio from both by mic and Google Chrome using a virtual audio input from Loopback called OBS Audio (the Mic/Aux input in OBS is muted).

So, that is all fine and good: I created an establishing shot, close-up, and then a slide presentation view. The next step was integrating video seamlessly into the presentation, and to do this I grabbed a few fun clips from Alan Levine’s awesome EDUPUNK mockumentary to make a couple of points throughout the talk:

Grabbing the video with my Youtube downloader site was simple, now I wanted a few shots of Brian Lamb and I talking about EDUPUNK, particularly Brian 🙂

I originally tried creating a playlist in VLC and pulling in that application as a shot but the videos’ audio were out of sync, and it was awkward to control. Instead I created each video I would be using as a separate scene and loaded the shot as a Media Source directly from my computer, and that worked seamlessly. The only thing I had to do is make sure audio monitoring was on in Advanced Audio Settings for each video given I could not hear it while it played back:

And the final piece that made this go as smooth as it could have gone for me, was mapping each scene to a button on my new Elgato Stream Deck that allowed me to seamlessly change scenes back and forth from video to presentation mode without any issues:

This is the software that allows me to drag and drop an OBS scene on Stream Deck, which is actually a hardware device that sits on my desk with 15 buttons that I can manually switch between shots, allowing me to essentially be a one-man video streaming presentation band.

It’s a beautiful thing, and I am quite happy with the final results, warts and all. I guess I should have talked about EDUPUNK, but I kinda feel like experimenting with how to present dynamically via a remote video stream quickly and relatively cheaply using open source software like OBS makes the point in this COVID-19 moment more than anything I can say. The spirit is alive and well on the web, despair is just one option 🙂


*It’s rare anyone reaches out about EDUPUNK given it’s over 12 years ago now (crazy), so I jumped at the opportunity to talk about it.

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Reclaim Today: Tumamelt and Telepresence

024: Tunamelts and Telepresence

On Thursday Tim and I recorded yet another Reclaim Today episode, and I have to say this may be my favorite to date. Not only because we are beginning to see some of the fun possibilities manifest with the Reclaim TV Studio in this production, but it might mark the beginning of a truly awesome project. Tim and I have no shortage of good ideas when we get going, but Tim has really hit on some gold in his recent quest to bridge time and space to make sure Reclaim Arcade stays weird. He’s a genius, and I love the madness. But I might be getting ahead of myself here a bit, but the short version is he discovered this very cool site called Telemelt by Andrew Reitano, which is a way to play emulated NES games (amongst others) latency free online with friends. With the simple click of the spacebar you can switch who controls the game, and it is remarkably seamless, totally free, and a by-product of our current locked-down reality.

And to this equation Tim added another dimension, me and him playing them together in the proverbial and very real console living room in Fredericksburg with him in person and me on the robot. The combination of playing seamlessly via the browser and then “being” in the same space as a robot was quite remarkable. Which led him to the idea of what if we can replicate this latency-free game play for the Reclaim Arcade cabinets and have folks come in via robot and play with others that are in the physical space? A fleet of robots occupied by folks all over the world playing games in Reclaim Arcade….CAN YOU DIG IT!

I am sure I’ll have more to say about this, but it is also worth noting that this was our first stream using multiple-scenes with green screens and a little OBS Ninja action. I’m not gonna lie, I am loving our new streaming overlords 🙂

Posted in ds106tv, reclaim, Reclaim Arcade, Reclaim Today, video | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vinylcast #41: Van Halen II Side 2 in Honor of Eddie

I heard the news today, oh boy. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen passed tonight, and like most folks of a certain age he was a ubiquitous icon of the 1980s. I figured a playful tribute on #ds106radio would be fun, and the fact I still had a side left of Van Halen II to finish up a previous vinylcast meant I could not resist.

The #vinylcam in full effect
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A Stream of One’s Own

On Wednesday, October 14th I will be giving a presentation round Digital identity for the Global OER Graduate Network (GO-GN), in part because they are all being given their own domain and web hosting as a means to develop a web-facing sense presence online. Their blog post on the initiative says it far better than I ever could:

At the annual seminar one thing we try to encourage members to think about is their own open practice. GO-GN is not just about researching into open education, but also researching in an open manner. One aspect of this is in developing your online identity. This is probably more relevant for early career researchers because they are often moving between roles and institutions. Having a central space online that is your independent profile can help raise your profile and maintain an identity beyond institutional roles.

To that end, Tim and I got to talking and I wanted to find a way to marry some of the work we’ve been doing exploring video streaming with an engaging way to present this talk. My keynotes are few and far between these days, so no reason I can start exploring and having fun again 🙂 Tim’s been using Twitch for his Reclaim Arcade pinball streams, and he threw out the idea of approaching the talk as if it was given by a Twitch stream, which is just another way to say online tweaker 🙂 I’m not so sure how familiar you are with the world of Twitch streamers, I have to admit to being an almost total noob. I was aware of the various gamer streamers my kids follow, but I had no idea ASMR was a thing until Tim clued me in. Wow!

And then there are the random streamers on Twitch that are just non-stop personalities that provide hours of content that can be anything from blowing up helium balloons for every 10 new subscribers to sharing unwatched home recorded VHS tapes with a community of people. The space is fascinating for all sorts of reasons, but what has become increasingly interesting for me at this particular moment is the sophisticated ways that these streamers are producing fairly complex, multi-source videos that twenty years ago would have required a full blown production house. It’s one thing to reclaim the written word from mainstream media, which was the power of the blog in many ways in the early 2000s, it’s quite another to reclaim the infrastructure of television networks. Back in 2011 or 2012 when the idea of  Domain of One’s Own was ramping up at UMW, I remember Andy Rush suggesting the idea of a “Network of One’s Own” to describe the a multimedia branch of  this project wherein you would not just post text, tweet, etc, but also start easily streaming more complex media as part of your teaching and learning agenda. It was blue sky 10 years ago, but I think that time has started to arrive and given the broader connotations of network, I am opting for a Stream of One’s Own 🙂 In fact, we saw the beginnings of these possibilities with ds106’s Summer of Oblivion, and it led to our ongoing video show DTLT Today which had over 110 episodes, but once we got an actual building and a state-of-the-art video studio and everything went to hell. 

But all of this was still before streaming was ubiquitous, and while things were moving quickly within the gamer streaming communities on Twitch and Youtube, that was not the case for much of higher ed. That said, with the global shift to online learning over the past 6 months there has been a greater interest in applications that I would never have imagined I could have talked about with more than a select few faculty: OBS streaming software, video capture cards, streaming via Twitch, etc. You get the idea, there is a whole new dimension to teaching and learning online using streaming software, and while applications like Zoom, Whereby, WebEx, etc. might function as the next generation learning management system for video (with all the harm that comes along with that idea) the fact is making a compelling use of the medium will probably require a bit more than just a camera and a video conferencing platform. The idea of having access to a video streaming application like OBS as an online professor in the age of Zoom would be analogous to having PowerPoint for your lecture classroom. It allows a shared object of attention that integrates a dynamic space for highlighting points on the open web and beyond. Audio, video, and multimedia are all fair game, and you can become one with them on the stream as you are teaching through various shots and scenes.

I’ve been playing on ds106radio for months (years even) because I believe the same is true of that medium for higher ed, but with a bit less overhead (in terms of production and bandwidth) and untethered from the idea of having to be locked to your screen, which is attractive for many reasons. But if the visual dimension is a necessary element to demonstrate the subject matter then it makes sense that this will become a space for a host of instructors to explore. In fact, I think there is a huge opportunity to get interested faculty who want to move beyond the limits of out-of-the-box video conferencing software to get up and running with their own video production studio with about $500-$1000 of equipment and the free and open source software OBS.

So, all of this started out as a call for short videos from folks that find a creative way to tell the store of how they developed their online identity that I can share with the GO-GN folks in just over a week’s time. It can be a few minutes or just a few seconds—a Tik Tok if you will—wherein you creatively try and communicate the idea of what developing your digital identity has meant to you, and if you have time how and why you did it. Given the wall of text here I imagine no one will get to this paragraph, so I’ll try and make another, more abbreviated call out, but if you did read all the way through, thank you, and post a link to the video below, or send it to me directly at

Posted in digital identity | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments