A Lemonade Stand for Education

Image credit: InspirationDC's "First Lemonade Stand "

Yesterday marked the end of the ds106 Kickstarter, and at the end of two weeks we raised $12,643 and funded the project at 301% the original request of $4200—all of which remains mind boggling to me. In terms of funding this is still very much the lemonade stand of raising resources when it comes to educational projects, a small localized community quenching its thirst. At the same time it provides a glimpse of something very, very powerful in terms of a funding model for more experimental projects in the future. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how awesome the folks in the UMW admin have been for understanding ds106 is not the Computer Science class I teach at UMW, although that’s part of it, but a much larger, open experience that they help fund by keeping it running regularly and paying people to teach it—at the tune of six times over this past year!

On the other hand, all us in the ds106 community benefit by having the freedom to push the classes we teach at UMW, Kansas State University, SUNY Cortland, York College, Temple U Japan, and Jacksonville State University beyond traditional notions of course space, campus-specific community, and provincial notions of enrollment. We are still very much at the beginning of this experiment, but I hope this Kickstarter might begin to illustrate that “traditional” educational institutions and the open, online communities are not exclusive or diametrically opposed. Rather they can and do constantly work together in some powerful and dynamic ways that we’ve only yet begun to understand.

But more than anything, what really moved me about the whole experience was to see what is possible when a number of small acts of kindness and generosity make a big difference. This is encouraging to me, this is that “hopeful twist” to the apocalyptic rhetoric around all things education, change and the internet. What could be more buoying than the idea that people want to help each other create cool things and forge deep, personal ties through and on the web? That’s enough for me some days. Thank you for drinking the lemonade 🙂

Now, a few of us here have some cards to write, shirts to print, animated GIFs to make and assignments to name. What’s more, we haven’t ordered the t-shirts yet, so if you’re really dying for one let us know in the comments here and we will make arrangements to make sure you get what you want, I mean we’re not computers, Sebastian, we’re physical!

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6 Responses to A Lemonade Stand for Education

  1. rowan_peter says:

    Oh wait! That was lemonade? It tasted a little strange…

  2. Scott Leslie says:

    Jim, both the kickstarter project and #ds106 in general are great examples of an institution (indeed many institutions) becoming more “permeable” to use Benkler’s term that resonates for me so much.

    I am certain that specific individuals at UMW, its smaller size and particular bent all played some part in being able to adapt like this in ways that other institutions haven’t yet figured out how to do. But there’s one specific piece I’m interested in that I know is a source of challenges in many institutions – can you describe the specific manouevers you needed to execute around the kickstarter funding and institutional accounting/finances? Is it just the case of you and your credit card, or is the kickstarter funding somehow finding its way first into, and then back out of, UMW financial apparati.

    I ask because that particular chasm, between external (non-traditional) funding and university finance, can often be a challenge to cross. While it’s just one of the many challenges to permeablility, maybe you’ve figured out some methods others can learn from.

  3. Maura says:

    a comment for a t-shirt? is this a ploy to make sure loyal ds106-ers are reading and commenting? good thing i’m all about my abc’s – ALWAYS.BE.COMMENTING.

  4. Congratulations on your landslide success with this, Jim! I know that I am not alone in viewing those numbers as representative of a growing consensus about how very important what you’re doing is for rethinking education as we know it.

    Each of us who have drunk the lemonade (love it!) know that this wouldn’t be possible without you and your tireless dedication to the ds106 project.
    I am interested in knowing how you manage it all, along with all of your other obligations.

    As a junior faculty member who has been throwing herself headlong into new media production for a few years now (and with particular gusto now thanks to ds106) and as someone who is NOT from a computer science or edutech background, I am aware of how much time it takes for someone like me to engage in this work (and I am not able to engage nearly as much as I would like to as a result!). Even though you have technical expertise on your side, I still can’t imagine that it’s not all-consuming for you too.

    It seems that the question of institutional support is a huge can of worms, and that it raises a discussion extending well beyond the release time and compensation — the traditional way that faculty in higher ed are supported for work such as this. Approaching the same institutional question that Scott raises from a slightly different angle, I am wondering about what kinds of discussions are going on at UMW (or elsewhere that you might know of) about how traditional (and dare I say neoliberal?) notions of TRP or “faculty” are being rethought in order to sustain the necessarily collaborative nature of this important and innovative work?

  5. Reverend says:

    Gabba gabba hey!

    That’s an awesome question, and may deserve its own post, but let me answer it first 🙂 I actually didn’t ask for any institutional advice before we did this with the idea that ds106 was somehow distinct from UMW proper, and also because asking for advice with an unknown like Kickstarter often results in a reactionary no.

    However after the Chronicle article was written the administration found out their only question, which was legitimate, was “Are you fundraising in the name of UMW?” This is an issue because the president and development office focus on this specifically, and if I was intervening in this institutional process it might be seen as a potential blindside of the president when he is out fundraising.

    When I explained while ds106 may benefit UMW it’s actually in ways ways external to it, they seemed fine with the Kickstarter. So there is no clearly defined relationship between ds106 the community and UMW, and the idea of the MOOC for them is many ways outside of the schools purview as of now. I was prepared to put the money in a foundation fund at UMW, but for various reasons, particularly how the two entities were separate, it made no sense So, in the end it is basically an issue of the money coming into my Amazon Payments account and me paying for the various thing s and also accounting for taxes because as of now it will be considered personal income. I am currently trying to figure out if I can do anything to alleviate the tax impact and really hope to have it live outside of Jim Groom’s account.

    So how we negotiated it was basically the University recognizing ds106 as related to but distinct from UMW. The issue you raise is one we are still working towards, how do we start making such things less segregated and more integrated? This might be easier at a private institution, but given UMW is public we would have a lot more state-driven restrictions that might make it more difficult, but I don’t think impossible. Does this make any sense?

    UMW section 1 students get the t-shirt with no financial obligations, I am a man of my word 🙂

    Man, institutional support is a huge can of worms, and I’ll make no bones about it—to teach the way ds106 requires takes everything I have in terms of time, passion, and presence—and I don;t always have it. And then to try and shepherd in new folks and be responsive is a whole ‘nother job—both deeply rewarding and demanding. I really get away with doing it by allowing it to bleed into my day job as a technologist as well as foregoing sleep at various times over the course of the semester 🙂

    I am taking a bit of a break from teaching it for a bit so I can actually work with other folks teaching it and comment more and work on fine-tuning the communal elements. But I get paid like an adjunct for teaching the course after hours and it is the only course I teach.

    But the idea of compensation at universities is really the single most horrifying reality we face right now in my eyes. And for you to even begin to get compensated for the time you spend teaching ds106 we would have to cut most teaching loads in half. What university would even consider such a thing? None? But we need to either get compensated or re-imagine expectations of the professor. And when I mean re-imagine the expectations I am talking about feedback, grading, etc. They are crucial to what I do, and given I have re-positioned myself as a guide, cheerleader, and mentor I have more time to comment and focus on their work and spend less time preparing content and “lessons.” I come to class unprepared in the traditional sense, but make sure the y are prepared to work, create, and engage. All of this, though, doesn’t get to the heart of your questions and it remains the single greatest impediment to something like this really becoming mainstream because it requires a ton of work and often results in no more compensation in the traditional sense. Compensation may come from professional connections, resulting presentations, papers, talks, etc., but in terms of cash money it is absent. It is always what scared me about P2PU a bit, I love what I do with a deep passion but I can;t afford to do it for nothing. Adjuncting salary of $3000 a class is low enough, but once I get into nothing I couldn’t afford to do it—and there are many, mnay people in that situation. I would love to see something in the ds106 community that emerges that enables professors how do this get rewarded in turn by the community. But that also has to be pledge-driven and transparent, but I have no doubt with this community anything is possible, and in that we might be able to start addressing the monetary and labor conditions, which are huge, outside of the institution to put pressure on them within. I was hoping to offer the class to someone to teach for twice the adjunct salary if we got enough int he Kickstarter—I’m not sure we will have enough, but the idea continues to appeal to me. But, the other issue is why aren’t our respective institutions investing more in this? I don’t know why, but it does concern me that they can’t fully comprehend what a gem they have at their fingertips, but I guess I haven’t fully articulated it as well as I could either. Although, even if I could I’m not so sure that would bring money in for us, and that neoliberal strain choking out a decent standard of living and a livable wage for college professors, particularly part-time workers, is truly depressing if I think about it long enough. But to be honest I don’t want to think about it too long, I want to create something different and beautiful. Something that recognizes the value of labor for both students and professors, something that doesn’t exploit adjunct labor unconscionably, something that puts community and people at the core. That is what we are building, it may not be lucrative, but it is right, and it may very well soon be something akin to an alternative. But I am dreaming now, hit me with the pig’s bladder please.

  6. Scott Leslie says:

    Jim, thanks for the detailed response, it definitely speaks to my own strong inclinations to beg forgiveness rather than seek permission. Oh you edupunk you.

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