Reclaim EdTech

Yesterday was in many ways the start of something new, fun, and cool at Reclaim Hosting:  the first team meeting of Reclaim’s emergent instructional technology team. I realized during that two-hour-marathon-meeting-that-did-not-suck that I’ve been waiting near-on nine years for this moment. I have dabbled in being a successful businessman, arcade owner, and rising Karaoke starlet (most noble pursuits :), but at the end of the day I’m a lowly instructional technologist. It’s the work that gives me the most pleasure and satisfaction, so knowing that we’re going to have a team exploring and sharing what’s possible with teaching and learning on the web brings me great joy.

Shining GIF

What’s more, the team comes with experience. Pilot Irwin was running the Domain of One’s Own project at Carleton College after being a freshly minted college graduate, and a year on the frontlines showing faculty, staff and students the power of the open web for teaching and learning has made their transition to Reclaim Hosting seamless. Not only have they thrived as an account manager for existing schools, but have joined at a perfect time to get in on the ground floor of edtech at Reclaim. The whole idea of pushing hard on instructional technology was born from the realization that an instructional technologist with years of experience, such as Taylor Jadin, might not only be interested in working at Reclaim Hosting, but have a strong vision for how instructional technology at Reclaim can  reinforce and support the development of Reclaim’s existing university partners and those still unmet friends and partners.

Image of the borg

After talking with Taylor, Lauren and I knew we needed to make a space for him at Reclaim, and provide Pilot the opportunity to further hone the skills they’ve already developed at Carleton had the makings of a team. Then comes the third-wheel, old man winter bava! There’s definitely a selfish reason on my part for pushing edtech at Reclaim—I want a group of folks that I can explore alongside when it comes to both cPanel and Reclaim Cloud. I love tinkering with these next generation tools, and if we can continue to harness the power of open source technologies to liberate us from the edtech borg—then my day job continues to be all sweetness and light. I’m convinced the containerized infrastructure of Reclaim Cloud opens up a whole new world for edtech that’s by-and-large still unexplored, yet as Taylor notes in yesterday’s meeting, the Cloud is quickly becoming trailing-edge tech 🙂

Reclaim Container Ship

Anyway, the meeting was two hours long, exploratory in nature, and a whole lotta fun. We took notes, and I’m going to capture some of those here for both reference and posterity:

  • Offering instructional technology services for new DoOO schools-> one of the things we have been lacking given labor limitations with new Domain of One’s Own schools is targeted support beyond admin training. So edtech can start filling that roll of coming in after the training and getting a sense of how this will be rolled out across campus and then run targeted workshops for folks on campus to show them what’s possible
  • Workshops for the Reclaim Community -> This is already happening, next week, Wednesday, January 12th, Taylor will be running a community chat talking about how to create a community site for Domain of One’s Own to capture and promote the work happening on campus. You can sign-up here.
  • Proselytizing Reclaim Cloud -> 2022 is the year of Reclaim Cloud, I can feel it in my bones. And I want to get out in front of schools and show them what Docker makes possible and also how they can scale applications for larger instances of an application like WordPress seamlessly. There is much to do on this front, and it is work that excites me to no end cause it cause hand-in-hand with exploring possibilities, which I associate so closely with the best kinds of edtech
  • Document the work we do (writing, streaming, etc.) -> blog it, vlog it, tweet it, get it out there. We have to write, record, and generally share the work we are doing. It is a “central pillar” as Taylor notes, and I concur!
  • Professional development for edtech -> I loved this idea, and it dovetails beautifully with our Reclaim Roadshow work. We have been good at trying to offer folks training around Domain of One’s Own instances given staff turns over, technology changes, and needs come up that weren’t apparent at the start. We can do more of this, even beyond Domains. We could push on more white-labeled professional development around WordPress Multisite, Containers, Docker, etc. There is a lot here, particularly when it comes data science that many libraries are exploring, and it might be awesome to bring in folks who are doing this on campus.
  • Edtech on Campus -> Another idea that was born of the last was running a Reclaim Today series wherein we talk with edtech groups at various campuses to get a sense of their mission, day-to-day work, and the principles and values that drive them. Super useful for us to know, and would be wonderful to hear folks share their visions.
  • Panel around hacking on WordPress -> WP4life -Taylor notes a panel around folks hacking WordPress to their will as a way to highlight cool work and re-enforce what’s possible, do love that.
  • WordPress Multisite Series -> This is something I have been thinking about for a while. I cut my teeth on WordPress Multisite, and I still love that app. So it might be fun to have a series wherein we talk with folks using WPMS and find out their experiences, maybe a look underneath the curtain at plugins, themes, and other mysteries. I would love a co-host on this one, so any interested takers let me know.
  • Everything but WordPress Series -> We are definitely geared toward WordPress, but there is a world beyond the W, so this series would explore other tools as a counterbalance to a 40% and counting WordPress-powered web.

We also talked about the newsletter that will be going out at the end of January, and I’m super excited about using Ghost for that—talk about the web beyond WordPress. It’s a good time to be a Reclaimer, and we look forward to further shaping and defining what edtech looks like at Reclaim Hosting, but that’s not done in a vacuum, so let us know what you might want/need. I have to say it’s been a long time since a two-hour meeting went so fast and seemed so fun, a good sign for sure.

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21 Responses to Reclaim EdTech

  1. Lauren Hanks says:

    Thanks for documenting this, Jim. Looking forward to all this team brings. Cheers to 2022!

    • Reverend says:

      Lauren,
      You are a huge part of this, and OERxDomains21 was the best edtech of 2021 in my mind, and you were all over it. EdTech at Reclaim wouldn’t be magic without you!

  2. David Wiley says:

    Sounds terrific! The world needs more of this kind of work.

    • Reverend says:

      David,
      #Edtech4life!
      It was kind of an important realization that of all the work I do edtech is the thing I have the most fun with and remain most excited about on a daily basis. It took a long time for Reclaim to become stable enough to take this leap, but it has been worth all the hours invested. The time I have had as part of the larger edtech community has been invaluable, they made Reclaim what it was, and I believe the more time I give the more rewards will come of this strange space I never knew existed until less than twenty years ago 🙂 And you, David, were a huge part of that space—I remember my first OpenEd in 2007 in Logan as a kind of turning point in my investment in open and all its uncertainties. So thanks!

  3. Ed Beck says:

    I spent a long time thinking about hacking WordPress over the holiday. It all started when a faculty member from my institution wrote a social media post praising Padlet as a tool, but wishing she didn’t have to delete old padlets (They only allow 3 on the free tier).

    This particular faculty member was part of our original DoOO group that got trained by Lauren a couple years ago and teaches in the Ed Tech department. So you know she’s very techy, willing to spend time and create things, and probably considered a tool like WordPress and didn’t use it. Probably because of Padlet’s simplicity, ease of use, and simple display.

    So you know me, I’ve been working on “homemade SPLOTs” for a while now. With my abilities and plugins I used for the SUNY Global Commons projects and SUNY Oneonta Pandemic Diary, I can create a SPLOT-like WordPress installation where students and faculty can sign in easily, create quickly, and share their work. What I like about my homemade SPLOTs vs the custom installers that are created to work with one theme and work in one way, is that we can use all of the full features of WordPress with that setup, including working with various themes. I can find themes that are map based/location based, timeline based, etc. I can replicate much of the look and feel of Padlet, and offer more wrap-around space, extra pages to add context, etc.

    So I’d love to see on your hacking WordPress series a talk from someone who has created custom authoring forms. What I would probably do is get a few demo SPLOTs all set up and ready on my WordPress Multisite, and then allow my end-users to use the clone features in CBOX Openlab so that they could immediately hit the ground running, just as easily if they spun up their own padlet.

    This is really important to me and related to one of my needs as a campus-based ID. I need really easy entrance points for faculty to work with open source web tools.

    • Reverend says:

      Ed,

      Simple does win, a lesson I have learned early on in edtech, and that used to be the reason WordPress won, until twitter came along 🙂 I think Taylor is dealing with a lot of the same issues you are with not only creating custom templates, in next week’s meeting it will be focused on the Community Showcase template he created, but more generally towards creating and sharing these templates across schools. What’s the best way for this? The custom SPLOTs are awesome because we can roll them out to all schools as an Installatron app, but custom templates are a bit more bespoke, so us figuring out the cleanest way to do this is going to be huge—and I know is on Taylor’s mind very heavily given he, like you, wants to share the work he is doing.

      I wonder if we can’t talk to Boone Gorges is is a friend of open source edtech experimentation and find out how he is doing this with CBox, let me know and perhaps we can see if he might be an early guest on the hacking wordpress “show” talking about CBox and how he manages pulling in so many disparate plugins as a coordinated app.

      Also, I think it is folks like you connecting us with the amazing work of Learnful Labs for H5P that makes the exdtech community continually resonant and relevant to me, so thanks for all you do for Domain and beyond Ed, I am a big fan!

      • Ed Beck says:

        Thanks Jim,

        I think you should talk to both Boone Gorges and Charlie Edwards. Currently in CBOX OpenLab, you can “clone” sites on a network. So I could make a demo, set it up with all the plugins and things configured just the way I want, and allow users to clone that into their own site.

        On their roadmap, they would like to be able to find a way to clone between sites, much in the way that you can clone books from Pressbook network to Pressbook network. Their use case is slightly more complicated, because most Pressbooks are using (basically) interchangeable themes and a low number of plugins, but Pressbooks is the other group that allows for cloning between WordPress Multisites.

        The work that the Pressbooks team have done to make sure H5P and metadata move between sites is wonderful, but narrowly focused on their use case of OER Publishing. I’m sure they could teach other projects a lot however, dev to dev. Steel Wagstaff or someone from their dev team might be immensely useful to people who want to find ways to template and share WordPress Setups.

  4. Matt Davis says:

    This is really exciting! Thanks so much for sharing the process, especially in these early stages of the team.

    • Reverend says:

      Pleasure to meet you Matt, and hope things are going well at Davidson! Just followed you on twitter, so you are no longer safe 🙂

  5. Alan Levine says:

    Keep on Reclaiming! How can you not, it’s in your name.

    I’m stoked to see this energy as most of the field seems to be focused on platforms solutionism, which is not always bad, but I think we are losing our mojo when we stop the hands on experimenting.

    Ed I’d love to see the WordPress hacks you are doing, it’s still a thing I can’t drop. I feel like I have to get a better handle on the newer block editing methods, and the theme building that people are talking about driving by json configs.

    And I feel really behind the cool kids as I have not done any cloud work. Bring on the hacking and sharing of all kinds. I’m in.

    • Reverend says:

      Alan,

      I agree, it’s the energy I crave and dig, and there was no shortage of that at UMW and at Reclaim, but when 3 folks are managing infrasturcture, support, and sales it can get hard to find time to play 🙂 The growth has come with difficulties and now real rewards, and I am thrilled to return to the hacky web I enjoy so much. Thing is, you never stopped, and the blog tells the tale!

  6. Philipp Schmidt says:

    EdTech3 … it’s finally here. Thanks for the update and excited to see how this evolves.

    • Reverend says:

      Philipp,

      EdTech3 came just in time to usher in EdTech4, always happy to be behind the curve, in fact its what I like most about higher ed, we can come behind the crows and play in the abandoned infrastructure of capital. It’s like skateboarding in the late 70s, the abandoned ruins of Santa Monica have become our experimental playground 🙂

  7. I am very interested and excited by all this.
    I am a college professor in tech ed, computer science ed (and other things) and want to be able to use tools that are open, secure, and promote autonomy (as in DoOO).
    So, I have been playing with Reclaim Cloud and have etherpad and Voyant tools up and running.
    I also successfully have Ghost running, but my ideal scenario would be a hub where my students and I can blog in parallel play.
    Any thoughts?
    Thanks for all the great work.

    • Reverend says:

      Gerald,

      This is awesome, and I imagine having them setup a space and then working with common containers or apps might be fun, and there are some schools that use one email/account with funding, and then share environments with faculty and students so they can use them and not have to add any funding. There are limits to that, but let me know some specifics and I can recommend some possibilities.

      • Gerald Ardito says:

        Thanks for getting back to me.
        I have set up etherpad, voyant-tools, and mattermost servers so my students can use them.
        I am particularly interested in my students being able to set up their own blogs and that they can be connected in some and/or we can use rss to subscribe to them.
        Your input is greatly appreciated.

  8. Very exciting to see this.

    Hey, I’m teaching an ed tech seminar this semester. Maybe my students should stalk this team.

    • Reverend says:

      Be fun to see them playing with possibilities that are self-hosted and open source, but that just might be my edtech bias 🙂

  9. Pingback: Introducing Instructional Technology at Reclaim Hosting | bavatuesdays

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