Reclaim Open Learning

Reclaim Open Learning – Not Anti-MOOC. But pro open. from Jöran und Konsorten on Vimeo.

This past weekend I had the real privilege of going to MIT’s Media Lab to join a group of diverse international thinkers for a hackathon around the idea of learning on the open web thanks to Philipp Schmidt—I can’t believe he still has faith in me, does anyone any more? The theme that emerged is reclaim, as in reclaim the web, reclaim your data, reclaim open learning, etc. This is a topic very much in line with (and at least for me inspired by) Boone Gorges and D’Arcy Norman‘s Reclaim Project. The theme of “reclaiming” the digital bits of one’s online self is an interesting one, and I like how it conceptually dovetails with the work UMW is doing with Domain of One’s Own. Even more than that, I like how it might be taken as a call for people to take an active part in considering and reclaiming their own stuff on the web. No need for a manifesto, the process and thinking behind it is actually pretty practical, relevant, and extremely important. What’s more, it requires us all to learn and share along the way to make it matter. Therein lies the communal vision around such an idea, the emergence of affinity networks of people who more and more feel that controlling some part of themselves on the web might be important (Audrey Watters made this last point brilliantly in the video above).

And while I have to write a longer post (or ten) about my thinking, I can’t right now given my headspace—and probably won’t any time soon. So, in the meantime, I want to quickly note that my small piece of the weekend at the MIT Media Lab was working with the very awesome Kin Lane, the “API (and IPA) Evangelist,” who many, many people need to get on their radar because his thinking and execution in this space is nothing short of brilliant (and he keeps good company too 🙂 ). He is working this stuff out on a conceptual level for the federal government’s digital strategy using open APIs, and it is remarkable how much our visions of this stuff align as an approach to the web. He worked with me on hacking out a wizard for what a “Reclaim Your Domain” project might look like. A big part of it is helping people get up and running with their own domain, and use some contextual help within the wizard to get at explaining the thinking around why and how (for us ease of use, explanation, and design are all equally crucial).

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 3.44.31 PM

This is, in part, based on the immediate needs of UMW for our Domain of One’s Own project launching in the Fall, but what was essential about the Reclaim Your Domain project was that it needs to abstract itself out beyond UMW’s vision (which can often be simplified to “install your blog”) and Kin and Audrey were awesome in pushing this aspect. Reclaim Your Domain has to be about a variety of hosting options, services, resources, and possibilities to manage your identities online across a variety of services, this is not necessarily “give up all social networks, drop offline, and feed the rabbits” —rather it’s about controlling (to the extent you can), backing up, and syndicating the work you do on the web. A home for your data that can be as distributed and decentralized as the platform it’s designed for. What’s more, we will be using PubSubHub as a hook to establish more sophisticated directories of feeds across services for a given community that signs up through a wizard that also can start aggregating much more than just blog posts (think images, videos, etc.).

Reclaim Your Domain also builds on the amazing recent work Martin Hawksey’s been doing with designing a (M)OOC with open source software that is light, relatively easy, and freely available. The way we were talking about it, a version of Hawksey’s open courseware would be an option in the resources part of the wizard to allow any domain (or node)  to also become a hub by installing a push-button (M)OOC-in-a-Box (which can also become its own hub) or push a button and have a ds106 framework, Commons-in-a-Box, etc, and a community there to support you as well. How sick would that be? And with the possibilities of collaboratively creating, coding, and forking on GitHub, we could actually manage all this well. Think about it, a service that actually empowered people to experiment with various technologies created within a specific context on their own domain for the price of a url and cheap hosting—this is UMW’s BlueHost experiment writ large, and it has legs.

Given I will be offline for the next month or more, I spent a bit of time today sharing with Martha Burtis and Tim Owens as much as I can of my weekend at MIT and my take on the project to carry on the work with Kin Lane, Audrey Watters, and Philipp Schmidt so that we can push the Reclaim Your Domain project (and its various possibilities) forward to a larger community of folks. UMW obviously has a vested interest in this, but it makes sense that we make the frame for Reclaim Your Domain as accessible to as many people as we possibly can. So I hope you will join us in this endeavor. I believe Kin Lane is putting the project on GitHub, which will be one place to get involved, and I also imagine Audrey (whose blog even challenges the bava for greatness [cue meek sniveling] “#nobody?”)  will frame this out far more articulately than I ever could.

As for the Open Learning Hackathon at MIT, it was a complete blast. I want to give a shout out to everyone there over the weekend, Tara Tiger Brown, Ari Bader Natal, The GERMANS! (Friederike, Adrian, Jöran), Mimi Ito, Dirk CuysVanessa Genarelli,  Emily Zeamer, and David Theo Goldberg that made the weekend truly inspiring. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t note how awesome it was to connect with Jonathan Worth, whose work with open teaching and learning demonstrated in classes like #picbod and #phonar is mind blowing and remains an inspiration. Thank you all for a great weekend.

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26 Responses to Reclaim Open Learning

  1. Faith? I have it on good authority that YOU ARE THE FUTURE!


  2. Reverend says:

    There are so many more people who should have been there this past weekend rather than me, you are one of them. I’ve been continually inspired by you for as long as I have been writing this here blog. I owe you a professional debt the size of Texas—I just won’t include their penal code when I repay you 🙂

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  4. Kin Lane says:

    Great post Jim! As soon as Audrey and I get home and get some breathing room I will run through the site again and publish it as a public repository on Github.

    I will also continue to develop a framework that will allow others to contribute. We can get the base domain wizard and blog service setup, and bring in others to allow us to quickly move into other servies.

    What a great weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed brainstorming this with you.

    • Reverend says:


      You are amazing, and I was simply the whiteboard for you to create the magic on. I am looking forward to the GitHUb, and really hope we can pull you and Audrey down to UMW soon to have a week or so to think all this through some more. So brilliant, thanks for being so awesome!

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  7. Joss Winn says:

    This comment was copied over from another post for the great Joss Winn.

    Hi Jim,

    Since you’re encouraging people to self-host, you might want to suggest they consider using Mayfirst/People Link. It’s an excellent, NYC-based, member-run, politically-driven organisation that provides great shared hosting for $100/year. The Wikipedia article provides a nice overview. I use it for my own domain and run WordPress, ownCloud and Tiny Tiny RSS on it with no problems.

    I think that MF/PL exemplify the values and approach you’re trying to encourage.

    All the best,

  8. Reverend says:


    Awesome pointer, I haven’t heard of MayFirst before, and it certainly frames the idea of having your data in a place that can’t be so easily taken from you. It also seems to gel well with the Reclaim Your Domain project as well )( Tim Owens has been running a hosting company called Hippie Hosting that is basically a co-op of sorts, similar, but on a smaller scale, and I love the idea of member-driven coops for hosting at an affordable price. I wonder if this will be a trend we start seeing more of.

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  11. Scott Leslie says:

    “I’m not loud or disruptive” hah! ha ha ha!

  12. Bill Seitz says:

    Hmm, all these -in-a-box options seem targeted at *professors* rather than students. Making it easy for a professor to launch an e-supported course across a variety of student-selected PLE sources is key to the ecosystem, but I’m nervous that treating them as parts of a hopefully-coherent system will lead to monoculture pressures – “yeah we can re-aggregate any feed, but it will really work better if you stick with WordPress”, etc.

    Or am I missing something? (Since I only dip my toe into these waters occasionally.)

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