I had a pretty intense day at the Sloan-C Emerging Technologies Conference on Thursday. (It actually took me two days to recover mentally). I presented a workshop first thing in the morning on how to “Reclaim Your Domain.” There were about 15-20 folks in the room for that, and I am guessing roughly the same number online. I had a really fun time with this session because it was a pretty focused overview of how web hosting works. Particpants created their own subdomains on reclaimdemo.com, and from there we all navigated cPanel, created subdomains, installed applications with Installatron, and explored File Manager. We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, and it further reinforced people can get up running with their own web hosting in very little time. What’s more, there was some great discussion along the way. This was a thoroughly enoyable session for me, and it hits close to home because this is how I got started in edtech over ten year ago thanks to Zach Davis.
After the workshop I went back to my room and fine-tuned my keynote presentation before taking part in a carreer forum organized by Rolin Moe about what it means to be an “EdTech Practitioner.” I was joined by Michael Berman and Chris Mattia of CSU Channel Islands, two of the many great folks I had the pleasure of meeting at this conference (I’ll be writing a separate post to list all of them!). It was a full room, and I’m afraid I might have ruffled some feathers while admonishing folks to stay away from edtech degrees. There were two bits of advice that Michael Berman gave that I thought were spot on:
- if you are working in edtech and haven’t taught at the college level, you should fix that;
- if you’re looking for a job in edtech don’t wait to be hired, start doing edtech—the web is your oyster.
Words of wisdom, Lloyd, Words. Of. Wisdom.
After that session I presented about the work happening at UMW with Domains of One’s Own in a very big room. The presentation was a further exploration of the “Domains in the Afterglow” talk I did at Baruch two weeks ago. It was tighter than the Baruch talk, and I integrated a five-slide skreed against the learning management system I lifted directly from Brian Lamb’s brilliant writing on the topic in an article we’ll be publishing in EDUCAUSE Review‘s next issue. I also worked in a cartoon and two concepts from Tim Klapdor’s brilliant post on “Literacy and the Digital Self”:
- “digital literacy” is a poorly defined concept and there’s a significant gap between the idea and the reality;
- How do we create a “student-centric technology ecosystem”?
These worked as beautiful transitions to the work we are doing with Domain of One’s Own at UMW, so special thanks to Tim and Brian for making my presentation tighter.
In terms of the approach I took with this presentation, in hinsight I realized it worked a bit like a trojan horse on two counts. First, by starting off talking about the afterglow of 1990s personal web publishing through the lens of Geocities and tilde spaces on university servers that most folks in the room could relate. In fact, I’m sure they appreciated a bit of light-hearted nostalgia and history-based superiority while taking in the seemingly simple, rather rudimentary design sensibility of the early web. That bit helped them open up their hearts and minds to the ideas immediatly before I dropped the bomb. I moved from Geocities and tilde space to an aggressive dismantling of our field’s addiction to the learning management systems to solve all of our technology-based teaching and learning problems.
The second trojan horse was openly named as such when I suggested approaching Domain of One’s Own as an eportfolio at one’s institution to get it in the door. This is something I’ve talked about a bit already, but I think it bears repeating. If the idea that something like UMW Domains is an eportfolio solution gets your foot in the door, run with it. Not only because it can defintiely be that, but because that’s just the beginning. The secret is that it’s pretty easy to demonstrate how much more than “just a tool” web hosting is; it quickly becomes a user innovation toolkit! So, I am fine with folks calling it an eportfolio solution if they undestand that’s just the gateway pitch to get the Greeks in the door 🙂
As I realized soon after my talk, the back channel discussion on Twitter was raging. More than a few folks were resistant to my critique of the LMS, and I appreciate that. My talk comes from many of my biases and freedoms as a result of the work I am doing at UMW, and I welcome more discussion around what’s possible, or not, with the LMS and why. The thing that kills me is there seems to have been a general, tacit agreement in this field that the LMS is THE one system we all need for teaching and learning. And I don’t’ necessarily agree. In fact, I think it’s just that mindset that has stifled this field when it comes to broader innovations with networked learning.
Anyway, that’s the skinny on #et4online. I had a great time, and it was kinda fun to get back to a really big edtech conference like this. The faces of relatively new vendors to the field like Bluehost’s Spoke and CampusPress made me feel a bit old (more on this in another post), but also suggests this space is moving in some interesting directions we’ve all been pushing on for a long while. Having someone host and manage some of the infrastruture in that regard is fine, but the complex design for teaching and learning on the web remains something we all must grapple with as an existential condition, not a product that can solve everything.
Below is a video of the talk, forgive my constant movement but I have to admit I was a bit nervous for this one.