#OpenEd15 – Now what?

Here’s what #OpenEd15 has me thinking I/we need to do at VCU. We ought to do a survey of current open-content and align it with high drop/withdraw/fail courses. We ought to fill gaps there with stuff that we (ALT Lab, professors, students) make. We ought to have multi-modal direct-instruction-media creation challenges. I want to do it like an Iron Chef challenge. I have tried and failed to sustain something similar in the past. It could be moving it from lesson plan to direct instruction media might make it easier. No doubt the hardest part will be the human element. We ought to have a larger VA partnership around accessibility. Seeing everything that UBC does makes me realize how far we have to go. I want to consider replacing OLE (our current attempt to get people comfortable with teaching online) with something very much like what we did with faculty for the VCU Bike Race Book. So we’ll pick a particular topic to unite the courses (say Richmond and Race). We’ll offer some standard professional development and drop in times but the real deal will be having a specific focus for faculty and to teach a group of one hour pass/fail courses online. I’ve become more and more convinced that it has to be live with students to create the need […]

My Chunk of the VCU ALT Lab Educause Presentation

I got a chance to present at Educause with Gardner, Jon, and Molly. The session was about 45 minutes so we each had about 7 minutes. The session description is below. I figured I’d throw my slides/comments up here- mainly because I will forget everything if I don’t write it down. In the past, centers supporting excellence in teaching and learning tended to follow models of faculty development focusing on incremental change in widely accepted practices. VCU’s Academic Learning Transformation Laboratory seeks to change that paradigm. This session will begin with our story thus far. Come help us write our next chapters! from the program This is a list of my greatest fears (although I left out hypocrisy which I find myself repeating almost as much as workflow). It’s easy to scare people out of doing things. It’s easy to end up aiming for mediocrity. That feels like a high bar at times. Don’t call warming up dog food a victory. It’s really almost worse than leaving it cold. At least cold dog food isn’t pretending. I’ve had to do it at times but don’t let it ever become a goal. Excuses are easy. Figuring out real limits on capacity and aspiration is hard and a constantly moving target. It’s a tightrope to walk but walk it. Many places support […]


It Could Be Beautiful: VSTE12 Presentation

This was an Ignite style session where I expressed my own personal frustration with educational technology at scale and attempted to then offer some redeeming alternatives actively being pursued by others. Below are a few of the slides and roughly what I tried to get across. On the left is good education/learning etc. The middle is roughly what we have now, suffering from extensive damage and quite vulnerable to being completely destroyed. The far right is what a lot of technology integration does. It is covering up gaping holes and damage but at the same time utterly destroying what it purports to be protecting and conserving. Not only do we do that but we hold up that distorted monstrosity as best practice. We put it on t-shirts and brag about what we’ve done. We continue to create structures that pretend that a certain level of learning/teaching lives inside a technology without any regard to the instructional context. It depresses me this has been around since at least 2009 and is now migrating to peacocks and umbrellas. Our society is so desperate for educational alternatives that we lionize a man who put video tutorials on the Internet as the second coming of Gutenberg. This Forbes story was shared 15,000 times when I last checked. Not that this is without value but […]

Internet Culture as Digital Content: VSTE12 Presentation

This presentation is essentially a pitch for the idea that we ought to be looking at the world with open eyes and paying attention to the content that is exciting to ourselves and others- the things we read/watch/listen to without being coerced. The introduction it is a rehash of the RSS aggregator pitch that I’ve given off and on since 2002. I know Twitter is much cooler and RSS is pronounced dead on a regular basis but Twitter fills a very different niche for me and I think the RSS aggregator still has a lot of value. I also stressed the idea that you have to aggregate feeds you actually want to read. That’s very different than feeds you feel you ought to want to read. Make this unpleasant for yourself and you will never, ever, read them. Build feeds that rejuvenate and interest you and then bring that into your instruction.1 My goal was to point out the huge swathe of low hanging fruit waiting for the right teacher to look at it in the right way- essentially the antipode of most of the content we use in education. This is really more of a change in philosophy than anything else. I’m hoping people open their minds to a larger idea of what might qualify as digital content. I […]

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Daily Shoot Meets #VSTE

We were looking to do something to get participants more involved in documenting the VSTE conference this year. Essentially what we decided to do was create a random assignment generator and aggregate that content to a Posterous blog. We’ll work on our Tebowing skills but all in all it feels like it worked pretty well. Given that we only had three people 1 tag anything with #vste2011 on Flickr we had pretty good participation. The goal was to try to keep the assignments really small and quick. We tried to mix opportunities for serious stuff in with a fair amount of fun things. I believe this was originally worked in as part of a QR code activity. I’m not sure if that hurt things. I saw multiple people struggling to get QR codes to work at a few other sessions where a tinyURL would have done a much better job. I’d describe how I used Google to find a php script or two that would allow me to randomize some text to make the page I used but . . . if I’d be thinking more clearly I’d have just used WordPress to do this. I also tacked on a Google Form to allow for the submission of additional project ideas (WordPress comments would have been simpler). No fuss, no […]


Common Tools, Irregular Uses

Files Screenshots Word – Onion Skinning Comic Templates – Word/PPT PPT – Visual Timer Excel – MadLibs style Excel – Code breaker Excel – Self-Checking Crossword Puzzle Google Forms – Choose Your Own Adventure (Spreadsheet) Google Earth – Choose Your Own Adventure Excel – Easy HTML Formatting WordPress – Dictionary, Audio Repository, student newspaper etc.

VSTE Conference Presentations

I’ll be updating this post as I pull the content together. These are presentations I’m doing at VSTE this year. Common Tools, Uncommon Uses Take a sideways look at educational uses for common tools and websites. Projectile motion in Word? Google forms for a choose-your-own-adventure novel? Yep. Stuff like that. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list and the goal is more about encouraging people to look at these tools and realize that no matter the goal of the creators/marketers we can use them in all kinds of powerful ways that were never intended. I think in the end, I’m going to organize it by concept and show multiple applications that support those concepts. SCREENSHOTS Movie frames for comics Capture motion data Summarize movies PPT Visual timer ComicLife/Mind Mapping Choose Your Own Adventure EXCEL Text manipulation Self-Correcting Crossword Puzzle MadLibs 8 bit graphic design WORD Onion skinning to map motion DIY ComicLife, Omnigraffle etc. GOOGLE FORMS Choose your own adventure Intelligent assessments WORDPRESS/BLOGS MOOCs: Define and Applied to K12 Massive Online Open Courses are catching on. What are they and what can K12 teachers learn from them? Both professional development and concrete classroom applications will be explored After I explain what a MOOC is and show a few examples that might be interesting for K12 educators. I’m going to […]


#VSS2010 – DAY 1

This is my first time at the virtual school symposium. So far it’s very similar to NECC or any of the other edtech conferences I’ve been to. The format is very traditional. It is vendor heavy. Wireless sucks. They don’t take nearly the advantage they should of the Internet. If conferences want to survive they’ll also figure out some really useful things to do that can only be done by having this many people in the same physical space. I know that sounds pretty negative. I’d say it’s accurate. If any of the conferences want to share their profit margins on these things maybe I’d feel more magnanimous. Random thoughts so far1 Just because something rhymes does not mean you have to retweet it as gospel. I know there’s research that shows that rhyming has something to do with people’s perception of veracity but still. Many people have not read Disrupting Class (or maybe I don’t understand the book) but they insist on quoting it. One of the major points of the book was that the disruptive innovation occurs in a place where there is no competition. The product is also usually inferior to the product in the main space (Apple PC as toy vs IBM mainframes). That’s certainly not how people are using it. I’m not really buying chunks […]


What do you wish you’d learned in school?

I was conversing with Jon Becker on Twitter a while back. He’d retweeted this tweet1 to this 50 questions project. Basically, the idea is to go someplace and ask 50 people a fairly open ended question. In this particular case, they asked people “Where would you like to wake up tomorrow?” That stirred up some interest for me because I’ve been kicking around the idea of interviewing random people about education. I have a variety of reasons for doing this. One, I suck at talking to strangers2. This would force me to do it and in what I see as the hardest way possible. No one likes to be approached by a random stranger with a camera. Hopefully, practicing under adverse conditions will result in an increased rate of improvement. Two, I think it’ll be interesting. You never know what people might say. Everyone’s been through some kind of schooling experience. I’ll be looking for trends and hidden/not-so-hidden truths. Even if nothing like that develops, I’m curious. Three, I occasionally have layovers in airports or I’m waiting in other places and I’m bored. It’d kill some time to do interviews like these. Four, I’d like to compile the eventual pieces and parts into something that’s interesting. So, on the drive up to NYC for WordCamp I was talking to Jim […]

Amazing Stories of Openness

The Circle of Openess is Complete

Alan Levine, the magical CogDog, interviewed me a few weeks back asking about good things that happened to me because of the open way I share my work. He compiled a huge number of these stories for his presentation at the Opened Conference and they are well worth watching. Watch the archived version of Alan’s presentation below. OK, with all that as a set up here’s what I thought was wild about today. I’m in Virginia watching the conference which is in Vancouver1 on uStream 2. Up pops Alan’s presentation and I end up watching my own video interview which was a surprise. At almost the same moment I see over twitter that Jim Groom is there watching me as I watch me. I don’t know why this seemed so amazing to me but it did and still does. I see this as an amazing story of openness on so many levels and such a cool example of the beautiful way information can flow in instantaneous ways. 1 3,000 odd miles away and nearly 3 days of driving 2 because it’s a conference about openness after all