I got back from an interesting little unconference experience yesterday where Brad Kozlek and I attended the WordCamp ED at George Mason University in Virginia. It might seem strange that a couple of guys working a University wide blogging solution built on MovableType would have the nerve to go and spend the day with other faculty and staff doing the same, but with WordPress as the focus. I was convinced that the trip would be worth it and the discussion would center on the power of open publishing platforms for teaching and learning. I wasn’t disappointed. Nearly the entire day focused on the outcomes and practices being realized via a campus wide blogging platform. It was cool to see people giving up a Saturday to get together and talk.
One of the big reasons I wanted to go was to get to finally meet Jim Groom in person. Jim is a passionate educational technologist who runs the Blogs at University of Mary Washington service. His work has been an inspiration to lots of people trying to free learning content across campuses. If you read his blog you know he is really into shattering the status quo and destroying the walls that have captured our institutional content for the last 10 years. Let me just say that his presentation rocked and it pushed Brad and I to spend nearly the entire 4 hour drive back to State College talking about how we are also thinking these thoughts — and frankly how to push a little harder.
His talk was titled Permanent Revolution and told the story of how important it is that we promote the use of open publishing spaces to save the academy. He told it with the intensity and emotion of a man worthy of the nickname, The Reverend. He makes the claim that the “Notion of the Permanent Revolution” is at the core of what we are trying to do with education — we need ways to rethink the digital space we are living in and how to take advantage of the affordances inherent in instant publishing. He claims that WordPress is a platform for revolution, but was quick to point to us and say the tools don’t matter just the ways we allow them to be used. His assertion is that we must work to liberate student content — in the LMS/CMS model students must pour it in and then after the course it gets packaged up, archived, deleted, and ultimately becomes inaccessible to the creator. It isolates the contribution. In the blog world, it belongs to the individual and the individual decides how to share it with the community (or the class).
A great talk that I wish was given more time. What I really wanted to do was explore the underlying principles with his talk and walk away from any thoughts of “my platform is better than yours.” I think Jim and I were both very interested in talking about affordances of the concept, not of the individual tools. He and I are going to be joining forces with Brian Lamb, D’Arcy Norman, and Alan Levine at ELI in January to present a session on the use of personal publishing tools to drive educational practice … I can’t wait to have the conversation with he and the rest of that crew.
At the end of the day, it was a very worth while trip and one that has me thinking more critically about the notion of openness on our campus — and how much louder we need to be shouting for its creation.