A Little Google Help

A call for a little help from those out there in the World who have moved to the Google Apps for Education in the higher education space.

I read stories all the time about people moving to Google Apps with the focus on email or in K-12 environments, but what I am really interested in are stories about how people have promoted the notion of collaborative authoring across the Google Apps suite of tools (Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Sites, etc) and have focused primarily on the pedagogical side of the adoption. I’d be curious in hearing any stories related to how these tools may or may not have changed what one can and can’t do from a teaching and learning perspective beyond what I can read at the Google run community. Here at Penn State we have a handful of faculty really taking advantage of these tools, but are doing it without us having any official relationship with Google — that means no real identity tied to their use and a less than clear idea of policy. I think these tools can be part of a huge shift in teaching and learning and I could really use some help by hearing some real world stories. Comments, emails, and Twitter responses are all welcomed and much appreciated.

Wave as LMS? I’ll not Say Never, but …

Today I saw a post on the Chronicle’s blog about Google Wave as the next LMS and its pushed me to revisit that line of thinking. BTW, the money quote from the post was,

“Just from the initial look I think it will have all the features (and then some) for an all-in-one software platform for the classroom and beyond,” wrote Steve Bragaw, a professor of American politics at Sweet Briar College, on his blog last week. Mr. Bragaw admits he hasn’t used Google Wave himself …

Does the Wave have “all the features (and then some) for an all-in-one software platform for the classroom and beyond” as Steve Bragaw says? Well … in a lot of ways it does contain most of what many of us dream of needing — a way to really easily connect with students. What it lacks are the tools that lots of our faculty rely on … Dropboxes, Quizzes, Roster Management, and Teams come to mind instantly. Wave won’t do the classroom management piece. As far as I can tell.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a developer account (although my real invite is still not active) and have spent time writing about my thoughts and reactions to what Google Wave might mean for us. This afternoon after getting another pointer to that Chronicle post I thought I’d go back and revisit my own early thoughts. This quote is what jumped out at me from something I wrote in June:

The big talk across the edublog space is that it could mean the end of the LMS. I’ll just say it, that’s crazy talk. What it probably means is that we might get a better footing in the LMS contract world and that we’ll have new opportunities to innovate. This platform can do quite a bit for us in the teaching and learning space, but as far as I can tell it probably will not be suited for testing on a real scale and it probably cannot replace the basics of the LMS definition — learner management. We need the LMS to do lots of things, but we also need new tools to support pedagogy that works to engage students. I think Wave will begin to even the playing field so that we have easy to use teaching and learning platforms alongside our real need to manage assessment, participation, and the like. Wave represents a new opportunity.

I still stand by that assessment and I am not ready to jump into the Wave as LMS conversation quite yet. I am also not willing to dismiss it quite yet either. As a member of our Institutional committee reviewing CMS/LMS futures I am aware of the challenges ahead for teaching and learning with technology — especially as they relate to centrally managed mega-systems like our course management environment. I know they cannot live up to the hope and hype that emergent technologies can. I know they can’t do real time collaboration like google docs (or Wave for that matter) and I know they don’t offer the open publishing space that our blog platform does. They just can’t and won’t ever be as sexy as the things that matter to us the most in this moment. The One Button Web is taking over in every single web interaction I have except perhaps in the CMS space. We can argue that that is a good or bad thing until the end of the Internet, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter.

Do we like the functionality of the “old systems?” Not really. Are we enamored by the emergence of what is happening outside the walls of EDU? Absolutely. Our job is to find elegant ways to bring the learner management stuff together with the agile stuff so we can suit the needs of most of our constituents. As more of us get our hands on Wave we’ll start to unravel the real potential here. BTW, if I were Google I’d make sure instructional technologists at as many Universities as possible had accounts so the real work could start … we can’t even do a Hot Team here to kick the tires. So with all that I am still hanging out over by the fence waiting to see how well Wave does empower new pedagogies. Because when we add it all up, the emergent tools we work so hard to understand need to usher in new classroom practices. The Wave will be no different — another tool that challenges and then changes pedagogical practice.

The One Button Web

This post is really a guide for a conversation Brad Kozlek and I are having with colleagues in our Consulting and Support Services group. The point of the meeting is to open new conversations related to the role of the centrally supported and managed personal webspace. Lots of what is here is being thrown out as conversation starters and not as an intended direction. It does represent a lot of the thinking I’ve been doing related to not the real time web we are coming to expect via new definitions, but more in the context of providing instant publishing options that are one button simple.

The One Button Web

While Anil Dash has a very interesting case for the Push Button Web, I am thinking about our ability to generate a One Button Web (OBW) here at PSU and encouraging thinking like this in education in general. I am going to define the OBW in our environment as the ability to publish content to the PSU webspace with little more than an access account, an active personal space, a blog, and the press of a button. With the bookmarklet approach built into the Blogs at Penn State we are so close. I think it is of critical importance that we empower personal publishing in as simple a way as possible.

The One Button Web

The One Button Web

When people want to share content across the web they do so with single clicks into social networks. The ubiqitous “share on facebook” links we see are changing behavior at an amazing rate. If you spend time in facebook or connected to twitter you have surely seen the incredible amounts of links, stories, movies, etc being shared within (and outside) the network. The people doing this aren’t copy and pasting content, they are pressing buttons.

This behavior is important to understand. I’m not sure if this metaphor works, but we no longer tune our televisions to specific stations — we press a button to get the desired results. In a lot of ways I think the ability to post new/original content as well as reposting content needs to follow that path. The personal higher education web has to get simpler and we should be thinking about how we empower that movement. The Blogs at Penn State sit on top of a powerful infrastructure that is centrally managed. Accepting the realities of the OBW is a critical next step in moving the potential of personal content management and portfolios in our spaces forward.

Our audiences should be using their own spaces to share into the social networks — and I believe they will if we help them understand it. Nearly all of my content originates in one of my blogs and it sends it to Twitter and Twitter sends it to Facebook. That is critical because those other guys don’t like to give my content back. If we make our spaces as easy as those other guys we have a huge advantage … we like to give ownership and empowerment to our users — we give their stuff back.

Network Amplification

Network Amplification

Everything is Miscellaneous

This leads me to another thought … our audiences (by and large) no longer browse directory structures. They simply publish content into giant stores that they find again via structured or unstructured searches, through profiles, or in other similar user interface driven approaches that completely ignore where an asset is living. As an example, when a student uploads a picture to facebook they do it via a simple one button approach and they really don’t care where it lives. They don’t care because they don’t need to. They are working to share that asset and it is tied to a greater representation of who they are, not based on a directory structure. They don’t browse the directories to get the asset back — at most they drag it out of the browser to the desktop, at the least they just leave it there. Why should we encourage them to care?

I think the answer within our environment is to let MoveableType be the gateway to our own implementation of the OBW. They log in via WebAccess to their dashboards to do all the same things — share writing, upload files, and the like. Let the environment manage it. They don’t care about directories and I think that is fine. I’m not saying we take away directory level access … I am saying we no longer focus on it. Just a thought.

The rest of this post is really just a bunch of links as jumping off points for our discussion this afternoon … most of it makes little sense outside the context of the face to face meeting. I am eager to hear reactions to the stuff above though!

Website Examples

Mashup Blogs

Things to Discuss

Simple Repositories

Say the word repository and watch any ed tech geek roll their eyes. Why? We’ve been there … and not just once, but over and over again. Structured places to put things by a large community is tricky and very complicated business … at least that’s what everyone tells me. I’ve honestly not seen a repository that really seems to work. I guess there are lots of reasons for that and if you asked one of us who has been involved in a repository project we’d rattle of a dozen or more reasons for you — people don’t want to share, meta data is hard, the environments are overkill, blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying they aren’t useful when you have very clearly defined goals and data. They get messy so quickly when you start to think about them in a general sense. With that in mind, I have an ultra simplistic thought that I want to throw out into the wild to see if I get a “you are crazy” style response.

For the past week or so a few of us in ETS have been taking part in a little experiment in multi-author activity blogging within the Blogs at Penn State to see if we could replicate the joy in sharing things quickly across the web into our own space. The idea is to do simple push button publishing, but instead of dumping it directly into Twitter or Facebook, we’d drop it into a common and simple blog right here in our own environment. We have been calling it, “Stuff” for no real reason. All it is a blog with a nice little push button bookmarklet that Brad Kozlek threw together for us. As you hit a site you highlight the text you want and press your “Stuff It” bookmarklet to post it. No different than the things lots of people do everyday with fb, tumblr, twitter, etc.

stuff_blog

There are limitations, but they are easy to overcome. The first is that you have to ask to join and one of us needs to add you. We’ve already talked about how to overcome that … and it is easy. Comments are a little limiting in that there isn’t any layered social opportunity with them — no rating and threading is a problem we’ll also address.

These things aside, I see lots of potential. Here is the crazy idea — why not just launch a blog that has features like this as a repository? Have something to share, use the bookmarklet to post it quickly. There is plenty of meta data for the built in search to pull from — post title, body, tags, and categories would provide a great context for searches. In this scenario I am thinking it is 100% open with a CC attribution license on it so all content that goes in is sharable. If you wanted to provide something, just go and log in with your account once to add yourself as a member to the environment and you are good to go.

It gets even more interesting for another reason … not only could you contribute content to this blog/repository space directly, but using tag aggregation within Blogs at PSU you could contribute to the repository by posting at your own PSU blog using a shared tag. That way one could make decisions about how content flows into the space. The past week or so working with the Stuff space I am seeing an even more powerful role for our publishing platform — a platform that can actually host applications on top of it. Adding a simple self registration options provides us with a whole new piece of software that isn’t really a whole new environment to manage. So that’s it … call me crazy, but would an environment like this give us something important?

Rolling Your Own

This past week I watched as older versions of WordPress were compromised. I was instantly concerned about my own installation as a few years ago my blog got hacked and someone embedded a whole bunch of pop ups to porn sites — not exactly the kind of thing one likes to have attached to his name. In the most recent instance I was safe as I’ve learned to always upgrade my personal version of WordPress that I run here, but it got me seriously thinking again about why I feel the need to pretend to be a sys admin when all I really want to be is an author. That thought always leads me down a second path related to why would I want to press people at my Institution to do the same when we should be spending our time on teaching and learning.

These are different, yet related issues. I’ve convinced myself over the years that it is better to have total control of my online space than to hand most of it over to a company that would do it for me. I’ve blogged on my own domain since 2004 and its always just felt right, but it has not been without major headaches at times. I do it so I can manage my own plugins and use (and hack) my own themes. Now with that said, I am growing tired of dealing with any of it and the realization that this stuff is just not that secure is catching up with me.

I bang around with all sorts of tools and I end up liking a lot of them a heck of a lot better than I do my self-hosted WordPress install. I’m thinking of Tumblr, WordPress.com, and most recently TypePad as examples of places I think I would much rather be leaning on. The problem is that I can’t help but worry about the overall staying power of these spaces. I want a space attached to my online identity that I control, so getting content out is just as important as elegantly getting it in. The big question is can I control my online identity (perhaps at my own domain) while leaning on someone else’s infrastructure completely. Right now I don’t run the servers that this site is hosted on and I don’t write the software, but I do for some odd reason feel compelled to manage it all. If I were starting all over again today I wouldn’t. I might pay for my domain and map a TypePad blog to it, but that’s about it.

So if I follow this down the path towards the second part of my thoughts I need to ask if PSU should be playing in this game as well. The answer to that may be different than my own personal conclusions — at the University we actually have system administrators who know what they are doing, we do run our own infrastructure, and we do have lots of smart people whose job it is to keep things secure. But still I must ask why not outsource it all and focus on the teaching and learning? We use MoveableType here at Penn State for lots of reasons, but one is the static publishing model into our personal webspace infrastructure. Could we envision a scenario where our students write at TypePad and publish their static files here? Other than the realities of authentication, infrastructure, and Institutional identity I can’t see why not — and I bet all of that is solvable. At the end of the day we want our students to have same goal I do — to be authors.

With all that said, let’s be honest — rolling our own is always more fun. I’m just not sure I need to be having my fun in that way anymore. Confusing to say the least … If I can get peace of mind at TypePad or WordPress.com then I may be on my way. If I can’t you can forget it. I wonder what would happen if we asked our students and faculty the same question? I wonder how they would respond …

What Does Open Mean?

I’ve had lots of people ask me about the meaning of “openness” in the context of the work I do since returning from Open Ed 2009 two weeks ago and I am still struggling for an answer. I was working to frame my view of open based on my own experiences here at PSU, but it feels forced and difficult to grab — there seems to be clarity for a moment and then it just vanishes, slipping through my fingers and out of reach. I mentioned that I have a different perspective on open than many at the conference in my own reflection of the event, but it seems important to me to hash through a few more ideas that are banging around in my head.

I am moving closer to the notion that it can’t just be about access to open educational resources. I was exploring this more deeply in a response to my colleague, David DiBiase’s comment on my Open Ed reflection post. I had mentioned that there were many at the event who pushed on the idea of a moral imperative … I wasn’t saying I felt that way necessarily and I certainly do not spend my time thinking about distance education and access of those materials by everyone. Instead I was asking the question about what needs to be a part of something to make it an OER? Is a course blog an OER? Are a set of annotated Flickr photos an OER? Is a YouTube mediated conversation an OER?

These are things that I am really curious about exploring. Our team here at PSU spends our time exploring platforms to empower teaching and learning in new ways, we spend time working to impact faculty in positive ways, and we work to bring all of our thinking to the entire community in as a transparent way we can through both physical and virtual activities. How are we pressing openness when we don’t really deliver anything that is deemed educational in and of itself. We build the framework that we hope open happens on. I wonder if that makes sense?

A lot of my current thinking is built on a mash up of thoughts I have been working through since I heard Jonathan Zittrain speak at the Berkman at 10 event in Boston last year. My favorite quote from his talk is that, “there is no main menu for the Internet.” Its a mash up of thoughts because it resonates so well with the push button attitude of the web on which too many of us build our identities. In this context I am thinking specifically about the closed room that is Facebook. It is reminding me so much of the old days of AOL that is scary. You remember AOL, don’t you. It was essentially a fully top down, closed, main menu driven version of the Internet that eventually died when we all realized there was value in not navigating the path they wanted us to. The new web should be, by nature, empower openness — just like Zittrain said, the web is an environment that encourages us to party in a “BYOC — Bring your own content” way. Once we started to bring our own content, the proprietary providers couldn’t keep up. Will the same happen at Facebook?

There is no Main Menu for the Internet.

There is no Main Menu for the Internet.

Facebook is clearly different than AOL in that we still bring our own content, but instead of managing and sharing it openly, we are hoarding it and only letting our “friends” see it. Is that really any different than a $5.00 a month service? Facebook is free you say, but the content we deposit in it isn’t. If open is about global access, how does an Internet built on that vision match up? How can we feel good about watching our students (and faculty, staff, children, friends, parents, etc) drop a great deal of long-term learning opportunities into that box?

How does this rambling mess relate to OER? Well, that is for us to explore together, but if there is one thing I believe passionately in its the ability for all of us to have a platform that we can use to make decisions about how our content is shared. My colleague, Elizabeth Pyatt put it brilliantly when she insightfully told me that closed is a gradient of open. Our open movement here may have more to do with providing the opportunity to make the default decision be an open one. I know over the term of my digital life I’d prefer that I can make decisions about what is left there for others to consume. Open may be about letting people know they have the power to make that decision and giving them free access to BYOC.

Just a thought … any reactions?

Really Riding Google Wave

Its been several weeks now that I’ve had a developer account on Google’s sandbox implementation of Wave and thought I’d share some more thoughts than the random tweets. I hope I’m not violating any sort of NDA by doing this because I think it is important to start the dialogue on something as potentially transformative as Wave as early as possible. Let me start by saying that when I first got my account I was extremely underwhelmed for a few reasons, but after using it now for weeks I am converted and find myself extremely frustrated that it isn’t really ready for wide release. The primary reason I was underwhelmed was that I had no one to work Wave with … sure there were hundreds of developers in there, but no one that I would participate with in any meaningful way. Wave is a collaborative platform and without collaborators it is close to useless. Now that a couple of ETS colleagues are also in the developer release I can say I am sold.

Real Time Rocks

Chat has always been useful, but in the context of a Wave the notion of real time conversation is kicked into a whole new dimension. I can’t overstate this enough, the ability to co-author a document and work through decision making is game changing. I’ve been using Google Docs as my writing platform for a couple of years now — going so far in the last 18 months of eliminating Office from my laptop. Wave gives you an even easier way to manage collaboration and collaborators through a drag and drop interface for adding people to the document. The thing that blows it all up (in a good way) is the ability to drop out of the flow of the document and have a real time threaded conversation but still within the framework of the document itself. Brad Kozlek and I worked through an idea in a single Wave the other day that would have taken hours and dozens of emails instead of the 15 minutes it took by doing it in Wave. Real time workflow is the thing that has me craving more people in my network.

Real Time Collaboration and Discussion = Decision Making

Real Time Collaboration and Discussion = Decision Making

If you are using Wave by yourself you’ll never get it. I think of how different it has been since Chris Millet and Brad have gotten their accounts … we were sitting in a meeting the other day with a shared Google Doc running and we were all stepping on each others’ edits. I started a single Wave shared with Chris and Brad that allowed us to take notes in our own way within the same document without a real worry about formatting or placement. When lots of people get into a single Google Doc things can get messy, but it seems more well contained in a Wave.

I am really excited about how this will play out in a class. I can easily envision a Wave shared with a group of students that will let them take notes, have conversations, share resources, and be generally engaged behind their screens. If I think of what made the Twitter usage so powerful last time I taught I can easily map a more interesting and longer lasting scenario onto a shared class Wave. Students were using Twitter to mostly share resources, give each other encouragement, and to have sidebar conversations … in the Wave all that happens, but it is a shared document that can be revisited within the context of a larger learning opportunity. I’ve been lamenting how disconnected the Twitter channel feels after the event has occurred … with a Wave, I think you have a more lasting artifact that is a hybrid of the “in the moment” Twitter activity and the reflective blog post that happens after the learning. I am very eager to see this with a much larger group within a learning environment.

Extensions are Crazy

One of the things I am still wrapping my head around is how easy it seems to be to do interactive things within a given Wave. If you’ve not seen the demo the Wave team gave then you are missing out on seeing how easy it is to insert small pieces of interactive content that allows you to extend the metaphor of a document into a more robust and engaging environment. It is hard to explain, but imagine a group of students taking collaborative notes, having a conversation, and being able to plot their work on a graph all at the same time within the same Wave. Think about asking questions and having them answer with a single click within a Wave … the whole thing just bends the idea of what it means to work in a single space. Brad was able to publish his Wave into his Penn State blog without a whole lot of trouble … that is interesting, but the same functionality you have within the Wave environment itself is then instantly available from within his blog post. What that means is that whatever you can do within the Wave, you can do from within his blog.

Wave in Post

Wave in Post

What all this means to me is that (a) I am now ruined until the Wave really comes out and (b) I can’t imagine going back to other environments for doing collaboration. Is it a bigger leap than Google Docs were for writing when it hit as Writely years ago? Perhaps. The problem I see is that I am still asking people if they use Docs and they say no. I can’t imagine at this point of passing around a Word document to get business done and I know for a fact I won’t want to send emails and use Docs when we can do real time collaboration and conversation in a Wave. Getting from here to a time when this is how we all work will be difficult. Honestly, I can say that this is the next big game changer and once it hits going back to the old way will be very, very difficult.

OpenEd 2009 Recap

I spent the better part of last week attending the OpenEd 2009 conference in Vancouver, B.C. The event itself has pushed me in so many directions I’ve had a terribly difficult time making sense of all of it. It was certainly one of the most interesting mix of personal and professional growth that I’ve dealt with in quite a long time. Last year I was lucky enough to attend Harvard’s Berkman at 10 conference and I must say while that event made me rethink everything I thought I knew about the Internet, this event has reshaped my thinking about my ability to impact education in a more general sense.

When I registered for the event it had quite a bit to do with the people I knew would be there and the opportunity to meet and talk through issues with those folks was key. The sessions surprised me in ways that I was honestly not prepared for, each one I attended was massively insightful and wonderfully done. I’ll do my best in this post to reflect on some of the things that jumped out at me, but will in no way be able to fully articulate the things that are still roaming around in my head as they relate to the Open Education community. What follows are notes and reflections that were started sometime during the week and have been edited on and off over the course of several days — it’ll bounce between present, future, and past tense … so try to hang in and I apologize going in about how long it is.

Arrival

Arrival

New Scholarship, Pedagogy, and Opportunities

Clearly some of the work David Wiley has ben doing will lay the groundwork for informing Institutions about the relative value an OER initative will have on their long term success. The part of OER that is unfortunate to me has been listening to many top level administrators frame the discussion as one that is built solely on financial issues. Many of the people actually invested in the OER space talk about it as a “moral imperative,” related to sharing content to the World and doing good. I agree with this stance on lots of levels but it is the realities of the Institutional base that creates a strong argument against doing it. I feel like what is begining to happen is that there are people (Wiley is one of them) who are looking more critically at what it might mean to a University from both a financial and moral perspective. The other thing here is that I spend nearly all of my time thinking only about resident learning and ways to make that a more open experience. The other thing that I noticed is that most of the conversation related to OER focuses more on the more pure distant education and not resident education. This has kept on the sidelines for much of the conversation. The meeting in Vancouver made me rethink that position …

I did my best to share my thoughts related to openness from an RI perspective and tried to stress that we shouldn’t limit our activities to simply courseware, but also tools that empower openness. I think through the conversations I had I was able to talk those notions through with some people, but at times I did feel as though I was still on the outside looking in. Reflecting on the whole experience I can say I feel much better about coming at this from a slightly different perspective.

The final note I’ll make about the notion of new conversations and scholarship centers around the fact that the OpenEd conference has become an internationally known event that draws some of the most serious educational technologists in the world. The fact that I can be asked to participate in a global conversation that is really designed by ed tech people for ed tech people is relatively stunning. The place was absolutely buzzing with energy and without being too over the top, it felt to me like there is a bit of a sea change on the horizon. I think for too many years we perhaps leaned on potentially out moded forms of design that are centered on ignoring the power of the open social web. It is in that realization that I felt as though I really belonged with this group. I think that we may be in the moment where the work of the last 10 years specifically will begin to penetrate the thinking as it relates to teaching and learning. That we can drive real curricular change and challenge the notion of the behaviorist view of traditional learning design. The flexibility and openness afforded to us is empowering educational technologits to imagine new forms of pedagogy that over time could radically alter the open vs. closed conversation that dominates much of education. Again, I don’t want to make too much of it, but spending time talking through this issue is what has been the transformative moment of the event for me. Openness will happen, but I believe it will be built on new forms of scholarship and pedagogy by people who have been living their lives in the social web — experimenting, imagining, and designing learning spaces that tear down the long standing notions of top down, locked down content. That to me is more motivating than anything I can consider.

People Matter

Like I mentioned earlier, I went mainly for the people and the hope for intense conversations. I am leaving with an even greater sense of community and with new friendships. I’ll clearly leave people out, but the hospitatility and intensity of those who put this event together is inspiring — Brian Lamb, David Wiley, Chris Lott, and Scott Leslie all put their best foot forward and built something that is clearly very difficult to create — an event that is intellectually challenging paired with what I would consider a world-class collection of voices in the field. Canada has its share of thought leaders in our field, but I had no idea I would meet so many more. Some of the others who either rocked me with their sessions or just through informal conversations are listed below … in no particular order.

Alec Courous is someone whom I read as much as I can and have come to respect on so many levels over the last few years. As a faculty member he is challenging the notions of scholarship and pushing his field in new directions. While Alec didn’t present, the conversations I had with him — down to his empassioned readings of twitter messages — made me think even more critically how important it is for me to personally continue to attack my own doctorate and to press my colleagues at Penn State to follow his lead. His open course, Social Media and Open Education is a very interesting model that we may consider for our own C&I 597 course Scott McDonald and I will teach in the spring. Very cool design and the openness is amazing.

I’ve know D’Arcy Norman for years online and have even had a chance to meet him once face to face prior to the event itself. D’Arcy styles himself as just “a lowly ed tech geek from the University of Calgery …” what he is however is someone who started much of the incidental openness that has spawned the very community that gathered here in Vancouver last week. He doesn’t write as much as he used to, but D’Arcy was honestly the first voice I heard online from my own field. He didn’t intend to inspire people in our field to bypass the traditional publishing path and make our own voice, but he did. These efforts pushed many of us, including me, to start experimenting with open platforms and to start imagining how they could be used in a teaching and learning contexts. Our discussions did not disappoint and I was thrilled to see he is just as snarky in person as he is on Twitter. His talk was short, but created lots of ongoing conversation … I would have liked to have had more time.

Telling Stories by the Fire

Telling Stories by the Fire

Alan Levine‘s “Amazing Stories of Openness” session was a real highlight. Alan always pushes it hard when he presents, but this was a whole new level. Alan used the open web and made calls for amazing stories from colleagues across the country and beyond. Alan decided that instead of him telling the stories he’d light the camp fire and have a virtual panel where he moderated and negitiated his way through some of the best reflective videos I’ve seen. I think in a lot of ways his approach was more about imploring those in attendance that amazing does happen in education when you build it on transparency.

History of EduGlu

History of EduGlu

My time with Jim Groom did not disappoint. I find it amazing that Jim drives forward with everything he does with both massive amounts of energy and passion yet controls his message so well. But the thing that strikes me in a deeper way is that each time I spend time with him I see how truly innovative and forward thinking he really is. I was just as in awe of his talk, “The Design of Openness” this time as I have been in the past, but his approach was softer and more well articulated in many ways. Instead of hitting us over the head with a technological solution to a problem that may or may not exist he spent his time weaving a story that focused on the things we should be concerned about — most importantly student learning and engagement. He deflects compliments, but he is honestly opening new doors for many of us to get our message out there to people outside our specific slice of the field.

Gardner Mesmerized Us

Gardner Mesmerized Us

This was my first time getting to listen to Gardner Campbell from Baylor give a talk. I’ve met Garder and he is certainly one of my daily reads. He is also a faculty member working to redesign the Honors College at Baylor and he will do it with a style and substance that few I’ve met can bring. His talk, “No Digital Facelifts” was nothing short of mesmerizing. It was the only session that I went to that felt it lasted five minutes. Articulate, smart, and a bit provactive his message really resonated with me. His delivery was masterful — as much as any of the best lectures I’ve been to … in other words, he schooled us all. It is a much watch. His ideas of students as “sys admins” for their own educational cyber-infrastructure is at first almost laughable until you start to sit back and think about how little flexibility we give students to explore and design their own online identities. His metaphor of C-Panel as the CMS was staggering upon further reflection and while there isn’t a chance in the world that we could honestly do something like that, it gives me hope that within the next 5-10 years we can make real steps in that direction. When I go back and re-read my last sentence I want to edit it … but more on that in another post.

Dave Cormier’s session title, “We’re not your [@#$%] educational resource” was masterfully delivered and articulated. I’m honestly embarassed to say that I was not previously subscribed to Dave’s blog, but that changed immediately. His claim that we minimize the importance of community as components of the OER movement was wonderfully given. The discussion and debate that occured was mind opening. On top of that, Dave is a very smart and insightful guy across a very broad spectrum. I spent way too much time hanging out talking with him about a dozen or so topics late into the night — the Railway Club was an ideal location to expand our conversations!

John Mott from BYU simply blew me away. Another must watch presentation. All I can say is this guy knows what he is talking about on so many levels it is a bit scary. The fact he does in such an unassuming way was even more humbling. Thinking about how one builds a brdige between a personal learning environment and the LMS is a critical step along the path towards taking personal responsibility for one’s own learning. Another guy who just made me smile and marvel at was Chris Lott. I’ve followed Chris for quite some time, but hadn’t had the chance to really talk to him or see him in action. Getting to hear him talk and then spend time with him in a social setting was well worth the trip.

Then there was this undercurrent of new kids coming to the party. I met Boone Georges in person after many months of watching his Twitter stream. Andre Malen proved to be every bit as smart and articulate as both Brian Lamb and D’Arcy warned me about. I think those two, if they choose to stay in ed tech, will be great leaders in our field going forward. Having the courage and confidence to not just show up, but to challenge the thinking in such deep ways tells me so much about these two. BTW, there were about a half dozen or so amazingly intellignet young people at the event that I never did quite catch their names, so I appologize for not mentioning them by name. The old guard isn’t quite old or stale enough for a total changing to happen, but this is the first new blood I’ve seen injected into the conversation in quite some time.

Finally, I was impressed beyond belief with the participation of my PSU colleagues. Brian Panulla, Stevie Rocco, Ann Taylor, Jeff Swain, and Keith Bailey all came ready to engage and challenge what people had to say. I admit to following Ann’s running notes as a cue for what was happening in other sessions and watching Jeff’s blog for his session thoughts the entire time. I saw a bit of ah-ha monets come across the face of several of them and I know that means PSU will be a stronger place with that crew amplifying the message.

Final Thoughts

I know much of that reads like a fanboy perspective, but at the end of the day these and so many other people made a profound impact on me that I had to get some of it out. The event was terrific and the city was amazing. I’m looking forward to continuing this work here at PSU and beyond over the course of the next few years. I threw out an idea to some of the people listed above about coming to PSU and taking part in an all day event designed to keep the conversation moving forward … if they are half as passionate here as they were at OpenEd we’ll be in good shape.