The Revolution is in Full Swing

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.

It was great finally meeting Jim Groom.

It was great finally meeting Jim Groom.

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.

2 thoughts on “The Revolution is in Full Swing

  1. Cole,

    Why thank you. I appreciate the kind words though you are too generous, especially given so much of what we have thought through at UMW has been in tandem, if not piggy backing, on the amazing work you all are doing up at Penn State. The way in which you have integrated the “permanent revolution” into all aspects of your group is amazing. I remember hearing you speak at NMC last year about the “hot teams” for exploring new technologies, not to mention your entire infrastructure lends itself to an open publishing model. Which hits on the most exciting part of meeting and talking with you yesterday, you nailed the idea that we already have these open publishing platforms in place, the step towards open content on our campuses is really just a conceptual switch of thinking together with the community and framing it for the world beyong. You are dead on with this, and it has been rining in my head since you said it. Whenever anyone suggest the fact that UMW is doing this with only 4,000 students and how could it possibly scale? I refer them to PSU Blogs, for in many ways you have been able to remain one of the most, if not the most, innovative campuses despite not only despite the 80,000 students you educate, but more likely because of them!

    Another thing you mentioned yesterday that I think was key, was the idea that universities and colleges already have network policies and publishing guidelines that were framed for new media in the mid to late 90s, why are we trying to re-imagine them (which often bogs down and confuses the conversation), why not work with what we have so we can feel comfortable in these spaces that we have thought through to some degree already.

    In short, I too look forward to Orlando, because the little time I got to spend with you yesterday promises a series of unbelievable conversations at ELI about how we all work together to imagine a very fascinating future. You rock!

  2. I’m glad you made the trip down to get some of the Good Word Gospel from The Rev.

    And despite any ribbing over MoveableType (it is in jest cause PSU is sure making it work), you are spot on that the platform does not matter as much as what people can do standing on it.

    Let’s really rev it up and rumble in Orlando!

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