DML 2016


Communities of practice in art and design

I am in a connected courses workshop with Justin Reich and Alan Levine. Always great to be on the other side of the table, and seeing how we learn as teachers. One of the thing that Justin talked about was rainbow looms, a toy that kids were playing with a couple of years ago. What was really interesting (the bracelets were cool) the really interesting aspect was the community that kids built around how to make learning rainbow loom braceletsrainbowlooms

Why Domain of One’s Own is important for higher ed.

Digital Spa 2016

              Digital Spa 2016  @/FIT

The creation of a Domain of One’s Own, provides an environment where faculty can develop and expand their digital fluencies and focus on creating a professional identity in online spaces. The act of creating, curating and sharing online content contributes to the socially constructed digital identities as an educator.

For students it creates a central repository that contributes to a sense of ownership, agency and empowerment of learners in online spaces (O’Byrne, 2016). Schools need to engage students (and faculty) in meaningful literacy practices, that contribute to the development of a digital identity. This aspect of building one’s online identity is often missing from students’ and faculty members’ higher education experiences.

I have previously written about the issues of working with an LMS (learning management system) in higher education. From a faculty perspective, each semester you are re-creating the course in a new “shell”. The ability to pour content from one semester to another is often glitchy, and requires extensive clean-up. Visually the content is unappealing, and since most (or all) LMSs were designed for text-based courses, multimodal information; images, video and audio based are difficult and time-consuming to upload.

From a student perspective the LMSs often require a double authentication process, and is an unappealing interface. More importantly, after the semester is over, as a student you lose access to whatever knowledge you have contributed and co-constructed within the LMS. Any documentation of your learning experience that occurred with the time frame of the course evaporates, unless the student has taken extraordinary measures to prevent that from happening.

Developing a personal cyberinfrastructure (Campbell, 2009) is an important skill for 21st learning. Learning how to craft a digital identity, what to share, how to design and format multimodal information, and curate information streams replicate a real-world experience, not the walled garden the real world, unlike LMSs.   For the most part, institutions of higher education failed to empower students and faculty in developing their digital identities, and relied on templated one-stop environments to engage with students in online spaces. By the time students are in college, being digitally fluent is an important factor in being academically successful. Being able to research digitally in one’s given discipline is often not a skill that is taught, often because the faculty member themselves is not comfortable with the idea of using social media as a research tool.

The Domain of One’s Own initiative is an important step for institutions of higher education to explore and implement. Sharing research across the silos in higher education can only make us all stronger collectively and individually.


Domain of One’s Own at FIT

Our Domain of One’s Own initiative at FIT

thumb_600px_poster_1024Maybe three or four years ago, Jim Groom’s work at University of Mary Washington came onto my radar. I am not sure where I had read originally about his work, but I am pretty sure that Audrey Watter’s blog Hack Education was involved. Her writing has been central to my evolving ideas about technology, and how it relates to socio-cultural issues of gender, class, race and power. Whoever said that technology is not neutral, was right. The choices we make, the platforms, software and hardware that we use, are all decisions we make. Whether we want to use an open source operating system, such as Linux, or an open software such as LibreOffice instead of a Microsoft product are all conscious decisions reflecting who we are, and what we believe in.

Universities giving faculty, staff and students web space to define their own digital identities outside of the walled gardens of LMSs or behind firewall is another decision. To me, it says the University believes in the core mission of education, to empower their community to learn about themselves as learners, and learn about the web and understand its infrastructure. It also places value on the idea of sharing knowledge with the world and with each other, across silos, across disciplines and hierarchies. It also questions the value of LMSs, and challenges us to re-examine the core mission of LMSs. Owned predominantly by venture capital, is education at the heart of their mission?

Domain of One’s Own supports our continuous growth as faculty, gives us a space to think, express ourselves and share our work, our research and sometimes our rantings with our community. Isn’t the idea of building a thriving intellectual community on college campuses what we want?  One of the reasons, long ago that I was drawn to teaching, was the idea of academic freedom. Being able to examine and challenge norms of power, and try to change the dynamic the prevailing structures. Let’s break down the silos that we have erected on our campuses and begin a dialogue about building community.

In closing I want to thank some of the people who have shared their thoughts, ideas, musings openly on the web and helped me think differently—Jim Groom, Audrey Watters, Gardner Campbell, Alan Levine, Brian Alexander, Mahi Bali among other.