Over the last month I was a proud member of two different presentations with the same title, “Don’t call it a Blog, Call it an Educational Publishing Platform.” The whole idea behind these presentations was to highlight the immense possibilities open source web publishing tools like WordPress Multi-User and Drupal afford educational institutions for creating a wide-range of web-based content easily and attractively (well, at least with WordPress ). Moreover, this model puts the power in the hands of the authors, which in turn provides the possibility for a far greater level of educational openness. These are platforms that provide many, if not all, of the features of more traditional LMSs, but exponentially move beyond them given the fact that they benefit from huge open source communities that are constantly enhancing the applications.
The idea for this paper was inspired by a comment by Brian on a post about the limitations of one of the most “promising” open source LMSs: Sakai. And I’ll repeat it here, because it is well worth repeating and I can’t begin to say it as eloquently:
I’m reminded of something George Siemens said at a symposium on distributed tool strategies: that schools should be in the business of managing data flows rather than in supporting an end to end user experience. We can only dream what might result if the energy going into the campus-wide LMS’s would go into creating flexible and easy to use “syndication buses” or to addressing pragmatic instructor challenges to using the “small pieces” approach — things like student management tools, gradebooks etc. And what about providing the service of institutional archiving and data backups to mitigate the risks of using third party tools?
The syndication bus and the small pieces loosely joined philosophy are germane to thinking about tools like WPMu and Drupal (and many others I know nothing about) as robust and flexible publishing platforms of the future more generally, and for education specifically.
Northern Voice 2008: “Don’t Call it a Blog”
So, after this long drawn out introduction, I give you two presentations by some of my favorite people in the world. The first was at Northern Voice 2008, and was a four person mashup of ideas and approaches, featuring Brian Lamb, Bill Fitzgerald, D’Arcy Norman, and myself. It was an intense presentation that took a strong shot at traditional ways of thinking about web-based learning, and it lays out a wide range of resources that are available to an educational environment that is ready and willing to seek for alternatives. We haven’t collected all of our resources in one place, but hopefully this may provide us an opportunity to drop them in a wiki page. I’ll update this post with a link if we get to it sometime soon. Unfortunately the first ten minutes of this presentation was lost, so Brian’s unbelievably funny and poignant examination of traditional LMSs and their alternatives will have to just be imagined, or at least anticipated when the Lost Abject tapes re-emerge sometime in the distant future —kinda like the Beatles archive, but with more edge
Download Northern Voice, 2008 presentation “Don’t call it a blog…”
ACCS 2008: “Don’t Call it a Blog” Take 2
The second incarnation of this presentation was particularly special for me in many ways. Let me count them now.
I presented with Andy Rush and Jerry Slezak, two of my then former colleagues at Mary Washington, and now once again current colleagues. It was during a Skype call with Jerry, in which we were talking about this presentation, for I had recently begun working at the University of Richmond, that I realized just how much I missed my old job and that I didn’t want to start from scratch again, but rather desired to keep pushing the envelope with an amazing group of thinkers that I had somehow found myself no longer a part of. So, this presentation in many ways marks the occasion of my return to UMW.
Yet, at the same time it marks the beginnings of when the DTLT group at UMW started to really flesh out its identity, and move aggressively towards Small Pieces Loosely Joined. It was during a presentation at ACCS two years ago that the entire DTLT group presented the BlueHost experiment and all the possibilities it afforded an innovative group of instructional technologists. It was, in retrospect, a landmark moment for me, and going to that conference as a part of UR in 2008 somehow seemed wrong, not for any reason specific to Richmond, but rather for my own investment in the magic that is UMW.
So this presentation was once again a special reminder of how much more important it is to be a part of a great team, rather than immersed in your own sense of what things should be. The two can co-exist, and in many ways that is the definition of a great team, and returning to UMW may have been one of the smarter things I have ever done. I’ll take the crap for leaving and returning so quickly —though there has been surprisingly little of it— for the unbelievable rewards in provides.
So, now that I listed the ways, Andy, Jerry and I created a nice resource for this presentation that not only illustrates our point, but also provides a nice list of resources for all the sites and concepts we covered during the talk. Andy featured his work on the multimedia marvel that is the Great Lives site, a series of taped lectures given at UMW as part of the Great Lives Lecture series that are being made freely available given the joy that is UMW Blogs. I talked about UMW Blogs — are you surprised? And Jerry, the voice of eternal reason, discussed the implications of such a publishing model for universities more broadly, examining the possibilities of external hosting, eduCampus, and much more. It was a real joy to deliver with these guys, and I am ever so happy to be back home!
Download ACCS 2008, “Don’t Call it a Blog…”