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Summer Intern Update

Hello from the ODL summer interns

Hi! Hola! Wah gwan!!

With the language schools and summer programs starting, excitement is in the air at the Middlebury College campus. Do you want to know what is also very exciting this summer at Middlebury? The number of awesome projects that we are working on from the Office of Digital Learning!  My name is Alfredo (rising junior from Costa Rica) and together with Nadani (rising sophomore from Jamaica) and Molly (rising sophomore at Tufts, from Middlebury ) we are the summer interns at ODL.

Here is a snippet of what we are doing this summer at ODL.  

MiddCreate Study Abroad Contest

For this upcoming Fall semester, the Office of Digital Learning is introducing our MiddCreate Study Abroad Contest. We invite all students who will be studying abroad next semester to enter for a chance to win a GoPro HERO5 Black. All you need to do is sign up for your Middcreate domain and start sharing your study abroad experience for a chance to win in one of the categories. If you always wanted to have your own website but didn’t know how to get started, we invite you to get started here.

Museum App 

Can you imagine getting information about a public art piece right on your phone when you approach it? This summer, ODL interns have been putting together an app for the Middlebury College Museum of Art that can do that. The idea is to provide “a more relevant and contextual museum experience, connecting the physical and digital experience”. This will be done with the help of an interactive map and low energy Bluetooth beacons. Along with the information about art pieces, the app prototype that the interns are working on will include additional information about the artist’s work in other museums, more about this artist’s work in this museum, videos and photos related to the pieces, etc.

MiddCreate Research: Domain of One’s Own and Digital Pedagogy

Another really interesting task for us this summer has been a research-based project focusing on the theory behind domains and the pedagogical goals of these. A significant number of institutions across the United States have already adopted the Domain of One’s Own project (DoOO). Such initiatives offer students, staff and faculty the possibility to register for free a domain name to create a webspace of their own. Hoping to help improve and maximize the benefits of MiddCreate (Middlebury’s DoOO), we have been researching the different approaches, adoption processes and uses that have been critical for other institutions and students in achieving successful DoOO implementations. Our goal is to provide significant insights about the ways in which MiddCreate can improve to extend its reach and use across community members, thus maximizing the benefits of this DoOO platform at Middlebury.
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The Digital Is about Doing

For those of us who aren’t coders, the digital can feel distant, just beyond arm’s reach. Though we can touch a screen, though we can type at a keyboard, we don’t necessarily feel like the digital is something we can be creative with—at least not in the same way as we have been with crayons and construction paper, chalk, or clay. And yet those who are comfortable with the digital (even, we might say, comfortable in the digital), tell us that the digital can be a playground, a place for experimentation and discovery. Read more

Archiving the Open Web Learning Process

I’ve written previously about Nathan Gerth and the work he is doing at the Carl Albert Center, which houses a congressional archive. Nathan continues to really push me on thinking about how institutions can utilize web infrastructure. His OU Create projects like CAC Rockets and PIPC Votes are some of the best non-traditional (read: non-Wordpress) ways I’ve seen the platform used. PIPC Votes is a site that scrapes House of Representatives voting record sites and makes the data freely available:

This newest version now scrapes information from the Clerk of the House nightly and codes the “vote type” (e.g. amendment, final passage, moving the previous question) variable using a python script rather than relying on the judgment of individual coders

And his passion for digital curation is infectious. Lately, I’ve been thinking more about domains as an opportunity to not just be an artifact of learning in the way a digital badge tells you learning “happened.” I see so much benefit of thinking beyond their use as a portfolio of final work. Rather, I’ve been thinking about them as a continuously evolving artifact of the learning process. And it’s through this process of media making that students build toward a digital identity. Domains are not static, literally (mostly) or figuratively, thus they can manifest themselves very differently across a student’s tenure. I witness students change navigation, look and feel, writing style, etc. based off of how and where it’s being applied. A student might use it for a class in a very specific way, dip out of that voice for personal use, and then maybe dip into an entirely new voice for another class. It might evolve into separate spaces or applications that serve different needs. Some of my favorite work of my personal students leave the web as they leave the institution. Sometimes to be replaced by a more stripped down landing page or just permanently removed. However it may happen, these moments and the spaces in between can be like little snapshots taken at a moment in time.

So this has me thinking about how we can begin to capture these evolutions that take place. My first thought is Wayback Machine, the world’s gift to web nostaglia, which allows you to time travel through a domain and many people are already familiar with:

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2005 version of ou.edu

I wrote in September about meeting with Middlebury’s Special Collections folks and hearing about how they are using archive.org’s service Archive-It to archive student work. This led to me having a discussion with our David Corbly, Director of Repository Services, of OU Libraries who runs OU’s own Archive-It solution. It seems to me that this is a good start but potentially unable to fulfill the large need of archiving as many sites as we have on OU Create (Archive-It is rather expensive for what it offers).

So I came back to Nathan to think through exploring other options and he came up with an idea that is very, very captivating. He is teaching a Digital Curation course in the Spring in our School of Library and Information Studies and is planning on having the students in the course prototype multiple techniques for doing this work both on the front-end side (scraping like Archive-It) as well as some back-end work with non-OU Create data.

Another great idea Nathan had was to have the students also propose strategies that OU could take in better preserving university web. It reminded me of a story when I was doing marketing work on the OU Research Campus and part of it was exploring the history of the campus. It was a naval base for a few years during WWII and was trasnferred back to the university afterwards.

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Move to Oklahoma propaganda

What was fascinating to me was that I could read through boxes of meeting notes and historical records of the campus. The story of the campus had been preserved quite well. Nathan mentioned how much of that type of information such as university processes and forms are getting transferred to the digital space. Universities sometimes have university archivists, but we unfortunately don’t have a dedicated office (though the bulk of it is done quite well through goodfolks in our Western History Collection) . So building the foundation of a digital archiving strategy could be very productive of the institution by making these historical records more accessible. Part of that strategy would likely include recommendations towards some more complex questions about archiving such as what is inevitably publicly accessible. I am also fully aware that this can’t be a project that I, nor any one person, could conceivably support long term, so the idea of proposing some broader recommendation is very appealing.

But I look at how we are thinking about using the classroom as a space for testing potential endeavors and I can’t think of many better learning environments. Students are learning through the process of attempting to capture learning. It really is a beautiful thing. This is what gets me up every day. Its the reason teams like ours exist.

I hope I’m doing justice to Nathan’s vision. The archiving space and its complexities are spaces I’m just beginning to understand (and probably poorly… apologies to all digital archivists if this post reads a dumbdowning of your work! Give the new guy a break! ;-) ). I’m just grateful to find someone who is equally interested in preserving the bits and bytes of the web. Neither of us are making promises that any of this will work but I can vouche that I’m personally eager to explore. :-)

Featured Image: Frozen Out by Trusty Rusty via Attribution Engine. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

Muhlenberg is the Word

A handful of blog posts have came out recently on Muhlenberg’s Domain of One’s Own project bergbuilds including a posts from Lora Taub (post) and Tim Clarke (post) at Muhlenberg and Lauren Brumfield (post) at Reclaim Hosting.

Lora’s post encouraged folks to get involved in this years OLC Solution Design Summit, which is actually where I first met Lora. I wrote this in April:

If they pull off their idea (I’m hoping someone from their team will write a post), it will be one of the more innovative approaches I’ve seen in holistically engaging a community in domains and digital literacy.

I continue to stand by that statement. Muhlenberg is utilizing their domains as a central space for students to think broadly about digital learning and digital scholarship as a student’s pre-orientation experience. From what I remember, students even move in to their dorm room early to partake in the week-long session

As someone who’s graduate experience was deeply impacted by a similar experience and as someone at a university that’s about to launch two residential colleges, I’m thinking more and more about how these types of experiences. Too often, digital is positioned as in conflict with the residential experience. I don’t want to hear another person lament about students learning at home in their pajamas, as if that’s vitriolic. I don’t want to hear another false argument about digital natives. I would rather see us explore, together, head-on the opportunities and challenge that digital space brings. If anything, let’s embrace the way that the two worlds have deeply merged.

I do believe that a good place to start building respect with the students by offering and supporting them with their own space. What better way to fully actualize the digital verison Virigina Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own then a Muhlenberg-type of project? From Lora:

In fact, our tagline for this entire pre-orientation experience was, “A Dorm & A Domain” — emphasizing that a Muhlenberg experience is as much about staking out an online presence as it is setting up a dorm room or learning your way around campus.

Both Lora and Tim both touched on the ways which they’ve felt supported by the broader domains community as they’ve launched this project. Tim had these nice things to say:

To inform these efforts, we reached out for assistance to Adam Croom who kindly shared his afternoon with us fielding far ranging questions. It’s difficult to quantify Adam’s helpfulness, but it’s essetial to try. At the close of our online meeting, Adam encouraged us to continue to reach out, even offering to provide a clone of Create OU Support for us to customize. Adam’s efforts to work openly and to share everything from support documentation to learning community reading lists and curriculums will save us at Muhlenberg weeks, perhaps months, of effort. But more important, Adam’s, and Martha’s, and Tim’s, and Jim’s, and Lauren’s engagement with us will make our efforts better.

I have to say I really like this idea of working together. I’m always the first to say that what we are doing is, if anything, the opposite of innovative. One of the best things about the community is how much everybody wants to see the other person succeed. Create is only what it is because UMW is what it is and Emory, Davidson, BYU, VCU, Middlebury, CSU Channel Islands, Georgetown and many others are what they are. And the different ways in which institutions have reimagined it for their specific community is really, really gratifying to watch. It’s like, oh I don’t know, the web; small pieces loosely joined.

Some day I’ll probably stop gushing about domains and the web. But, until then, I’ll take my people over anybodys!

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This Week On OU Create is back.

Last year, we launched a blog titled thisweekon.oucreate.com and a similar Twitter account @OU_Create to highlight some of our favorite OU Create content, mostly blogs from OU students and faculty, thanks to the good work of Anoopdeep Bal. I’m not sure I even know the full details, but the best answer is that we focused our highlighting attention on the Creaties and moved the This Week blog to the backburner. Then in July we had some staff turnover that caused us to hault the account altogether. BUT we are back on the horse!
The Week from 10/14 – 10/20 on OU Create
The way that we do this is fairly simple. Every newly installed application gets plugged into our Community syndicator which runs on FeedWordPress. Though not every site has an RSS feed, we are currently syndicating 3,310 sites. We get these URLs by pulling them directly out of the Installatron database file and bulk subscribing to the newest posts. Then we read them (I use Reeder to do so), share our favorites in a Slack channel, and then John Stewart writes up a weekly roundup. Anddd that’s about it. My thought is that the only way to know your community is to be of it and in it. We are proud to publicly offer a way to see the public work that exists within it as well. I’ve always liked to the think of OU Create as the best representation of a digital common area for the community and it’s fun tosee how people are still thinking up new ways to use the space. For instance, Darren Purcell (who is has one of the most richest faculty OU Create spaces if I do say so myself) is using it in a freshman-level Geography class to teach students about mapping and GIS tool. I just saw a post today where Lexi McLane had used ArcGIS Online, a cloud-based mapping platform, to show high school graduation rates at a macro and micro level. It shows national, state, and regional (in fact her own hometown). Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 12.27.59 PM.png Not only is it personally contextualized but she was able to start to understand the influence how race and economics affect graduation rates:
Through the maps in my story map I compare areas with lower rates to areas with lower incomes and see a clear trend. Also groups with higher averages such as white and asian groups, are typically associated with higher income groups. The maps in my story map also show higher incomes around counties with high graduation rates. I was surprised to find that the school I graduated from had such a high graduation rate when drop outs seemed so normal throughout high school. Also my high school was primarily hispanic and economically disadvantaged, meaning it should have some of the lowest graduation rates based on the national statistics. However, in 2014 Olustee Public High School had a 95 % graduation rate, putting my high school above the national average. – Lexi McLane
Another project I saw pop up this semester is the OU Integration Business Core program. IBC is a set of four courses students take in which throughout the courses they do market research and launch a product. The profit generated is then donated to a local company. All of the companies have a WordPress landing page (they use an OU purchasing tool for actual orders) and two of the companies are using OU Create: Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 12.36.09 PM.png   Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 12.36.19 PM.png I’ve said this time and time again, but I love the flexibility of the web to serve such vastly different needs. Both of these projects fall widely out of the scope of a traditional eportfolio, our original idea for OU Create, but show the creative ways for which the technology can be exploited by the users. Oh, and support these IBC projects if you know what’s good for you!

Creating Course Sites in MiddCreate

Interested in creating a course site or assignment using MiddCreate? Not sure which application fits your needs? Look no further! This guide will provide resources to help you think through how a domain can best serve you and your students.

A “Domain of One’s Own” asks us to consider the infrastructure. It asks us to understand the Web and our place on it. It asks to us to pay attention to the content we create — as teachers and as students — and to weigh where it best resides — who has access to it, and for how long.

Audrey Watters

Technology is all about removing limitations and building connections. The MiddCreate application you select for your course site or project should connect your students with new, useful content and experiences. Having specific goals is the key to maximizing a digital tool’s value. Determine how the tool will figure into your existing tool inventory and pedagogy. Do you intend it to replace something or is it just an addition? Thinking about these questions will help inform your course objectives, determine how to proceed with initial set up and how much time the configuration will take.

Design Your Project

It’s a good idea to focus on what the technology can do uniquely well (such as enabling multiple modes of participation) when thinking about how it will integrate with your course. MiddCreate applications like WordPress, Known, Dokuwiki, and Omeka can be used to help your students collaborate and build a sense of community among the class. There are many models by which you can achieve this. For example, by establishing a communal space where everyone can create content, or by syndicating content students create individually to a community space.

Click to view slideshow.

You might also consider the site’s intended users and audience: who will be utilizing the site and how will they interact with it? Will this change over time? An example of this would be having students collaborate to draft information into a wiki resource site, then opening it up for public contributions once the initial entries are completed. In order to make this run smoothly, an instructor would need to understand not only how to create and edit pages within the wiki application, but also have a plan for how to configure changes in privacy and multiple user access settings at each stage of the project.

Every application has unique aspects that will require careful thought and intentional planning to ensure that your project fulfills its purpose and provides a rewarding, enjoyable learning experience for everyone involved.

Identify Appropriate Challenges

Before you decide which MiddCreate tool to use, properly consider its drawbacks. These could include limitations that arise due to its features, or the extra time and effort needed to create, maintain, and grade, digital assignments. You and your students are busy, so you’ll want to consider how long it will take to get your site ready. Will the application require extensive configuration to make it do what you want it to, or will it be usable soon after installation? Consider this carefully when planning your course, learning objectives, and the timing of assignments you expect students to complete.

You should also take into account how comfortable you and your students are with technology. Think about the tools they have used previously and how those compare to your potential selection. Even if students lack experience with this kind of digital tool, it could still be a valuable learning opportunity, but be aware that using it may require planning in extra time to accommodate the learning curve.

No doubt you want to give students the freedom to explore their own ideas and interests. However, leaving things too open can be intimidating and cause students to feel lost. The best way to increase students’ comfort level with new, experimental methods of learning is by including clear structure. Provide detailed requirements and frameworks for those who need them, but encourage students to take off in their own direction when appropriate. Remember that digital tools can give students the chance to take risks with the material they are learning, providing instructors insight into their students’ unexpected capabilities.

Plan for the Future

After students complete assignments, it might be nice to ask if you can feature the best work for all to admire. It’s also a good idea to archive the semester’s best examples for future classes. When students are struggling to find inspiration or understand what the project should look like, it often helps to give them look at some of the best work from previous semesters.

Another thing to consider is whether you’ll be using the same course site again in future semesters, or would like to archive and duplicate it each time. Think about how much of your content you can create as separate assets that can be easily migrated if and when you decide to move on.

Evaluate the App

Think you’ve found the right digital tool for your site? Go though the questions in this handy, comprehensive guide to choosing digital tools for course sites. This resource offers queries to develop and improve the digital pedagogy of your classes, focusing on the unique complexities and responsibilities that incorporating MiddCreate’s web tools into a curriculum may present.


Additional Resources


Learn more about MiddCreate »

If you’d like help getting started in MiddCreate, feel free to drop by the DLC Learning Lab or make an appointment with a DLC staff member.