Day 3 did not let up at all – Digital Redlines – #DigPed 2017

Going into it I thought day 3 may let up a little bit. After the breadth of conversations and activities of the first two days I needed some chill time. Sean encouraged us to take this time in his opening remarks, but I’m pretty stubborn. Although it is a long week, it is but a week, and I want to squeeze every possible thing out of this. I want to do everything longer – to listen, to think, to share, to build, to watch, to hug, to write. I have waited so long to be here at UMW during a DPLI that I just want all the things! ALL THE THINGS!

It may be overwhelming (and I become overwhelmed very quickly), but I feel that I need to take as much in as I can and document as much as I can in my idiosyncratic way. However, during our pair coding sessions (we’re mostly just working our way through this free online text) my coding partner Theresa and I mostly just slowly really try to understand what we are doing over plowing through it. 

Meeting so many smart and critical people for the first time inspires me. Seeing people I’ve only met virtually in the flesh for the first time inspires me. Listening to people talk about the challenges we all face in so many complex systems inspires me. My goal in sharing my experience here is to reach out to others and find a way to work together to help. My goal is to find ways that I can help and to meet others who can look at me and say: “Hey that Daniel may be able to help us/me/him/her/them with …”

Over the past 3 days I sure have listened a lot and it has been wonderful. Sitting in a room this morning listening to Chris Gilliard outline the many interweaving narratives that are digital redlining was amazing. Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s in his native Detroit, banks decided which neighbourhoods were worthy of investment and which were not. They drew lines based and the neighbourhoods within the red lines were those least worthy of development. There was absolutely no coincidence that those neighbourhoods were people of colour. This approach was not limited to Detroit of course – the whole country had its redlined districts. In many places you can still see this clear distinction – on a street divided by one of these lines the disparity is obvious. One side may have a million dollar house while the other side has abandoned townhouses.

As Chris described the physical spaces where zoning lines are clear because of the conditions of roads and buildings directly across the street from one another, my mind moved again to how physical and virtual worlds are intimately intertwined. How spaces on the internet look so different depending on why/how/when you enter them. If you can even enter them at all. We talked about firewalls limiting access and how prestigious schools have more open access than not. We talked about how many people making decisions about access don’t even understand how the internet works. And Chris asked this question, which I think opens up so many interesting conversations:

What is legal that you shouldn’t have access to on campus?

We talked about all the things. After all of these challenging and rewarding ideas, we all smiled as I grabbed my selfie stick and we took our first #DataLit group selfie:

(I’m leaving out a whole bunch of awesome that Bill Fitzgerald brought in the afternoon. His work and approach to data is just wonderful. And he is by turns hilarious and touching.)

Borrowing notes & memos – Day 2 from #DigPed 2017 #FXBG

Things heated up today. Before I could jump into the keynote, I had to call into the New Faculty Orientation session happening at Davidson College. There’s an interesting group of new faculty and our Instructional Design team had a chance to talk about our work and aspirations. We have a pretty cool team: Kyo Koo, Brian Little, Robert McSwain, and Sundi Richard. As different faculty spoke, my mind moved into different ways that the things I am learning in the DataLit track are so DIRECTLY applicable to what will come in the next weeks, months, and years. A “screengrab” from said session:

In many conferences I have been known to take many group selfies, but I didn’t take any day one. Day two brought us my first “wefie” of the conference:


Sadly I missed almost all of Adeline Koh’s keynote. Will watch and reflect later, but as the day went on several peeps were beaming from it, so I can only assume it was all the awesomez.


After the keynotes we had a discussion of … all the keynotes. Now, I still haven’t even touched on how crazy smart, reflective, and varied are those in my cohort. They are those things. And we are also studying many of the scary things that are about sharing your data on teh internetz. For me at least, these twists and roundabouts are equally exhilarating and exasperating. As a species we have built up such complex systems to engage and gauge and share our selves, yet our bias(es) permeate everything we do. During one of our exercises I thought for a long period (and therefore probably zoned on a bunch of other stuff) on the etymology of the word “data”. Don’t want to “Dansplain”* this here, but data comes from the Latin “datum” – something given. So the origins of this term do not align with the contemporary idea of data, or at least not with 100% transparently. What is “something given” if you do not know to whom the thing is being given? And yes, in an age with so many security settings and ways of finding data, are we not more blindly surrendering our data at points?

So. Our #DataLit track talked about the keynotes. So heavy. I came in late, as I wanted to publish my first day’s reflection on DigPed before way further eschewing my views. During that session I listened – I don’t think I said a single word. And I did not fall asleep. For those of you who really know me you must know this was a true feat. But I did it and it was f**king awesome. So many smart ideas from cool peeps. Part of the coolest part of the day is I got to “steal” all of the great notes that Adrienne Lapierre is taking during our track. Looking over here notes helped me remember some things I’d already forgotten AND see some things from a different perspective. Her data collection lens is quite different from my own – meaning she actually has one :P

Really looking forward to the workshops on day 3 and the Virtually connecting sessions as well. Its going to be a long full week for sure.

Hellos, Intros, & Memos from #DigPed 2017


I’m finally here. For years I have been part of Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute (DPLI) community – perhaps not a major contributor to the larger body of work, but an enthusiastic collaborator and instigator at turns. Two years ago I yearned to be at the first DPLI in Madison – I watched from afar as so very many of the people whose work I found challenging and lovely at the same time shared the same physical space. Last year I was extremely lucky to be part of DigPedPei and even delivered a workshop on dataviz. But this year I am in the heart of it. The University of Mary Washington  – the birthplace of #DoOO and the current working space of so many totally awesome people. When I met Jim Groom for the first time In The Flesh (ITF) he espoused on his history at UMW (a lot of which I had mostly lurked on from teh internetz) and many of the cool projects and people he had (and does) work with. It was all so very far off though. A land I never thought I would one day visit. But here I am now.
Today began with hugs and hellos to bodies I have and/or have not touched somehow before. We should have a rule right? If you share a bunch of laughs and love and thoughts on teh internetz and then you meet someone for the first time → hug! You don’t have to hug forever and deeply, but even a shoulder to shoulder tap. Unless people really know you’re not a hugger, or it is not appropriate for you to hug for whatever reasons, in which case you get a warm and greeting pair of hands. Such a great feeling to forego the normal handshake. My day started like this – with hugs and an awesome pair of welcoming hands.

And then it began – with a kind and welcoming message from @slamteacher that spawned these tweets:


Sean Michael Morris’ work has consistently been a beacon for me as an instructional designer and even more just as a human. His work has constantly been a voice for the empathy we SHOULD all have. His voice is aspirational and his sentiments and praxis inspirational. After Sean’s introduction, we moved onto an ice breaker activity led by Jesse Stommel. It was so much fun. Our task: get into pairs and, using a bunch of lego pieces on our tables, construct the avatar of your partner. Here are some of the results:

After going through the exercises and thinking some, there are several pedagogical implementations with this create your own avatar exercise. You could use it as an icebreaker exercise at the beginning of a class to get students to engage in a variety of narrative discourses. For me, my avatar was a reflection of myself in a variety of ways and right after this, someone suggested how interesting it would be to use the avatars as a way of trading and swapping pieces with others. So many possibilities.

After this we went into our tracks and I am soooo happy to be in the Data Literacies track. We started out with an ice breaker exercise which was hosted on GitHub. It was the basic “find someone who” exercise, but with the twist at the end of the exercise we reported back on others. This was an interesting way of introducing each other instead of introducing yourself. It also got to the core of what the data literacies track is about: how data can be reported, built on, manipulated, and shared. Kris Shaffer is openly sharing all of our schedule so have a look and do all the stuff you want to.

My last takeaway from the track is we were asked to read an article by Danah Boyd. As Kris had sent out the schedule in advance, I thought I would be a good student and read in advance. Opening the article in Chrome, I had open and I started going through the article. At one point I noticed this great quote was annotated so I opened up the annotations. What I saw was kind of embarrassing and cool at the same time – I had made a couple notes on the article back in January. So, it is either that my research is so deep that I can’t remember all the things I read, or I am old and my memory sucks. Or something else. It is interesting that this data sat there and then I re-encountered my own data in the data track.

Not sure how the rest of the week will go, but I do know that I am here, with some of my people, in so very many excited ways.


Ddigpins, ID, and Another 336699

Today is day 66 on the job at Davidson College as Instructional Designer and the last 33 sure passed faster than the first 33. It has been a fun chunk of time in which there has been tons of great posts from others in the field, a bunch of interesting projects at the college, and one unforgettable conference. My first post of 336699 was focused more on actual projects at the college, where this one will be tangental at points as it attempts to address a few things hanging in the balance.


Ddigpins is a continuation of #Digpins which aims to help participants cultivate their “digitalness” in (our current instance) Instructional Design. We are running this version on Ddigpins in a bit looser style as it is for the 5 of us Instructional Designers only and it is during summer so vacations/conferences are pacing things out more. Each week a different ID is responsible for the CTA, and last week Robert McSwain asked us to reflect/share on a ‘a ha’ moment when it comes to us starting down the ID path. I thought long and hard after watching his video and failed to come up with my moment. Not from not having one, but from having so many. Instructional Design has been a pseudo-dream job for me as I get to be creative in how I do things, collaborate with smart/cool people, and constantly learn new things. A recent post from Kerry Pinny on learning technologists (essentially IDs) had this great quote about ID work:

I would say my work now is mostly in the bottom five lines here more than the others, but this goes to show how diverse and dynamic ID life can be. Many great posts of late have reflected on the ID praxis and how entirely complicated and complex it is. So maybe that’s MY ‘a ha’ moment – I love doing this work because of its complexities. Over a decade ago when I started my M.Ed.Tech, I met an ID community online and realized how interestingly diverse their projects/positions were. I’d found a line of work that incorporated many of the things I loved as an educator and required many elements of my creative background as well.  I’ll write more on this later I’m sure.


As this week is my turn to spark and engage the team, I thought I would talk about something I am quite excited about – D-D-D-D-D-DOMAINS! Domain of One’s Own (#DoOO) has been running at Davidson for a few years now with some courses requiring students to have a domain for their projects. ITS has decided to push DoOO as an “anchor” technology which means we need to build out a bunch of pieces for creating awareness around various initiatives.

One of the most exciting bits in here is we’re looking at crafting a community portal for all of our Domains. We are looking to pilot this in several courses/disciplines this Fall and are excited at what it will look like. I’ll probably report back on this in the next 336699 post.

For our CTA this week (I’m looking at you idteam_digpins) I would like you all to share and reflect on a social/community site that has been transformational in your work as an ID.



As a pseudo continuation of my CTA, the project I’ve been working on most is Over the past couple months I have been getting more and more involved with our Domains at Davidson initiative. Before and after the Domains17 conference we have been looking at ways to create more of a sense of community around our Domains initiatives. Over the past month we have chatted with Tom Woodward and Jim Groom about adapting some work they’ve done at other colleges. We would like to create a community site where all of our domains can interact with each other and be social somehow. Our community pages will have a variety of ways to filter posts and content.


We have meetings and consults set up with internal and external people over the next few weeks. For the next few months we will focus on building more literacies around Domains through class visits and consults. As we build out our resources we will focus on scaffolding the community pieces into messaging.


Our first big meeting was today. There are many others planned, but we will focus on some pilot projects first and build out from there. Will defo report back on this in the next 336699.

Unpacking from/through/about Domains17

I left Oklahoma bursting. Still am really. After two and a half days with people/ideas/purplepenguins at #Domains17, I was full of all of the stories. On the evening before the conference began we were dropped at 21c Museum Hotel in Oklahoma City which is a converted Ford model T plant. We had dinner there that night and then moseyed over to Flashback Retro Pub for some coin op madness. On top of pulling a draw with Jim Groom on two heated Track and Field matches, I had some great conversations with friends old and new and some for the very first time in the flesh (ITF). Everyone was abuzz with the two days to come and we talked at length about many Domainy things – art, games, music, writing, architecture, research, food, and locations. It left me feeling lifted.

On the first morning there was a “Domains Fair” which was an eclectic mix of Domain of One’s Own (#DoOO) based initiatives at a variety of institutions. Said fair was DJed via #ds106radio and felt at once intense and cozy. If I had but one takeaway here it is the work Laura Taub (and others) are doing with #DomainsResist at Muhlenberg College. It is the most important work of archiving protest. Although I didn’t get to see the session on the second day based around this, the twitter feed afforded me to see: “Take back the archive. Take back the web. Tell untold stories. Make [campus] history.” These ideas really pushed me to think about how we should try and frame every project we work on.

To this point I am often asked: What is a domain? OR What is this Domains thing I keep hearing about? Depending on context and who is asking, I explain the history of DoOO and touch on Domain Literacy a bit, but I’ve never had a “go to” structure/response. Using the Cynefin framework to help talk through this, we could say Domains fall into all of the areas: Simple because it is “just” a website, Complicated as it allows you to structure multiple areas for sharing and exploration, Complex for there are an endless number of ways that it can be used as part of your digital identity, and chaotic – I’m not exactly sure how to describe this bit. My thoughts on Domains veer into many directions depending on the context, but Martha Burtis’ keynote helped me more clearly articulate an approach and structure with which to look at future projects. Although there were several notable takeaways, I think the main one was her breakdown of the four key components to DoOO: Naming, Building, Breaking, and Knowing. In this order, one could perfectly (and problematically at the same time) map out the cynefin framework as well – Name (simple/best practice-ish), Build (complicated decisions around apps and direction), Break (adding subdomains, using aggregators, reaching audiences), and finally Knowing (our ever chaotic realm of trying to prove we KNOW something and/or what knowing actually means). Refusing to get all philosophical at the moment, I think these four steps align almost perfectly with how I build meaning in my life in general. But that’s a whole other post.

Weaving in and out of conversations at Domains17 was the idea of metaphor. At the beginning of her keynote, Martha Burtis asked us to write down a word or two that we thought described all of the images she used as springboards to ideas. My interpretations of this was to name and then try to attribute pseudo abstract ideas to these pictures. After this, she asked us to think of a physical space that we thought represented the internet using #concreteweb. My initial response I now find lacking. In retrospect I would change my answer to my suitcase. It is a symbol for my wanderlust and potentially how I find the web to be a constantly evolving learning space. As a concrete space it can contain, and has, so many different things and continually gathers traces of its journeys. When I travel/experience/return from trips, I usually leave it open, in plain sight, long enough to fool myself into thinking I have processed many of the elements of that trip. Often times there are new items in it from the trip(s); postcards, stickers, books, shirts, a tie or two. As of this writing my suitcase is still on the floor of my bedroom unpacked. It remains the perfect analogy for my thoughts on Domains17 – open and unfinished.

As a parting thought I would say that Domains is like a lifestyle that one needs to improve no matter how good they think theirs is. Sure they are problematic and messy, but they can at least be an attempt to do share good things with the world. And while that could/should be criticized from many angles, we need to be diligent in our attempts to harness what is positive and critically build on them. There are issues like this in pretty much all edtech conferences, but if Domains is meant to be the “ascendant technology” it aspires to be, we all need to do more to bring diverse voices into the fray, whom domains will potentially best serve and amplify. Although there were many female presenters and attendees, we do have a lot of work to do after #Domains17. We must aspire to write stories that include more students, more POC, and more diversity in general.

Now I am off to read all the reflections others have written about Domains17 and there are many. Over the past month I have intentionally not read anyone else’s reflections so that my piece would remain uninfluenced.

If you’ve read other Domains17 posts which ones are your favourites and why? How can Domains18 intentionally include more diverse narratives?

PS: I must also mention how awesome @brumface‘s approach to organizing dinner. SRLSY! If you ever organize a conference, take her advice!

PSS: If you made it this far, the pic at top is a link ;)

Intentional Practice OR My first 33 days of Instructional Design at Davidson College OR #336699

It is business day 33 at my new job as “Instructional Designer – Quantitative Applications” as part of the Davidson College WildCat tech team. These first weeks have been full of fun events across campus and I feel quite lucky to be warmly welcomed by people here in the Technology and Innovation team, as well as a bunch of faculty, staff, librarians, students, and alumni at various events across campus. It may seem weird to have the exact day count at 33, but ever since I started as an Instructional Designer at UPEI several years ago, I have slotted out my time in 30/60 and 100 day chunks. I thank Dave Cormier for this, as he tasked me at the beginning of my time at UPEI to set goals for each of those marks, and then reset once you get to 100 and do it all again. Having clear markers of some sort is very important. Especially when you’re working in such an odd field as Instructional Design. Whenever someone asks me what I do and I say I’m an ID, it is usually met with confusion and a lot of explaining. But I will talk about this elsewhere.

As day 30 approached, I decided to break my time into 33/66/99 chunks instead of 30/60/100. I won’t break down the logic for this, but it has made me really pay attention to each day and where it falls inside the intervals. Mostly this also helps me to get a feel for what I have done, what I’m looking to do, and what is a bit further off down the line. My main goal when working with people is to amplify their work in the open. When I first meet people I use a variety of frameworks to begin our work together. Using these frameworks, I try to get as much of the work into the open and in my first 33 days here I have found many opportunities to do this. Although A LOT has happened in my first 33 days, I am going to briefly outline 6 projects/classe I’m involved in that have at least parts in the open and how I am excited for their trajectories. Each project will be broken down into: BACKGROUND, NEXT STEPS, and HOW MANY DAYS UNTIL NEXT PROJECT.

Religion 238 – Islamic Cities


Religion 238 is a class taught bi-annually by Rizwan Zamir. He has taught the class several times and decided over a year ago that he wanted to use a larger visual component to the course. To (very roughly) paraphrase Rizwan:

Using only text to get to the intricacies of how a city can be a spatial reflection of the empire and religion it is a part of has its limitations. By using some type of mapping assignment, we are able to better represent the actual experiences of people in the city and in the empire.

From my side, I came into the class on my Day 4 (!) which was VERY near the end of the semester. By that point, students had already divided into groups, chosen the cities they were going to map, and done most of their research. There were only 3 weeks left in the semester with students working in different environments as they prepared for final presentations. It was fun to get to work with each group on how to build out their presentations and to learn a bunch of stuff about Mecca, Istanbul, and Jerusalem.


This course won’t be offered again until 2018-2019 so we have a bunch of time to prepare and rethink some approaches. Brian Little and I will be the Instructional Designers working on this project – we’re both pretty pumped to say the least. Also of great interest is that Rizwan is going to start an OER text/site/something based on his Islamic Mysticism in Spring 2017! (Will defo report on this later!)


99ish for the OER part. 399ish for the next REL238 section.




In my second week here, I was invited to meet with Rose Stremlau about a digital mapping project she wanted her students to do for her HIS 306 class. Over the semester her students transcribed letters from the Davidson Archives written by Mary Lacy from 1855 – 1860. Rose wanted to get some ideas for interesting projects where students could reflect on the letters in a variety of ways. We decided on three separate outputs: word clouds, topographical maps, and blog posts with scans of the letters. Not all of these were shared in the open by students, but the blog itself is a worthy and interesting read. Many of the details make good yarn. And the student reflections are top notch.


Rose is just great fun to work with and we have a few things on both front and back burners. What seems interesting about the HIS 306 class is that the focus will be a bit different each time, so every time it is offered students will make some cool stuff and (hopefully!) share in the open on teh internetz!


99ish days until Rose’s Fall 2017 courses – I am sure we’ll do something then. Meanwhile, over the summer Rose has alluded to a couple of UBER interesting projects. Stay tuned and I’ll share as it comes up.




There is a reimagining of how the Humanities are being taught/taken at Davidson. At the end of my second week here, I was invited to take part in a workshop with this as part of the email:

Design session, definitions, short-term and long-term goals, planning, brainstorming, course building, thinking about recruiting, connecting to campus programming, and more. Thinking about our theme for the next three years: REVOLUTION

Those who know me know I LOVE this kind of workshop. I haz all the ideaz! They’re not all GREAT ideas. Some are quite the opposite, but I haz them all. Needless to say it was a VERY FUN exercise. We (meaning @sundilu and I) were brought in primarily to figure out what type of digital mapping/timelining/whatever-ing would happen during the course. We’re still not 100% on what that will look like, but what we did get those 2 days was intros to a bunch of great people.

Of particular fun-ness for me was intros to most of the fellows. There are 10 student fellows who are going to help out during the fall and spring sections. One of my main side projects over the last month has been herding them up individually to make short “promo” videos that are both on the Humanities site and the HUMDavidson youtube channel.


We’re working with a few peeps on campus to make sure that #HumDavidson gets a good look by incoming freshman. Of course, we’ll also be working with the team of faculty teaching the course and the fellows on varied critical instructional design approaches.


We’ll be visiting this regularly over the summer, but 99ish is when the course kicks off! Of course, I’ll report back before and after then on how its going.


Whats this all mean?

Somehow I lost the thread of what my intention was with this post at the very beginning. It was intended to talk about how I am going to be intentional in my practice here and as a response to this post. So here it goes – every 33 business days I plan on updating and adding to a conversation about projects new and old whilst using #336699 and #instructionaldesign. Although this series is not meant to detail/outline/share ALL THE THINGS, it will give a glimpse into some efforts made to be more open and a window into some design processes.



We five are sitting on the last day of Hybrid Pedagogy Lab PEI during the unconference afternoon session. I am but the scribe of this swirl of ideas voiced in the hope of making sense of the pain we encounter in our varied personal and professional lives. On tap: why don’t people in general understand the value and flow of educational journies.

Blog posts can become conversations. If people respond. Lawrie Phipps had some comments on his blog recently and it shocked him —”Who actually comments on blogs anymore?” he asks. We are sitting at #DigPed PEI discussing annotation and which methods. Scott Robison nods and expresses with his face what we all feel — education is messed right up.

Robin DeRosa is trying to sort out and is concerned about things because she wants to know where the bigger picture work gets done. During a conference, she wants the thought leaders to gather from a variety of industries to gather and get the tough work done.

Lawrie Phipps worries about differentiating between the work self claimed thought leaders and what is actually being done. He takes issue with the noise and sound-bite thought lead-ness of some thought leaders in his beloved UK. These shady figures appear on the keynote circuit and they create an initial buzz, but then fizzle. It reflects poorly on the HigherEd landscape.

How do you differentiate the noise? We need people who want diverse models to structure and design programs. With all of the “awesome” people we have in our lives, how do we get people like Martin Weller to talk to others who want to enact change in higher ed?

There are personal and systemic changents that we share with those around us. How do we shape a more critical systemic group?

#DigPedSystems is what we might need? But Lawrie doesn’t believe that the focus should be on the PED — it should be focused more on the soft skills and “embodiment” as Amy Collier references in her Digital Design work.

We can come to conferences like #DigPed and no matter how oppressed you are can change your individual pedagogies, but systemically you will eventually hit a wall. Our enemies and how we counter them are un-nameable perhaps. Money doesn’t matter. We need to focus on low input high impact projects that affect change and create a need to be fulfilled.

OER may be a way for us to break through some of the barriers. As schools become run more like businesses, the human elements and public service are disappearing. People cannot see the public needs because of the privatization of #HigherEd. Public narratives are fledgling because of education not serving the common good. This lack/abuse of basic literacies have lead to UK being literally torn apart.

We need to find a way to talk to the public about the true possibilities of education.


This, like all the writing I am now embarking on, is a thought draft — a water cooler conversation starter?

Pretty sure most people will read this piece because they have an affinity for some sort of learning in tertiary spaces, or they, like myself, have been mesmerized by the intricate, playful, and honestly brutal performances of Sufjan Stevens, who has a J in his name that sounds like a Y. Either way it is great to have their (or your) attention on either/both fronts. Over the past few days I have participated in the Digital Pedagogy Lab PEI (#DigPed) and a Sufjan Stevens concert (in Chicago) for the first time, so I thought it pertinent to write on both as they are fresh and (in my mind) linked in some way(s). Looking at the pageantry, conversations, and accessibility present in a Sufjan concert reveals a few interesting calls for HigherEd.

During #DigPed, there were two different tracks: one in digital literacy, one in networks. Both tracks explored various themes and ideas around how technology affordances have intrinsically changed learning spaces. If you are part of these conversations for long enough, certain questions repeat and echo themselves, with a central precept present: How can we solve (primarily student centered) problems in education? Although this question is likely never to be answered, the poking and prodding most people in the education sector always creates dazzling conversations and narratives. Throughout #DigPed smart and caring people try their hardest to reason with and develop more the complexities of education.

CONVERSATIONS By no means a Sufjan fan boy, I do admit to being quite familiar with his most recent album, Carrie and Lowell, which is a beautiful, stark, and captivating meditation on the passing of his mother, and step-father. It is an album at once sad but celebratory, with soft volleys of whispy recants of magical imagery and gutsy recollections of love and pain. An album that you need to pay attention to for it subtly pulls apart modern concepts of interaction using poetic turns of phrase for songs that work as potential song cycles. I will not attempt to depict the content of these songs, but it is very safe to say that there are conversations on this album that are both frank and playful. Honest and sad. Folk and experimental. There is a diversity and inclusivity of viewpoints. One is challenged to reanalyze the direction of a song given different turns of phrase. You ultimately feel like you are listening to, and somehow privy to, a conversation of great importance. Sufjan sings to/through/with you somehow.

This is the main context I brought to the live show and while this piece was present there were so many other conversations happening it was even more compelling and engaging than expected. He opened the evening saying “Welcome to the Sufjan Stevens Community hour” and joked about how he had toured the world for over a year singing mostly about death. He acknowledged how some of his artistic/tortured journey had begun in Chicago and how transformative that was. He asked us to send positive vibes to his co-singer/dancer for she had some health issues with her hip. During the concert he continually revealed himself to be someone who was learning from everything he could. He was frank and honest and humble. He made several mistakes, but just kept playing through them. He told us that we’re all going to die. He read a beautiful poem about the impact we can all have (if you’re reading this and know the poem PLEASE share in comments!). He covered Prince’s “Kiss” as his last song because he said every night should end with a kiss. He told us he loved us.

Of course a lot of this may be in service to the spectacle, but that misses the point. There was a clear message throughout the evening: we are all learning together and not one of us was without power. It truly was the Sufjan Stevens Community hour and this is what we need in Higher Ed. We need to analyze where we have come from and as institutions/boards truly assess how we are helping our communities. We need to evoke positive change on our campuses and beyond. We need to have open and honest accountability. We need clear and honest communications about direction. We need to make mistakes and be honest about them. We need to tell each other we love each other more and share in that care.

We need conversations that somehow include all of the voices of our past, present, and hopeful futures.

PAGEANTRY Sufjan’s aesthetic does a lot of reaching through its pageantry. There are overt spiritual references in his music and his live show fully harnesses and expands on spiritual tropes and imagery. In the first song of the set, he and his two female singer/collaborators, wore costumes that transformed them into angels. At other points in the show he stood on a shimmering silver step ladder covered in similar material creating a shining monolith casting light back onto the crowd. At the end of the show he donned a multi-coloured hat and suit made of balloons of varying sizes and shapes. All of these eclectic set and costume pieces were further supported and built on by the accompanying video projections. These projections often included live video outline capture of people on the stage, personal imagery of Sufjan in various video/film formats, and distinct aesthetics for each song. Mixing these elements together really created a sense of immediacy, yet somehow none of it seemed gimmicky — it was tied to the message of the song and accentuated the music. Every song was treated in a unique way and told very different stories. So what has all this to do with Higher Ed?

What if we looked at each of the songs in the set as a course experience for a student? A lot of great work is being done in places in the realm of personalized learning where course experiences are truly centered on individual learning. And we truly need to make learning contexts relevant and unique for students because referring to them in a general sense as a group undermines them all ~ (this idea is from something I’m not properly attributing ATM — if you know what/where it is please add in comments and I’ll add here). We need to find a way to allow our students to, like a song in a Sufjan concert, tell their own stories while contributing to the overall fabric of the whole. We need to find ways to build spaces and environments where our spirits, bodies, and minds are raised together as part of our community. Where we are safe to make mistakes and gain agency from the process.

ACCESSIBILITY DigPed was a truly great event. Over 50 people spent 3 days at the University of Prince Edward Island discussing/workshopping different approaches in education. We used TWITTER as our main conversation space, which was new to some, with an engaged community both in the flesh and virtually. Our little league was so active that we were top trending topic in the area for some time. Wazzah! Most of the conversations I saw/experienced were about finding communities for your professional and personal development. People want to expand their networks so that they can also expand their worldview. regardless of what field people are in. In the two days since, there has already been a few great posts about the event from Brittany Jakubiec Lawrie Phipps @DonnaLanclos Stephanie Loomis with many more to follow for sure.

Perhaps it’s obvious, but this all happened only because of how OPEN we were in our practice. Just a small group of people sharing their work in the open can have huge effects. For me, the main take away was exactly that: Work Open or Close Off. You can try to engage with a bunch of great communities/supports or you can keep your practice regional, and in most cases disappear behind paywalls. Especially in Education, we need to openly share our voice(s) so that we can find those in similar struggles and unite with them in the struggle. Join in by following #OER #OA and #OPENPED (thanks to Robin DeRosa for her inspiring work in this area).

During the last couple of songs, there were 5 huge flailing balloon men that sprang up backstage and blew around with jubilance. They moved about bouncing around off each other. At times they seemed like they were hugging, other times dancing, and sometimes they even seemed to lift each other up off the ground. As silly as these large objects were, there was also a tragedy inherent in their positions: stuck in one place and only able to connect at their extremities. There lot was to be stuck; without movement or the ability to connect with others.

This all hit me very strongly on the field of the Pitchfork Festival as Sufjan sang and danced around openly on stage singing of hope, love, and death ~ no matter what your medium, we need to open up. His field may be large rock venues and as educators ours may be classrooms, but we have the same goal: share what you have learned and be as open as you can about how to make a difference. That is why I felt compelled to publish this post ~ it is time for me to share some of the seemingly disconnected parts of my life in an open space and hope that I can learn something from it. These are just initial thoughts at the beginning of what promises to be a long road at looking at connections between education, music and other art forms/experiences.

FOR THE COMMENTS(?): What are you willing to share to help education? Can your work have greater effect? Why haven’t you already started? Where have you seen Sufjan and what kind of impact did it have on you?

top image:

images/lenses that may make my work clearer

most of my time at work i spend standing up in front of screens

some of my work is in classrooms

and little bits here and there are in meeting rooms across campus

when im working in any of the above ways, i visualize what is being talked about in my head and try to shape/re-shape the things being talked about

these following images are the most common ones that swirl in my head as i work(they are all stolen and/or adapted from other sources as noted):











this one is what i aspire to do most of the time – find connections between peoples’ narratives/data/”images” and try to leave the space with some sort of take away – try to hit that center asterix even if in a “small way”














this is a relatively “new to me” grid that i think helps figure where/when what images/approaches can be used and what questions should be asked – it helps as a starting point and is pseudo easy to explain













this is the CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK – i learned about it several years ago and have used it frequently when working with, well, pretty much everyone. its a great way to structure talks and approaches around ideas. it can take some complex relationships and make them easier to talk about.




















these last two images are visitor and resident maps (#vandr). all you kind of need to know about this is HERE. i have used this exercise in countless classes, workshops, and consults. it is a great way to get people to feel on the same page and to help unpack some of the “digital dualist” notions that circulate. the colour image above is a map i did a long time ago, while the black and white one i did this week as part of the #DdigPINS class.

although these aren’t all of the approaches i use, they do capture some strong pieces that i have found of value when dealing with the variety of peeps in several types of #highered milieu.

birdz bye birdz


Birds. They surround us. They mystify us. They fear and/or ignore us. They peck us. They patronize us. They parrot us. They make us envious of their abilities. They disgust us with some of their rituals and routines. They are such a huge part of our existence that it seems impossible to imagine our lives without them. They are beings, games, stories, songs, myths, poems, movies, and movements. How can one even write about birds without coming off as cliched?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answer, but I have MY answers and as #sncengl425 began last week reading and ultimately reflecting on “bird by bird” by Anne Lamott, I read/thought along in reference to all of my favourite bird moments/references. SO here I will share my “top 8 bird things” with you so that you can laugh at me. Or cry with me. Or be whatever it is that you will be as you read my “top 8 bird things” things that I thought about as I read through Lamott.

Although I am shortlisting, I want everyone to know that I truly love birds in pretty much all ways. Despite some horrid run ins with them, I have perhaps loved them because of how they have been represented in art and popular culture.

Instead of going on at length about this, here are my “top 8 bird things” I thought about while reading/writing over the past week+:

  1. Birds. Alfred Hitchcock. I was too young when I first saw this film, and it scared the bejeezus out of me, but somehow I have to watch it every once in awhile because of everything it is: perfect storytelling, editing, sound, shitty patriarchy, attempted feminism, and mostly cinematography/special effects. I mean – really. This film is textbook and I am so glad my mother didn’t think I was too young to watch it. This is more a philosophy or an optical lens to life than it is a film.
  2. Actual Birds. Like really. If you’ve never just taken time to try and check out the birds that fly around you no matter where you live, then I am sad for you. There are so many amazing things happening around us all the time, and they are existing on a plane we still really have no idea how to understand. #justsayin
  3. Birds. Permutations of their existence and the number of species that there are. And their colours. And how so many of them have disappeared and continue to disappear. If you care about these things, talk to my pal @lawrie
  4. “Featuring Birds”. Quasi. An amazing dystopian concept album filled with wonderful flutterings of instruments and poetic verses. If you’re going to listen to this album for the first time, seriously shut EVERYTHING else off and just dig dip. Its beautiful, sad, threatening, and rousingly bleak. Quasi is great in general, but I think this is their gold standard album. Go on a drive, or bus ride for an hour and listen only to this. It’s a commentary on so many tough things. And it’s just funny sometimes somehow too. (Also in the music category – “bird on a wire” – can’t talk about it still)
  5. Seagulls from “Finding Nemo.” If I need to explain this, then you’ve missed out. I am not a fan of Disney stuff in general, as I think there are a lot of cultural issues that I can’t reckon, but DAMN those seagulls. There is and ego/ID battle not happening there that is amazing. And done.
  6. Dead Birds. We’ve all seen them right? There is something amazing about looking at something that has so many intricate and beautiful parts after it has passed on. With all of their feathers and odd skeletons, birds make for amazing post-mortem viewing. And there’s not the attachment we have with dogs, cats, or other animals for the most point. Many times we encounter dead birds in spaces outside of our attachments and we can reshape our thoughts on passing. Or is this just me? Maybe this whole thing is weird, but I am not filtering so you know…
  7. Bird feces. So, in many narrative tropes, it is comical when someone gets pooped on. Do I have anyone out there, who like me, feels like they’re a target? Seriously, my lovely wife Sundi, has seen me get pooped on MANY times. It seems abnormal. So my only way to justify this is to think that the birds are targeting me because of my jealousy of their ability to fly. Perhaps they are the mystical figures who can invade and understand our dreams. And they are s**tting on me because they’re basically saying “don’t be all Icarus dude. Stay down there or else.” I dunno.
  8. Be less pigeon. So there’s this wonderful writer/person/activist out there (Audrey Watters) who writes about the tribulations we face as a culture because of our over-indoctrination of training and euphoria. Audrey writes all the things that matter and are well rounded and well researched that everyone needs to step into. And one of her catch phrases is “be less pigeon.” It is so far beyond me to try and capture her ideas her, but let’s just say she has made me feel so many things from so many angles about education and the metaphors it has on hand.

So yes, bird by bird. Describing each one as it comes at you. When I came to that part of Lamott’s text, I was so there. So flitting and flighting about in so many ways. And I although I feel peckish these first couple weeks, I truly feel my wingspan has opened because of some of Lamott’s ideas on writing.

She used a perfect and empowering image for me: the one inch picture frame. In an age where we can own the optics of our narratives, I think Lamott has afforded me a structure that works with my workflow – tiny flaps of limbs that may build to something else.

So, for the moment, I’m going for something long form and random and hope my peers will help me shape these things into a flock of pieces. But who knows, maybe like a parliament, things will break apart and move in other directions.

However this plays out I welcome feedback in constructively blunt forms.

I can handle it.

Sincerely yours in service,


OurChatSpace OR What Mastodon could do for #HigherEd


What mastodon, and its probable #OurChatSpace spinoffs, could do for #highered

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Our disclaimer runs thusly – even if mastodon is not long for this world, something with similar affordances will/should play into #NGDLE. As a GNU variant, we hope that more platforms and DIY solutions emerge. Our optics are around building competencies for users in environments that (hopefully) add value to people looking to engage and build meaning with others. These pursuits are wrought with challenges, but we need to try and we need to find ways to keep the hate out. So here’s to hoping that there are some venues to rock out to in #highered. We have thrown out the #OurChatSpace idea to create dialogue.

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With the recent release of the code and guts (see what we did there Thanksgivingers?) of Mastodon into the open, we could be looking at a shift in some communication ecosystems in highered. As policy makers across the globe (*waves to #codesign16*) try to decipher what a NGDLE could look like, this is a timely release of what could shape out to be a robust communication and collaboration tool. Of the main elements that have and will make up a learning environment, Mastodon (or variant builds thereof) seems well suited for handling cross-community collaboration.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly is Mastodon and why might it have such a huge effect?  Well, Mastodon “is a free, open-source social network server. A decentralized alternative to commercial platforms… is an instance of mastodon.” [] The Terms on the Mastodon site are from 2013 and speak to making users aware of how their data is being used. Looking at the open source code on Github, looks like it is an “alternative implementation of the GNU social project.” [] The man behind it is Eugen @Gargron from Germany (using this handle on Github, Twitter, and, Mastodon). A humble 691 followers on Twitter, his tweets do speak for themselves []. It seems that a lot of the new action on Mastodon was sparked by this article And all of this is owed to that mythical oddball/free-thinker/open-advocate Richard Stallman.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

With our backgrounds as Instructional Designers/Technologists/Project Managers, we look at the following uses as potentially tremendously fruitful. These uses are based on the precepts that we can/will pull LDAP data from our college system. Pulling from this data daily (or several times daily), would help with consistency and integrity of the system. Assuming we can do this, the following uses are speculative, but very alluring if we can execute them in a manner similar to Tweetdeck to Hootsuite. Effectively what we are looking at is how to use columns in their most awesome ways. This would be an example of “low input, high impact” principle.

In course/cohort

Every current class a student is enrolled in would have its own column. Students would have the fully customizable/personalizable space to choose which columns are visible and their order. Replacing the discussion forums in a class, students would be able to engage with anyone in their courses, specific assignments by profs could use hashtags as filters. A potential great piece from this would be that past class rosters would be accessible. It would be “easy” to reach back to past classes and ask questions or share something influenced by previous ideas.

“Campus” notes

Every campus we’ve been on has newsletters of different types. In Mastodon you could use 500 characters (with links?) to share what’s happening that day or to promote events. If there’s a time sensitive event you could use this column.

School group/organization/hashtag spaces

This could be personalized and customizable. All of the groups and organizations you belonged to could be in one space. Or they could be separated with hashtags. Instead of managing dozens of emails from different spaces, they could be aggregated here. Depending on the power of your server, this could be very robust spaces.

Private/Public spaces

Institution wide one could be opted in to be able to privately direct message others. There should also be a way to bring public voices into the campus space. If you have an invited speaker, create a space for them to take questions both privately and publicly as well.

These are our initial thoughts. Please share yours in the comments or use #OurChatSpace :)

Hugs to you all!

(this piece was co-written with the lovely @sundilu)

music musings and another #ideavomit

Music is all of the things.


It is the soundtrack and vessel of our other senses tying together moments that we cannot describe without referencing the sounds of our time(s). Sensory memory is so tightly tied to sound that we (or I at least) often recall so many things based on the sounds of our environments. When you make music on any scale – playing around campfires, dining room tables, in bars or bedrooms, through cafes, and/or in recording studios – you become very sensitive to how and where music is processed. Who is listening and how it can be taken into or out of context becomes a habitual part of your life. Again, no matter how much/little you play music it becomes a signal and symbol of who you are and what you believe.

This is what is so disconcerting right now. There is no victory song. Few musicians have stepped out in support of what has been voted into the White House. In fact, many have jumped out to prevent his ascension, complaing that their music is being used without permission. For those whom have voiced their support, they are mostly CORPORATE DERIVATIVE S**T. Yes s**t. They sing in cliches and gender-normativity. Most of their work reinforces patriarchal power and whiteness. What could/should it mean when the artists of our age protest and shy away from our next leader?

If we look at all great art, it is usually a response to great conflict and strife. Despite our (I will align myself begrudgingly with artists for the moment) naval gazing efforts, our work is informed {often primarily and wonderfully} by politics. Or the after affects of political decisions. Or, many other times, reflections of past political events. Or, in the even way MORE AWESOME WAYS, we invoke political change with our songs.

What is entirely sad and challenging throughout this entire campaign has been the lack of arts and humanities in the political narrative. How often were creatives, musicians, and/or artists used when invoking what the world needs now? My current work is trawling talks to find plugs for these types throughout the campaign, and I am mostly coming up empty. And that is horrid.

* * * * *

Definitely the most thoughtful and effective piece on what has happened comes from A Tribe Called Quest. Their latest “We Got It frrom Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” touches on direct political commentary and critique while also being playful in broad cultural strokes. As a MAWG (Middle Aged White Guy), it is a joy to engage with the ideas on the album and is insightful in many ways. Many of the conversations I lurk on are drivers here and patriarchal power must end. Right?

And to continue my #ideavomit – 3 chords and the truth right? For me, I didn’t really get political music until the first time I heard Fight the Power. As a failing teenager several times in high school, Public Enemy shattered/enlivened my soul. Truro Nova Scotia, where I was living at the time, was/is very white and depressing. One wants to escape and engage a different world. Looking back, my desire to travel/study/live/work in other places started around the same time as when I first heard that song.

But lets step back. To where music is all the things. For those of you who know me, you know I’ve lived all over this planet for extended periods. From the distance over the past 20-ish years, each campaign has had a certain musical feel. If we look at the prez-elect-travesty (PET), we hear nothing. Fair enough, he’s a 70 year old privileged white male so what do you expect? His rhetoric is horrifying in this regard however – have you heard him even mention the arts or music or literature? What percentage of that is of his discourse? Aside, of course, from his recent twitter rant on Hamilton (see below), which is problematic and puzzling.

* * * * *

There will be no surprises here. If you want to participate in our actions, we need to openly engage and share. Challenges will surmount, but we will create people! We will create sounds that our next leader will be inspired by! Looking back, we will have curated for the next generation(s) pieces that we see as important to further open democracy.

If we are moving into the range of fake news, can we also move into the realm of fake music? Manufactured boy/girl bands? Bon Jovi esque derivative cliches? Hair rock bands with their cliched otherness? Country music with its tropes of god/truck/girl/dog structures? Pop music with its happiness/depression disguised as glee? We need to try harder. We need to make music that uses back against societal repressive norms. We’ve had enough love songs about boy meets girl. We must write songs about boy and girl and all others fight the obvious oppression that comes with Tweets like these:



If we can supposedly “regulate” news media, why do we not do the same with music? Sure self expression is important, but should we not be more choosey about what music/sentiments emerge at different points? How/why do we filter content in interviews with people, but not in songs? And, oh sure, I get how tricky/s**tty this can be, but we need some type of tool(s) don’t we? Most top 40 music continues to perpetuate gender/racial/cultural/relationship stereotypes and this sucks. If we are to try and understand the complexities of our world, we need to recognize the complexities of our many selves. Lets follow more examples like 69 Love Songs and make things that provide optics from as many perspectives as possible. Lets write stories that address the challenges we face as global communities. In short, FFS – LETS DO BETTER!

forever cohen

Leonard bids farewell. I have heard/read a lot of his work and am happy he left us with a great final record “You Want it Darker”.
For those of you who know me, he was a HUGE influence on my world view. My work. My soul.
For me he was equal parts insightful, comical, abstract, personal, sensual, political, spiritual, and really just wonderful. And dark as all get up.
His work has influenced many people I’ve met on different levels. For me, who really started to “understand” poetry because of him – well what do you say about that? But he pushed my mind/self into places that challenged and blew me up. So much so that I have continually loved re-engaging with his new/old work frequently.
Such a soul.
I remember reading his poems in so many different people’s houses throughout my academic career.
I forget where I read this very recently but it was something like: “At 35 Cohen sounded like an old wise soul, now he sounds eternal”. Indeed. As a favour to yourself, go find all of his poems and songs and interviews and all the things he has left us. He was such a great artist. And a kind soul.
So here is my clickbait my friends – my “favourite” five Cohen things and you WON’T BELIEVE NUMBER FIVE! But seriously, I’m leaving out dozens of great things. I could just take pics of all the pages of his books I have on my shelves here, but go find them yo! And I am leaving out so many things (THE FUTURE – SO RELEVANT RIGHT NOW RIGHT?)
1. As the Mist Leaves No Scar – this is where it started for me. If you ever bump into me, I can/will recite this piece because its where my admiration of poetry began. In my 4th year of grade 10. (That’s another story):
3. So Long Marianne live (when he was 80!):
4. Pixies cover I Can’t Forget – for those of you who know me you can guess how messed up I was when the 2 musical/poetical worlds collided:
5. Dear Heather because this guy went so far with experimenting with how beautifully complex our world can be. His approach to things could not be predicted. This is all of the cultural complexities and oddness one might expect from someone who floated in/out/through/with/without/because of/in relation to/exploring what structures of words and sounds could be. Oh. And he did this when he was 70 so if you think experimentation ever ends, Leonard has a solid for you right here:
Farewell Leonard and thank you so much for all you gave.
What were your memories of Leonard Cohen?

An #opened16 #IdeaVomit

img_4175Gardner Campbell’s opening keynote was preceded with a short film he’d made. Divergent and clashing visuals and sounds meant to frame a complex/chaotic story of how @gardnercampbell struggles with his own sense making. Or at least that’s what I thought it was. Amongst the clashes was A LOT of Bob Dylan. Many clips from “No Direction Home” with the highlight (for me at least) when Dylan is asked in a pressing by a photographer to suck his glasses. An awkward moment ensues where Dylan refuses and responds “No, do you want to suck my glasses?” It was right there for me. Our iconic image of Dylan is with those sunglasses, those lenses. How we frame things. Performative natures in our work. How outside forces try to “reframe” our work for us – we push back against their control. We push back. So many of us here and our transformative experiences. Why we do what we do. What stories we want/need to share. Gardner delivered such a riveting talk that the only question from the audience was someone who repeated “would you suck your glasses?” to which he responded, “will you suck my glasses?” It was like a meme in the flesh.

Gardner’s story set a tone for the conference that echoed throughout. People are here because they want to share their stories and learn about other’s stories. Most of the stories I’ve seen are about care and love in the time of great change.

My favourite analogy or metaphor comes from @amcollier’s talk. Presenting on critical instructional design, she referenced the Pont des Arts in Paris where people worldwide share a visible source of their love. They put a padlock on the fence on the bridge to symbolize their love. Its a beautiful mix of different colours and shapes of locks. Its a wonderful way to share with the world. And the weight of the locks is slowly destroying the bridge. What a great image of the way our work can lead to unknown ends.

On the last day of the conference Sara Goldrick-Rab! If you missed, I’ll leave you with Dave Kernohan’s notes from her talk. It was amazing and terrifying at the same time. Stories of a few students and their harrowing journey in/through/out-of higher ed.

Also, I went to a panel where student projects were shared and the focus was on agency. Each of the students shared unique stories of projects they’ve worked on. My main take away was from Erika Bullock? – how do you make someone care? We can do whatever we want to help shape your digital identity, but if you don’t have an audience or a final space for your projects what do you do? How do you share your story? She shared my favourite slide of #opened16 as well :)

To sum up, in a scattered way: I am having all the feels! Those of you’ve I’ve shared time with – thank you so much. Those I haven’t – lets hang on teh twitterz or some such :) Although this is my first Open Education conference, I feel like I’ve been here for years. Virtually I have been here a few times and I have met many of you in this crowd. Its been wonderful and frustrating at the same time meeting so many people. Hearing your stories, sharing some of mine, and even rocking out a couple of songs with strangers in front of a wonderful crowd. I will definitely be back and look forward to more of your stories.

Thanks for all teh awesomez peepz!

What are your stories from #opened16? Add a comment or shout on teh twitterz to @daniellynds with the hashtagz!

wth ngdle? OR my first ideavomit


Using online learning environments while living and working in six different countries over the past 15-ish years has given me a unique lens or set of filters with which to engage in the JISC #codesign16 challenge. Working as a student, teacher, manager, and academic staff in these environments adds to the angles I will try to throw at the idea of a Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (#ngdle). Before I jump into this, I want to warn you that there is pretty much NOTHING traditional about my background/views/feelings/approaches to education. I am the outlier of the outlier. That person from out of nowhere/anywhere that probably frustrates/excites you at times because you often have no idea how to predict they will engage. Also, this is the first in a series of posts to be collected someday as #IdeaVomits, so that should give you enough of a caveat to proceed.

So let’s start with prediction, because that is one of the most prevalent conversations at conferences. What will be the next (blah blah blah)? Where will we be in X years? How do we prepare our learners for careers that don’t exist yet? These are common enough questions, and probably need to be asked heading towards whatever answers institutions are looking for in the #ngdle.

For me, though, the most important questions center around the WHO-sphere of inquiry. If you are looking at an #ngdle and the people you have assembled have not worked in digital learning environments much, you are probably facing some challenges. As Donna Lanclos points out, we must avoid, “assessment as controlling process,” which is what much of education was and/or has become. As we guess our futures, we must avoid the problems of the past/present. We must include representatives from all contingents of campus(es). In doing so, as Peter Bryant protested, we MUST focus on the things that are evident in our future educations: “Social media! Participatory culture! Digital Citizenship!”

But what lenses and filters do we use to assess these things? How can we establish some type of common ground? For me, one of the most helpful frameworks for discussion has been Dave Snowden’s Cynefin Framework. A lot of conversations in education try to force solutions of a “obvious” or “complicated” nature, but if we really look at most learning landscapes, we know that most of our work is at least complicated, with most of it sitting in the complex realm. If we can at least accept what filters to start with, we can begin building something.


So there’s all of those things. And then there’s the complex/chaotic world(s) of the (net)work(s) of Audrey Watters. One of her most recent pieces parallels the use of weaponized pigeons (and other animals) to how we have created assessment systems for students. As we think about #ngdle we need to really think about this piece from Watters’:

“Education technology is not always loyal to institutions, of course; it’s not always loyal to democracy either; it’s not always loyal to learning or to teaching – to students or to teachers; but it’s always fiercely loyal to itself and its own rationale, to its own existence.”

Why do we even need a #ngdle? As many have argued, if its just Learning Management Systems with social media and other interactivity added in, what is so NG about it? We already have affordances for these things in some of the systems we have.

So are there answers? Reading, researching, working, and creating with/in learning environments for many years has me thinking a few things that are confounding/conflicting. First of all, in the Cynefin framework we are asking complex/chaotic questions. Answers to these types of questions are difficult to measure by their nature. Yet we need to find ways to educate people in all the things. And there are so many things we require comparing and predicting.

Secondly: context is everything. In this world of knowledge abundance and context collapse we are constantly at odds for what contexts we need to participate in and foster. And at the underbelly of all this, is a question Dave Cormier recently posited: What is education for? All of the greatest educational minds can gather in whatever conferences/workshops/symposium/think tanks and come away without an answer to this. Why is this? Because the diversity and convergence of our natures/backgrounds/disciplines/privilege/instincts do not allow for “obvious” answers.

And that’s where it ends. So instead of frustrating ourselves trying to force obvious answers onto complex questions, why not look around the room/campus/community you want to learn with and find out what is best for all of you? If you can’t decide, start expanding the people you’re talking to and involve as many perspectives as you can. This definitely complicates things, but shouldn’t these conversations always be so? (Y)Our future is (y)ours and we need to find as many perspectives on what education was/is/will be in order to find a path forward.

Concerning these things, what do you think of #ngdle? Add your voice to the conversation using #codesign16. Engage with us and lets see where we can move with these things.

NB: #IdeaVomit term stolen from Safiya U Noble from her #budsc16 keynote at Bucknell University

Open Writing Experience/Experiment

Let’s pretend that we were schooled in places that didn’t care so much about how perfectly words and sentences and paragraphs and phrases and chapters and songs are put together.

What if we were from a place where, instead of everything being entirely standardized and aesthetically euthanized, it bred openness to structures. And systems. And codes. And agency.

If we take these precepts into writing, this openness, would it be seen as an experiment? Hasn’t it been done in so many ways, in so many places, in so many wordspaces?

Sure it has. There have been movements that have shattered how we perceive all forms of communication ~ that’s how it should be. As a species with upteen ways of communicating, we should always try to expand the envelope(s) of how we share our inner imaginings. Our inner us.

But that is not what this thing is about. At least not entirely.

This thing is about sharing works in progress as they grow out and hopefully find even tiny audiences that otherwise they may have missed. This thing is about connecting with other people who want to share their inner imaginings with people they would otherwise probably not encounter. It is about anyone who wants to join in to find pieces of themselves that hitherto have not emerged.

This thing is about who we become as we share drafts of what we have worked on as we navigate this giant lab experiment of species(es). It is the open experience that we hope to engage with.

We are the:




Or on the internetz, we are #OWE via #SNCengl307

Please do join in the fray. Post your own work under the hashtag(s).

Share your constructive feedback.


You #OWE it to yourself ;)

picking parts & #flexlearning2015


I haven’t been to an #edtech conference in person for a long time. Most of my professional development for the past few years has been through live streaming and/or following twitter chats. Many of these events have been very fulfilling as they offer me new view points and resources to use in my field. They open me up to new people and networks. They expand my view of what education can be. Most weeks I engage in a few streams and/or chats. I find them to be very cost effective ways to keep current with some trends in higher ed and I get introduced to a bunch of diverse people/concepts/approaches.

This was also the case with #flexlearning2015, although unlike the live streams and tweets, I witnessed a lot of the things I’d forgotten about with in person events. A lot of the time people go to these events to be told HOW to do something. From my experience, this usually ends up being a fruitless venture. People go to these workshops, create an account in *new thing* and don’t end up using it much (if at all). We all hear people say “I have an account in *new thing*, but I hardly ever use it. This is what I see as the main problem with this approach to professional development: it is way more complex than just learning/using *new thing*. There has been a sea change occurring in education for some time and it will not be tamed with *new thing*. There may be no way at all of ever taming it. These transformations are what make education what it is – constantly learning new approaches to teaching.

Although I may sound naive here, I truly believe that unpacking the complex issues that orbit the use of technology in the classroom is something that most people don’t do. This is mostly because of resources and exposure. If you have been teaching for many years, you usually just do not have the time to research or engage in contemporary practices. When you have intense professional and personal commitments, adding nuanced pedagogical research to your plate is often impossible. So what do you do? You go to a conference/seminar/workshop on themes that you are expected to work into your practice. And what happens in these spaces is people expect to take a bunch of notes or ‘get their hands dirty’ with this tool or that, return to their jobs, and somehow start incorporating said tool(s) into their practice.

Having used some form of online educational tools for over a decade now, my motto when I consult is that using these tools is akin to playing an instrument. And I have never heard of someone who sat at a piano once every few months and became a decent player. Same with guitar. Or accordion. You cannot become proficient in pretty much anything if you only use it once in a while. Although practice does not necessarily make perfect, it sure can help.

But how do you find the time to practice? If you want to learn how to use *new thing* in your classes or organization, where/how do you do it? You’re looking to go paperless – how do you know which tool to use? Let me assure you, usually a conference is not going to tell you. Conferences are meant as a way to share ideas, projects, and dreams. To connect with people and to help you understand how complex *new thing* or *anything* may be to master. They are usually not meant to teach you how to play guitar, but are more about listening to how the guitar is being played in different contexts. And when you find someone playing the way you picture yourself playing, you start playing more yourself. You start following other people who play. And you do it everyday. Even if its only for five minutes. Take that five minutes every day. Or at least book it into your schedule a few times a week. 

If you do this, you will become much better at *new thing* or *anything* really. When you get better at one *new thing* you will, usually, be able to transfer some of those skills to *some thing*. When you learn guitar, you can move some of those elements to a bass or cello.

What do you think? Does the instrument analogy work for you? Have you ever tried to learn an instrument? Do you think it could be compared to learning new teaching methods? Was the time you put in worth it?