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.

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.

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.

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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)

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