Colin's Sandbox

Archive for April, 2014

Thoughts on Creating Open Learning Groups

by on Apr.22, 2014, under #digitalcitizenship, #etlead

A recent conversation with some members of my professional learning network made me reflect that there are big lessons to be learned when forming open learning project groups.  In the past I’ve always been a part of organizations / companies that were relatively long-lived endeavors – spanning decades.  The boundaries of collaboration were dictated by people in position of some authority over me for the duration of the project, which was also similarly dictated.

My experience with open learning environments in my master’s program to date have been a luxury for me personally, a safe and secure place to work, so much so that I feel very fortunate.  From conversations with others I know that this is not always the case.  Work can be taken down, debates can occur over comment sections, disputes over domain ownership, and more can all happen.  When forming into these open learning groups there’s quite a few questions that I would seek to figure out and hopefully documenting so it’s understood by all.  I would enumerate those questions as:

  • Who (or what entity / institution) controls the public facing resources (domain name, web site, YouTube channel, Twitter handle, etc.)?  Seems like this is the “project leader”.
  • Can the material be shared freely to any and all through a permissible license?
  • How to handle transition within the organization?
  • How to unwind gracefully out of a project if it’s not working out and not leave others in a lurch? (ongoing reflection)

To me, the second one up there, in conjunction with the effort to put as much of the work as possible out in the open, protects most of the rest.  When projects aren’t going well, or go stale, the disgruntled (or motivated, depending on your point of view) contingent “forks” the project, taking all current (and past) contributions and creating a new project out of it, calling it by a new name.  All previous authors’ names and license terms are retained.   Derived works are typically required to use the same or similar license.  Many forks die, but some go on to live healthy productive lives.  Most all of Linux distributions themselves are produced from three different branches.

When a contribution that someone makes in a downstream branch, project maintainers above may merge those changes upstream.  Everyone wins.

If you ever get a dull moment, check out the Linux Kernel Mailing list.  There are FIERCE DEBATES that are all out in the open.  That first exchange was between the benevolent project dictator for life, Linus Torvalds, and what many perceived as his right hand man, Alan Cox, that resulted in Cox’s departure for a time.   Cox was previously a god in Linux circles, and remained as such after his departure because all the work that is his in the Linux Kernel (and there’s lots, he was an early key player) is attributable directly to him as is the discussion that guided major commits that he made in the Linux kernel.  I think the interesting thing here is that in the Linux world, everything it produces has the luxury of being hosted in a distributed fashion (currently using the protocol Git), verifiable (with all commits signed by author), with revision control allowing you to roll back to any point in time on any file.

One issue is that much of the published work is hosted on proprietary systems such as YouTube, Twitter, and others, so that even though the work is public, it can be controlled by whomever the work was published under, if steps aren’t taken to incorporate the group under some sort of business license and creating business accounts on those services.  Perhaps the key would be to host the work in a distributed system such as Git, hosted by GitHub and mirrored anywhere, by anyone at all as the repository would allow world read-only access.  This would allow anyone, project members or otherwise, to publish documents from there onto any service of their choice as long as they respect the license that was attached to the work.  Maybe something easier to use would be Dropbox or Google Drive, but unless you shell out for additional features it doesn’t look like it meets the requirement to retain revisions.  Neither pass the distributed test.  But using a protocol like Git doesn’t allow for some of the best (and certainly the most popular) collaboration features out there offered by cloud services like Google Apps.

Clay Shirky thinks that this concept of openness and transparency of development should be applied to democracy.

I think it could apply to open learning collaborations as well.  It’s up to individual projects to determine their culture and figure out the tool stack to use that meets their needs.

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Winding down the group project for #etlead

by on Apr.12, 2014, under #etlead

We’re coming down to the end of the semester, the end of the course, and therefore the end of the Minecraft #etlead project for the Gamifi-ED project. It’s been a busy time and although I’ll miss the fury and flurry of activity I look forward to when we can package it up, put a ribbon on it, and call it finished (at least for now).

This week I have had the distinct pleasure of working individually with the group members. A personal highlight was working with Chris Stegall in assembling a rough movie trailer storyboard, a process that involved pulling from existing efforts from Nicole, Chris, and others, writing and rewriting, combing through visual clips that we already have, and figuring out what remains. Chris brought up the idea of using a parody of the Lego Movie scene where Emmet goes through an instruction manual of life in the Lego town of Bricksburg:

In our instance though we’re showing what sort of dismal place Panem could be.  I love it – the concept that is, not the dystopian world of Katniss Everdeen.  Chris spent a lot of time exploring the theme with a variety of comic book sketches using images we took directly from the game.  Chris is by no means the only person working on this project, but I single her contribution out this week since I found it personally rewarding to be involved with this phase of media creation.

panem-are we there yet

I have a friend, Noah Walden, who is working on the narration piece which I should receive back shortly (today!).  Once I have that it’s just a matter of assembling all the bits and pieces into a short trailer to release!

The couple of outstanding things that remain to be done are connections with relevant standards as well as some housekeeping in terms of links collected together via a ThingLink page, contact pages, and bios, in order to give it polish.  “Wait a second, did you just say standards?”, you ask, “should that not come at the beginning of unit design as stipulated by Understanding by Design principles?”.  Normally, I would say yes, this is the best course of action, but in this instance, since our group was concerned with exploring how Minecraft could be used within education, we were unsure how large or small to make the scope of the game design, and hence the standards which were to be addressed.  After undertaking this project I feel much better equipped with putting the standards piece in its expected place at the beginning of the planning process.  After all, right now we’re just playin’.

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#etlead: The [week] 11th Hour

by on Apr.06, 2014, under #etlead

This has been a good week for our group, working on developing the game-within-Minecraft concept in order to teach the concepts of civics and teamwork necessary to prevent Panem.

The hardest part of our group is figuring out what is doable by the time the presentation is due versus what would be a super cool aspect of the game.  I have to keep reminding myself (and others): we are doing a presentation about a game we would hope to make – we don’t have to actually finish every aspect of the game itself!

This is hard in a way since we have so many creative thinkers on this team. (continue reading…)

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Exploring Media Literacy v2.0

by on Apr.01, 2014, under #digitalcitizenship

Some of my favorite memories from middle and high school involved examining how media is created and used by individuals and organizations to convey a message.  Getting a feel for the techniques used to persuade others provided me with the tools necessary to critically examine elements of TV and radio advertisements, print ads, as well as political campaign messages.  That is, as long as I remembered to engage in that process.  It’s important to note that engaging in media literacy activities didn’t make me immune to propaganda, just much more aware of it.

In case you were late to the party, the combination of social media, data mining, and mobile devices has made it possible for you to be a target any hour of the day and most anywhere.  The need for understanding the power and reach of the message seems more important now than ever.

To equip individuals for the ever-present battle for their hearts and minds, as well as the dollars and votes that go along with them, Jason Ohler brings us up to speed in the Digital Citizenship MOOC with what he calls “Media Literacy 2.0”.  The new focus with Media Literacy 2.0 is the emphasis on leading students through exercises where they are engaged in creating the message using the exact same tools and techniques that they will encounter in everyday media. (continue reading…)

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