All posts by Martha Burtis

Six months into Domain of One’s Own

It’s been months since I did my first status report on Domain of One’s Own, and it’s definitely time to revisit the topic. As it turns out, a few weeks ago I completed a interim report about the project to share with our University’s Board of Visitors. So, I actually have spent a fair amount of time over the last month or so considering the first semester of Domain of One’s Own as well as thinking about the next year or so of the project.

Continue reading Six months into Domain of One’s Own

In Defense of Organic Project Development

Over on his blog, Tim is talking about some very exciting work we’re doing with Domain of One’s Own right now, and he’s inspired me to add my own post to the conversation. Tim’s outlined beautifully some of the initial steps we’re taking to build a community space around Domain of One’s Own — a space that can capture information about the various installations that our users are doing in the system, and display that information in ways that allow us to easily filter and expose the work that’s happening. I truly believe we’ve only just begun to imagine what we could do with a space like this, and I can’t say how exciting it is to be working on this with Tim right now.

What I want to talk about specifically is the approach we’ve taken to Domain of One’s Own and how the work we’re doing is informed by that approach.

Continue reading In Defense of Organic Project Development

WordPress as a Data Collection Tool

A few weeks ago (actually, I think it’s more like months at this point), I blogged about publishing my first plugin on the WordPress Repository. I thought I’d take a moment to write about what that plugin is — and the projects I’ve been working on that inspired it.

Making data collection as easy as cheese

Continue reading WordPress as a Data Collection Tool

Domain of One’s Own: When the Planets Align


A LOT has been going on around these parts — and given all the things that have to happen between now and the start of classes next week it feels a bit indulgent to take time to write a blog post right now. But, quite frankly, I need a break from mentally scanning the lists of tasks I need to complete so that I can reflect for a moment upon what all those tasks actually add up to.

Continue reading Domain of One’s Own: When the Planets Align

Key(note) Points

In two weeks, I’m going to be presenting at the University of Cincinnati’s 3T: Teaching, Techniques, and Technology conference. I’m very honored to have been asked to present as a keynote, along with my friend Mikhail Gershovich. Good news: I get to present first, so I don’t have to be in the position of following Mikhail’s tough act. 🙂 Also, it means I’ll be able to fully relax and enjoy the rest of the conference after presenting in the morning. I’m looking forward to seeing what faculty at Cincinnati are working on; the event seems similar in ethos to UMW’s Faculty Academy, and it’s always cool to see all of this through another lens.

The title of my talk is, Technologies of Possibility: Digital Identity, Citizenship, and Personal Domains in the Classroom.  Continue reading Key(note) Points

Not an easy checklist

Some rights reserved by sr. mzocoxito on Flickr

I just want to go on the record saying that I have a HUGE problem with this proposed legislation to have colleges collect and publish data about the average salaries that formers students are now making (broken down by major). I think this is indicative of a terrible trend in our society — assuming that “success” is measured wholly on earning potential. Other critics of the legislation have noted that the data, without further explanation, misrepresents aspects of earning potential.

My issue with it is more general. Why are we assuming, and sending the message to young people, that when thinking about one’s future the potential to earn big bucks is the main factor we should be considering?

I majored in English here at Mary Washington. I got a graduate degree in instructional technology and media. I now work for the University and, while I make a decent salary, I could probably increase it by half as much or more if I went to work in the private sector. I’m not doing that because I happen to be passionate about working in education. I think that working in a job where I feel like I’m doing something that contributes to the public good is more important than making a lot of money. On a personal level, I also enjoy the laid-back nature of working in higher education, the freedom to explore and try new things, and the overall flexibility. All of these factors make me HAPPY in ways that money would not.

My husband and I just had a conversation about this issue yesterday. He’s a scientist who teaches at the community college level. He could definitely double his salary by going into the private sector. But, to do so, he’d likely have to travel about 30-50% of the year. He wouldn’t have the option to take his summers off. He wouldn’t be able to set his schedule so that he can easily be home to see his kids on weekdays. We would be a lot more wealthy, but, for us, that doesn’t translate into happier.

I HATE our culture’s tendency to think of earning potential as some sort of validation of one’s self-worth as a person. It’s one-dimensional.

Yes, I understand that when you graduate from college you’d like to be able to assume that you can earn a good living — enough to support yourself and, perhaps, a future family. But I think that reaching that goal is more about understanding, holistically, your needs as a human being, than it is about looking at a list of majors and picking the one that has the highest starting salary/earning potential attached to it.

(Also, can we talk about how UMW was just ranked (for the third year in a row) in the top 5 small universities that produce Peace Corps volunteers? Reducing a presentation of our students’ potential to what they earn completely IGNORES this kind of information.)

How can we really prepare our students for happiness AND financial security in the future?

  • Create programs at our schools that prepare our students to be adaptive, life-long learners in the 21st century
  • Talk honestly with students about what kinds of jobs they’re likely to get out of college and what kind of money they might be able to earn. Talk about this topic in a well-rounded, honest way. Acknowledge the difference between starting salaries and late-career salaries. Discuss earning potentials with regards to graduate school. Bring in former graduates to talk about what they actually do AND what they actually can earn. Tie this information to real people,  living real, full, happy, and complicated lives. Talk about the choices we have to make as adults when it comes to weighing salary potential against other, important factors in our lives.
  • Teach kids (from a young age) how to manage and save money, and how to not spend more than they have
  • Understand the realities of financial aid and college debt, and do our best to arm students and families with information to make good decisions
  • Encourage our kids to strive to do something they LOVE. Yes, they need to think about how to translate that passion into a living, but picking a major JUST because it can earn you a lot of money is one to way end up in a career you hate — which can quickly translate into a life you hate
  • Teach our kids ALL the dimensions of happiness — public service and giving back to our communities; living a healthy, active life; building meaningful relationships with people we love; raising a healthy, happy family (IF that’s what one wants out of life)

I know this is NOT an easy checklist of things that we can do to ensure our students’ future success. Guess what? Life (and learning) are messy and complicated. There is no checklist, or list of data, or easy answer that is going to guarantee success.

(Also, can we talk about how SICK I am of adding another data reporting burden on institutions of higher education? Can we please spend our money on what matters — quality teaching?!)