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Looking (again) to Domain of One’s Own

When I moved into my new position at UMW a year and a half ago, directing the Digital Knowledge Center, I knew that while I was moving out of faculty development  and instructional technology that I would still be working with our Domain of One’s Own project. However, I wasn’t exactly sure what my role in that project would continue to be on a day-to-day basis. A year after the start of the new position, in summer 2015, the Center was actually moved out from under the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, moving me further away, organizationally, from the base of operations of DoOO within DTLT. On top of that, a wholesale turnover of my colleagues in DTLT from summer 2015 to summer 2016 has meant that many things have been in flux around here, generally, and, specifically, that’s meant a new consideration of how Domains fits into the work of our larger unit (Teaching, Technology, and Innovation led by Jeff McClurken) as well as how it integrates with my own particular position at the University.

Of course, not surprisingly, as faculty have continued to integrate DoOO into their classes, students have continued to engage with the project in a variety of ways — those students then come to the DKC for assistance from our peer tutors. Consequently, I continue to work with the project as part of my job on day-to-day basis, with a greater emphasis on student development instead of faculty and course development. That shift has been at times rather revelatory for me as I’ve come to see how students (and my tutors) perceive Domain of One’s Own. I can see the project more clearly — or perhaps I should say I can see certain parts of the project more clearly. In particular, I can see first-hand the ways in which the project’s integration in a class can have huge positive impacts on students — and when curricular goals can fall a bit short.

In addition, since I’m the last woman standing from the old DTLT, I tend to have the most historical perspective on the project. This can be helpful when we’re sitting around the offices trying to figure out why something was set up a particular way, but there have also been times when I’ve had to bite my tongue. I really don’t want to turn into the crotchety old woman who regularly cries “That’s not the way we did it in my time!!” It’s been wonderful, though, to see all of my new colleagues take up the reins of DoOO, thinking through critical issues about where the project is heading and how we continue to work with UMW faculty, as well as tackling the daunting task of ethically wrangling the data and information that makes up our faculty’s and students’s experiences of the project.

As it turns out, there’s still plenty of Domain of One’s Own to go around, so I continue to be a part of our strategic conversations about the project, and I continue to be asked to speak about it both here at UMW and elsewhere.

However, to be frank, I’ve done a pretty rotten job of regularly taking time to reflect upon where the project is, how I’m thinking about it currently, and where it’s going. Given how much of my job is still tied up in making sense of Domain of One’s Own, I’m committing myself this semester (and into this summer) to regularly reflecting upon and sharing some of my thinking.

This goal is partly selfish, I admit. I have three upcoming events this spring and summer where I will be talking about DoOO, and I need to commit to this writing and reflection if I have any hope of feeling prepared for those events.

First up, at the end of March, I will be heading up to Keene State University to take part in their spring open education speaker series. My talk is titled “Messy and Chaotic Learning” which is really the only kind of learning I like. 🙂

Then, in June I’ll be keynoting the Domains 2017 conference hosted by the University of Oklahoma. My goal for that talk is to both recap a bit of the origins of DoOO but also to push my thinking it terms of what the project can and should be in the future. I think this is mightily important given the complex, fraught landscape of our moment. Working with students in the DKC, in particular, I worry that their understanding of the project focuses mostly on the pragmatic possibilities of open Web hosting without considering the deeper implications of what DoOO is pushing up against.

Finally, in August I’ll be leading a track of Digital Pedagogy Lab’s Summer Institute. My topic, not surprisingly, is . . .Domain of One’s Own. This will be a week-long opportunity to work with a cohort of (mostly faculty) participants on thinking through the possibilities of Domain of One’s Own in higher education.

This brings me to another project I’ve been deeply involved in for the last year: overseeing a range of activities within our unit aimed at broadening the reach of Domain of One’s Own at UMW starting in fall 2017. This initiative is in many ways a response to the inclusion of Domains in the University’s new strategic plan, but it’s offered us an opportunity to think through our own approaches to how we communicate about the project with the campus community. We’re trying to push ourselves to think about how DoOO reaches outside of classrooms, a challenge that we’ve struggled with since the project launched. I hope to do some reflecting here about that project as well. We have a lot of balls in the air on this front: new approaches to analyzing and assessing student engagement with the project; new ways of introducing the project to incoming students; new extra- and co-curricular programming; new partnerships with other units on campus; new faculty, student , and course development opportunities; and a new, more thoughtful and comprehensive approach to branding and communicating about the project.

Finally, my goal to write about these talks and projects this spring serves another purpose. Since last November, I’ve been floundering a bit, trying to figure out how my professional life and goals intersect with the many challenges that we’re facing in our country. There are days when the two seem wholly divorced, and I know that’s neither an accurate perception or a healthy one. Since the idea of Domain of One’s Own was born, I’ve believed in it because, for me, it represents a kind of infusion of agency into our schools that is so often missing. And, I believe that agency is one of the things that we all must find a way to build and hold onto right now. In fact, it’s arguable that helping students find agency for themselves has always been at the heart of what we’re doing. Right now, perhaps more than ever, I want to be involved in projects that build, promote, and explore learner agency, and I can’t think of a better way for me to re-engage with my work then considering these issues through the lens of Domain of One’s Own.

Imperfect Offerings

Next week, I’m headed to Coventry University with Jesse Stommel to participate in Expo 16: University Remixed hosted by the Disruptive Media Learning Lab. For the last six weeks or so, Jesse and I had been regularly talking with the folks at DMLL about the event and planning how we could most meaningfully contribute to their program. The event is designed to bring together people to talk about the future of higher education, with a few featured voices as well as opportunities for the participants to work together on creative responses to a set of critical questions around the topic.

I was asked, in particular, to present at the end of the day in some sort of summative fashion. Knowing that it would be difficult for me to adequately circulate and capture the wide-range of voices and ideas that were likely to be generated on the day of the event, I suggested that I try to pull together a sampling of media responses to the same questions that people would be grappling with. I wanted to gather some of that media on the day of the event — perhaps short videos, audio, captioned photos of the participants. But I also wanted to “seed” the conversation by inviting our larger community of colleagues in higher education to submit their own responses via the Web. Jesse was also planning on working with Sean Michael Morris to have the final #digped chat this week also intersect with the same set of critical questions. All in all, I was very excited about the opportunity to spend the days right up to the event soliciting and sharing responses, with a focussed in-person collection of ideas at the Expo itself.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jesse and I were putting our final touches on how the online part of this conversation was going to unfold. I was planning on a “soft launch” for the Web site I’d built to collect responses on Wednesday morning; Jesse was planning on introducing the topic for #digped sometime later Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday night, the US election results unfolded.

On Wednesday morning at 7:30 I messaged Jesse and asked him how we could we possibly put out a call to our reeling community, asking them to submit media responses to questions about the Future of Higher Ed and to participate in an online chat about the same topic. There was a good chance that the responses we would receive, colored by so much heartache, fear, and anger (all valid and appropriate emotional reactions), would not serve to advance any kind of constructive conversation between now and next week. But, even more importantly, it felt tone-deaf and callous to try to pivot a conversation away from the very raw, human, and necessary processing that was happening in our networks.

Our friends at Coventry have been very understanding about our need to put those plans for this week on the back burner. Jesse and Sean have issued a quiet but passionate request to the #digped community to dig deep and figure out how we can continue the critical conversations in that space as we all move forward.

I’m very much looking forward to our trip next week. I still think the questions we will be asking are important ones, and I’m looking forward to witnessing the work of the Expo participants in grappling with the answers. I also know that our colleagues in the UK have been reeling from their own experiences with Brexit over the past few months, and I want to be in conversation right now with as many people as possible who are struggling to determine how we teach, learn, and lead in times of great uncertainty.

Which I think will likely be the actual theme of my talk next week: How do we teach, learn, and lead in times of great uncertainty? I’m sure I will be inspired by the conversation and responses that the Expo participants generate next week. In the meantime, I’m going to be grappling with this question myself. I welcome any thoughts anyone has.

Photo Credit: Crackled, rawdonfox, Flickr, CC by 2.0

A Tribute to the Bullpen

Last week, Jim and I presented in Richmond at Open VCU about the experience of teaching #ds106. It was a lot of fun — but talking about #ds106 with Jim is always a lot of fun. We prepared a different kind of presentation, in which we examined the course/community through three different lenses of openness, and we used it as an opportunity to circle through a number of ideas while looking through those various lenses. You can find the presentation here, though I’m told the audio leaves a bit to be desired.  We’ll just have to do it again at some point. 🙂

During the Q&A Jeff Nugent of VCU’s Center for Teaching Excellence asked a question about how other schools can push forward with the “community design process” that we described as being so critical to the success of #ds106. It’s a good question, and it echoes questions I hear a lot when I speak to others about the successes that we’ve enjoyed at UMW with our work in DTLT. Jeff’s question was specific to a particular aspect of #ds106 that we had brought up in the presentation — the notion that the “course” wasn’t designed by a single person nor was the design process even led by a single person — and my response was what I often say to similar questions which is that a) we’ve enjoyed tremendous success in DTLT over the last decade with projects we’ve worked on and developed, and b) I’m incredibly proud of that work we’ve done, but c) I can honestly say we absolutely never sit down and engineer our project design. Our approach is organic and messy — the projects that have become huge successes have all percolated up naturally through our community, our shared interests, and our individual passions. I spoke to this a bit in my recent post about organic project development.

Continue reading A Tribute to the Bullpen

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

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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