These days, everything feels like a beginning.
This week, I presented at Emory University’s Symposium on Digital Pedagogy, Undergraduate Research and Writing with an array of diverse academics including Jim Groom and Tim Owens of the University of Mary Washington. Groom and Owens served as the main event for the symposium because of their experience pioneering A Domain of One’s Own, an initiative at UMW centered teaching students digital literacy by providing their own web domain. My presentation at the Symposium — Focus on Methods, Not Tools — was an overview of several pedagogical experiments I’ve either built or collaborated on in the last year, most growing out of my work as co-founder and managing editor on Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal of Teaching and Technology. A friend of mine, Josh Boldt, a lecturer in English at University of Georgia and creator of The Adjunct Project came down from Athens to attend the symposium.
While preparing for the symposium, I’ve also been busy shaping the content for Alec Couros‘s ETMOOC (Educational Technology Massively Open Online Course) which launched two weeks ago. Collaborating closely with Laura Hillger of the Mozilla Foundation, we’ve constructed a two week segment in ETMOOC on Digital Storytelling, roping in Groom and his colleagues, Alan Levine, Darren Kuropatwa, and my research partner Jesse Stommel as session leaders. I’ve been busy with all of this while launching my own four classes at Georgia State University where I teach, the most innovative one being the Electronic Writing and Publishing course I’ve themed as “Technology, Anxiety, and the Post-Apocalypse”. We’ve re-dubbed the class #TechApoc on Twitter.
This is where things get rather entwined. After designing and facilitating Twitter vs. Zombies last semester — an online post-apocalyptic simulation game focused on investigating participatory culture and teaching Twitter literacy — I decided that I wanted to fold the game into my work on ETMOOC and #TechApoc. I’m partnering with Janine DeBaise at SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry and we’ve handed off facilitation of Twitter vs. Zombies 2.0 (links to come) to our students who are madly building their own version of the game for the ETMOOC community next week. It’s an experiment in pedagogical mentoring, as these students, some of whom are brand new to Twitter, will serve as moderators in an online narrative and pedagogical experience that could see hundreds of players.
As Josh and I were driving away from Emory’s Symposium on Tuesday, we decided to check out a location in Atlanta that might serve the needs of another nascent project which you can read the seed of here. Brimming with ideas after an impromptu, two-hour conversation with other educational innovators in the area, Josh and I committed to more conversation and a shared reading of Anya Kamenetz‘s DIYU: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. I stepped into the house and sat down to skim the book’s fifth chapter, “Independent Study”, and came across this:
“[Jim Groom’s] day job . . . is educational technologist at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His secret identity is open-education blogdaemon and coiner of the term ‘edupunk.’ . . . What edupunk — DIY education, if you will — promises is an evolution from expensive insitutions to expansive networks; it aims to fulfill the promise of universal education, but only by leaving the university behind. Educational futurist John Seely Brown talks about ‘open participatory learning ecosystems.” Alec Couros at the University of Sasketchewan [currently he’s at University of Regina] calls my blend of news sources and contacts on Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and email a ‘personal learning network’.”
On one single page, Kamenetz weaves together the work of Groom and Couros (along with cMOOC theorizers and facilitators George Siemens and Stephen Downes). All of this connectivity, organization, and creativity is intoxicating, and I am excited to have stumbled into classroom experimentation and reflection that puts me anywhere close to that neighborhood. In my work with Josh, Janine, Laura, and my students, we’re participating in a growing conversation about how economies and ecosystems of learning are evolving. Much of this work is happening beyond the formal teaching requirements at my current institution, but it’s this digitally spliced-together, connectivist community that’s feeding me. So, while I am on the market looking for an institutional home for my work, I will keep innovating and experimenting with the network that supports me, academically if not financially.
And every project feels like a beginning.