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I’ve seen the future and it works

At the beginning of February, I participated in a panel at ELI 2016 on “The Future of Place-Based Learning in a Virtual World.” We’d originally conceived of this session as a “debate” (or perhaps a “discussion”), so while I prepared some remarks, they weren’t delivered paper-style. In fact, I had so much fun talking with and listening to Raechelle Clemmons, Diane Graves, and our moderator Bryan Alexander than I wasn’t entirely sure what I actually said.

So I went on Twitter to find out, and made this Storify story with the results.

(EDIT May 12, 2018.)
Well, Storify got bought out, and they’re shuttering their website. Fortunately, Alan Levine laid out a path for migrating a story off their servers, and then even built a tool to extract the content in an actually usable fashion. So I can still save this thing and include it here.

On Feb. 3, 2016, I participated in a panel on the topic of “The future of place-based learning in a virtual world” with Diane Graves, Raechelle Clemmons, and moderated by Bryan Alexander. This is my attempt to go back through the Twitter record and figure out what the heck I said.

This is not a complete record of the Twitter conversation about our panel. Elements may be out of chronological order for any of a variety of reasons. Some of the reading we did before the session is available at:

Bryan’s first question laid it right out there:

My answer was based on the tendency of digital education initiatives to focus on the individual – which is good and right, but does risk losing the benefits of coming together for learning.

And Raechelle promptly called me out for dichotomous thinking. (I think this was the most contentious moment at a session which was, at one point, considered as a "debate".)

We continued to plumb the question of face to face as a distinctive niche for liberal arts colleges:

We even suggested that high-touch schools might be able to stem the tide of the “wretched hive of scum and villainy” which is the comments section.

Even as the backchannel caught us in a couple of blind spots in our argument…




And some very good questions about campus and community life

Onstage, we had a discussion of what liberal arts colleges can bring to the table in technology discussions, given our generally small staff and resources. Parrotting Berea College professor Matt Jadud, I argued that people with the holistic thinking and interdisciplinary translation skills of the liberal arts education should be highly valuable in product design and support processes.

And my colleagues pointed out interactions highlighting the success of people with liberal arts backgrounds in the tech sector.

Bryan’s next question was about faculty development on liberal arts campuses, given that our faculty are substantially more tenure-track than average for the industry. I fielded this one, as the person on stage most directly charged with faculty development, and my response centered on the way that my center fills a social niche for cross-campus connection and interdisciplinary discussions of teaching and learning.

Technically, I was calling out to Laurie Richlin and Amy Essington’s work in “Building Faculty Learning Communities”, New Directions for Teaching and Learning #97 Spring 2004.

We moved into Q&A before Bryan’s last question for the panel. (A masterful design move for the session, keeping us from just ending because people ran out of steam. More people should consider it, though I suppose it’s harder to do if you’re giving a more formal paper.)

A fascinating design question from Andrew Bonamici – given how much liberal arts colleges talk about the beauty of our places, has anyone really translated that into beautiful online tools? I answered that Kenyon’s got a neat curriculum path tool in development which tries to help students relate their experiences – but no, right now at least, it’s not beautiful.

We had a question about adult learners, and about the best we came up with was Bryan’s comment that maybe focusing on 18-22 year olds is one of the signatures of the residential college sector.

But from the backchannel:

We had a terrific question from Hari Stephen Kumar about inclusivity on liberal arts campuses and in their online environments:

And then Bryan brought us home:

More interesting comments from the backchannel:

I can’t drive 55

Signpost: Intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts streets
View from my office

In the US, this is a “day of action” to lobby the FCC in favor of net neutrality. The new badge appearing on my site will link you to the EFF for tips on how to contact your congresspeople and what to say.

I’ve already logged my comments with the FCC; I’ll paste them here if you want to use any of the language:

As a college librarian and instructional technologist, I’ve seen first hand the power of a fast, diverse Internet for teaching and learning. Putting competing information sources in Internet “slow lanes” will damage our ability to conduct meaningful classes in the ways our faculty members know to be best. Our response would be limited to sacrificing the quality of our education, or increasing costs by paying ISPs more for the same services. Neither is acceptable to 21st-century America.

Granting ISPs this power will also prove expensive in rural areas like mine, where we have even fewer options for Internet service. Local subscribers will see their costs for online content and resources go up; community connection hubs like libraries and schools will see their quality of service go down. Subscribers will be coerced to shop and learn where the ISPs’ partners want them to. It will ultimately prove disastrous to rural economic development.

For these reasons, the FCC needs to strengthen its commitment to America’s intellectual, economic, and democratic development by ensuring network neutrality.

I can stop any time I want to

I’m launching this blog to use for the Connected Courses project, and more broadly as a place to post my thoughts on higher ed and educational technology. I’m Joe Murphy, the Director of the Center for Innovative Pedagogy at Kenyon College. I’m quite pleased that I’ve got a small group of faculty at Kenyon who will also be participating in Connected Courses as a local cohort.

I signed up with Reclaim Hosting to start thinking about issues of owning my own digital space, but this blog is the first time I really gave it much thought. Should I blog here? Dust off my old Blogger address? Add a new tag to my ds106 blog? Shoot, owning your own digital space is complicated, even as CPanel makes it easy to just spin up a space and try something out.

I decided that, for me, the answer is to launch a new dedicated space. The main attraction is that this gives me multiple spaces where I could tweak WordPress settings in a real-content context, should I ever actually get around to it. I’m also intrigued with the idea that I might use something like Known to create one big “Joe on the Web” homepage, so I could share pieces of my life as appropriate and still reflect on the whole.