A version of the old Mozilla Popcorn Maker (a remix tool for media that “borrows” media from different online sites) is now hosted at Internet Archives. It’s not quite as seamless across media sites as it used to be, but it works. Thanks to Terry for finding it and sharing it out recently. I made this simple and quick poem in Popcorn. The embed doesn’t always play right (sound gets lost …)
Despite the inference in the title of this post, I don’t imagine the movement towards Open Educational Resources battling it out on the stage with profit-driven spaces like Teachers Pay Teachers. I am not sure it even has to be one (profit-based) versus the other (free-based). I just want to put both models side by side, to see what I can see.
Both have some validity, although I lean more strongly toward OER, for sure. Personally, I try my best to share out project ideas and lesson plans and other resources as freely as I can (see: Video Game Design for the classroom), in the optimistic hope that somewhere, a student might be engaged in something that will light that light (you know the one) or spark a discovery that unveils something new. Ever hopeful, ever the optimist — that’s me.
It’s why I engage in connected communities and why I learn from others while hoping others might learn a bit from what I am doing. I can’t think of a time when I paused and thought, Maybe this should be behind a paywall so I can get a little honey money from the idea.
The success of a site like Teachers Pay Teachers, however, shows another model. That, of turning teaching ideas into cash. What is TPT? The site’s About Us explains and makes perfectly clear: this is a business:
Teachers Pay Teachers is an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original educational materials.
Now, look, I have paid to download resources from TpT and I found it mostly to be a seamless experience. I found and bought some good resources that helped me in the classroom. Sure, I wish I didn’t have to pay for what I needed, but I also understand the notion that teachers work hard and deserve to make a living (maybe if teachers were paid more fairly, and respected more in society, this would not even be a discussion). When I hit the virtual check-out line at TpT, I figure I am helping support a colleague somewhere and getting a quality resource.
And there are sometimes free resources at TpT. Sort of like nibbling on samples in Costco. They hope you will open your wallet for more.
I dug a little deeper as I was writing this post and boy, I quickly realized just what a huge business model this TPT really is and how it is growing profit maker — prob not so much for the teachers, but for the company overseeing it. The folks at TPT apparently host a periodic conference that appears to teach teachers how to sell themselves and their work (read this teacher’s post-conference reflections) There are a ton of videos on how to launch into the sales site. They have job openings for teachers as marketers, and more.
I was thinking of TpT in reference to an interview I once had with Howard Rheingold, for the Connected Learning Alliance, and he asked me about TpT because he had featured another teacher using TpT. It struck me as odd, then. Howard was exploring ways teachers use social media and resources to connect with other teachers. I could not equate what she was doing — selling to other teachers — with connected learning principles of openness.
Elsewhere, recently, I found another teacher wrote of TpT:
Selling my teaching materials on this popular website has made me a better teacher and has changed my life! — via blog
Um. Yuck. Sorry, but my hackles got up just perusing it all, the way the business model is seeping into the education model, built on the noble concept of teachers helping other teachers. A conference to help teachers sell themselves and their lesson plans? Yeah, that goes against my philosophical and moral outlook of education as a special kind of societal job, with the greater good baked in there.
Maybe that’s just me.
I am not naive — I know there is an argument to be made for teachers leveraging experience to make a living for their families. And the teacher quoted above might be suggesting that getting plans and resources ready for sale might have forced her to think more deeply about her teaching practice.
Legal Aside: if you develop lessons in the school you teach, who owns the intellectual property? The school or you? Can you sell it? Do you need permission? I don’t even know. Some lawyer somewhere has already figured it out, I am sure.
Meanwhile, the Open Educational Resource movement (OER Commons is one of many sites) that we are exploring in EL30 is like another planet altogether. Which is not to say that the Open Educational Resource movement is not about quality, too. It is. It’s also about learning together, of sharing together, of collaboration, of considering the greater good.
The question of how to access (if you are looking) and how to distribute (if you are sharing) is a topic of great interest in many circles, particularly at the University level where the costs of textbooks are opening doors to alternatives for professors and students alike. Difficulties around how to license materials, and how to ensure adequate citation of used work, or the act of remixing the content of others … these are all questions to be considered and barriers yet to be overcome.
But in the battle between open and closed, free or profit … I am all about the open sharing of experiences to make the world a better place. We all will need to be helping each other over that “river” (another reference to Laura’s post)– from here to there.
I like that along with learning about the potential of the peer-to-peer Distributed Web concept in our EL30 course, with Stephen Downes, he is also providing us with ways to engage with the DWeb concept. One of his suggestions is to use the Beaker Browser, which is a peer-to-peer browser using a technical underpinning called ‘dat‘ and which allows you to quickly and quite easily make and publish a website within minutes.
Dat works on a distributed network unlike cloud services, such as Dropbox or Google Drive. This means Dat transfers files peer to peer, skipping centralized servers. Dat’s network makes file transfers faster, encrypted, and auditable. You can even use Dat on local networks for offline file sharing or local backups. Dat reduces bandwidth costs on popular files, as downloads are distributed across all available computers, rather than centralized on a single host. — from Dat Documentation
The developers of Beaker Browser provide a powerful overview of the mission their own project:
The Web enabled communication, collaboration, and creativity at a scale once unimaginable, but it’s devolved into a landscape of isolated platforms that discourage customization and interoperability. The Web’s value flows from the people who use it, yet our online experiences are dictated by corporations whose incentives rarely align with our own.
We believe the Web can (and must) be a people-first platform, where everybody is invited to create, personalize, and share.
I dove in, downloading and installing Beaker, to see for myself how this “one-click publishing” worked …
You can view the simple site I made on Beaker, which is mostly html-based with a few tweaks. However, because Beaker runs off the peer-to-peer computing power, my browser will have to be up and running, and accessible from the Beaker dat network for you to view the site I made (that’s the peer-to-peer computing element).
This is one drawback of peer-to-peer, as far as I can tell.
Another issue is that the ‘dat’ protocol doesn’t run in any other browser, other than Beaker. Which makes sense, since the peers are sharing the networking power. So the link down below to my site is one you would have to first copy and paste into a Beaker Browser, which is free and easy to download and use. The Beaker Browser also functions like a regular browser, but is a Distributed Web platform. What this means, if I understand it, is that there is no central server — the networking power and protocols are shared across users of Beaker itself.
This need for Beaker to view sites is a second drawback.
Also, my blog platform here clearly does not like the ‘dat’ file at all and likely sees it as insecure. Every time I try to force it be a link off this page, Edublogs tries to wipe it clean or remove any linking whatsoever. It’s just not ready for Beaker.
View my site: dat://82729c0bd3dd16984f7499e69b12e02f2bb45922c41fbff8609a84899d063fdb/
Playing nice across platforms and hosting services is a third drawback.
Here’s what my Beaker published site looks like right now:
Even with the three drawbacks of Beaker that I noticed — Beaker has to be up and running for anyone else to use and access its shared computing power, Beaker is the only browser to recognize and launch dat files, and platforms don’t recognize dat links as secure — I like where Beaker is going within the Distributed Web, and I am glad to have learned about it by using it in EL30. The people working on Beaker call it experimental, and it is quite likely that what I see as drawbacks now might actually be key advances in browser functionality down the road.
(Image credit: Openclipart.org and Mozilla Foundation)
I watched with great interest the latest video from Stephen Downes, who is facilitating the online E-Learning 3.0, or EL30, as he walked us through the concept of the shift from a Centralized Web (central server, many users) to the Decentralized Web (many servers, many users) to the prospects of the Distributed Web (no servers, many users).
A piece by Dietrick Ayala, of Mozilla, entitled Introducing the Dweb, makes this distinction, focusing on the potential shift in power over information and networks:
In centralized systems, one entity has control over the participation of all other entities. In decentralized systems, power over participation is divided between more than one entity. In distributed systems, no one entity has control over the participation of any other entity.
I’m still getting my head around it.
But as I ponder this move to a more peer-to-peer-powered networking design — where our own computing power become the backbone of networking, through shared resources like CPU and memory and more — I started to think about what this might mean for the issues of access and equity.
In other words, right now, there are still many places in the world — some more deeply in need than others — where basic access to the Internet and to mobile and computing devices is difficult, meaning the people — the students, is how I think of it, as a teacher — are in danger of being left behind with learning possibilities, job opportunities and networking options. I say this, though, knowing that people need to have a choice to engage in networking, and I don’t mean to assume everyone should always be doing this. But having no options when you need options … that’s an access and equity issue that has been with us for some time.
Not far from where I live, here in a relatively affluent part of the east coast of the United States, there are communities who have long been fighting the state government and the conglomerate cable/Internet providers for digital access, made tricky for sure by the rural and isolated places they live but not insurmountable. The battle, years long now, has centered on the loss of potential for residents in these small towns, and their children’s futures. Meanwhile, where I live, just 3o minutes away from those rural towns, I have high-speed access (as long as I pay for it).
Does a shift to a Distributed Web help these situations?
In the first diagram, of the current centralized system, if you don’t have the means to connect to the central server, then the network is worthless. Same thing with the second — the decentralized system — although it is possible your ability to connect is increased because more people are running more servers (in a federated sort of way) so it is possible your options for access are greater.
I think the Distributed Web, as Stephen and others call it, may offer greater possibilities for more people in need of access. Is the Dweb more equitable in this regard, on a global scale? Maybe, I think, and here is why, based on how I am beginning to understand how the Dweb works (with the caveat that this is relatively new to me).
If the future iteration of the Internet, as we know it, is built primarily on secure peer-to-peer computing power in a fully distributed mesh — where our resources are shared and our collective networking grows stronger and more secure with more users in the system (and this is where the technical aspects are beyond me right now, so I am writing this in faith that either blockchain systems or something else will be the underpinning of security) — then more people will have access to more networking, and more opportunities.
This doesn’t solve the problem of machines and devices or interface systems into hands of those users, but the Dweb seems to be concerned less with the high-powered, huge-memory computers, since we will all be sharing resources together. I might have an inexpensive device and it won’t matter, because others elsewhere will have the computing resources that I can tap into.
Of course, this is all speculative. I can envision ways this goes off the rails — around issues of privacy, of data breaches, of insecure connections, of monetizing the computing power. But I am optimistic, as I listen to Stephen and read about others, that there is a path towards something better.
How we get there — and how we make sure everyone comes along, regardless of culture or race or socioeconomics — is still a question, and I am appreciative that EL3o is pushing my thinking forward, while still remembering the mistakes of the past.
In exploring different resources, I came across this document from the p2pforever site — which seeks to collaboratively document examples and resources around Dweb architecture. It is a sort of manifesto of sorts, or some guiding principles, and this thinking seems to resonate with my thinking on equity and access issues.
They suggest that these elements in the design of future iterations of the Web:
We should improve and preserve the Web.
The Web is a genuine social accomplishment and we should look after it. Don’t let lesser platforms win out.
Devops is oppressive!
Many people can’t publish websites or apps because they can’t run servers. Publishing should be accessible to all.
“View source” is critical to an open Web.
The more code that users can read, the more code they can review and learn from.
“Modify source” is the p2p Web’s great power.
A Web that can be made and remade by its people can better serve their needs and produce a more diverse & exciting world. The Web should be a truly “live” society.
Minimize change, maximize impact.
The p2p Web should still be the Web. Make it better, don’t remake it.
Don’t forget resilience.
A web based on protocols, not platforms, is a safe web. Don’t put data in silos but have various platforms use the same protocols to interact.
In EL30 (E-Learning 3.0), Stephen Downes has us now thinking beyond notions of identity, and into the future of digital authentication.
Stephen, our navigator, explores the notion of private and public ‘keys’ as a way to keep our identities and our data private, and firmly in user control. As I understand it, the encrypted private key is what we would use to access and share our information and the public key is the doorway that others can enter if they have a matching or designated encrypted private key themselves. Anyone else, without that key, would not be able to move into the encrypted data.
The keys — private and public — create a barrier, or a wall, of protection, and only those who we trust and know would have access, even if it were leaked or hacked or whatever. In this case, he is talking about how to protect our identities, and perhaps, how our Identity Graphs might reflect this kind of protective barrier.
I’m wondering, how does the use of encryption keys form our online identity? I also wonder, given the nature of open connectedness that informs so many of the educational and learning circles I am part of, how does this shift to extreme privacy both enhance and hinder those interactions? Will people who might otherwise be important to my own learning be left out of the loop, if the door is locked too tight? I have this analogy in my mind — which is not quite apt — of how comments on blogs are sometimes set with spam filters so high that one gives up on even bothering to take time to leave a comment, ending a conversation before it even begins. Would encrypted keys do the same, but even more so? I don’t know enough about this topic to say with any authority but I wonder about it.
In one case, Stephen describes a key that is literally a small drive that you plug into computers you want to use, and your login and data trail is on the device. This device you take with you (on your keychain, perhaps), so that you no longer rely on browsers as your login point (and therefore, risk leaving data trails for others to find and use).
As I mentioned, I don’t know much about this encryption process, although I have read a little bit about it before and wondered how technology solves a problem technology has made (privacy issues), but does one technology fix of another technology problem then somehow open the door to yet another unforeseen technology problem? What problem might encryption keys pose? Maybe I am just being cynical. I sure don’t have an answer to this problem of identity hijacking by hackers and marketers and technology giants and more.
Take a listen to Stephen and see what you think. The comic above was my attempt at humor — of noting that whatever the technology, someone is sure to lose it.
I’ve been on Mastodon (federated social networking space) long enough now to have a simple grasp of how federated networks work — a system of servers (incidents) that overlap and move data, with no one fixed home. I had been hearing about PeerTube as a federated alternative to YouTube. A federated place where videos could be shared.
The embedded poem above (hosted in PeerTube) was one I wrote with Bud Hunt a few month ago, as he shared images for inspiration. I took my small poem and used Lumen5 to make a visual interpretation, and then used PeerTube to host it.
Here’s another poem made visual with Lumen5. This one is about writing haiku, or teaching the writing of haiku poetry by freezing the world into a moment of time.
I’m curious to see how well it embeds, and plays. It seems like there is periodic lag time. I chose to join a PeerTube instance (an instance is a hosting system, often set up around themes of interest) that has some connection to Mastodon, but the two spaces are not one and the same. (The name of the instance is the connector).
The benefits to such video hosting alternatives to YouTube include the important aspects of no-advertising, no-tracking, no-corporate-ownership of your creative materials. What you lose with this is a potentially wider audience (if eyeballs are your thing) and maybe some technical stability (which I suspect will be ironed out). I’m OK with that trade-off for these kinds of digital poetry projects.
Stephen Downes, of E-Learning 3.0, consolidates his thinking on “the Cloud” with the lines above, which intrigue me as a writer, teacher, learner. I don’t have a clear sense of what it means for me yet so I am in the “mulling something profound” stage. (And I am already behind in this course, as Stephen keeps moving us forward at a rapid pace.)
This, too, from the same post:
It’s easy to think of the cloud simply resources as “someone else’s computer” where you run your applications online. But the technology that makes it possible to use the cloud has created a whole new class of resources, a class where resources are more than just text or multimedia, but resources that are in fact fully functioning computers. – Stephen Downes
It’s a bit abstract for me at times, with technical language and concepts that I sort of understand but sort of don’t understand. Yet Stephen’s reflections are still worth perusing how technology innovation like what we call the Cloud is changing the ways we learn and maybe the ways we teach. I have this feeling that this course is just seeding my brain for some future thinking. (Rain from the cloud brings flowers in the Spring?)
Stephen suggests that we need to move beyond just seeing the Cloud Storage Idea as just some unseen box of stuff where we park our digital parts for later access, and that we — as educators and as learners, formally and informally — view the Cloud more as part of a larger systematic underpinning of conceptual learning frameworks whose potential has yet to be tapped.
And maybe in doing so, in viewing the Cloud in this different angle of moving parts and learning acquisition potential, we can begin changing the very nature of what it means to learn, and how we go about doing it.
Then, the other day, Greg made a comment about ‘containers’ in the frame of writing — of how we use “sections” in essays as containers for ideas, or how some story narratives (and I am have misread his intent but it got me thinking in this other direction, which is what learning is all about, right?) use the idea of “three” as a container (three little bears, three little pigs, the kids in Harry Potter, etc.) for narrative. This brings up a tension between archetypes that pen us in at times and freedom to explore beyond the boundaries (which is what Stephen is suggesting).
The folks at Equity Unbound explored the concept of Media Literacy and Fake News this week with a “studio visit” with two insightful participants — Mike Caulfield and Cheryl Brown. As it turns out, I am working with my sixth grade students this same week on this same topic of fake news and media literacy (through some cool symmetry of curriculum overlap), but I missed the hangout.
I popped the hangout into Vialogues (which allows for conversations about video), so I could engage with the discussion from the margins. You are invited, too.
I was sifting through a magazine article about the ways that social media make it easy to interact with text and how this has unfolded through sharing via the “like” and “plus one” and “thumbs up” and “boost” buttons (and others with different monikers — choose your context). That got me thinking about how I, too, use those easy avenues for interaction, too, but also, it reminded me of the opposite — of how I often do try to add a comment, a question, spark a conversation.
Maybe I don’t do it enough but I try. If I read a blog post, for example, I try to leave some words for the writer, if only to plant a flag of “I was here with you.” Sometimes, I’ll grab a centering phrase. Or create a found poem. Or ‘take a line for a walk’ with reflection. If I see something interesting in a tweet, I’ll respond and wonder out loud. Many times, that’s where the conversation ends. Not always, but often.
Perhaps too often.
The above comic was an attempt to distill this idea of shifting away from the “read-and-run” mentality of online spaces, and maybe spend a little more time with a text or sharing. Engage the writer/creator in a conversation. Wonder out loud. Ask questions. Probe the topic.
Is there any doubt that the world would be a little better place if we took the time to talk, even in digital spaces, with each other? A “like” or a “plus one” or a “boost” or whatever is something, to be sure, but is it enough? Does it have depth? Nope. I can’t even remember what I liked yesterday and I bet you can’t either.
In Dr. Seuss’ not-well-known On Beyond Zebra, he imagines endless letters beyond our traditional English alphabet, spaces where creativity and imagination take hold, in Seuss-like ways, of course. The letters beyond Z were always there, we just never saw them.
Until we did.
This post is titled On Beyond Like because I am thinking that maybe, like the Seuss story, we have not yet gone beyond what the technology companies have designed for us. Remember: the likes and thumbs and all that are merely ways to gather data about what we like and don’t like, so they can push content and advertising our way. We are voluntary giving them tracking data on us. Imagine that.
This morning, I saw that Charlene had responded to my initial sharing of the comic. She asks a good question.
So… I agree likes are ubiquitous, and have, at best, lukewarm meaning. Should they go away? Should only “real” replies be used?
And I don’t know the answer. While my impulse is to say yes, do away with the buttons, the reality is that this would take away much of the way people show appreciation and interact. There needs to be some middle ground, perhaps, one that I don’t yet see.
It feels odd and strange, defending the information-sucking, ad-selling, money-making Google behemoth here, but the recent news of the demise of Google Plus is actually worth a mention, given so much of the negativity it has seemed to arouse in people in some networked spaces. Putting aside the recent privacy breach (which is always something alarming and maybe should not be put aside at all … forgive me), I’ve read with some frustration as folks in some of my other networked spaces have mocked Google Plus, along the lines of “only three people who use it will care” to “Google Plus is still here?” to “Why would anyone use Plus?” and so on.
I get it. Google Plus never caught on with the masses, and is often listed as a “failed” experiment for Google. I get it.
But I have to tell you, Plus has been quite useful for a handful of projects that I have been involved in. In particular, the Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC) has long used its CLMOOC Google Plus space (3,000-plus members) as a way to easily share media files, engage in quick conversations and check-ins, and organize Make Cycles.
CLMOOC itself, as an experience, is never in one place for anyone person, so the Google Plus space was always just one of many platforms being used by folks to explore art and learning and making and connected learning.
Still, Plus was quite useful for what it was, providing a flowing connecting point of easy sharing. In particular, the sharing of images — for ongoing ventures like SilentSunday or Doodling — and adding video files was somewhat easy to figure out. Sure, things got lost in the mix as new material was added, but that’s what connected spaces are like.
Everything is always in flow.
And compared to the terrible visual design of Facebook (which is still, despite all that money flowing in, an awful mess to my eyes and gives me headaches whenever I happen to look at it, which is not very often) and unsteady tinkering of Twitter (which I use and still find useful), Google Plus — with its tiling box-like post formats — worked for me. I actually liked the organization of it. I found it useful.
I’ll miss it.
What happens to the CLMOOC G+ space now? It will probably disappear, but I figure with connected work, that is always bound to happen at some time. We will still have our main website hub (Thanks, Karen) and folks will continue to share and connect in other spaces, online and offline (postcards, anyone?). Some of us will investigate some other possibilities for sharing. Maybe it will open up more doors for more projects in other exploratory spaces. Who knows.
CLMOOC was always more than the technology and still will be.