But I climbed aboard the EL30 badge bus and ventured back into Badge List, which is site we used for CLMOOC in the past. I created a new “group” for EL30 and then created a new badge for those who are making comics as critique or questioning or just sharing out learning.
This is a Badge of One, I suspect, since I think I am the only person doing comics in the mix (see my collection over at Flickr). That’s OK. I am still enjoying it. I went through the process of creating the Comic Critic badge and the criteria, and set it all up. It only took a few minutes.
Then, I went through the process of uploading evidence (a comic) and submitting it for feedback and review.
Then, I (as administrator) reviewed what I submitted (as participant), and awarded myself the badge. I was very generous with myself.
Now what? Well, I did move the new badge into my Badge Backpack. It’s another place I put things to remember, only to forget.
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.
(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)
It was hard to miss the sounds of laughter, engagement and collaboration in the classroom yesterday. It was one of those small moments where you, the teacher, silently give yourself a high-five because a new lesson idea seemed to work out almost exactly as you thought it would. Not every new idea for the classroom unfolds as you think it might.
Celebrate success, right?
Here’s what we were doing. We are in the middle of a extended Independent Reading unit, where students have choice in reading and I give them a block of time to read during nearly every school day. I’ve been pretty strict with myself on this allocation of reading time, knowing that choice and reading is key to literacy development.
Every now and then we do different reflective reading activities — they have an online reading journal that they access once a week or so to write about characters, and setting, and more. But I remembered a lesson from a long-lost unit on writing theater plays, and so I dug out some old resources and found what I was looking for and adapted it.
Scene from Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau
Students worked to choose an important “scene” from the novel they are reading and then become a scriptwriter, reworking the scene into a formatted play skit. I have them freedom to leave out what didn’t work, add in what is needed, but stay true to characters and scene. They really loved this writing assignment, and many had never written in a script format before, so it was lots of mini lessons on formatting.
Scene from The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner
Then, when everyone had scenes done (note: the writing took longer than I expected, and lasted parts of a few class periods over a few days), I put them into small groups, where each reader/scriptwriter shared their books and their scenes, by taking on parts in a read-aloud activity. The negotiations (which parts shall we read?), the collaboration (“Should I have an accent?”) and the literacy moments (novels coming to life through scripts) were all interesting to watch unfold.
Scene from Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Students in each group read one script after another, and then each group chose one script to perform/read/share to the rest of the class (more negotiations). In this way, every student was exposed to at least three to four new stories from novels, which maybe … just maybe … might spark their interest as a reader.
Scene from Chomp by Carl Hiassen
All day, in every class, this activity went relatively smooth and I realized (again) how much my students just love to read plays, and to do it in groups, and that the opportunity to write a skit for others was truly a motivational writing experience.
Peace (telling stories about listening to stories),
Has it really been 13 years of Diary of a Wimpy Kids books? I guess so, and Jeff Kinney keeps going with onward his story. The 13th edition — The Meltdown — is another amusing, yet light, story (sort of, but not really) in which character Greg Heffley continues to struggle against the world.
Here, in this latest edition, the first half of The Meltdown is just a collection of gags and jokes about winter (although Kinney’s drawings are still quite funny) with almost no discernible narrative to hold it together. The pages breeze by. It’s only in the second half, when the frame of a neighborhood snow-fight, and the mayhem that ensues among the kids, comes to the surface as a structure, of sorts.
I have a fair number of boys in my classroom who are currently reading The Meltdown right now as an independent book, and while I know these books are way below our sixth grade, I never make a peep about. They are reading books. Let’s celebrate that fact. These reluctant readers are reading books. Meanwhile, I have a pile of other books ready to recommend for when they are done with the latest adventures of the Wimpy Kid.
Like a scattered few others before him (J.K. Rowling comes to mind as does Suzanne Collins), Kinney has gotten kids reading in a time when more and more young people — and alas, it seems to be mostly boys on this trend — are losing interesting in the power of stories on the pages of books. Whether this is due to video games as immersive alternatives, decreasing attention spans, over-scheduled outside activities or whatever, books and reading seem more like an endangered species than every before. We all need to get more books into their hands, and go from there.
I took my youngest son to see the movie Ralph Breaks the Internet yesterday and it was enjoyable entertainment with an Internet theme. Not as good as Wreck-It Ralph, the original that surprised with its knowing insider’s look at video game culture, but still, the new movie is plenty of fun with lots of inside cultural jokes.
I was struck by one particular poignant scene, where Ralph is trying to save his friend, Venelope, by making stupid/dumb/viral videos for a YouTube clone in order to generate “likes” that become “money” he can use to replace something broken on Venelope’s racing game (the movie conveniently skirts the issue of how this connection is made — through targeted advertising of viewers). Ralph wanders into a corporate back room, where a global video comment feed is scrolling.
As he reads the feeds, Ralph slowly realizes just how terrible and how awful and how mean these people are being to each other through veiled usernames. The vitriol and the anger and the meanness of the comments deflates our hero, who thought the Internet was for the good of its users. The algorithm character in charge of the video system comes in, sees what Ralph is seeing, and sort of shakes her head, and then suggests to Ralph that he just “never read the comments.” She turns her head to the problem, just like YouTube and others have consistently done.
In the movie, Ralph “breaks” the Internet by letting loose a virus that seeks out vulnerabilities as a way to protect a friendship, and the results are haywire craziness. I won’t give the story away.
But listen, our real Internet is broken, too, and maybe we need to get a little Ralph on it. Not with malware and viruses, which are part of the problem, but with a new vision for what the Internet might be.
This topic of where we are and where we might need to go has been on my mind a lot lately, with inquiry through E-learning 3.0 and Equity Unbound courses, both of which have examined the weaknesses of our current Internet and Web systems through the lens of identity, data, algorithms, and more.
Here’s a sort of ‘wish list’ of how we might fix this broken system:
Stronger filters for hate speech and trolls and bots and more
More accountability for corporations setting up shop on the Web and its various connected places
A reporting system that actually works, and not just via algorithms and keywords, either
More tools in the hands of users to create on the Internet, like building smaller networks within the larger ones (the notion behind the Distributed Web)
Stronger privacy controls and fewer Facebooks
Less advertising through creepy data collection
Better access for all (including rural users often left out)
It may be that the way we “break” the Internet is by leaving it completely and starting over somewhere else. Or maybe we realize it’s a big ship, this Internet, but perhaps, working together, we can still turn it around. There’s a lot of good out there. We can build off that.
Peace (on the screen),
PS — So, I noticed a ton of named Internet companies mentioned in this movie and what I could not help wonder as I was watching the movie was this: Did all of these companies pay for product placement? I did some cursory searching this morning but found nothing much about this topic (this article mentions the movie but doesn’t answer my question). Given the push into paid placements of products in movies and television, it’s a valid question, right? To wonder if eBay, Google, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and others paid to gain access to our eyeballs in the theater? I am particularly alarmed for the young viewers that this movie is aiming at. And if these companies did not pay for access, why didn’t the movie makers change the names to spoof and poke fun at the giants?
So add another bullet to my list:
No paid Internet products in movies aimed at kids/future users
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.
Yesterday, my friend Terry shared a poem on Mastodon. His poem, enriched by the video he added, started a rich conversation that leaped across platforms through the day. He later wrote a blog post that tracks the flow over the day of wandering and wondering.
Later, I created the treasure map above as a sort of additional visual connection, and then I started to think about how else to think through this kind of platform adventure that began with a poem. I know he and I are sort of geeky like this, pushing our thinking back and forth and exploring the terrain.
As I read his post a few times, and thought about the unwinding of our words, I had this inspiration for a picture book story. So I made one in Storybird — using a keyword art search for “map” — and entitled it A Poem is a Map.
What’s interesting about Storybird is that the art collection and choices come first in the making of stories, guiding the writing through the visuals. Except here, I had a story in mind – about how poems are maps, which forms one of my points in our discussion and which sparks a question from Terry — and I needed art. You can only access collections of art in Storybird (that is part of its interesting design), not keep searching its entire collection as you build a book. The keyword “map” brought up some interesting art but it was limited in scope.
In making this picture book, I had to dance between Terry’s ideas, our conversations, my story concept and the available artwork. The tension between the freewheeling concepts we were exploring and the limited nature of Storybird made for an interesting writing experience. I simultaneously wrote what I knew I would write and let the art push me in different directions.
In the picture book, you can notice me weaving in the conversation and some of Terry’s reflection points from his blog. It’s a story that could stand on its own, perhaps, but also be read as yet another threshold, as Terry called it, of the conversation.
(My wife brought home this book turkey she made with an old textbook and I love the way a book was remixed into art.)
Dear friends in many spaces,
Thank you. Thank you for, first, for even being here at my blog at all. I know fewer and fewer people read blogs, preferring sound bite analysis and catchy headlines on social media. I do that, too, at times. As such, I am always appreciative when anyone takes the time to jump from a tweet or a shared link or maybe even RSS reader to come and spend a few minutes with my writing or my songs, and maybe even write a comment. Thank you for your conversations in the comment bin, when you have time and inclination to do so.
I am also deeply appreciative of the fact that while I read about and know about the thorny, messy elements of the Web — the way trolls play out on Twitter, the way algorithmic bots target us on Facebook (well, not me, but maybe you), the way we are the product for marketing, the way dark corners of the Net are home to anger and conspiracy and such — I have mostly avoided those elements. I know others have not been so lucky, targeted because they speak out and have strong views.
I think my positive bubble — which is not the kind of bubble that walls me off from the world and not the kind that stops me from expressing my own strong opinions nor engaging in debates — has been mostly due to you.
You have helped me stay positive and engaged in thinking forward. I ask you questions, and you answer. I remix your resources, and honor your work. You do the same, with mine. I write in your margins, to better understand. I write my way forward. Sometimes, I read what you share and let it sink in, letting time follow me until I realize that what you shared with me is now the thing I need right now. You knew that all along.
This is not, alas, unbridled optimism without worry, of course, worries about the many obstacles still there when it comes to learning and teaching and writing and sharing and connecting, and the myriad of troubles that come with this digital world. For sure, there are unsettling problems, made worse by our digital connections with the world. I find myself agreeing with the analysis by many that the promise of the Web, as we know it today, is not what we thought it might be.
Still, it might yet still become something else altogether, something better.
We collectively push forward by pushing forward, we do by doing, we make by making, and we can do this together. No one person can be on this journey alone. We make this path, together.
Whenever I think, this is a perfect opportunity for a collaboration and let’s get an invite out into the networks, that impulse to work with others in technology and writing and making is based on hope in the possible. It’s why I remain part of CLMOOC, and why offshoots of connected communities intrigue me. It’s why others in the National Writing Project seem like friends, even when we only just meet. It’s why I found a new-ish home on Mastodon, settling into small stories and small poems and small sharing. This is why regular activities like Slice of Life remain a draw for me. It’s why I don’t worry too much about leaving one place to go to another, to meet new people, to learn from others. I dip my toes, for a reason. There are more people out there who want the same than we realize. It’s sometimes just a matter of finding us.
I am thankful there are such opportunities. Thank you.
(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.