Domains 19

Domains 19

You may not realize it, but the end of the Domains 19 conference marked the start of a race. Which Reclaim Hosting employee will be the first to blog about their conference experience? The usual front runners are racing with a handicap (yup, sticking with a horse racing theme, at least for this first paragraph). Jim and Lauren spent the rest of the week at Wake Forest University doing a workshop with their 14 (yes, 14!) technologists. Jim then spent the next week traveling. So I’m entering the race.

At Domains 19 I had the pleasure of moderating eight presentations. This served as an introduction to what our Domain’s customers are doing with DoOO. Admittedly, I was a bit anxious about messing up my moderating tasks so my initial session takeaways were not as comprehensive as I would like. Thanks to Tim’s hard work I was able to revisit each session through the recordings he made. Without further ado, here is a rundown of my first Domains (and edtech) conference.

Michael is in charge of the Learning Services and Technology team at Duke Learning Innovation. His talk was a quick walkthrough of the Duke’s LMS, “Kits”. His approach is less focused on technology and processes. Instead, the focus is on the people and the user experience (I have a soft spot for UX, so I appreciated this).

Kits provide an easy open interface for students and faculty to see their various courses and the apps used in those courses. The faculty are empowered to make choices about the software they want to incorporate and are provided with a sleek app store. If the app isn’t available there is a button in plain sight that allows the faculty member to request it. Students have less flexibility than the faculty within Kits but they still have the ability to add some apps (e.g. a note-taking app).

Michael also discussed the journey Duke went through to get to the current version of Kits. Its creation was an agile and iterative process where they made conscious decisions aimed at providing a user-friendly interface. If we’re being honest, that’s a lot of buzz words in one sentence. But I didn’t come away from this talk feeling like he just buzz-worded me to death. Instead, I felt that he gave an honest evaluation of where Kits stands along with some practical examples and advice for creating something similar in an iterative way.​

I finally got to meet the famous Jim (aka Domains Boy). This spring I began following Jim on Twitter and let me say, in person he definitely lived up to his Twitter personality (and then some). He showed up to his presentation in a full superhero costume to take on the Accessibility Monster.

The tough part, for me, about the concept of accessibility is something that Jim states in the first 3 minutes of his presentation. There is no single best solution. A solution to increase accessibility in one area may not work in another instance or it may even make it worse for another individual. He then outlines several reasons institutions typically undertake making accessibility improvements. Not all the reasons are as altruistic as you would hope. Accessibility was the theme I was most excited to learn about at Domains 19. Here I was waiting with bated breath and there wasn’t a silver bullet.

Domains Boy did come to the rescue with some easy ways to tackle the Accessibility Monster. (Admittedly, none of which have been applied to my blog. So I’m a terrible example.)

  • Use your header tags, bold/emphasis tags, list tags, alternate text, etc. which serve as road signs for readers.
  • Pick a good theme, which in-turn will take care of the color contrast.
  • If you add a video that has a script, make that available.

This was one of my favorite presentations. One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is because of the energy Erland brought to the room and the topic. He’s a chemist who has been teaching a MOOC for the past five years on medicinal chemistry. He unabashedly describes teaching this chemistry course as fun (and maybe it’s because I’m not a part of the academic community, but when was the last time you heard someone describe chemistry as fun?). He was obviously taking a leap by presenting at an edtech conference. 

Erland found a virtual laboratory tool that allowed his students to draw a molecule. The tool then predicts how active the molecule would be against six different diseases. From there, the students were to post their molecules in an online discussion group. True to his roots, Erland whips out the stats and shows a spike in the online interaction for his students due to this posting assignment. He then goes on to describe the moderation pain points and the creative way that he utilized DoOO to address some of these pain points. 

I’m not going to elaborate further, instead, I’m going to urge you to go to the MOOCs, Photo Contests, and Drug Discovery recording to learn more. It’s less than 15 minutes long. Erland’s solutions were simple, yet creative, and he’s working on collecting the stats to quantify the impact of this approach.

Which leads me to one last reason why this talk was a favorite of mine. Some of the feedback we received was about the desire to see more presentations on what institutions are doing with DoOO. A show and tell. This comment combined with Erland’s presentation brought up a lot of questions for me.

If there is a Domains 21, how cool would it be to put out a call to all DoOO schools to create this show and tell environment? To showcase courses where teachers are using DoOO in innovative or impactful ways. To hear about how students are engaging with course material in ways that weren’t seen before the introduction of technology or DoOO.

Lastly, how is this engagement or impact measured? And have teachers found having these quantifiable results to be an effective way to garner support from administrators on the use or expansion of DoOO at their schools?

St. Norbert College gave a peek into their DoOO set up. Their DoOO infrastructure is impressive, for sure, but it was not the most impressive aspect of the presentation. To me, the standout was Cassie, a rising sophomore who spoke about her domain and the roll she played in re-shaping the SNC DoOO website. (Don’t get me wrong Ben and Krissy are pretty great too, but they’ve had more time to become polished presenters.)

Which jumps into an interesting aspect of this presentation, Full Spectrum Pedagogy. At SNC this is the concept that students should experience traditional face to face courses, fully-digital courses, and everything in between (which they call hybrid courses). They’ve created a Full Spectrum Learning grid. This grid shows how the different levels of pedagogy (e.g. non-digital course design) intersect with the student engagement (e.g. student-centered participation). Cassie was integral in the redesign of the grid (with color – if you know me, you know that I love color coding things!) and making it interactive. She did this by adding short videos from professors teaching courses falling within the different areas of the grid.

This talk was jam-packed with DoOO gold. Ben and Krissy shared their DoOO discovery process, which included a knowledge-thieving trip to other DoOO schools. They also spoke about their Tech Bar, a place for staff and students to get help and the lessons they learned while trying to make it a utilized and visible campus resource. 

I didn’t have the opportunity to see the other student presentations at Domains (I plan to watch the recordings) but seeing Cassie speak made me wish that every school brought a student to speak about their experiences. Because in the end, when all the cool tools are stripped away, isn’t the goal to see and hear what the students are getting out of the experience? Bravo St. Norbert College for doing just that!

Dang nab it, Zach! I had such high hopes for this session. Alas, this awesome presentation on the decline of blogging for classes, Zach did not validate my desire to craw back under my blog rock. It might surprise you to learn that hidden behind these lengthy sessions breakdowns is a reluctance to blog. I am not convinced that my words will make any sort of useful contribution to the blogosphere. But enough of my whining. I’ll go see Jim Groom if I need more therapy (although I’m not sure that he will be much help, blogging juggernaut that he is).

It is a bit striking how different my collegiate experience was from the courses that Zach described. (Which wasn’t *that* long ago, thank you very much.) Even though I went to school in the heart of Silicon Valley, I can only remember a sprinkling of digital media projects incorporated into my classes. For the most part our exposure to media included a massive tv cart wheeling in to show bits of video for everyone to deconstruct. The tv was always safely padlocked to the cart, because you can never know when a 100lb tv will run off. Zach paints a much different picture of his courses and they sound like courses that I would’ve liked taking! One thing hasn’t changed though. Despite having a course infused with interesting media or concepts, most students will not read about something (be it a blog or a textbook) unless it’s required. A timeless hurdle for teachers it seems.

I lied, there is one bit of anti-blog info Zach provided which I can generalize to blogging outside of the classroom. Which I will cling to. Using data from a Google trend search shows that searches for the word “blog” peaked around 2008 and have been declining since. With that in mind, it seems that the concept of blogging is a bit antiquated. ‘The kids these days’ aren’t pouring out their thoughts and life experiences in the form of a blog. Instead, they are using different media for this (memes, Snapchat, Instastories, etc.). I can’t say that any of these other methods will work for my needs. So I suppose, until I figure out how I can use this domain in a different way, I will continue blogging. Now you must excuse me as I hop on my horse, trot home to churn my own butter, and tap out a telegraph message to my loved ones.

This session was a panel/discussion format with lots of thought-provoking discussions. Rather than trying to provide a recap, I’m going to pull out the portions that I felt spoke to me.

Autumm talked about what it means to have a digital identity and “grappling with, considering what parts of yourself you want to put online?… What are the responsibilities that go into that? How much of yourself are you willing to give?… Some people are in vulnerable situations where they can’t give parts of themselves in that way… ”. This started an interesting branch of the discussion. Others in the room recounted instances where people have remade or removed their digital identities. I also began reflecting on the transformation of my digital identity. The choices I’ve made over the past several years to pull it back. How my new job at Reclaim has challenged me to think more about this decision.

My choice to have less of a digital presence came from a combination of factors. One being a customer at a previous employer who CCed me on a group email where my picture was included as an attachment. The message was something like, “attached is a photo of the employee we are working with”. There hadn’t been any strain in the interaction so I don’t believe there was malice behind the message. Yet, I was a bit creeped out that someone had dug through the site to find my picture (the page it was on was several clicks deep and not searchable).

I am not in the type of vulnerable position that Autumm is likely alluding to in the last sentence of that quote. But, that’s not to say that there aren’t areas of vulnerability in my life in relation to my digital identity. Before having children, my husband and I discussed how much we would post about our kids. Especially, before they were old enough to give their consent or even know what it even means to “post” something on the internet. We’ve opted to only share a small number of pictures and being that my kids are my world my digital identity has shrunk.

Since starting at Reclaim Hosting I am trying to begin releasing my digital identity stranglehold but to do so in a thoughtful way. And as Autumm discussed, to consider how vulnerable or invested I want to be in this aspect of the position.

Forgive the last two self-indulgent paragraphs. But, I do have two other parts of this panel discussion that I don’t want to go unmentioned. The first was from Mo. He spoke about a site, http://jeopardy.web.unc.edu/, that created a stir on the UNC campus. So much so that the school took down the site temporarily (you can read more about what happened between the school and the website’s creator here). When I watched the panel in person I didn’t think much of him mentioning the site. But when I listened to the recording later I could hear how purposeful Mo was about mentioning the site. I took the cue to go see exactly what he was talking about. This was yet another interesting branch of the conversation. The group explored the politics surrounding having student domains attached to their university, the idea of domain ownership, and indie-web versus interdependent web because, as Mo said, “things aren’t created in isolation”.

And finally, a big shout out to Joe for being a spot-on timekeeper/moderator. Joe noticed me preparing to give the 10-minute warning and gave me a knowing nod while covertly showing me he was keeping time. It was nice to sit back for the rest of the session and absorb the discussion.

My initial thought when John began describing Webrecorder.io is that this is the Waybackmachine of the future. This is a gross oversimplification. Webrecorder provides a high-fidelity, interactive capture of any webpage. I emphasize interactive because it will even grab videos and dynamic functionality. Even better, as a non-profit funded by grants Webrecorder is able to provide all this as a free and open source tool. I actually don’t think that I can do Webrecorder justice by trying to provide a synopsis of John’s presentation here. The recording is worth a watch, especially if you think that you might have a web archiving need. Which must be a need for many attendees considering the interest this session garnered, especially since it was one of the last sessions on the last day.

Laura is a woman after my own heart. As she stands up in she confesses that being in front of an audience is totally alien to her and that she might have a nervous breakdown. I get you, Laura. If I have an option between presenting or letting the earth swallow me up, bring on the dirt bath.

But, Laura is no stranger to the edtech community as she’s spent the past 20 years teaching online courses. Despite her anxiety, Laura delivers a fast and fun discussion about using Javascripts for distributing content via RotateContent.com.

Giving students a list of hyperlinks pretty much guarantees that their eyes will glaze over while they scroll through a wall of blue text. But this is a beautifully simple way to get content in front of students and give them the opportunity to dive deeper. The randomizer tool brings up an image (or as Laura puts it, eye candy). This generates interests and is easily liked so the student can learn more about whatever popped up. She showed examples of how she’s done this with publicly available books, showcasing past student projects, assignment distribution, and (my favorite) motivational cat images aka the growth mindset cats.

Small confession here. I had a mental image of a conference with a Cedar Rapids vibe (minus the debauchery). Haven’t seen the movie? Don’t worry you’re not missing much. Just think of a slightly toned down version of The Hangover set at an insurance conference. I guess this is Ed Helms effort to merge his success with The Hangover and The Office. Who can blame him, the guy knows where his bread’s buttered.

I was more than pleasantly surprised, I was (and still am) downright proud to be associated with this event! And really, I should have known that Jim and Tim would not run the sort of conference where (as Ed Helms put it) everything smells like chlorine. Everyone was friendly. The number one priority was to learn from others with a close second being to share their own knowledge.

Also, this was not your normal vanilla, suit and tie kind of conference venue. 21c was a piece of art filled with art. A turducken of art if you will (adding “turducken” to a blog is a good sign that it’s time to wrap it up). I’m not just talking about the art curated by 21c. But also the art installations brought by the various attendees. It was so cool to see the intersection of technology and creativity in the various pieces at the art fair.  You can see and read more about this in Jim’s post about Domains 19

If you made it this far, you may be wondering where things ended up with the blog race. Well, my friends, let’s say that if I were a horse someone would be seriously considering dropping me off with Mr. Elmer.

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