Opening Up Digital Teaching and Learning II

Last night’s #edtechchat revolved around the kind of learning that must go into #edtech before students even sit with a machine. It boils down to Make. Hack. Play. Learn, regardless of the medium or mode. Yet  I also know we need a critical focus on building ethical tech and modeling these values for our students.


Together… flickr photo by Photo Cup 2014 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

I believe we need to focus on attitudes and not just the  computational thinking that empowers the use of technology.

I believe as public school teachers and public university professors we have a responsibility to work in the open and share our efforts back to the Commons.

I believe a pad and a pencil is the most useful piece of #edtech equipment we can give to any child.

Identity not Content

So much of the talk revolved around content creation. I am not usually worried about most of the crap that kids make at school. My focus is on the crap that happens that makes the child. Too often this pile of stink is being algorithmically served up to children. See the first generation of the web built the tools we use as they were doing their identity work as young children and adults. Today this identity work is being sold back to our children hidden behind social feeds.

Their brains (yours too) are under attack from daily notifications scientifically designed and  tested to act like drugs.

As educators we have a responsibility to seize back the web for our our children.

For me that starts with privacy by empowering folks to own their data and their identity by having their own domain.


Identity flickr photo by Michelle Hyacinth shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Digital Teaching and Learning II

During the #edtechchat I shared a course shell I made that day using CSS Grid (tt was my first time trying CSS Grid instead of a Bootstrap website so I may have made a few errors).

After words folks were asking about my recent #indieweb efforts and I threw out an idea of teaching a free mini-course this summer. By the time I woke up I had ten requests for the class.

So I needed to switch it up. Instead I decided to open up my Digital Teaching and Learning II class that I will be offering this summer from July 13-August 18th. Most of my classes are taught openly (students always have the option of publishing privately) and through RSS so why not step it up for a high level graduate class?

(Below are notes that are subject to change often)

Goals of class

  • Be fun and worry free.
  • Create a GitHub Account and build the world’s simplest website by learning to fork, or remix, a repo.
  • Create a website of your own with both long format blog posts and short posts such as replies, bookmarks, and status updates.
  • Post critical reflections on current trends in #edtech
  • Build an online course of an existing unit or class you teach using HTML and CSS Grid (you don’t need to know anything. What can’t be learned can be copy/pasted and if you copy and paste enough you edventually learn).
  • Utilize web standards like microformats and protocols to create a network of scholars free of silos.
  • Design a learning pathway to meet your needs.


How will this work?

Everyone will choose a hosting package and start up a website with a blog. If you already have a website and blog, that is awesome. 60% of the classwork is done. If your website is on a platform like, medium, blogger, weebly, or edublgoger we will work with you to migrate it to your own space. If you are already running from your domain even better. 75% of the classwork is already complete. Then we will help you add #indieweb technologies.

GitHub, Is that scary?

Not really. I was afraid at first but remixing on GitHub is a lot like copying a Google Doc. Especially when you will be using really small HTML files like we will. In fact we will do most of the learning in Glitch which will allow us all to contribute and remix each other’s work. Luckily Glitch and GitHub do a great job of talking.

My school just uses G Suite so can I still take this class?

Sure, and if you want to hone your Google Classroom, GDoc, or any other skills you can build a personal pathway towards that in You will just share your learning and any materials you make on your website. Open is an attitude and we can still plant the seeds in our children using any tool.

I don’t know any HTML can I still participate?

Yes, you do not need any specialized knowledge. Students enrolled in this class never dealt with anything beyond the WYSIWYG editor in Digtial Teaching and Learnign I. Nobody will be light years ahead.

We will always start with templates. Learning HTML is like learning a sonnett. Once you know the pattern it’s easy to follow. You will be able to build your website without really having to change any of the html tags.

If you are a website guru I welcome you as well as I am learnign as I go. Developers and engineers can really benefit from hanging from regular folks to see how instruction is different from documentation.

Can I take the class for credit?

Yes this is a graduate level course. It is your responsibility to check with your current insitution to make sure the credits would transfer. Students participating in the course for credit will have extra responsibilities around documenting their learnign and developing a personal learning pathway.

When can I learn more?

I will be designing the course materials throughout May and early June. You will be able to see a finished product sometime after that. However I will be documenting each step of the way so if you follow me across the web it will be hard not to learn more.


New Stream Brings Dream of Decentralized LMS Closer

I am excited for the newly redesigned Stream launched by I now have a major piece in my jigsaw of trying to remix a decentralized Learning Management System (LMS).

In the years I have spent researching literacies and literacy acquisition I have come across a pattern no matter the mode a reader uses. When reading print, video, web, or one of the myriad of flavors in between good readers mark up texts. Annotation is the OG augmented reality we have layered upon existing texts for centuries.

The web is no different. I try to remember this as I teach future teachers of future reader and writers.

In my course design I try to empower students as creators and writers. Yet  I  also strive to include annotations and build a class practice around social annotations. Time and time again studies of good readers and writers highlight the importance of annotation.

Using a tool called  I get to watch thought unfold and then transform into long form writing. I am teaching in a text rather than about a text.

screenshot-2016-12-12-10-04-37 is an open source web annotation tool. Users can install a plug-in or use a special web address to annotate any text or website. PDF annotations work well. You can link to videos and pictures, use markdown (if thats your thing), and reply to other annotations. has always been a great learning and teaching tool. Yet tracking contributions and navigational pathways was clunky. Documents could get messy (in a good way) quickly, So when looking at individual contributions you basically had a chronological stream.  Recent features of the newly launched Stream have addressed most of my concerns.

More importantly the Stream maybe the teaching dashboard a decentralized LMS needs.

The Decentralized LMS

In my course design, based on the Domain’s Of Own One’s Project, I try to empower my students to shape their emerging teaching identities on the web. Every student creates their own blog.  All of our work gets syndicated through RSS. The students also share to a class stream where they get to decide to share the post just with the class or with the public at large. At the end of the class students get to choose whether to unpublish their blog or hopefully keep it under development.

Keeping track of data, surfacing patterns, and focusing feedback was always difficult. When your class is a bunch of “small pieces loosely joined” some morsels may fall in the cracks. This is where the new stream comes in. I now have the teacher dashboard the decentralized LMS needed.

The New Dashboard

The team of designers, thinkers, and engineers have just unveiled the new Stream. I provided early user feedback on different drafts of the wire frames and got to beta test the new features. As an instructor, when using  the group feature in your class, you now have some powerful metrics and navigational tools to increase the efficiency and efficacy of teaching with



The Stream

The new stream is broken into a two column view. In the larger left hand column annotations are arranged first chronologically and then by source. You can collapse all the annotations in that source or access the url of the annotated document.


One the right column You get a list of tags and group members. As a teacher tags are very important to teaching the practice of annotation. People stink at tagging. They often forget. Yet I also use tags as a pedagogical tool. For example when we annotated the Common Core State Standards students had to annotate and tag the foundational skills. Specifically they had to identify the knowledge and skills students needed at the end of each grade.

In #questiontheweb, the leaners developed a codebook to help annotate website credibility. We developed a series of tags that would serve as our “codes” such as perspective, authority, institutional authority, etc.

In the newly launched Stream you also get a list of all members in your group and a frequency count of their number of annotations. While this number doesn’t represent a qualitative judgement it does provide a teacher with a quick check of activity levels. The list of members in the Stream also provides for quick navigation when customizing feedback.

One Step Closer

I am excited to use the new Stream. The navigational pathways just created the teacher dashboard my version of the decentralized LMS will need.

Laura Gibbs: A Designer of the Decentralized LMS

Since I began exploring boundaries outside of the traditional LMS I have followed the work of Laura Gibbs. Laura is an online instructor at the University of Oklahoma and uses Inoreader to build an awesome interface for her students.


Laura also includes a stream of all the comments across both her classes and links to final thoughts.


I love this approach and keep meaning to set it up. I have used Known more as a class stream and have students share their posts but I like what Laura does better. I just want an annotation, chat, and bunch of bots that we haven’t thought about layered on top.

To learn how Laura sets up her classes check out these posts.


Glimpses at the Possibilities of a Decentralized LMS

I checked out the #helloweb website:

It is a vision of the decentralized LMS I want. The website is part of the #Helloweb campaign,  a Mozilla project to teach web literacy across rural India.

I like the site. It is actually  super easy to do, but looks good. Just the grid view of embedded Twitter timeline. A stream that is pleasing to the eye. Pretty is important.

When I see it and think about other recent efforts I feel like I am getting close to the decentralized LMS I want.

I want to display Twitter cards, and Featured Images plus blog headlines through RSS. Maybe even annotations. Most importantly I want to empower learners to publish on their own site and control their privacy by deciding how to share. I want my students to own their data and learn on the open web.

The twitter timeline on #HelloWeb isn’t my only snapshot into possibilities.

Alan Levine is working on WordPress plug ins that will use Feedburner to suck up participants work:

I like what he did with

Alan built a site with imple navigation to activities. Plus an active stream of blogs, videos, and Twitter. I would want a link to the blog stream and the comment stream.

I can’t wait to see what Alan is working on.


I also need a good teacher dashboard. What (I am beta testing their new Stream) built is pretty to close to all I need. I blacked out my student names but I can click through and see all that they are doing.

I now have access to a dashboard of my students. The navigation in the group features make teaching easier. I am finding hanging out in texts is sometime better than talking about texts in comments.

The new Stream is almost everything I need to teach in a decentralized classroom. In fact if you built your decentralized LMS around LMS you would have everything you need.

A few more thing I would like to have would  be RSS driven. This would include include participants posts and comments.

The Future

I feel like what I envision as my perfect decentralized learning environment is here. I want the hub of any course to be dynamic but not a place that collects (beyond RSS) user data. People shouldn’t have to sign in.

I want them to own their own learning, or if they do not have a blog or website, be able to choose their own network to connect through.

However I do believe the chat stream to be an essential elemt to the modern LMS. Yet I do not want to dictate to people which river to choose. If your community is active on Twitter use that. If its Telegram or Facebook messenger that is fine too. Try Slack, Rocketchat, or gitter. Doesn’t matter.

I am intrigued about how AI and machine learning will interact with facilitators in course design. I do not fear these robots as my other educational technologists do. They will be able to surface cool patterns. Patterns that can be made into pretty graphs. people like pretty pictures.

What I still need:

I need to make the syndication of particiaptns blogs, websites and hashtags to be a one button push. For Twitter I use Martin Hawksey’s Twitter Archive for Google Sheets. Be cool to embed that.

For participant blogs I want a field to just enter in their url, (for the blog,  category, or tag for advanced bloggers) and have them added to the stream and the faciltator profile that tracks number of posts, comments.

I want to add their ID. Really I may just get away with using the new profile as the only teacher dashboard I need for now.