Thinking about sessions for the #IndieWeb Summit

As I am wrapping up my two week experiment with going all-in on #IndieWeb WordPress I have had the pleasure of learning from so many great people. I recently discussed session ideas with David Shanske and Matthias Pfefferle about different ideas as we brainstormed sessions.

My ultimate goal is to provide the documentation support to David and Mathias and other people who work on the technical side. I want to provide as David suggested, “a functional solution.” Here were some ideas I had:

A WordPress Theme Developers Guide to to the #IndieWeb

As I finish my two week WordPress experiment I am using Alan Levine’s new theme publishing posts under a variety of conditions and then checking out how microformats2 get rendered based on post kind. Be cool with folks to work on best practices to creating IndieWeb child themes. Each we can focus on our favs or the most popular. I chose Dimensions because I think the whole #rhizo #ds106 and Virtually Connecting crowd would dig how #IndieWeb stuff works. Many of them will use what Alan build because when the cogdog barks you howl back.

I also want to try to do the same with Hueman. I like that theme and I think it will just be a matter of removing bad microformat classes. This could have great benefits for the WordPress #IndieWeb community. Creating some rules for folks would rock.

You Rock - You Rule

You Rock – You Rule flickr photo by Skyflash shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Post-Type Discovery Pages

Text structure matters as much on the front end as it does in the back end. During my experimenting folks shared the Post Discovery Pages on the wiki. Anyone trying to learn how to update their blog with microformats2 would love this resource. We can make it better. The pages describing each post kind lack parallelism. Compare the page on note, article, and bookmark. Some post kind discovery pages like article stubs while others could pass Kerouac novels. Any easy but important update to the wiki would involve designing a template and make each post-kind that links from the post-discover page to match each other. We need to make the layout of wiki articles as predictable as basic math.

school math GIF

What I build

In #IndieWeb spirit you showcase something you have hacked together. For me I am working on three pieces academics and teachers could use. A static page for a professional organization, a syllabus, and a course website. Each resource will use CSS Grid and microforamts2. I am trying to keep the HTML as plain as possible to encourage sharing and remixing. Some day not in the distant future I hope to use these as th backbone for a decentralized LMS and professional network.
origins hacking GIF

Can we have an #IndieWeb webmentions credentialing system? #OpenBadges

Many have come to know me as an inquisitive skeptic when is comes to badging. Yes I believe we need to remediate assessment. Yet I know the introduction of measure changes learning, and always felt we used a huge system for what boils down to a dichotomous measure. You either earn a badge or you don’t. It is a checkbox with a bit of metadata.

Over the past few weeks I have discussed this in the #IndieWeb channels with Aaron Parecki and Tantek Çelik if we could use webmentions as a credentialing tool. When you think about it an #openbadges boils down to two permalinks: the task, with criteria and evidence; and the learner artifact with evidence of learning.

In this example the teacher would put a target url to a task that has mark up for criteria and evidence such as

They then enter in the url to the student work.

You add a badge image and indicate if it is awarded. The webmention would be sent to the students post and to the class website. The hcard of the teacher and the organization would act as endorsement.

other option for credential

In this example, a bit easier technically as only website gets parsed. The teacher adds in the url to the learner evidence and puts the criteria and evidence for the credential in the body of the post.

Then some kind of ledger or validator like my Bridgy page (above) or (below) would create a permanent record outside of both both the class website and the source of learner evidence.

What do people think? Can we do it? Should a badge just be two permalinks and not a gigantic protocol with quasi-open stewardship of the standards?

Hey #literacies #lra18 #engchat #nctechat Recruiting Experts for @scsu Pop Up Podcasts in June

I love using expert panels in my online classes. So much more rewarding than a narrated slidedeck.

So this year I am changing it up.

I will do a Pecha Flickr for every topic to start the week.

Then I hope to offer a 15-20 minute panel of experts. If you like doing popup podcasts here are the topics and dates:

  • Week of 5/24 Emergent Literacy, Phonemic Awareness, Concepts About Print
  • Week of 5/31 Phonics
  • Week of 6/7 Running Records
  • Week of 6/14 Writing and Vocabulary Instruction
  • Week of 6/21 Comprehension  and Dialogical Reading

If you want to join the show, either ping me on Twitter, drop an email, or better yet write about on your blog and drop a link below my comment box to create a webmention.

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.


Big Impact with Big Data: Towards a New Research Design

This is part one of a two part series on my opening keynote of the Big Data Smart Technology Forum held at Tianjin University of Technology on October 13.

I come to you today with a challenge. We have a problem in educational research and I hope we do not recreate inequities of the past in our era of Big Data.

For example, An examination of results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a common Big Data source, provides a bleak picture of educational progress in the United States.

First in the United States centuries of systemic racism have left massive scars on our great nation. As you can see your chances of born into poverty often have more to do with ethnicity and race than any other factor.

These disparities translate into the classroom. As you can see White and Asian students consistently outscore their peers on the NAEP Assessment. In each f the three years highlighted significant differences remain.

The United States Federal Government throws a lot of money at this problem. Last year the Department of Education spent over 15 billion dollars.

The Institute of Educational Sciences, alone invested over 600 million dollars in research.

Yet if you look at trends in NAEP scores they remain virtually flat. We see some gains in early reading scores but these fizzle in the upper grades and poverty and race still play a major role explaining variance in scores.

I ask you, “Why?” Many of you here today seek degrees in management statistics but you do not need a PhD to understand that 15 billion dollars and no change in progress is a bad Return on Investment.

We need a new paradigm for educational research and Big Data analytics overall. For too long our higher educational systems reinforces inequities and concentrates wealth amongst the elite rather than the people. We chase citations rather than helping communities.

I ask each of you in your respective fields to think back to how many studies over the last forty years have been truly influential. Research that has changed lives? I know for many of you you can probably count these studies on one hand. Again a bad ROI. So where does all this money go?

It doesn’t make it into the communities or our classrooms. Instead we create a false scarcity of intellectual capital. University professors, usually themselves from privileged backgrounds, apply for grants, train new PhD students, do research, and publish in journals that few folks will ever read. Our elitist economy runs on a currency of citation counts. The kicker… the public must pay exorbitant fees to publishers in order to read the research that their tax dollars already paid for. It is a double taxation cloistering money in the hands of the few while the many suffer.

I challenge you today to move our focus out of citations and into the community. In order to have a big impact with Big Data we need a new research paradigm. I turn to the field of community engaged scholarship which grew out of the nursing fields.

This methodological approach suggests we merge our research, teaching, and service into a common direction of helping the communities in which we live. Our research should focus on people not participants. They must be involved in the work and not simply a sample size. Significance should have as much to do with community impact as it does with p-values.


Yet in this era of Big Data I take community engaged scholarship a step further. Today I call us to an emerging field of digitally engaged scholarship. I define this as an interdisciplinary approach of designed based research using distributed talent and networked technologies to open source our knowledge creation for the greater good of both local and global communities.

Interdisciplinary Research

First digitally engaged scholarship must take an interdisciplinary approach. The problems the world faces are too big for one person, or even one nation to solve alone. Pollution, climate change, education. We must all work together.

We also need specialists when it comes to big data. If you try to master all of the fields necessary in Big Data you will be a master of none. In this room we have folks from public health, management, statistics, and public health. Let’s work together.

We will need front end and back end engineers to help scrape, collect, and and analyze data. We need management statistics teams well versed in Python, R, Hadoop and libraries that someone in this room may soon development.

You can’t do it alone.

Formative Design Based Research

We can trace our empirical designs and scientific inquiry back to Kantian humanity. Our commitment to objectivity has guided science for centuries. I say its time to embrace our subjectivity. Have clear goals rather than just questions. Louis Pasteur wasn’t just searching for answers when he developed methods to ensure food safety. He had a problem to fix. Do the same.

Digitally engaged scholarship requires the use of Design Based Research techniques. These methodologies draw on many names but I use the work of Reinking and Bradley in their understanding of Formative Design.

Overall the goal of research should not be fidelity of models but forkability to local contexts. We need interventions centered in the community that utilize inclusive methodologies that allow for iteration.


Distributed Knowledge

I also challenge you to rethink our definition of memory and cognition. In our Western traditions we have placed great emphasis on the self. Yet what if knowledge does not reside inside my brain. What if my memories are situated in the interstices between us, our environment, and our communities?

As the web explodes in size our external knowledge storage tools grow in vast size and complexities. Each of you in your pocket has more computing technology than humankind first took to the moon. As China prepares for the next moon landing I challenge us to rely on the networks that distribute knowledge across the globe.

Networked Technologies

It took the book 800 years to spread across the globe. Moveable print emerged in both China and Europe. Still in almost a millennia literacy reached only a fraction of the world’s population. In contrast the web has spread to a billion people in just under thirty years. A billion people, and in the next decade another billion will come online. No technology for reading and writing as spread with such speed.

We must take advantage of this opportunity while also protecting the way we read, write, and participate from emerging threats. Large multinational corporation suck up our data and sell it to the highest bidder. If we are not careful a new digital colonialism will emerge that will repeat the errors of our past. We must fight for a future in the world of Big Data where we empower people through privacy. You should control your data rather than handing it over to the Google’s and Facebooks of the world.

Improving our Communities

Let’s use Big Data to Build a better tomorrow not just focus on the bottom line. Like community engaged scholarship digitally engaged scholars serve the greater good. Let us use Big Data to not simply understand the past but to light a beacon on where we should head next.

Now let’s look at a few examples of where Big Data can be applied in educational settings and then you folks, as experts in your respective fields can help me help the world. Second half of the talk is here.

Educators Teaching Educators: #EDcampCT


edcampct sign up board
All images takes by Tyler Varsell. License not specified


On Friday August 18th close to hundred teachers descended on the Ethel Walker school for a day of learning at #edcampct. For those who do not know edcamps started as an unconference where no vendorsd or proposal submissions. Instead learning occurs on demand.

When you attend an unconference teachers propose sessions by grabbing a sharpie and an index card. Teachers can either propose a session they want to attend of offer up their knowledge. You then, as a participant, “vote with your feet.” You attend the sessions that matter the most to your needs.

This year’s #edcampct, now in its seventh year was phenomenal. The amazing Sara Edson led a team of volunteers who pulled off an amazing event. The staff at the Ethel Walker school (especially the cooks) make us feel right at home. Ethel Walker School has quickly become one of the premier institute for exploring student centered learning and rethinking professional development.

Exploring Meaning Making in New Spaces

The first session I attended was on badges and digital credentials. Over twenty people sat in a room and waited for a presenter. No one stood up. The session was requested by a participant and not a presenter. So I stood up and offered what I knew of badges. Jeff Gilberto, who is exploring badges and professional development also jumped in to help. I first hopped on to Slack and asked for materials. Doug Belshaw sent me a quick slide deck. We went over terminology and then I demonstrated the pathways for academic blogging I use in my writing classes. I used  to create a badge for folsk and demonstrated how to iss ue a “Learning about Badges” badge.

The next session I attended was one I proposed called, “Hacking Fake News.” We first defined fake news using a turn and talk and then discussed the difference between fake news and perspectives. I suggested that very little news is fake and what we must focus on instead is understanding how perspectives shade truth. I also described my research that demonstrates teaching website credibility through checklists doesn’t work. We then discussed how having students create their own fake news can create a production based tool for learning. I then demonstrated how to install and use Mozilla’s x-ray goggles. Every participant put themselves on the front page of their local paper.

Next I described strategies for hacking sources for credibility. We discussed markers that we can play with such at author expertise and source credibility. We messed with making some authors more and other authors less credible. Then it was time for real important learning. We took President Donal Trump’s response to Charlottesville and rewrote it to reflect what he should have said instead of providing cover to neo-nazis and hate groups.

At the end of the day I was please when a teacher got up and said my session made her rethink how she teaches using the web. A history teacher got up and explained, “The fake news session taught  not checklist but making students create their own fake news (Mozille X-ray goggles)”



Counting Stories: Numeracy and Argumentative Writing

“All data has a story. You just need to tell the right one.” As a former math and language arts  teacher I took these words of wisdom from my PhD advisor to heart. For me numeracy was never about algorithms but always about arguments.

For the last ten years I have made it my mission to teach educators to help children become critical consumers and creators of data. Our Geographic Information Systems Institute at Southern Connecticut State University provided us with the perfect venue to continue this works.

GIS boils down to making arguments with maps.

Mentor Texts

We began our instruction by examining mentor texts. I set up the sessions trying to model the steps teachers should take with their students.

Choose two of the inquiry questions below:
Which towns in CT are at the highest risk for lead poisoning?
Where does abuse and neglect happen in CT?
Does income affect life expectancy in CT?
Is medical marijuana impacting in CT?

We looked at the inquiry questions first and wanted to decide if these were compelling and open ended. For example teachers felt the second questions had well defined answers. We modified that question to, “Does where some lives increase there chance at abuse and neglect.”

Next we focused on how the data, presented in these informational texts, could be used to support claims in an argumentative text.

Annotate for Arguments

We then looked at two pieces that had different positions on the role of obesity in America. One source argued it was a racial issue and another argued that it was access to healthy food. We then discussed how to use, an open source annotation tool, to code these documents.

We explored developing code books that included, claim, evidence, source, warrants, map data, and numerical data. We set up a private group and played with annotations.

Source One:

Read this piece about obesity in America.

What is the author’s main claim? How does the author use evidence to support this claim?

Annotate the claims and evidence used by the author. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence.

Source Two:

Read this piece about obesity in America.

What is the author’s main claim? How does the author use evidence to support this claim?

Investigate Using Argumentative Vee Diagrams

Next we looked at a series of maps to answer the question “Does race or geography affect obesity?”


In order to organize our conclusions around an inquiry question we used argumentative vee diagrams. This tool asks you not to take a position at the beginning. Instead you develop claims and evidence from each side. Then you write rebuttals for each claim from the other side of the issue. Once done students then write a position statement.

An example Vee Diagram exploring Carbon Emissions

GIS is Data. Data are Arguments

As we finish out the institute I look forward to the inquiry projects teachers create for our students. The discourses and tools of social sciences and historians rely on using maps in our arguments.

Want to learn more about how we shape learning or interested in brining a GIS institute to your school then subscribe below:


Rethinking Assessment

To many in higher education they see problems as nails and testing as the only hammer in our kit. Yet we stand at a time where we can re-mediate assessment using new technologies and old definitions of what it means to learn.

I serve on the Tech Fluency (TF) affinity group at Southern Connecticut State College. TF is a tier one competency in our liberal education program (our general ed program but with more hoops and loftier goals). The goals is to ensure all students have the minimum tech skills they will require after college. In our current (permanent) budget crisis we have been asked to review the effectiveness of LEP.

We developed a series of rubrics instructors could use in their classroom. The newly appointed LEP assessment committee decide our approach was “too subjective.” They suggested a common task, filling out a spreadsheet was their recommendation, that students could complete in a controlled and supervised  environment.

This set me off. I responded (probably with not enough to delay and too much acerbic snark) with some of the following comments.

Objective Assessments are a Hoax

Subjective flickr photo by EVRT Studio shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license \
I am not anti-testing. Most of my research revolves around item design and testing. Yet I think what set me off was the belief that some assessments are objective.  Those who rely on standard measures ignore the bias inherent in statistical models and deciding as “what counts as learning.” They look at rubric scored items as being “too subjective” yet ignore the error variance, the noise in their models. I say bring the noise. It is in outliers where we see interesting methods and learning.

Technology Assessment Lack Ecological Validity

We were asked to create a shared assessment. It’s just the task sounds like 1996 wants their Computer Applications textbook back. We have to move beyond, “These kids don’t know spreadsheets” as the only critique in our self-assessment. There is so much more in the competencies beyond the basics of Excel.
The idea that you do anything in tech under supervision and sitting alone in a crowded room is the wrong approach to assessment. What we are calling cheating will be required collaboration for anyone doing any thing with tech in any field.
This is why I think a digital credentialing platform is the correct path forward. If you  begin by mapping pathways and  rubrics similar to ours or better yet even more fine grained criteria we could develop a system where faculty still had the freedom to design (hopefully co-design) a pathway for students.

Students Should Drive Assessment

 I think we   should  involve the students as stakeholders to a much higher degree in any assessment.We do this by helping stduents tell their story. This also  shifts responsibility onto them to build the data trails we need.

 Purpose of Assessment

I also took issue with the the purpose of our assessment. If the goal is to evaluate the effectiveness of our LEP program then why is our gut reaction to assess each student individually.

Its not that the approach of of a learning artifact (the spreadsheet assessment we were asked to develop) is the wrong path in terms of overall  measurement.
Let us as faculty assess the individual and let machines surface the patterns at class, school, and system level.

Technological Solutions

I think the Academy long term should push off most system wide assessment onto machines. Its way more effective and correlates so highly with well trained human raters.
If we scored could score a batch with high inter-rater reliability once, and laser honed the criteria, much of this could be machine scored and credentialed with minimum faculty involvement. Faculty could build whatever assessments they wanted to on top of the task. It really wouldn’t matter to LEP assessment.
This isn’t fantasy. It’s usually $7-10 a user (for the scoring).

Moving Forward

All measurement and all grades are subjective. Yet I think we have a chance to rethink the academy by empowering learners through assessment. Its time to kill the Carnegie Credit hour.
In fact across the state of Connecticut we have been discussing how to seamlessly transfer students between seventeen community colleges and four universities. Plus students would like to receive credit for work that would demonstrate competencies in our Tier One classes. If we really wanted to think about Transfer Articulation we would forget about tracking credit hours and think of each student as an API. If we had the matching criteria, or even a crosswalk of offerings, it would be a matter of plug and playing the assertions built into our credentialing platform.
This would also allow students to apply previous work they completed in high school or outside of school and get credit for meeting the technology fluency competencies. We can use the new endorsement feature in the Badge 2.0 specification so local schools, computer clubs, or even boot camps could vouch for the independence of student work. The learning analytics can help us with our programmatic review and tracking student knowledge growth.

Some Examples

As some example I threw together a quick prototype that could be using technology fluency and one that could be used in our writing intensive classes (I see very little light between writing and technology)

How I will Assess…I mean Contribute to a Community of Writers #OpenBadges

There will be no rubrics. Just feedback.

There will be no numbers just criteria and evidence.

The Academic Blogger Pathway

Students accomplish the pathway by earning badges. Students must provide  evidence of their growing capacity as a writer. There are nine badges to earn before a student can earn the academic blogger credential.

New Blogger

A “Hello World” credential with critical importance. It takes quite some time to onboard the entire class and teach them how to share a url to a post. About 50% will share a link to their WordPress profile.

Ideas and Content

This badge I want to get at the organization of thought and the the presenting of thinking. I will award to students as I see their work grow. When students begin to blog I may get one short paragraph and then a few post later one long paragraph. I am okay with this. Focus on the on boarding early. Overtime I will reword this badge when I see greater cohesion of work. Students can nominate each other for this badge,

Providing Attribution

I could care less if you get your commas write in APA. Attribution is the way of writing and not simply an academic task. This badge will be self-nominated.

Finding Voice

I promise to be absolutely subjective in awarding this badge. It is for growth in a writer’s voice. The emergence of a somewhat stable identity. Students can nominate peers for this badge.

Revising for Content

This class fils a Writing Intensive requirement. Therefore revision (as ifit isn’t always important) is critical to your success. This is a self nominated badge after a student makes three substantial revisions.

Writing Conventions

Fix your misteaks. Earn a badge.

Using Blog Affordances

This is a self or peer nominated badge. I am looking for headers, images and video. Keep your paragraphs frequent and short.

Community Commenter

You can’t teach writing without community. I will give this badge out (with scarcity) to those who contribute to meaningful conversation through commenting. This can be on a person’s blog or a class stream.

How Will You Apply?

I want the burden of proving excellence on my students. They should be nominating each other and them selves. The credentialing platform I use doesn’t allow for submissions just the issuing of badges. So in the next few days I will create a Google to nominate people.