Google. Where’s Our Doc?

A few days ago, there were several of us on Twitter discussing the possibilities for a new open journal. Twitter is often not great for deep conversations, so following the success of the Ning Alternatives document, I thought I would tweet out a public, real-time Google Doc so people could write and share characteristics of a model, open (academic) journal.

The creation of the document moved quickly, and within minutes, we had several pages of information that helped to outline possibilities and partnerships that would help make this open journal a reality. Off the top of my head, collaborators included (I think): Jon Becker, GNA Garcia, Ira Socol, Jeremy Brueck, Tom Fullerton, George Veletsianos, Cole Camplese & Rob Wall (if you were involved, please let me know). Cole actually took a photo from his iPad while he edited from Twitterfic (see below).

Editing Document with the iPad

But then, all of a sudden, we could no longer access the document. The document now produces the following error:

Google Docs Error
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

So, I am writing this for a couple of reasons. First, we want this document back, and I’m hoping that someone at Google Docs will actually respond and help us recover it. There does not seem to be a straightforward way of getting Google’s attention, and thus, no easy way to resolve this problem. Second, I am using this as an example as a possible pitfall of depending on cloud computing. What if this was your dissertation? An important grant proposal? That book you’ve been working on? Or a document with some of your most important memories? While in this case, the issue happened so quickly that we didn’t really get a chance to take alternative measures – I hope this prompts you to keep a back up. The cloud can’t be trusted.

In any case, please forward this message along, and hopefully it gets the attention of a Google engineer that can actually do something about this, or get us some answers.


Update: As of May 4, 2010, the document is now working. Thanks everyone who passed this one. On May 3, the issue reached the Product Manager of Google Docs, and the team attacked the problem almost immediately. I received an apology, status reports, and finally, a detailed report of what had happened and how it had been fixed for the future. Overall, I am very satisfied with response I received from Google.

Ning Alternatives, Collaboration, & Self Hosting

Ning announced today that it plans to “phase out its free service“. What this means for the educators who use Ning for free (or even pay for some services) is uncertain at the moment although it was stated that a detailed plan of the new services will be released within two weeks.

Right after the announcement, Twitter was buzzing with people wondering about viable build-your-own-network alternatives. A few services were mentioned and retweeted, but I felt that something more proactive should be done. Seeing that Google Docs has gone real-time, I thought it would be great to collaboratively build a document with Ning alternatives, including examples and comments on services other have tried. I created a new Google Document and tweeted a call for collaboration.

Twitter / Alec Couros: OK, with all of this talk ...
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Within minutes, we had several pages of options for both hosted and self-hosted social networking services. Six hours later (the time at which I write this), there have already been hundreds of collaborators/viewers and hundreds of edits. There is now a good list of alternatives for those that would like to migrate to or use another service. As well, those involved were able to see first-hand the power of real-time collaboration. From my perspective, this process was truly awesome!

I have noticed that Ning’s announcement has made some people angry which has caused others to temper concerns until more is known. No matter what the outcome, or the options within Ning’s new pricing plan, there is a more important issue here. I do not see a future where there are more free (of charge) services available. It is more likely, at least for the short term, that more Web 2.0 companies will focus on premium services. For the many teachers who have benefited from the wealth of free services available over the last few years, this ‘less free’ reality becomes difficult, especially when schools are increasingly budget-conscious.

This is why the F/OSS movement becomes important (again). With all of the free services that have been available, fewer educators have likely felt that the time and expertise needed to install, maintain and host open source software is worth the trouble. However, with this impending shift, I do believe that this is the time for schools & educators to (re)consider and (re)discover the importance of F/OSS and self-hosted software.

Update: Sylvia Curry made a screencast of the “Ning Alternatives” document being edited in the first few minutes. This process really was quite incredible.

Open Access Course: Social Media & Open Education (Fall 2009)

I will be facilitating an open access graduate course this Fall titled EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education. I expect about 15-20 registered (for credit) students, but I am opening up the experience to all other interested not-for-credit participants. This will be the third time I have run the course, and it has been quite successful in the past. I have rethought a few pieces, and I am hoping that this offering will be the best yet.

The course wiki is available here: The “synchronous sessions” page is slowly being filled out as I work to schedule presenters and appropriate weekly topics. Additionally, I have set up a Google Form to gather information about those who would like to participate as not-for-credit students. Quite a few people have already signed up, and we’d love to have you participate as well!

Participation is quite flexible. This can mean simply joining in on the weekly synchronous sessions (these run every Tuesday from Sept 15/09 to December 08/09, 7 p.m. Saskatchewan time). You could also help inform our reading list by tagging relevant articles & media as ‘eci831readings‘. You could respond to the weekly lectures through your blog, or whatever media/site you choose, and tag these as ‘eci831responses‘. Or, you could comment on student blog posts (feed/links will be available after Sept 8) and expect other participants to engage you in your writing spaces. And, I am sure there are many other ways to participate, create, and collaborate that we have yet to discover.

If you have any questions about the course, feel free to contact me. And if you are interested, we would love you to join us in this upcoming, collaborative learning experience.

Seminar: Social Media and Open/Networked Learning

I am very fortunate to have been asked to teach a seminar this summer with UBC: Okanagan in Kelowna, BC, as part of their Summer Institute in Education. The seminar runs from July 27 – July 31, and I will have 15 hours in total. I am looking forward to meeting my new students, learning with them, and pushing the possibilities for immersion given such a short time-frame. My goal is to provide much more than a ‘taster’ for social media & open learning, but to help nurture a passion within these learners: to foster genuine interest and active participation through social learning, to nurture critical producers & consumers, and to convey the benefits of media sharing in education & society. I believe that the success of a workshop/seminar/course can only be measured in its effects on learners well after the official experiences are complete. I hope to someday know that this summer experience made a difference for all of those involved.

I am currently working on the course wiki (btw: quite enjoying the use of Wetpaint) and I would be happy to receive input from critical readers. Also, if anyone would like to suggest readings or media that could be shared with this group, I invite you use the tag edst499k in your Delicious links. That will automatically add your suggestions to the Readings & Resources page of the wiki.

Thanks for connecting.

Five Recommended Readings?

One of the Associate Deans at my workplace has asked me to recommend five readings (e.g., books, articles, blogpost, etc.) that would help inform his understanding of current changes regarding social networks, knowledge, and technology in education. Rather than develop the list alone, I thought it appropriate to (at least attempt to) crowdsource responses from individuals in my network.

So, what readings would you recommend to an educational leader responsible for faculty development in a teacher education program? Any responses are greatly appreciated.

Tweet & A Poke: Camosun Keynote

I was fortunate and honoured to have given the keynote address at Camosun College’s 2009 Walls Optional conference in Victoria, BC. The presentation provided a brief overview of the changing nature of knowledge, the rise of social networks, and the impact of emerging technologies/media on teaching & learning. Below, i have included the recorded video feed, the slide deck via Slideshare, and a link to the original Keynote file. Note that the Keynote file is very large (over 300MB) as it includes video files. Also, this file includes my speaker notes which were written as personal prompts and not as the actual, given dialogue.

Full video of the presentation is available here.

Slide deck (via SlideShare).

Full presentation available here in format.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the presentation, or any of the content discussed. And thanks to the good people at Camosun College, the individuals I met at the #VictoriaTweetup the night before, and those that drove in from outside of Victoria for the event. It was a pleasure to meet you all!

Update: A version of the video is now available.

Open/Networked Teaching Keynote at MoodleMoot

I gave a keynote today at Canada’s MoodleMoot ’09 in Edmonton, Alberta. Below are the slides and a list of some key links. The talk was given to about 300 in-house delegates and about 80 online (via Elluminate). I will share the recording once/if I get access.

Relevant links in order of appearance:
Wordle: Make “beautiful” word clouds.
Networked Teacher: Diagram via Flickr.
Twitter: Dominant microblogging tool.
EC&I 831: My open graduate course.
Open Doctrine: Alec’s own attack ad.
Network Sherpa: Diagram via Flickr.
Cathedral and the Bazaar: by Eric S. Raymond.
The Fifty Tools: by Alan Levine. Free web streaming.
Omegle: Talk to strangers.
Twitter Search via Google: Firefox/GreaseMonkey script to get live Twitter results via Google search.
Amherst College IT Index: Tracks technologies brought in by students.
– “RiP: A Remix Manifesto“: Excellent open source film on remix/mashup culture.
An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube: Excellent presentation by Dr. Michael Wesch.
David After the Dentist: My blog post on this viral video.
The Show: Ze Frank’s one-year long series feat. “if the earth was a sandwich project“.
Postsecret: Collaborative art project, people sharing their deepest secrets.
Amateur: Creative video by Lasse Gjertzen.
Thru-you: An amazing set of tracks that were created by mashing up youtube videos.
Grad course trailer: Trailer for EC&I 831.
Thinning the walls: Visualization of networked teaching.

Update: The Elluminate recording is now available here.

Visualizing Open/Networked Teaching

Recently, I have been conceptualizing/personalizing the concept of open teaching as informed by my facilitation of EC&I 831 and ECMP 455. In my view, open teaching goes well beyond the parameters of the Free and Open Source Software movement, beyond the advocacy of open content and copyleft licenses, and beyond open access. For open teaching, these are the important mechanisms, processes, and residuals, but they should not be viewed as the end goals in themselves. Rather, open teaching may facilitate our approach to social, collaborative, self-determined, and sustained, life-long learning.

My working definition of open teaching (focused on the above areas) follows:

Open teaching is described as the facilitation of learning experiences that are open, transparent, collaborative, and social. Open teachers are advocates of a free and open knowledge society, and support their students in the critical consumption, production, connection, and synthesis of knowledge through the shared development of learning networks. Typical activities of open teachers may include some or all of the following:

* Advocacy and use of free and/or open source tools and software wherever possible and beneficial to student learning;
* Integration of free and open content and media in teaching and learning;
* Promotion of copyleft content licenses for student content production/publication/dissemination;
* Facilitation of student understanding regarding copyright law (e.g., fair use/fair dealing, copyleft/copyright);
* Facilitation and distributed scaffolding of student personal learning networks for collaborative and sustained learning;
* Development of learning environments that are reflective, responsive, student-centred, and that incorporate a diverse array of instructional and learning strategies;
* Modeling of openness, transparency, connectedness, and responsible copyright/copyleft use and licensing; and,
* Advocacy for the participation and development of collaborative gift cultures in education and society.

(Key phrase, “working definition”, comments always welcome.)

Through interactions with current and former students, the resulting practice has lead to a learning environment where the walls are appropriately thinned. This process is visualized through the following graphic.

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls

Through the guiding principles of open teaching, students are able to gain requisite skills, self-efficacy, and knowledge as they develop their own personal learning networks (PLNs). Educators guide the process using their own PLNs, with a variety of teaching/learning experiences, and via (distributed) scaffolding. Knowledge is negotiated, managed, and exchanged. A gift economy may be developed through the paying-forward of interactions and meaningful collaborations.

In the digital and rich-media environment, educators may also take on different roles, metaphors that extend beyond “sage on the stage”, “guide on the side”, etc. The “network sherpa” (source?) may be a suitable metaphor to describe these pedagogical processes.

Open Teaching - Network Sherpa

This metaphor projects the role of teacher as one who “knows the terrain”, helps to guide students around obstacles, but who is also led by student interests, objectives, and knowledge. The terrain in this case consists of the development of media literacy (critique & awareness), social networks (connections), and connected/connective knowledge.

As with any models/images/diagrams/metaphors there are always limitations and (outright) flaws. Yet, I present these three pieces (i.e., working definition of open teaching, thinning the walls, network sherpa) in hope that it will lead us to a discussion on some of the perceived changes in teaching & learning in the wider scope of education.

Feedback and critique always welcome and encouraged.

Social Learning & Sharing

The learning continues in EC&I 831, and since I haven’t had much time to blog, I though I’d offer a 2-for-1 post with links to the most recent presentations for the course.

On January 27, I offered a session on the Age of Social Learning. The full Elluminate session is found here, and my slide deck is available below.

And, last night, we were very lucky to have had Dean Shareski join us as he presented “How to Be Lazy and Still Get Paid” aka “The Value of Sharing”. The recorded Elluminate session for Dean’s presentation is available here, and his slides are available below.

I really want to thank Dean for his excellent presentation last night. The participants (registered students & everyone else) have expressed gratitude for Dean’s time and wisdom on the topic.

The above presentations work well together, as do the concepts of social learning and sharing. These are ideas, when implemented, that have enormous potential for changing the shape of (online) learning. And, I’m happy to say that these are ideas that continue to shape the courses I teach and that support my ongoing belief in the power of open education.

Why I Copyfight

Cory Doctorow recently wrote the piece “Why I Copyfight” in Locus Magazine. The short essay is insightful and discusses the relationship between copyright and culture, the disparity between copyists and copyright holders, and the reasons why people (should) continue to resist the tight restrictions of current copyright law. Some of my favourite snippets include:

    – “The existence of culture is why copyright is valuable.”
    – “… the reason copyright exists is because culture creates a market for creative works.”
    – “Content isn’t king: culture is.”
    – “Culture’s imperative is to share information: culture is shared information.”

Cory Doctorow

And the most common sense passage I have read in a long time regarding copyright law and enforcement must be:

It’s entirely possible that there’s a detente to be reached between the copyists and the copyright holders: a set of rules that only try to encompass “culture” and not “industry.” But the only way to bring copyists to the table is to stop insisting that all unauthorized copying is theft and a crime and wrong. People who know that copying is simple, good, and beneficial hear that and assume that you’re either talking nonsense or that you’re talking about someone else.

It is unfortunate that current copyright law is more transfixed on control and profit instead of culture and common sense.

Read Doctorow’s full article here.

Not Free At Any Price

I have been a soft-spoken critic of the OLPC project; it is hard to critique something that gets technologies into the hands of children. Yet, I’ve had two main issues. First, I have my own XO and I have complained from the day I received it that I felt the machine to be a piece of junk. I never got the machine running well, although I know others have reported much more positive experiences. But, I thought, what should I expect for $100 $200. Second, I voiced the opinion that the project is a type of techno-colonialism, and although well-intended, it instills particular values and tools on cultures we patronizingly regard as “developing”. Yet, on this second point, there was something that made me feel a bit better when I knew that these machines would be loaded with free and open source software. At least then, we could avoid exporting even more of our corporatism. But that OLPC goal began to fall apart earlier this year when Negroponte confirmed that Windows XP was to be available on the XOs. For myself and others, this move marked the end of the OLPC as an educational project and it simply became just another laptop project.

I just came across this article by Richard Stallman in Boston Review. Stallman, once a proponent of the project, rejected it once “the project backed away from its commitment to freedom and allowed the machine to become a platform for running Windows, a non-free operating system.” For those of you who do not know Stallman’s work, this article is a good backgrounder that includes Stallman’s four essential freedoms that should be available to all users of software, as well as the distinction between “free as in beer” and “freedom of knowledge and action”. And my favourite quote from the article has to be, “Teaching children to use Windows is like teaching them to smoke tobacco—in a world where only one company sells tobacco. Like any addictive drug, it inculcates a harmful dependency.

These are important issues to think about. Learn more about free software at the Free Software Project.

Open Doctrine? K-12 Online Conference Teaser

Here is the teaser and introduction to my K12 Online Conference presentation, in the form of a personal attack ad. As mentioned earlier on this blog, my presentation will be titled “Open, Social, Connected: Reflections of an Open Graduate Course Experience.” A portion of the presentation will be devoted to the idea of openness in education, and how the actualization of this concept helped to create a transparent culture of sharing among students and other course participants.

I hope you enjoy the teaser and I invite you to participate in the rest of the coming presentation at the K12 Online Conference.

Thanks to Dan Carr for his narration and for helping bring this concept to life.

Oh … and there’s an edupunk version. :-)