Waterfeed Slideshare Walk-through (Slideshare Edition)

So did y’all know that Jing has a monthly bandwidth limit of 2GB? Yeah, neither did I. So it turns out that the Jing walkthrough I’ve been passing around maxed out a bit ago.

So I went through the labor intensive process of using Slideshare to simulate a screencast of Waterfeed. The upside is there is no bandwidth cap. So please pass this link around instead of the Jing one. Jing is dead to me.

(and if you want that link in plain text: http://www.slideshare.net/MichaelCaulfield/waterfeed-water106-presentation)

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, welcome to the Waterfeed party!  Start by watching the short video below. It details a really cool project we’re putting together and we want your participation. It’s A-Game stuff, and you won’t be disappointed.

Six Second Science Vines

Vine is one of the addictions my daughter and I currently share. Somewhat predictably, the six second format and lack of  an editing function acts as generative constraints that brings out the creativity in people, and it’s just fascinating to see what people come up with.

If you’re looking for an example of how to weave this into your class, take a look at GE’s “Six Second Science” Vines, where people were asked to use the format to demonstrate science. (They do get a bit old after a while, but you can honestly watch more of these than you think in a row).

I’m thinking through how we might use this sort of thing in Water106. I like the idea of a massive “contest” which is really just an excuse to muck around. Perhaps something open-ended like “Do a Vine that demonstrates something you learned about water in this class?” Or maybe just “Water. Do a Vine about it?”


The Ticking Time Bomb in the President’s Higher Education Proposal

So I admit that I was initially confused by what the President could do *now* about his education plan. With the current Congress, nothing is getting passed. There are some elements in the plan which can be done through pure executive power, but most of it requires legislation. So why now? How does this announcement matter today?

The answer is in the first section of the fact sheet:

Before the 2015 school year, the Department of Education will develop a new ratings system to help students compare the value offered by colleges and encourage colleges to improve…Over the next four years, the Department of Education will refine these measurements, while colleges have an opportunity to improve their performance and ratings. The Administration will seek legislation using this new rating system to transform the way federal aid is awarded to colleges once the ratings are well developed. Students attending high-performing colleges could receive larger Pell Grants and more affordable student loans.

I don’t know if you caught that, but here’s what’s going on. The administration has the executive authority to collect these numbers on effectiveness and define the formula. What it is saying is that over the next four years it’s going to be tracking schools and ranking them. The plan is to propose them as a funding formula in the near term, and steer Title IV funds towards best “bang for buck” schools.

So let’s say the President doesn’t get this into the next Higher Education Act reauthorization (he won’t). When he fails, the numbers don’t go away. They keep getting compiled and refined, waiting…

When 2017 rolls around, what happens? Well, it’s potentially a whole new Congress. It’s potentially a Senate without a filibuster. And this will be proposed again, based on these numbers.

So here’s the deal — as these rankings are developed, and you find your institution is near the bottom (or even the middle) you have a choice. You can assume that the political reality after the next presidential election will look like it does today, and slough off these numbers being compiled about you as insignificant. Or you can take the view that there’s enough of a chance that environment may be favorable to the bill’s passage in a couple years that you’d better take the numbers seriously.

I actually think this is a good thing, but perhaps I’ll leave that to a later post. The question most administrators and state legislators have to ask themselves today is “Do I feel lucky?” I’m not sure how they will answer that.

The FemTechNet DOCC, Water106, and Our Distributed EdTech Future

I love working on ideas and projects that no one else seems to be doing, but the best moments in my professional career have been when I’ve discovered that what I’m doing is not so original at all. Fresh off of an interview with Jim Groom, I’m reminded of that fateful moment in 2007 where I first bumped into Stephen Downes’ OLDaily newsletter and realized that the thinking I’d been doing on what an “Inverted LMS” looked like had already been thought through as a “Personal Learning Environment”. I also remember the moment when I started New Hampshire’s first blog dedicated exclusively to covering Congressional District Two’s race from a progressive standpoint — only to discover that in the same month two other people had had the same idea.

In both those cases the fact that many people were working on similar ideas separately was a sign that we all were plugged into something much greater. And so it’s with great excitement I stumble today on the FemTechNet DOCC running this fall, which looks a lot like ds106, independently discovered.


I’m going to dig into documents on the DOCC to see what they might have that could inform the design of Water106. I’m guessing the people running it already know of ds106, the original MOOCs, and UBC’s Latin American Literature Wikipedia Project, but in case they are as unaware of those things as I was of the DOCC, I’ve added links here.

(And incidentally, I’m not so much a fan of the acronym DOCC, but it’s a better name for this structure than MANIC)

A Short Story About How a Network Corrects Itself

I’m working on Waterfeed, one of the activities of the Spring 2014 experiment we’ll be running, where we run a cMOOC/ds106 experience over multiple classes as an integrative layer. And something happened this morning when I was looking at the feed that seemed like a good opportunity to talk about how errors in a network get corrected. It’s also a chance for me to go on a mini-rant about the “We want a culture of Producers, not Consumers!” silliness that infects EdTech. Do you want “a culture of Writers, not Readers!”? of “Musicians, not Dancers!”? of “Typewriter Makers, not Typists!”?

No, of course not. At the very least, you want a culture of *better* producers, and *better* consumers. And frankly, I’m not sure you want to divide the world into those categories at all. It’s kind of elitist, capitalist bullcrap based on the idea that producers “give” and consumers “take”. That producers bring new stuff into the world which consumers deplete. Nothing could be further from the truth, which is why I prefer to use the terms reading and authoring when talking about digital and literary products, as these terms emphasize the important, active role of the reader in the process of creation and dissemination of art and science.

So, in any case, this five minute screencast shows what good digital reading looks like, why we need it, and why “production” without reading is a bad, bad thing.

Water106: A cMOOC-like Approach to Issues-based Education (Now with whitepaper!)

People who read this blog know I’ve been talking about Water106 for a while and about the possibility of applying a ds106 model to an issues-based course for even longer.

For those that haven’t been following the idea as it has been developed, however, I’ve written up a whitepaper, suitable for sharing with faculty or administration that you might want to rope into the project. It covers the story up to now, and I think renders the reasoning behind it more comprehensible.

I will say that the more I work on this, the more excited I get. Part of that excitement is that we are not only educating students, but modeling a way of working together cooperatively that students can bring into the workplaces they head off to (or the ones they currently work at). This is, of course, true of ds106 and cMOOCs as well, I’ve just never designed a networked learning project of this magnitude. Instead of preparing students for business, we’re preparing students to change business.

Anyway, take the time to read the whitepaper linked below if you’re interested. It looks like a lot of pages, but it’s really mostly screenshots.

WaterFeed: Crowdsourced Article Summaries as Meaningful Coursework

Having students summarize readings for someone else is one of the great teaching techniques. We see it in Peer Instruction, we see it in the effects of team-based learning, we see it in the beneficial effects of tutoring on a tutor’s understanding.

At the same time, such activities are often inauthentic. WaterFeed is a part of the Water106 project I am working on that tries to remake student summary into a meaningful endeavor. The way WaterFeed works is the backend of the site pulls stories on water policy, technology, and science from more than 80 feeds daily. These are stored as drafts. Students are then encouraged to go in and find stories in the drafts they would like to summarize. Those summaries, when done, are pushed out to the WaterFeed blog where they can be used by both professionals and students to stay up on the latest news and research findings. When these summaries are published, they move out of drafts, ensuring that students are not all covering the same few stories.

I can’t embed a Jing Screencast on this blog, but a five minute presentation of how it works is here. I’m particularly excited because it seems to me that this is the sort of activity that could be directly applied to any number of courses from many different disciplines.