December 7, 2022

Martha Burtis and Jim Groom Present at Symposium

On Feb. 21 Martha Burtis and Jim Groom were invited to present about the open, online Digital Storytelling course ds106 at the OpenVCU Symposium. The presentation, “Open is as Open Does,” lays bare the various levels an open course like ds106 operates through. This talk breaks down teaching openly online into three parts: open platforms, open pedagogy, and open community. You can read about the presentation in more detail here or view the slide deck below.

ds106 Showcased as Model of Online, Participatory Learning

ds106_Howard Rheingold has written a case study using ds106 (UMW’s open, online version of the Computer Science Digital Storytelling course) as a model of participatory learning. The case study was published by the Connected Learning site, which is the community arm of the Digital Media Lab and Learning Research Hub at the University of California, Irvine.

ds106 was conceptualized, designed and taught by Martha Burtis, Jim Groom, and Alan Levine as part of the research and development they have been a part of at the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies. The case study highlights a few approaches of the course:

  • Faculty have to confront their discomfort with giving up some control to students, enabling students to help shape the assignments, set the tenor of the class, and even help form assessment criteria.
  • Instructors must blog themselves. Groom finds that his blogging has particular benefits for him in terms of being a networked scholar, technologist, and teacher.
  • Levine adds: “It’s more than blogging – as instructors, we do the same work we ask our students to do. This shifts the power dynamic of the teacher-student relationship.”

You can read the entire case study here, or check out the ds106 course here.

ds106 Wins Innovation Award from Reclaim Learning

This week, ds106, the open online digital storytelling community that grew out of CPSC106 at UMW, was awarded the Innovation Contest from Reclaim Open Learning. The award is meant to honor projects that embody principles of open education and participatory learning. ds106 is one of five projects to receive the award this year.

Reclaim Open learning is a collaboration between the Digital Media and Learning Hub at UC Irvine and the MIT Media Lab. It’s goal it to bring together like-minded researchers and educators who are interested in issues of open education. The Innovation Contest is one program of the project.

ds106 is an open, online digital storytelling community that was originally architected by Jim Groom, director of teaching and learning technologies at UMW. After teaching UMW’s digital storytelling class, CPSC106, for two semesters, in spring 2011 Groom became interested in opening the course up more broadly. Working with Martha Burtis, special projects coordinator in DTLT and another CPSC106 instructor, and colleagues at other institutions, Groom launched and  invited anyone to join the course and participate in the activities.

During the first semester, over 200 participants signed up for ds106 from around the world and explored the art and meaning of digital storytelling. Since then, the community has spawned a crowd-sourced assignment repository, a Web radio station, The Daily Create (a site that provides daily prompts for those interested in exercising their creative muscles), and In[spire] (a student-created site that showcases the finest work in the community). In addition, faculty at other schools have used the ds106 community to model similar courses at their own institutions.

As part of the award, Burtis will attend and present at the Reclaim Open Learning Symposium in Newport Beach, California on September 26 & 27.

UMW Freshmen Build Digital Identities Through Innovative Project

This fall, incoming freshmen at the University of Mary Washington will have the opportunity to create their digital identities through the Domain of One’s Own initiative. The Domain of One's Own initiative allows students and faculty to experiment with domains and web hosting. The pioneering project provides free, personal domain names and web hosting to help students take responsibility for their online identities, as well as explore the implications of what it might mean for them to take control of their work and manage their own portfolios. Domain of One’s Own reinforces UMW as a leader in higher education, according to Director of Teaching and Learning Technologies Jim Groom, since it is evidence that emerging technologies are central to the university’s student and faculty experience, not afterthoughts. “Domain of One’s Own is an opportunity to build on a tradition we have had for the past 10 years to build the Web into the curriculum,” said Groom, whom the Chronicle of Higher Education named one of a dozen top tech innovators in 2012. “UMW is one of the first [colleges and universities] to think about this in a central way. Mary Washington is suggesting and doing something radically different. We are building the Web into the fabric of how we teach and learn here.” Domain of One’s Own started as a pilot project in 2012, with more than 400 students and 30 faculty participating. It is the brainchild of Groom and his colleagues in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies. The initiative has two main goals, Instructional Technology Specialist Tim Owens explained, with the first focused on the value of archives and portfolios for students’ future professional and academic endeavors. “The other side of it is that it is valuable for students just to inhabit the Web and understand how the Web works,” he said. “It’s important for us to have those conversations with students about how stuff happens on the Web and how they can control it.”   Haley Campbell '13 has used her domain as a portfolio and academic blog. Haley Campbell ’13 has used her domain as everything from a portfolio to an academic blog to a place to experiment with online editing tools. “A lot of people take the Internet for granted,” Campbell said. “They know they have to use it, but they don’t necessarily think about how they’re using it. [Domain of One’s Own] encourages critical thinking about those tools.” The initiative has created a buzz on and off campus, including in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired, The Web Host Industry Review and The Center for Digital Education. The idea for the initiative started when the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies’ staff received their own domains and web spaces in 2004. “Two years later, after we saw how it empowered us in so many ways, we informally banded around this idea of ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we could give this to every student?’” said Martha Burtis, special projects coordinator. “It really evolved over about 10 years to where we are now.” For Burtis, Domain of One’s Own isn’t just about technology, it’s about transforming students through meaningful interactions. “That kind of empowerment is huge in terms of what we can do for our students,” she said.

Domain of One’s Own Project and DTLT Featured in Center for Digital Education

The Domain of One’s Own project, an initiative being run at the University of Mary Washington by the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, was featured in the Center for Digital Education in an article by Tanya Roscorla. The article notes the unique nature of the program amongst peer institutions across the nation, as well as the profound need for such a program to exist. The Domain of One’s Own project successfully ran a pilot with over 400 students and faculty, and will open fully to the incoming freshman class this fall.

DTLT’s Innovative Work featured in The Blue Review

Leslie Madsen-Brooks featured the long history of innovative work coming out of UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technology in her article “Beyond Disruption” for The Blue Review. Below is a somewhat extensive quote from the article:

Those who have been paying attention only to partnerships among Silicon Valley companies and the Ivies may be surprised that the beating heart of a tremendous amount of academic technology innovation is a small state university in Fredericksburg, Virginia. At theUniversity of Mary Washington, the Division of Teaching and Learning Technology has launched at least four amazing initiatives that should be replicated widely because it’s clear to even casual observers that they advance teaching and learning in myriad ways. For one, evidence of student learning appears on the open web, and I encourage you to check out the current blogs developed for courses. Faculty, too—and I know this from first-hand experience—benefit from knowing what students are thinking (as expressed in blog posts and comments) before they convene for class.

Several years ago, UMW’s DTLT premiered UMW Blogs, termed “the Bluehost experiment” by the DTLT staff because in its first iteration, it was little more than a WordPress Multi-User installation on an inexpensive ($6.95 per month) shared server at Bluehost. Today, any UMW student, faculty, or staff can set up a blog for class or personal use on UMW Blogs—and 500 courses have been brought onto the platform since fall 2008.  Anyone can browse the courses using UMW Blogs or discover all kinds of non-course blogs by exploring the latest posts featured on the home page. The UMW archives, for example, recently put online a series of lectures by the late civil rights leader James Farmer, and Jess Rigelhaupt’s Oral History class has createdRosie the Riveter, an excellent resource that includes “firsthand accounts of what people experienced on the American home front during World War II.”

Next to emerge from this innovation engine was DS 106, an open course on digital storytelling, originally taught by Jim Groom, but since taught by several different instructors, including noted ed tech thought leaders and innovators Martha Burtis and Alan Levine, and recently by instructors at other universities as well. Because of the strong networks of the instructors and students, DS 106 took on a life of its own, with students—both those enrolled at UMW and those following the course from elsewhere—providing daily fun assignments (“the Daily Create”) that stimulate participants’ creativity and stretch their technological savvy. DS 106 spawned ds106 radio, a free-form, streaming broadcast for which anyone could volunteer to provide content.  How popular is DS 106 and its apparently endless stream of creative multimedia content? In spring 2012, Groom launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a better web server for DS 106, and the campaign raised 600% of its goal in just a few days, providing funding for all kinds of course improvements and expansions.  While Kickstarter provided private funds for this project, I’m excited about this kind of crowdsourced funding—although I’d be even more enthusiastic about greater public funding—because it allows project creators greater future freedom than would, say, funding from investors whose motive is more likely to be profit than pedagogical revolution.

Springing next from the mind of the DTLT geniuses was Domain of One’s Own, in which each first-year student at UMW receives a domain name and space on a web server. The project encourages each student  to “reclaim the web” by “taking control of your digital identity,” gathering its artifacts “in a central place that you own and control.” And it’s offered in collaboration with the university’s Office of Information Technology Services,

The pilot gave 400 students and faculty their own domain name and web space to install a portfolio of work or map onto existing systems. In Fall of 2013 every incoming student at UMW will have the opportunity to choose their own domain and receive a web hosting account with the freedom to create subdomains, install any LAMP-compatible software, setup databases, email addresses and carve out their own space on the web that they own and control.

Then, as if granting students this creative freedom and technical autonomy wasn’t enough, this spring UMW launched Thinklab, amakerspace. According to its About page:

ThinkLab is the exciting new makerspace located in the Simpson Library at the University of Mary Washington. As a collaboration between the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, the College of Education, and the Library, ThinkLab hosts a variety of emerging technologies and tools for students and faculty across all disciplines. 3D printing, robotics, and electronics work using Arduinos and simple breadboard kits are just some of the many exciting things happening at ThinkLab.

The innovations and—yes, I’ll say it—disruptions, emerging from UMW exemplify some of the best practices in developing communities of learners, fostering collaboration, encouraging writing and reflection and developing curiosity about the world. Channeling George Kuh, Randall Bass emphasizes that such “high-impact practices” lead to “meaningful learning gains” as well as “high retention and persistence rates” because they encourage these specific behaviors:

  • Investing time and effort
  • Interacting with faculty and peers about substantive matters
  • Experiencing diversity
  • Responding to more frequent feedback
  • Reflecting and integrating learning
  • Discovering relevance of learning through real-world application

In an age when universities are pushing faculty ever harder to develop monetizable intellectual property, it’s refreshing to see faculty doubling down on using relatively inexpensive technologies to improve student learning. UMW is a case in point: it’s a modestly funded, small state university that, thanks to all the active minds (and periodic strategic hires) at DTLT and on the faculty, has become a major hub of innovation in higher education.

DTLT Presents at ELI Fall Focus Session

A Culture of Innovation from umwnewmedia on Vimeo.

Martha Burtis, Jim Groom, Tim Owens and Andy Rush of UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) presented on Tuesday, October 2 at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative’s Online Fall Focus Session on the theme of innovation in higher education. The basic question guiding the presentation, which was centered around the seven minute video above, was the following: how does a university like UMW consistently foster innovative projects like UMW Blogs, ds106, and, more recently, A Domain of One’s Own?

There’s no one adequate stock answer to such a question, so when preparing the presentation DTLT decided to interview students, faculty, and staff around campus to get a broader sense of the culture of innovation happening at UMW. What DTLT got in return for its labors was quite compelling. The video was shot and edited by Andy Rush, and it’s just a teaser for a much larger documentary that DTLT is planning on making this semester to start chronicling and narrating the culture of innovation at UMW.

DTLT Controls the Vertical and the Horizontal

Image of DTLT at WorkIn January the DTLT group presented at the Educause Midatlantic Regional Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The panel discussion covered the Digital Storytelling class being taught here at UMW, affectionately know as  ds106Martha Burtis provided an overview of the course, Tim Owens the technical framework, I featured the radio, and Andy Rush closed with our experiments with live, streaming video. It’s not only a great overview of ds106, but it is also a great overview of the chemistry that drives the creative, innovative machine that is DTLT.