A new thing: This Week in ds106

We will be doing a more-or-less weekly best of ds106, This Week in ds106, this semester. We’ve done something like this in the past, but now I’m trying out some new things. I’m using the PressForward WordPress plugin to manage it. This has a syndication function, so I’m pulling in all the feeds from both the UMW and KSU contingents. With the plugin, editors on the site can nominate, comment on, and discuss posts from the group. There’s also a bookmarklet for nominating posts, which is what I used this week as I was going through everyone’s summaries. The way I envision this working going forward is that the members of the group of the week, like the writing group for example, will be made editors for the week. They will monitor what people do and nominate work to highlight. Over the weekend after their week, they will publish their selected posts along with a commentary or editorial post on the week, and all of this will show up on This Week in ds106. Seems simple enough to me. All it requires is a little online interaction, and the group deciding how they will produce their commentary post.

I’m doing it myself this week. I picked out four posts to highlight. The first is Ashleigh’s Oreo O’s commercial. I’m known to some as a cookie monster, and I have a thing for Oreos, so for my own good I really shouldn’t know about Oreo breakfast cereal. But Ashleigh went all out, writing a commercial, enlisting others to add their voices, and editing everything together with background music. The next is Ashley’s Eyemation – another example of extraordinary effort yielding extraordinary results. I especially like the way it combines the physical and the virtual into a hand-drawn GIF. Another piece of GIF work comes from Megan, with her To-Do List. The GIF is cool in itself, but the post is what makes this one. She goes through the different things she tried, what worked and what didn’t work so well, and what she learned from it. And that means the rest of us can learn from it too – which is what this is all about. The last one I picked was Kelsey’s rock n roll Triple Troll. I love this particular assignment. I think I’ve done variations of it a few times. This is an inspired take on it. I feel like I could picture Johnny Cash doing something like this.

So that’s my This Week in ds106. No one needs follow my format though. Put your own stamp on it. It’s your course too.

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What are your powers?

If you were a superhero, what would your powers be?

I posted that to Facebook, just to see what people would say. Some responses were unsurprising: speed, agility, flight. One person said skepticism and another wanted the Lasso of Truth – not quite the same, but both represent a power over BS.

My brother-in-law said, “Telepathy is also intriguing, but I fear that would cause too many moral dilemmas.” That makes me think of Fawaz: a superhero combines powers with “as ethical responsibility to use one’s powers in service to a wider community.” Supervillains use superpowers for personal gain. There are exceptions though. Batman does what he does for his own purposes. Jessica Jones sometimes seems on the fence about social responsibility, like she’d rather not have to deal with the world’s BS.

I put the same question to Twitter. Todd Conaway claims the power of speed, but his true power is that he’s #ds106 #4life. Ronald_2008, another member of the #4life crew, wants flight and flames. Our own Katelyn would like to read minds – no fear of moral dilemmas here. Laura Seward wants the power of influence, although as a teacher and a mom she probably has it already. And Rachel B wants to be the G.O.A.T.

I always wanted the power of mind control, because it seemed like fun. Then I heard about Dr. Bees (YT) and wanted the power of bee control. It occurs to me, however, that these are the powers of villains rather than heroes. Maybe I need to keep a low profile around the superheroes.

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Emu/o

“How would you make an emophoto?” my wife asked.
Emo Phillips?” I responded, not knowing what we were talking about.
“How about an emu? That would be fun.”
“What would an emo emu look like?”
That breakfast table conversation at the Bond house. I did an image search for an emu, and in order to model good behavior I used Tools->Usage rights->Labeled for Reuse and found a good one, then did a similar search for emo hair and found a Pixabay PNG file that I could plop right on top of the emu in Photoshop. And then I looked at the Daily Create and saw that I didn’t really follow any of the directions. But that’s okay. The point is to make something, try to be creative, and not obsess over it

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Super106 comes alive

Week One of ds106 has been posted at http://thisweekin.ds106.us/2017/08/25/week-one-bootcamp/

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Super ds106 – a trailer

I made a logo, so I figured I’d make a trailer of sorts. I had seen the Dr. Bees video (YT) recently. It uses the “It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” tagline from various Superman shows, and since my logo was a parody of Supe’s, it seemed like a natural fit. “It’s a frog!” comes from Underdog, which was one of my favorite shows when I was 5.  And since I’m in parody mode, I had to do something with “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive…” so I pulled in the Wonder Woman and Hulk GIFs. I really should’ve done something for “Able to leap tall buildings in a single GIF,” but so it goes. I have no idea who’s responsible for the dancing Avengers GIF, but I just had to use it. Then I needed some soundtrack music. I went to Soundcloud and looked for something heroic with a Creative Commons license, but wasn’t happy with anything I found. So I used Tomoyasu Hotei’s Battle Without Honor or Humanitywhich people may know from Tarantino. I had to play with it a little to get the music to line up the way I wanted. I don’t know if it embodies the anything goes, anyone can do it aesthetic of ds106 as well as I’d like, but it’s close enough for punk.

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Season of ds106

I was never much of a Donovan fan, but I like Alice Donut’s version of Sunshine Superman and Goodfellas’ version of Atlantis. Now we can add Cogdog’s Season of DS106 to the list. The secret great thing about it is that it reminded me to check the schedule on ds106radio. I had neglected it a little too long, and it had been playing dead air for a few days. We’ve tried to get people to program the schedule, so that the ds106 community takes control of it, and that has worked for periods of time. Eventually though, the schedule expires or something goes wrong and the ice weasels have to reset. So lately I’ve been running a ds106 playlist 24/7. Basically it randomly plays anything with “106” in the metadata, so you get bumpers and other audio creations from previous seasons of ds106, plus some old-time radio shows that we’ve listened to in the course. And now, one of CogDog’s greatest hits is in the mix as well. (One of these days I need to finish my Route 66 rewrite and put it on the air. One of these days…)

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The daily death

Yesterday’s Daily Create involved the Medieval Death Bot, a constant source of unfortunate ends. A nice thing about the bot is that if you include @DeathMedieval in a tweet, the bot gets medieval on you. I myself was eaten by a sow after making a joke about murderous clerks. But those are the risks we take in digital storytelling.

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In cold dollhouse

There’s a lot to say about the Domains17 conference, and many more insightful writers than I are on the job. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a contribution. But first I want to talk about one of the artworks in the museum/hotel/gallery. Tim and Jim told me about Chris Roberts-Antieau’s dollhouse replica of the Clutter family murder scene from In Cold Blood, but you can’t really capture the real-life creepiness in a description, nor the impressive detail. I tried to make a video of it, which came out creepy in its own right, but still doesn’t do the work justice. I made a quick video with my phone, moving from room to room, from top to bottom, and it was pretty lame so I looked for something for a soundtrack. I found some Quincy Jones music from the film version of the story, so I put the two together in iMovie. I slowed down the video, and it just happened to come out to about the same length as the track I picked, Seduction (YT). The slow motion, plus the soundtrack, change the effect of the video. See what you think:

 

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Milk, Chocolate Milk

What drink would define me? Ask anyone who knows me well and they would laugh, because I buy a gallon of milk nearly every day. My addiction is to chocolate milk. This has been going on for decades. Here is my glass:
See that groove across the spoon? I’ve been using this same glass and stirring spoon since the 80s. The edge of the glass has carved the back of the spoon. The tip of the spoon has worn flat. My habit is stronger and more durable than metal.

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Knowledge is good.

I keep meaning to blog about Lower Ed, and it keeps not happening. But I have a few disjointed thoughts written down, so maybe I can make something of them.

I keep thinking back to my time working at a for-profit college. I knew something of what they were at the time. They had been in the news now and then for many years, usually due to lawsuits over misrepresentation. The colleges are accredited (usually, as far as I know), but not by accreditors that are respected by the so-called real colleges, so the degrees and credits do not transfer. People find this out after that fact and take matters to court or to attorneys general. I don’t know if that has changed. Several students in my classes said they expected to go on with their education elsewhere. When I brought up the transfer issue, they always said it wouldn’t be a problem. I told them to check with the other schools, and at least one student said she had, so maybe there were articulation agreements in place. Or maybe the students were mistaken.

The negativity in stories about for-profit colleges give the impression that they are all bad, but there are positive tales as well. One of my former co-workers went to the college where I later worked after she was laid off by my boss. That led her to working with a dentist, and shortly thereafter she was managing the office, and she loves her job. That being said, all the college really gave her was a credential that got her in the door, and I believe tuition assistance was part of her separation, so she didn’t incur a heavy debt on the way.

I did see credentialism at play in my time there. One of my students was only there because the new owners of her company decided she needed a degree to do the job she had successfully been doing for fifteen years. It would have been cheaper for her to get it through the local community college, but that would have taken more time and more effort. At the same time, some of my fellow instructors were working towards doctorates through online for-profits, because the colleges or the state decided that they needed an additional degree to do the jobs that they had been doing successfully for a long time. I doubt that any tuition assistance was involved in their cases.

I notice I’ve been using feminine pronouns. That’s because the demographics McMillan Cottom describes matches my experience. Most of the students were women. The white students were a minority. Many were not native speakers of English. My classes looked just like my neighborhood. That actually put me in good stead with much of the student body. Students told me they appreciated that I lived in “the hood” and had graduated from the same vocational high school as many of them.

One of the questions Bryan Alexander asked the other week was why other colleges haven’t drawn this demographic. I think there are a few reasons. In the area where I lived, they didn’t need to. The most direct competition was the local community college, which had all the students it could handle. They did some advertising and outreach, but they didn’t aggressively go after students. The other colleges in the area were very academically focused, which did not appeal to people specifically looking for career training. None of the “real” colleges offered any real help with navigating the bureaucracies of registration and financial aid. The community college could not afford the support staff they would need for the size of their population, and the other colleges were probably not interested in students who needed that level of support.

I don’t know if colleges intentionally make things difficult for students as a filtering mechanism, but my experience with graduate school suggests they might. I was required to take the GRE because I had been out of school for so long. I was concerned about my scores, so I asked the program director if they would be an issue, and she told me they don’t really matter. She said they want people to take the exam to demonstrate that they are serious about getting into grad school.

Reading Lower Ed led me to look into the “Education Gospel” referenced in the introduction. I found “The Education Gospel and the Role of Vocationalism in American Education” by Grubb and Lazerson. It kind of irks me, because I do believe in lifelong learning, that knowledge is good, always be learning, and all that. But I believe that because it’s good for the person and it’s good for society. Grubb and Lazerson’s Gospel shifts that benefit from society to the economy – education is about getting a job. And that immediately brings Ted Nelson to mind:

Is your motivation to get a degree and a dumb job? Or is your motivation to be a learned person? (YT)

Coming from my librarian perspective, I see lifelong learning, information literacy, and learning how to learn as all deeply connected, if not parts of the same whole. It’s something different from training though. Lifelong learning is about empowering individuals. Lifelong training is more about keep the cogs from rusting.

The most obvious consequence of the Education Gospel has been its role in transforming the purposes of schooling from civic and moral purposes (in grammar schools) or mental discipline and character development for potential leaders (in higher education) to occupational preparation. (Grubb & Lazerson)

The change is then from education as making a better country to education as making a better (or cheaper) workforce. It’s actually disempowering – training for indentured servitude – when the continual costs are taken into consideration.

I feel like I’m conflicted here. Knowledge is good. Jobs are good. There’s nothing wrong with learning for its own sake and there’s nothing wrong with getting a degree that gets you a job. But there is a problem with saying “we need more welders and less philosophers.” There is a problem with divesting from public education. That’s a societal problem and a problem with the stories we as a society tell. Critical takes like Lower Ed help to counter the trend.

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