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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Open trails

Open as in Trails by Alan Levine

One of @cogdog’s many wonderful photos. I like the metaphor. Open education seems commonly thought of in terms of OERs, as free textbooks. Many of us see that as short-sighted, and missing the larger point and possibilities of open.

In the open source software movement, they use the metaphors “free as in free beer” and “free as in free kittens” to show the something for nothing aspect and contrast it to the potential ancillary costs. They apply to OER as well. There is also the free as in freedom metaphor, that open is free from restrictions, which opens up more possibilities in what students and educators can do.

Open as in trails brings in more ideas – a journey, new paths and new discoveries, while also indicating that there is effort and initiative involved. With trails, the effort is enjoyable, the journey is its own reward, and what you find along the way is a bonus.

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Open as we wanna be

“If You Were an OER, What Kind Would You Want to Be?” asked Maha Bali.

Something I try to bring up whenever I talk OER is that resources – the stuff – is nowhere near as important as practices – what people do. Learning is the point. The things we make through that process are byproducts. I don’t mean to dismiss OER. They can be products of great value, and they enable all sorts of open practices. But free textbooks is not what it’s about. It’s the learning that matters.

Of course, we shouldn’t define resources as textbooks. Anything that can be used in learning, teaching and research may be considered an educational resource. Also, people can be resources. As a librarian, I am a resource for students, faculty, staff and the general public who come to my library. As an educator, I am a resource for my students. But I’m only open to an extent. I don’t qualify as a public scholar, probably because I don’t work hard enough at it.

But I like to think I have an impact. I like what we did in True Crime and The Internet Course and I like to think I had something to do with those successes. Jim made them happen, but he was open to letting me in to collaborate. We weren’t focused on open resources, although our classes did produce online material. Rather, our focus was on working in the open, and opening our courses to a great deal of student control. The experiences opened my eyes to what students can and will do when given the autonomy, encouragement and support to take the wheel and drive the bus. And that’s the kind of open resource I want to be.

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Stop, drop, enroll

I had been wanting to read Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Lower Ed since I first heard about it, way back whenever, So it was fortuitous that it was selected for the Bryan Alexander Book Club. The reason I wanted to read it, aside from being a fan of her writing, was that I used to work for a for-profit college. I was an adjunct, like most of the instructors, teaching a course called Information Literacy and Research Skills. This was a required course, mainly because state regulations mandated a certain number of liberal arts credits for AAS degrees. The college used these courses to build some basic skills, so the course History of Information Technology, also required, fell under Liberal Arts even though it was mainly a keyboarding class. Maybe that seems shady, but it was necessary for many students. The college was basically a career-training school. They pushed writing in all the courses because people would need written communication skills if they were going to find jobs, and many students came from backgrounds where they didn’t need to write much more than text messages.

I met McMillan Cottom briefly at the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute and told her where I had worked. She said, “They’re one of the good ones.” I felt the same way. Everyone I worked with was trying to do the right thing for the students. There was pushback from headquarters when the enrollment officers tried too hard to bring in people who needed too much more help than the school could provide. The sector has a bad rep, but I think the responsibility for that lies with the large, publicly traded companies. As far as I know, my school was privately held, so there wasn’t an investor pressure to maintain constant growth, and the kinds of abuse that goes with that.

The image at the top comes from the back of our employee t-shirts. I was amused by the play on words with the fire safety slogan they taught us in grade school, and never thought about it much beyond that. But something that comes up in Lower Ed is the sense of urgency in the marketing language of for-profit colleges. “Call now! Turn your life around today.” Not only does the language suggest that enrolling is a matter of survival, but the colleges also try to target people who have recently experienced some sort of trauma, people who may feel in need of something life-changing. It will be interesting to see how else her research causes me to re-evaluate my experience.

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Rats! Foiled again.

While I’ve been taking care of business, the agents have been investigating. The ds106 polls have yielded some interesting information so far.

What are they trying to cover up with Agent 106? I wonder…

Some of the polls were pretty evenly divided. I will take this as a sign of good cover and good misdirection. It shows that people don’t really know what our agents are up to, in most cases. It looks like they have Agent MBP’s number though:

It looks like the word is out about my exploding rats though.

But what can anyone do about it? It’s not like there’s a mouse whisperer to come to the rescue. And a mouse whisperer would only have a chance one-on-one, not against my underworld horde.

I am unstoppable. The question is, who let the cat out of the bag? I’m inclined to blame Michael.

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