Introducing Jesse Stommel at #NWeLearn 2015

I had the pleasure of introducing Jesse Stommel before his presentation at NWeLearn today.

Here's the text. It was meant to be a bit performative.

The introduction was shaped and influenced by several anonymous folks who gave me ideas, feedback, and helped shape my understanding of Jesse's work on a larger scale so that I could get the feel and ethos right. 



“Life is a mystery, 

Everyone must stand alone

I hear you call my name

And it feels like home”*

Jesse Stommel is Executive Director, Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at University of Mary Washington. 

He researches, teaches, writes, and creates MOOCs.

He’s helping redefine online academic publishing and peer review.

A Twitter colleague describes Jesse as: 

“A discomforting humanities everyman who keeps making everyone think critically about academia and scholarship.”

A few points of contact for the Jesse assemblage:

  • Digital Humanities
  • Zombies
  • Dry English Cider
  • Shakespeare
  • bell hooks
  • Freire
  • A young puppy named Emily
  • Collaborative editing
  • Visual rhetoric

Jesse’s work embodies care and builds productively from rage and frustration with social injustice.

And to the LMS grade book we can shout lyrics from Oi Polloi:

“We’re gonna boot

gonna boot

gonna boot down the door

smash their oppression, smash their law.”^

Don’t offer Jesse dessert, but he’ll probably take you up on the yogurt pretzels

Please join me in welcoming Jesse Stommmel! 

* Madonna’s “Like a Prayer

* ^ Oi Polloi’s “Boot Down the Door"

Working with Boom 2! Great sound but not with external devices

I've been using Boom 2 for nearly six months now. I bought it for about $10 for my work MacBook Pro for a simple reason: the volume could just not get loud enough. At the time, I was watching movies at home by connecting the MacBook to my 26" HP screen. With many shows, the volume was just weak. It got old. Then I got hit by some offer via email, looked at Boom, and bought it. I've been pretty happy with Boom ever since. Yes, it cranks the volume notably--especially on the MacBook Pro.

I've been upgrading my work computers. Moved to an iMac 5K. It's speakers crush in terms of quality and volume compared to any other Mac I'v heard, so it did not need Boom. Didn't even try. However, the MacBook Air I have is, well, thin on sound like it's thin on body. Transferred Boom 2 over to the Air. Yes! The quality did improve as did the potential volume increase.

Important point with Boom: you select your Mac model and it adjust the sounds accordingly. This is important to know, especially if you connect your laptop to external devices. For example this past week I came in to my office and plugged my Air into a 26" Mac monitor. The sound was AWFUL. Tinny, hollow--just utter trash. Same result when I plugged in some Bose USB speakers. WTH I asked.

Then I remembered Boom: it adjusts the sound for the specific computer and not speakers. I turned of Boom! and things were great again. Clear, good sound from the speakers, from the monitor. 

The app is definitely worth the money: completely improves listening quality and potential volume.

Fall Term 2015

Fall Term: Week 1

So far things are off to a great start. Online classes all set up, several hours of research writing accomplished, and revising my web presence. Naturally I needed to come back here, too. Can't seem to post here very regularly--at least up to now.

This term my emphases are on teaching better and getting more research done.

Research is on screencasting and online portfolio use by paraprofessionals (Deaf-Blind Interveners, specifically).

My courses are Internet for Educators, Web 2.0/Social Media, and Cultural, Social, and Political Issues in Educational Technology. For the first time in my life, all the courses I am teaching I have taught before. So that feels good. Good!

Doing more work trying to promote learning autonomy in my courses. Doing this by bringing in more self-evaluations and holistic review of activities and less of specific assignment grading. It worked well this summer is the Social Media course, so I'm looking to expand it. So that's good.

Trying to step back in to blogging with smaller tidbits rather than trying to post multiple pieces of brilliance.

Summer Term 15: Overview

This past term, Summer 15, has gone by very quickly. Although there is much to report, I don't think I can do it all in one post. Frankly, there is too much distracting me. There have been too many things distracting me, and it's rather a lot to bring in in a single post. So I'm not even going to try. Instead, I'd like to identify some pieces of the assemblage that have been making up my world lately.

Using Facebook for class: for one of my classes, we had Facebook as the site for interaction, questions, posting, etc. It worked pretty well, except when it came to locating individual students' work. That was a bear. And as many students indicated, it was at first confusing or disorienting to use FB for a CMS when it was not intended that way. I do plan to use FB for classes in the future, but I need to modify how it is used. Overall, though, I was quite surprised how well it went. I do like how more interaction seemed fostered there, on FB, than in forums.

Using Tumblr for class: in this same class we used Tumblr. I'm not sure I did a very articulate or good job in framing how we could or use Tumblr, so it seemed like an add on. Perhaps this was due to my limited experience working with Tumblr; perhaps it had to do with the rush in shaping the course. Either way, I need to revisit how I frame using Tumblr as a site for students to gather their artifacts and share them.

Using Twitter for class: this went pretty well, and most students gathered; speed quickly enough. Next time, though, I plan to push more on them picking up and using a Twitter client, like TweetDeck, earlier. These clients make it easier to track conversations, search, following hashtags, etc. Need to put that near the start of class.

Self-evaluations: I have never relied as heavily, or given as much weight to, the self-evaluations as I did for one class this term. Honestly, I was expecting a few potential problems with students grading themselves too highly. That did not happen. There were a few people who marked themselves too low, and I boosted their grades up. But overall, they scored themselves as I would have scored them--including the people who scored themselves lower for their work (or lack of work). I have to say that I was pretty stunned.

Given this experience, I'm looking at trying out grading contracts, potentially, next term as well as moving the self-evaluation piece into more of my classes. This one class has not only given me the confidence to do it, but it's also really helped frame other grading approaches for me. So I am very excited about that.

Reading what I want when I want: I'm not feeling as guilty about what I read, or don't read, these days. As long as I am reading and not watching movies or TV, then things are fine. I'm also getting more used to being okay with reading a chapter or chunk of pages and leaving the rest of the text. I don't have to complete things any more. And I'm better with that than I used to be.

Not fronting: Like a lot of folks, when I feel bothered or insecure, when someone I perceive as a dolt or pest bothers me, it can get my ire up. And, of course, feeling righteous, I'd like to put them in their place. Or at least enforce my being perceived as superior. Not nice or proper I know, but I'm being honest here. And when that happens, it's easy to shift from staying on solid ground to fronting. And I'm tired of fronting because, the moment I do it, it enhances my insecurity and feeds fear. What if they find out?

So I'm working on not fronting as much.

Hand in hand with not fronting is not being a tool. I'm not really sure how to say that in academic language, but I feel quite sure that the embodied caveatness of academic writing does not allow for such forward statements. I may well be wrong. If you have suggestions for better phrasing, do let me know in the comments. Sadly, I can only think of more coarse versions of not being a tool. I'm guessing that it's a blend of my limited imagination and my really wanting to echo and have the tone which that phrase carries with it.

This goal, this process, has been central in my experience for a number of years now. And yet, in spite of all my efforts, I still find myself doing and being a tool when, in all honesty, I'd rather not be. Most times. I can think of a handful of incidents when I probably should have been more of a tool. That said, I don't see this as limited to work or being this summer. Instead, given all the other stuff that was going on, it's been on my mind.

Central to my world was the closure of the trial of my step-son's murderer. The man was found guilty of murder, second degree. Sentencing happens in late August. After three years of waiting, we're finally there. The trial, the after effects, and the waiting of dredged up a maelstrom of emotions--much of which I've written about elsewhere and may post here eventually. This series of events, and the impact that it's had on my life, has permanently and irrevocably altered who and what I am, how I perceive teaching, and how I respond to others. It's permanently shifted my priorities. Hopefully you are thinking, "Well, of course it would."

And again, I will respond, intellectually it is easy to frame and understand such things. In terms of living and experiencing it, feeling it, it can seem like quite a shock. A shock because no matter where we are, it almost always seems as if we are right at home. And to shift, well, often feels unnatural even though intellectually it makes sense.

My final factor, for here at least, is FYC. I've been thinking a lot about first-year composition and how I miss teaching it. Not sure what will happen, but part of me would love to get back to teaching that. Yes!

Academe, Emotions, Feelings, and Posting

I've largely used this blog, when I post, as a place to mostly work, think, and reflect about technology, teaching, education, and some of the related tools. However, I'm just not able to do that anymore. A series of interesting events experiences wrangled my life, interesting in the sense of intense events, and I'm still processing them.

If you're friends with me on Facebook, then you're already familiar with this. If you're not, then this is largely new.

The long story short is that I've wearied of attempting to pretend that emotions and feelings do not exist, that they do not impact our teaching, learning, scholarship, research, etc. I refuse to pretend any longer that these things do not impact our work, that our intellect and/or reason often serve our emotions and feelings, only we cover it up with intellectual games, scams, and/or justifications. On a surface level, this should be a no brainer--this should make a great deal of sense. We make up narratives that appear to be rational so that we can conform with our culture's overall narrative that all decision making should be based on rationality and sensibility.

Well, folks, just read a bit of Marcuse or Schumacher and it becomes clear quickly that our rationality is bringing us to the brink of destruction more rapidly than we can even measure. But we don't need Marcuse or Schumacher to see and know this: just examine our lives, our alienation, our planet, and the list goes on. I'm not pessimistic about the future of the world, just like I'm not interested in wallowing in sadness or throwing eggs at the oligarchs. They do little after the first five minutes.

Over the past couple years, because of my circumstances, I've attempted to do work that was largely only of intellectual interest; there was little emotional involvement. My emotional investment was limited because I was coping--or not--with my step-son's murder and some surrounding trauma and drama. I've not completed one of those projects that was solely of intellectual interest. There are a variety of reasons why, but I've written--and will write more--about that in other places. 

My take away from all this is that rather than attempting to segregate and keep my emotional investments and feeling invested, largely, in my personal life and my intellect controlling my academic work, I need to have academic work and research that connects directly and deeply with my emotional life. How that is going to manifest, I do not know. I don't really care to worry about that at the moment.

In the meantime, though, it is comforting to know that I'll be integrating different parts of me that have each struggled for control. Why fight for one to dominate when they can harness their energy and work together? Also, why should I pretend or act as if a key part of me is not relevant.

I have little doubt that this is a no-brainer for most folks. Back when I was doing the intellectual/emotional segregation it was also a no-brainer. However, intellectually understanding something and possessing the capacity, will, or ability to actually do and embody it is another thing entirely.

Net result: my work here, and in my other research and writing, is shifting. We'll see where it goes.

Intense Dog image from Wikimedia commons

Dream Achieved: Citing Conflict in an academic-related piece

Dream achieved! Never did I think I'd be able to connect Conflict to my academic work, teaching, or current life. I finally have that does published at EdContexts

Conflict was incredibly important during my late teens and early twenties; they shaped much of who and what I was and how I see the world. To this day I can't help having strong responses to some of their tracks. "From Protest to Resistance" was the first time I really "heard" Conflict intentionally and closely. It happened at World Of Music (WOM) in Frankfurt, Germany, in September or October of 1989. I stood at the listening booth and listened to the entire first side of the record. And then I bought the record.

Now, over 25 years later, I'm still listening to Conflict and I still identify with much in their music and lyrics.

Only now, instead of just listening to a band, I was able to articulate and share how that band and its music shapes and inspires me as an educator.

Being able to do this was really cool. Aside from being cool, was how affirming it felt. I've known that a number of punk-influenced folks work or teach in education, it's been rare, though, for me to connect with them. Then, in the midst of the #hpj101 event, I met several punk-driven women in education. Knowing and hearing what they do, and seeing that they still care about the music and messages, was the water this african violet of an essay needed.

So yes, I'm very happy right now. In the midst of everything else, a wonderful part of my past is rethreaded into my present and nurtured by acquaintance with cool people doing cool things.

African Violet from Wikimedia

Marcuse's quotes of Bridgman: To think about

I'm posting quotes and notes from texts I'm reading. These are things I'm still thinking about. If you have ideas, please share!

Operations and concepts

In his first chapter of One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse cites Bridgman from The Logic of Modern Physics from 1928. Nearly a century old, this text (or at least Marcuse's quotes) offers us a lot to think about in terms of education and how we are teaching

“We evidently know what we mean by length if we can tell what the length of any and every object is, and for the physicist nothing more is required. To find the length of an object, we have to perform certain physical operations. The concept of length is therefore fixed when the operations by which length is measured are fixed: that is, the concept of length involves as much and nothing more than the set of operations by which length is determined. In general, we mean by any concept nothing more than a set of operations; the concept is synonymous with the corresponding set of operations" (italics in the original; quoted in Marcuse, 1991, p. 13; from p. 5 in Bridgman).

Connections to Teacher Ed

1. How are we defining the concept of education? Are we limiting it to a number of specific operations?

2. Regarding the rubrics for evaluation and assessment of teacher education programs, as well as pre-license teachers, these evaluations appear to more more closely to reducing teaching to a series of actions, a series of moves made in the class. This is reducing teaching to a set of operations.

3. This could clearly link to scripted teaching.

4. Encroachment of physical science’s approach into behaviorist-approach of social sciences & education.

Implications of operations in teaching

The implications of such thought, according to Bridgman, are also briefly quoted by Marcuse: 

“To adopt the operational point of view involves much more than a mere restriction of the sense in which we understand ‘concept,’ but means a far-reaching change in all our habits of thought, in that we shall no longer permit ourselves to use as tools in our thinking concepts of which we cannot give an adequate account in terms of operations” (p. 13 in Marcuse, 1991, from p. 31 in Bridgman, 1928).

Connections to teaching

1. When we are analyzed and reviewed on a specific set of rubrics, do these rubrics record joy, engagement, passion—from the teacher or the student? No, they don’t. These things cannot be measured or gauged directly. They are also not included as part of the operations because they cannot be adequately described.

2. The endless gathering of data is almost exclusively about what can be defined or what is easily defined. By focusing our attention on the data, we are allowing and enabling the narrowing of what teaching and education mean.

Connections to EdTech

1. How can we use EdTech to combat this operationalization of learning? Are there ways that we can use technology in the classroom to promote and encourage students to do things that are fun, educational, and that are not measurable or able to be quantified?  

2. Is it possible for us to encourage using tech to help students explore the learning spaces that are outside of assessment?

Occupy, Reading, Twitter Journal Club, and TAZ

Recently I learned about the Twitter Journal Club (#tjc15)from Maha Bali. I met Maha during the #hpj101 training (I write a bit about the #hpj101 experience here). The #hpj101 conversations were so excellent that, at some point, Maha pointed out #tjc15. I thought, "Hey, this looks cool." Indeed, it is cool. Several other folks from #hpj101 seemed to think it was cool as well. Feel free to check out some of their Storified events to see how cool things can be.

Time passes.

Earlier today I learn about the upcoming article: Occupy: A new pedagogy of space and time? The title is short. What are these people doing? It's an academic article title! They've always got to be long. Well, at least they still use the colon!

Seriously, I scanned the article and it looks quite interesting. I was a bit confused or amazed: there was no mention of Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone. (You can read the full text here, but I suggest focusing on Part 3.)

Maybe the authors did not know about TAZ? Or perhaps the earlier parts of TAZ put off some readers? Regardless, TAZ came out over 20 years ago and had a notable impact on some anarchist/autonomous thinking. 

If you're one for following connections, the band Praxis released an album that has some TAZ-related content in it. You can listen to that here if you like. Buckethead plays on it among a number of other interesting musicians.

Clock image source

Grieving with Social Media

How social media has helped me cope with grief. I thought it important to record while working through some of the emotions and processes. Perhaps this can help folks understand why public expressions of grief in social media are useful for coping.

1. Social Media (SM) allows communication with multiple people who I know care and are interested without having to tell/speak the same story each time to every individual. This saves emotional energy while allowing people to stay informed.

2. Social media provides distance. I can check in when I want to, and respond when I want to, without feeling pressured to respond. In face-to-face, if someone asks an awkward or bumpy question, it's more difficult to stall or ignore. If you do so, people may think you're rude when, instead, you're just not ready to deal with them on that topic. And this can complicate things. So, instead, some of these conversations can take place virtually and allow some time/distance to comment back.

3. With SM I'm able to rapidly share, and often receive, how I'm feeling or handling things with multiple folks at once. While a virtual "thinking of you" is not the same as a hug, in many ways it accomplishes the same goal: assurance of others' care and reaffirming that their concerned and that they are invested in our well being.

4. Having a different site or location, online or Facebook, allows me to situate or place a lot of the emotional work. While the emotions obviously swell into other parts of my life, I can focus my expression of it--outside of family at least--in one area. That allows me to do my work, do my job, and to have some sense (perhaps delusional) that the emotions are compartmentalized in a productive manner. In other words, I don't fall apart randomly during the day because I know I can do that kind of expression or work elsewhere--whenever I want.

5. Semi-gated social networks, like Facebook, strike me as the most useful because I'm not sharing the emotions with the whole world, like Twitter has the potential to do. As such, I can avoid being trolled by folks who have nothing better to do than inflict pain for its own sake.