I've been working in educational technology for the last 14 years: first at OMSI, then at Portland State, and most recently at rSmart, focused on Sakai open source collaboration and learning technologies. As of February 2013, I have joined former data-journalist Marshall Kirkpatrick's startup, Little Bird, here in Portland, Oregon as Doorman: leading marketing, sales, and support.
I'm profoundly excited by Little Bird. While it may seem like a dramatic departure from my edtech work, at it's heart, Little Bird is ultimately a powerful tool for learning, bringing you directly to the leading people and most worthy content in any topic. Little Bird can help anyone do with purpose what I have done haphhazardly and organically: building my own understanding and relationships by connecting to people that matter, first online, but then also, almost always, offline as well. Needless to say, I wouldn't be joining Little Bird if I hadn't first learned from, and then met and developed a relationship with Marshall on Twitter. Now with Little Bird, we are working to enable everyone to learn and build relationships that can change their work and lives.
My father-in-law, a wise and beneficent man that I'm proud to consider a close friend, recently sent an email to someone politically conservative that I thought was particularly well-written and offers powerful, yet practical suggestions for how someone might begin to wean themselves off what might be seen as an addiction to the worse kind of "conservative" messages that pass in some circles as reasoned political thought.
My father-in-law's post was inspired in part by an editorial by the New York Times' David Brooks: How People Change, and a lecture he attended by Professor David Eagleman, author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, among other works.
With his permission, following is my father-in-law's recipe for personal political change. I'm sure someone from the other side of the debate (as if there were real debate, as if there were two sides) could come up with a similar recipe to wean someone like me off of what I consider valid, reasoned political debate and get me believing Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh actually made some kind of sense rather than just making money from hyperbole.
1. Prevention: stay away from Beck, Rush, any source that uses incendiary language, which they know excites the emotional centers of your brain, rendering your frontal lobe—the discriminating, judgement, executive functioning part of your brain—mute, and activates the emotion-tagged memory part of the brain (the limbic system), both of which are working away muscularly "under the hood" out of awareness. Stay away from sources that regularly excite feelings of "righteous indignation" for the same reasons, however tempting they may be.
2. Put money on the line: Put 100 dollars in the hands of someone else which will be contingent on your changing. For example, if you don't follow through, the money will be given to MOVEON.org.
3. Engage in social supports: Announce your intentions to cut off contact with Rush, Beck, evangelical groups, routine email pieces that reinforce above themes . Announce and seek support for involving yourself with the Southern Poverty Law Center for example.
4. Feelings: Use negative feelings such as anger as welcome cues to look at whether they are attached to old undesired beliefs and understandings. Remind yourself that these are old and no longer work for you and reward yourself with substituted positive feelings of heightened self regard as you turn to new desired beliefs and attitudes. Reward yourself with a cup of fresh coffee as you pick up the New Yorker or some other news source that fact checks information. Activate feelings of altruism associated with support of genuinely needy persons who lack the resources to improve their lives.
5. Habits: Embed 1-4 in a consistent routine which is laid out in detail. The guiding notion is repetition. Remember that the brain is plastic, but it needs lots of practice to create new grooves. I personally think of 3 months as a useful interval to create a new personal narrative with sufficient robustness to resist backsliding. Long term memory works that way. It takes time, and memory tagged with strong emotion is especially resistant to change. So be patient. Backsliding is just another opportunity to rehearse the above. In due time we might have a different dance.
Recently institutional representatives from the member institutions of the Sakai and Jasig communities voted overwhelmingly to combine their two organizations into a new, umbrella organization focused on open educational technologies and practices: Apereo.
Inspired by other multi-project open technology organizations (eg, the Apache Foundation), Apereo's mission is to assist and facilitate educational organizations which “collaborate to foster, develop, and sustain open technologies and innovation to support learning, teaching, and research." Sakai and its Collaboration and Learning Environment (Sakai CLE) and Open Academic Environment (Sakai OAE) projects will maintain their brand and identity, living on under the Apereo umbrella along with Jasig's many projects such as Bedework, CAS, uMobile, and uPortal. We are especially excited to extend and enrich Jasig's established incubation process as we work to become a fully multi-project organization. Read more about Apereo and its formation on our FAQs.
I'm honored to be on Apereo's founding Board of Directors, along with three of my fellow Sakai Board members: David Ackerman (NYU), Josh Baron (Marist), and Steve Swinsburg (ANU/Flying Kite), joined by four estimeed colleauges from the Jasig Board: Jim Helwig (Wisconsin), John Lewis (Unicon), Robert Sherratt (Hull), and Tim Carroll (illinois). One of our first tasks as founding board members will be to initate elections to bring on more representatives from our now joint community.
Packt, publisher of many worthy books about technology topics that have helped me know what I'm doing, is about to publish their 1000th book.
Many Packt titles, such as Sakai CLE Courseware Management: The Official Guide, books on Drupal, and jQuery have been my guides to the open-source technologies I use every day.
To celebrate, Packt is giving away gifts to their readers who register before 30 September 2012 over at Packt.com.
Thank you Packt, and congratulations!
What would be more Portland than a mobile MakerBot? Thus MakerCart was born.
Best case: MakerCart will start out with a MakerBot, launch a Kickstarter to cart it and provide the other necessary infrastructure to take making to the people.
Worst case: MakerCart will start out without a MakerBot, launch a Kickstarter to get one, cart it and provide the other necessary infrastructure to take making to the people.
Either way, the next step would be for MakerCart to replicate itself around the world, bringing the making to the people.
I hope people will forgive the cheesy animation, made in haste in the wee hours. Not every made thing is a work of art.
The XOXO festival opened last night in Portland with a party at Holocene, but in reality the crowd started to gather first on twitter, where following the #xoxofest tag showed attendees en route, finding each other on planes and trains, and generally setting a mood of giddy anticipation for the event. Even the sun showed up, tricking first-time visitors into thinking they had landed in nirvana (reality check next February).
A gathering for "disruptive creativity", XOXO was in part conceived as an antidote for other events for creatives and technologists that have lost their intimacy and original flavor. XOXO sold out of tickets via Kickstarter in 50 hours and raised $175K—$50K more than their goal.
It’s looking like XOXO will be more than just a club for cool kids from the same clique, by bringing together a bunch of really interesting people that are not already connected. How do I know? Marshall Kirkpatrick showed me a report on people discussing XOXO from the remarkable Plexus Engine that he is developing with Tyler Gillies, Mikalina Kirkpatrick, and a growing team. While XOXO attendees are mostly deeply connected people (Tim O'Reilly tops the list of attendees with 1.5M+ twitter followers), Plexus Engine shows that even with the twitterati, XOXOfesters are mostly not (yet) fully connected to each other. I expect compelling things from so many vibrant people coming together who haven't all already met.
As a currently serving Sakai Foundation board member, I have been a close participant in the merger efforts between Sakai and Jasig, including participating in the joint working group on the merger with the Jasig board and being "elected" to be a part of the founding board of the new merged foundation, should it come into existence.
I have been supportive of the idea of the merger because I'm always looking for ways education can increase control of its technology destiny and leverage common resources. Because Sakai itself is evolving to be a multiproject organization (with the Sakai CLE and OAE projects), it makes sense to consider evolving our community further to support multiple projects, and multiple approaches to project success. As someone who has participated in the formation and maintenance of a number of nonprofit organizations, I especially welcome the idea that with such an umbrella organization, like-minded projects and communities might not have to form their own independent nonprofit organizations, a necessity that I have seen result in significant duplication of efforts and seems an inefficient use of our scarce resources.
While the somewhat different cultures and technologies of Jasig don't necessarily make it the ideal first partner for Sakai, I believe we have more in common than we have different. The merger investigation alone has started new collaborations and insights across our communities. With an expanded umbrella, we could shelter new partnerships of different types in the future with other like-minded open educational technology organizations (eg, DuraSpace, Kuali, Opencast, etc). We don't all have to merge, but we call all work more closely together.
As the merger has moved forward however, I have become less supportive of an immediate merger, only because I have seen it generate sufficient friction within the Sakai community that I believe could be a damaging distraction to other important work. Let's face it: everybody involved has more in common than we have different and we all have far better things to do to achieve our mostly shared goals than argue amongst ourselves. I hope to to see some more healthy, respectful, open debate in our communities before finalizing my personal viewpoint. I'm disappointed that some of those who seem to think the merger is important—both for and against—have not engaged in more public discourse on the matter.
I was inspired to propose and deliver a session titled "Sakai vs the World Wide Web 2.0: To Facebook or Not to Facebook?" for the recent Sakai 2011 conference in Los Angeles by the question below. While I write specifically of higher education here, I think the same questions—and perhaps answers—might be applied to any educational level or sector.
How is Sakai—or any online platform supported by an educational institution—relevant in an environment full of compelling web activities that engage our everyday lives? Does Sakai matter in the Age of Facebook, and if yes, then why and how?
First, Canvas is a compelling product, with some great usabilty and features. I also welcome Instructure's move to a (forked?) open source path, which I think helps evolve platform options and the marketplace in useful ways.
I am unconvinced, however, by a main thread Instructure CEO Josh Coates takes up in his recent blog post on Instructure's open source strategy.
Josh says that software owned by a single commercial entity is preferable because "critical bug fixes, integration and innovation only come out of the folks that own the technology." I think history has shown that Josh's assertion is not true. Many open and community source projects that do not have a single commercial entity at their core consistently demonstrate high rates of maintenance, innovation, and integration. At the same time, what might be called "corporate" open source offerings do not always generate the qualities Josh describes.
Underneath this issue is an even more fundamental perspective that I also question: that there are only two paths of software ownership/development, which Josh defines in his question: "would you rather have a closed system owned by a commercial entity, or an open system not owned by anyone?" Josh goes on to suggest Instructure's open source strategy offers "the best of both worlds."
Recently, I was honored to accept nomination to stand for the Board of Directors of the Sakai Foundation, the nonprofit organization that coordinates the larger collaboration of the Sakai community.
Some people are confused about the role of the Sakai Board, which stewards the Foundation itself, not Sakai the community or Sakai the product. Our community and product both have a variety of other leadership and governance mechanisms: all open, transparent, and drawing their membership from the community based on merit and contribution rather than election. In short: the Board does not "lead" Sakai, but rather ensures that the Foundation is healthy so it in turn can coordinate—not lead—the real engine of Sakai: our community.
So before running for the Board, I had to stop and ask what I would want to accomplish in joining this body whose work might be seen as once—or even twice—removed from direct engagement with Sakai. My answer revolves around Sakai's characteristics as an open source project, and the role the Sakai Foundation and its Board play in maintaining Sakai's health and progress.
My thinking goes back to my earlier answers to the question "why Sakai now?" where I wrote:
Unlike any other proprietary or open source learning platform, only Sakai provides structured, open and transparent community and governance, powered by a substantial and growing number of institutions of every shape and size from around the world, coordinated by a formal, nonprofit entity, and including a strong and varied commercial ecosystem. We call this combination "community source" and it is open source, only much more.
I still hold by that statement, but recognize that it describes a very organic situation, constantly changing, filled with different forces pulling not always in the same directions. All the ingredients in Sakai's healthy mix are absolutely necessary for its continued success, but there is one crucial element that all the others depend on and can not do without—that central, shared entity that exists only to support everything else: the Sakai Foundation.
In addition to all the important work the Foundation does to coordinate community activity, perhaps its most important function is to serve as a conduit through which part of the community's growing resources circle back to empower common needs and goals. It is precisely this "virtuous cycle" that I would seek to strengthen if I were elected to the Sakai Board.
You can read my full platform statement on the Sakai Project website, and if you have not yet cast your ballot in the Sakai Board elections, I welcome your support.