Just to be clear… My title is misleading- there are elements of the ds106 site we are going to be making available soon in a format for you to open, paint, fill, decorate, install on your own site. I worry more about the “in a box mindset”
I understand why people are expressing an interest for something like “ds106 in a box”
After all it is definitely the best thing since ___________. Cult status notwithstanding.
But for reasons which hopefully gush out below, I’d really like to eradicate that “in a box” expression- it’s the kind of mindset in the early web years that got us AOL instead of the open internet, that has educators locked in LMSes rather than open systems, that has “everyone” posting statuses and liking in Facebook rather than their own space, that has higlhy educated people lathering over mass produced machine graded learning video lecture as a learning experience.
First of all, we are excited that people are growing interested in using what ds106 has evolved for other subjects. Mike Caulfield framework of a multi-class experience around issues of water … water106, and Jason Green is trying to get something going for a music class, based on the ds106 approach
— Jason Green (@jasongreen) August 1, 2013
But to be clear the site is not the course. The basic ingredients is a platform where there is some coordinating information, and the use of an RSS feed aggregator to collect, and maybe tag, re-organize content that people publish in their own spaces.
The ds106 site itself is a bit of a monster of accretion, and we’ve pretty much built it in the air as we flew the plane, using our open source WordPress platform, plugins, but a lot of custom code that is a hard wired jumble.
We definitely want to make it available in a form that others can use, and its my goal to have a workable version of the ds106 Assignment Bank as something like a WordPress theme (with maybe 3 required plugins) that could be readily customized for other kinds of collections.
I am working on this August 2013 (a.k.a. now) and it should be unrolling in a viewable version at http://bank.ds106.us (bank does not refer to recent money raising efforts). I will be tagging the progress here as http://cogdgoblog.com/tag/building106 (and have include past related posts on building syndication hub sites)
A key pillar of ds106 is its core aggregation of content from participant’s own sites using Feed WordPress as the engine of the syndication bus. Doing this is something I have been extending out to other uses, an engineering design class in the Netherlands, ETMOOC, last week’s Harvard Graduate School of Education Future of Learning Institute, and the currently ongoing Art+Reconciliation MOOC.
Others have figured out this architecture, see Martin Hawksey’s brilliant work on the octel course site. And Martin Weller’s open H817 course. And what EDC MOOC did (for a course cemented in Coursera). And pretty much every Original Canadian Flavored MOOC powered by Stephen Downes’ gRSSHopper.
It is not quite giant quick push button (and frankly never should be), it’s doable by someone with an understanding of feeds and syndication. I know Martin Weller wanted the big That Was Easy button for H817. It seems reasonable- Syndication is based on RSS which is standard so it should be easy to have an automated system.
When you dig a bit deeper into feeds, you kind all kinds of variances how they are constructed and delivered. What those are is a post for another day, but I have seen this since for more than a decade of running Feed2JS— it’s kind of tricky to automate the proper feed identification. Or maybe someone smarter than me needs to take a crack at it.
Yet it could be made relatively easier with more models, sample code, mote templated setups, documentation== but to me, it should always take some elbow grease, because little that is that easy to do seems worth doing. And also, again, the course site is not the course experience.
Think of any teacher you fondly remember as being inspiring– I am back in high school Calculus class with Mr Witts. His power as a memorable teacher was not the textbook nor some off the shelf lesson plan, it is what he brought to the course by personality, passion, and challenge– which somehow managed to make high school calculus something I wanted to engage in, for more than the grade.
Good learning experiences do not happen from piles of OERs/ Learning Objects, web widgets, course packs- they are what happens when integrated by teachers.
Yet there’s more. I am hoping Brian Bennett is able to pull out a tight edit of a great conversation Jim Groom and I had with him last week about some of this topic. And the thing is, even if we could hand you a push button crank it out ds106 in a box– it would in no way offer all that has become ds106– because most of the secret sauce is stuff that is not in the box.
The magic of ds106 is not the web site, it is the people who came when Jim asked, and people who came later. It is the stuff between the sites that is the elixer, the social connectivity. Why would people be investing precious time in August doing daily animated GIFs? It is how waves of people come in, like recent ds106 infected souls such as Rochelle Lockridge, Christina Hendricks. We even have a talking doll encouraging creative action. Then there is Mariana Funes who come to ds106 vis Martin Weller’s H817 open course.
When you dream of “ds106 in a box”, what you will get is actually just an empty box, a potential. What has happened in ds106 has not been because of the software, but the people, the community, all of the things which are not in some wordpress template. If you are creating an expectation that ds106 is something you can bottle and mass distribute, well you are doing us and the ides a disservice.
For an industry where the clichÃ© is “thinking outside the box”, I am a bit baffled why people would pine over something magic “in a box”. I will push against this phrase.
The box is empty.