I can trace a path from what we are trying to generate via Connected Courses back to my work creating syndicated courses to ds106 to early work at UMW Blogs all the way back to one dedicated writing teacher at Middlebury College who devised what may have been the first syndicated course.

Barbara Ganley has been a long time inspiration and a dear friend. We semi-regularly skype and I asked last time if I could record a short conversation about the idea behind the first “Motherblog” (as she called it).

As a writing teacher, she saw the potential for her students of writing (and reflecting) in a public space, with peers, so had planned to do a course in Fall of 2001 for a first year seminar course about Ireland and its history as portrayed in fiction and film. She describes what she could not have planned, that the first meeting of her class was September 11, 2001– a day when everything planned went awry.

“What if a class were a conversation?”

She had this idea of a federated syndicated class, and it was with some local tech expertise that this class was able to syndicate in student blogs (via RSS. cough. ahem. it. still. works.) to the course, or Motherblog.

All of this took place before there was social media. Before the LMSes were entrenched.

We talked about the outcomes writing in public, the challenges of assessment (she had her students build their own rubric), the amazing things her students did (and are still doing) how students were using media early, of the impact of the authors and people students were studying entering and being part of the course. One notable attribute that I respected in Barbara’s teaching, and also the ay Jim Groom taught/teaches– is that as a teacher she did the same assignments she asked of her students. She becomes part of the community, not some sort of policewoman/grade cop (my words, not hers).

There’s a lot to her ideas still key to what is happening in Connected Courses. Thanks Barbara for many things, sharing this time (and seeing your bobcat photos, get those on flickr!)

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. Greetings from flatland. Just saying hi. We’ve temporarily abandoned our interest in writing online here as everyone is fighting a bad case of hat hair, unusual for this time of year.

    I did try to watch/listen to the video, to catch up with you two, but it was difficult – one too loud, the other hardly audible.

    Let me close with one bit of history. There was a guy here in Stat who was an early blogger in the late 1990s. He may have gotten some mileage from it but I, for one, couldn’t see where the benefit was. So I never stole any ideas from him.

    1. Ouch, the audio is fine on my local copy, but somehow mangled on upload to Youtube. I think its because my recording software puts them in separate audio channels. Will try to even it out.

      WHo was that blogger? Is his stuff still around? I love the history.

      Good luck with the hair issues

      1. If you upload another version of the video please let me know. I’d like to hear it.

        The early blogger’s name is John Marden. He’s quite a good statistician and a really nice guy too. He’s now retired.

        I would guess the site has been archived in the Wayback Machine, but I don’t have a url for it so I’m not aware how it can be recovered.

        The unseasonable cold is supposed to be gone by the weekend and with that we’ll stop wearing the hats and maybe the hair will do its part as well.

          1. Thanks, Alan. Much better. The enthusiasm and energy is what I remember. I saw that with other early embraces of technology. There is also a generosity of spirit with how Barbara tells things that I’ve only seen with other people who teach writing – one of the real joys in being involved with these people at all.

  2. What a trip to go back and think about what our students and we were doing with motherblogs and digital storytelling “back in the day” and to follow the path of those early experiments forward to #ds106 and other bold and open learning experiences. I feel truly lucky to have taught when I did, when everything was open and possible, not yet under the grip of LMSs or policy or turf. And look at all the remarkable teachers it brought into my life! Cogdogs et al!

    Thanks, Alan.

    1. Hello, Barbara.

      Listening to this I asked myself what, if anything, is different between now and when I first encountered your own blogging, which wasn’t when you started with the Motherblog, but still was a while ago. Then I felt an urge to disagree with you a bit. Now I don’t. And I’m probably more cantankerous now. It must be that your ideas about teaching seem less threatening now.

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