One of the very best things that can happen from sharing something digital I’ve built/duct taped together, is that someone actually uses it. But even better, is when they use it in a way I would have never imagined.

Take my SPLOTs.

Please. (bad Rodney Dangerfield joke)

The ones that have been most widely used – TRU Writer, TRU Collector, and SPLOTbox – are in many ways a variation on the same idea. Set up as place where visitors to your WordPress powered site can add rich media content, without requiring an account, a login, or wrestling with the old dashboard interface. The most common use case (and the one I think about) is a class, community, event, project site where we invite people to share stuff.

That’s how I have used it. And many of the other examples.

Yet, let something loose into the wild, and unexpected happens.

Case 1: Student Project Collection Site

Here’s an unexpected SPLOTage from a student at Muhlenberg College, a Domain of One’s Own pioneer. I first found (by tweet? luck?) this TRU Collector site used in 2020 Students Writing on Material Culture in China. It’s one of the many brilliant “berg builds” sites created by Dr. Tineke D’Haeseleer (@tinebeest).

Earlier this year, I spotted Tineke’s SPLOT! blog post explaining her approach. This is pure gold to read:

For me, the idea of the Smallest Possible Learning Online Tool works quite well, because the point of using this tool was (is) to minimize the labour for me, and the maximize the ROI (return on investment) as I share with the world what we were up to during a semester. I have issues with “disposable” or “one way” assignments, that disappear into a (digital) drawer at the end of the semester. Instead I like to make sure that students of future courses, and other people online, get a chance to see what students have achieved, and hopefully build on it.

https://tdh.bergbuilds.domains/pedagogy/splot/

It looks like a way for her students to share an entry point to a more detailed blog post on their own bergbuilds domain, so this collections serves almost as a class portfolio all built on student WordPress sites.

But this is the gem. Just seeing how her instructor used a SPLOT inspired a student to use it for her own project. Tineke describes it perfectly under the beading “But Wait! There’s More!”

In Fall ‘21, a student worked on matching the names of herbs from a Chinese Medicine manual with images. We thought about the best way to showcase these. In our weekly workshop class, I showed her the SPLOT we did with the history course in Fall ’20, and suggested she visit the Digital Learning team to help her set up the site and get going.

About ten minutes later, after checking in with another student, she calls me over again and points to an item in the Installatron of her Domain that’s crawling through the installation bar: “It was the TRU Collector you used, wasn’t it? I’m installing it to check it out.”  

By the next week’s Workshop, she had started adding the images, and by the end of the semester she had created a small interactive website where you can use tags to see which plants in traditional Chinese medicine support which organs, or treat which conditions.

https://tdh.bergbuilds.domains/pedagogy/splot/

That’s the spirit of “just try things” we want to see in students, right? Not just what an LMS spits out.

Take a look!

http://joliegirgis.bergbuilds.domains/cms/category/plants/

Now I look and see that she just used the default MY CMS name and url the Installatron installer sets up, and pretty much the main site link is actually a single category archive. She may not have changed any of the default SPLOT settings. And I might have said, you could have built pretty much the same thing using the parent Fukasawa theme.

But let’s not be a WordPress snob! Each item has a photo, description, and is sourced. The student has tagged all 50 entries to organize them.

I imagine there was some amount of inspiration of the other SPLOT used for a class assignment, but also, I think, that the student saw the entry of information was a lot easier than composing in the dashboard.

So it was used well as a SPLOT for one. I applaud this.

Case 2: Laura Just Wants to Write Not Fiddle With WordPress

Over the past summer I had the opportunity to work along side my good long time, RSS friend and fiend, Laura Gibbs aka @OnlineCrsLady during the Equity Unbound MYFEst experience.

I have to be fair in that all of her spawning of padlets I can be convinced they too serve many of the same purposes as SPLOTs (no login needed to contribute, media rich content, comments, RSS feeds, etc…). Laura publishes most of her online sites via Blogger with all kinds of nifty integration enabled by RSS, randomizers, and Inoreader.

But she took a liking to the TRU Writer powered SPLOT I set up for collecting participant reflections. And just in the same spirit as the student in Case 1, Laura just goes off and tries things.

She has built a collection of myths and stories drawn from the Internet Archive, into this collection of some 35 stories, with lush images.

Who would not want to read a compelling story like Why Tumbleblog rolls in the dung?

I did ask (I think it was in Slack not in Twitter) Laura why she needed a SPLOT to do this, when really she could get the same look in a site using the parent Radcliffe theme.

Her response was that the simplified writing interface (which is still pretty much the classic editor, no wrestling with blocks) was just an easier and simpler place to write. Because all she wanted to sdo was publish stories, not fiddle bitting in WordPress.

Insert the headslap emojis.

That works.

Vagueness Is the SPLOT Thing

Heck yes, there is no, nor will there ever be agreement on the meaning of the acronym. I mean there’s even a SPLOT for illustrating this.

And one of the other SPLOTs that has been useful, and not much attended to recently, is SPLOTpoint for doing web-based non-powerpoint presentations.

I managed in my own mind to lose the SPLOTness that there is no single specific limited use case.

It’s in the eye of the SPLOTmaker.

Say heck yes, a SPLOT for one is a lovely setting.


Featured Image: 78th Fraser Highlander Regimental Dinner (84) flickr photo by Bruce MacRae shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license with my own edits to gently overlay the classy SPLOT logo atop the table cloth.

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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.

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