I just can’t stop the SPLOT, which has been into my blog veins since late 2014.

Animation of words on a Stop sign cycling through "Cant Stop the SPLOT"

Speaking of late November, that was when I got a kind email from Daniel Villar Onrubia asking to guest author an article on online infrastructures for open education for the EDUTEC Journal he is co-editing. As he has been familiar with my quote unquote work Daniel did suggest a few topics like Domain of One’s Own, the Networked Narratives course, and yes SPLOTs.

These are things I collaborated with or talked about with Daniel when he was at Coventry University’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab. I have blabbed more than enough on SPLOTs and let the idea simmer for a while… and the pilot light went out.

But after seeing some more of the innovative ways Jessica Motherwell MacFarlane has been recently using TRU Collector at the OpenETC the light flickered on as I got thinking that there was a bit of a story in looking at that one SPLOT, TRU Collector. Because it really started out rather simple in early 2015 as a way to collect sample found images from an open license workshop to having much more going for it in 2023.

I believe there is something key about what was really a practical choice in the beginning to build SPLOTs as themes built on WordPress- I did not have to design a full application, and the improvements and advances in the WordPress core (put aside your feelings about the Block Editor, okay, please?) means my SPLOTs have been able to keep running.

More than that, though, it means that while not required to use the SPLOT, if a site creator has some understanding of the ways WordPress manages information (pages/vs posts, the dual taxonomies, adding functionality with plugins, even changing the default chronological post front door… well you can bend this SPLOT tool even more to your whims.

I was not thinking as much about the technical stuff (though I have a hard time avoiding), but how the ideas for the current version came not from me, but folks like Daniel (who suggested adding the rich text editor for longer writing, and the ways it can be used as a directory of a class or a conference attendees, his Coventry colleague Lauren Heywood who’s idea evolved to be the way the Customize can be used to tailor the submission form to fit the audience it was being used for. And even more recently, Jessica’s method of having students use a secret code as a tag for their work led to making it so certain views can be sorted differently than the default blog reverse chronology.

You see all of these ideas that flowed into the version would never have been there if it was only left to me to dream up.

But there was more, I went back to some stuff I read long ago about Eric von Hipple’s concept of a User Innovation Toolkit (was that idea from Jon Udell?), more from the world of manufacturing:

Toolkits for user innovation is an emerging alternative approach in which manufacturers actually abandon the attempt to understand user needs in detail in favor of transferring need-related aspects of product and service development to users.

von Hippel, Eric; Katz, Ralph (July 2002). “Shifting Innovation to Users via Toolkits”

And more nerves went firing to some things I recall Gardner Campbell framing Marshall McLuhan’s medium/message idea by the idea of that something “just a tool” like a hammer really becomes something different when it is in the hands of a person, it is a new tool, a “Hammerhand”:

So no “just a tool,” since a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand. It’s one of those small but powerful points that can make one see the designed built world, a world full of builders and designers (i.e., human beings), as something much less inert and “external” than it might otherwise appear. It can also make one feel slightly deranged, perhaps usefully so, when one proceeds through the quotidian details (so-called) of a life full of tasks and taskings.


So now I am more interested in the relationship of a tool/hammer like TRU Collector when it is in the hands of an educator. The best tools are not just a tool, and they are also not mega systems that browbeat our creativity into form box submission (hello LMS), and even worse when they are black box AI labeled things which we cannot even perceive their nature.

And now I need help.

If you have ever used the TRU Collector SPLOT for a class, a project, an organization, or even just to build something for yourself, I am trying to collect examples of them to (a) show the wide variety of creative uses it has but also (b) to pry open what this interplay with tool and educator hand means for our inventiveness. For maybe a post Prompt in the Box era.

Would I go an email a bunch of questions to some folks? Make a form? Set up interviews?

And then I got one of those whacky ideas.

I came up the idea of showing the affordances of this Simplest Possible Learning Online Tool by using TRU Collector itself as the collector of information… woah Neo! And thus, I built in maybe 2 hours… The TRU Collector Collector And yes, there is a SPLOT hammer on the front cover.

I ask you to share any use(s) of TRU Collector.(sorry fans of TRU Writer, I love that SPLOT too, but I am focussing solely on Collector!) I set up the default detail entry with some questions as headers, but whatever you feel like writing is a help for me. And because TRU Collector asks for images, I suggested finding an image of a metaphor for what kind of tool TRU Collector is for you. Fun, eh?

Can you help? Please? Check out my hastily made site and click the share button.

Again, I thought I was back sliding to my old standby SPLOT love, but really some new ideas are bubbling. It is a deeper (maybe) look at what edtech tools ought to be, not what we are foisted upon. Thanks Anne-Marie Scott for making some suggestions and sharing this thought:

Edtech is not a tool. Pedagogy and technology are not mutually exclusive; they are entangled and mutually shaping. This is a fancy way of saying learning and teaching can be bent out of shape by technology and we can bend technology out of shape for learning and teaching purposes.

Anne-Marie Scott https://ammienoot.com/brain-fluff/procurement-aka-the-crack-in-everything-that-lets-the-bullshit-in/ 

Entangled up in SPLOT (is there a Dylan remix happening in the background?)

Again, please SPLOT with me! Got a hammer or a hammerhand?

Featured Image:

Alike / Not Alike / Together
Alike / Not Alike / Together flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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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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