OpenETC

Free Range Edtech

Asking As Contributing

As alluded into my hello post one key way to contribute something to the OpenETC is to ask a question. Doing this is a double win– when answered, it hopefully helps you, but doing so in public helps others.

Still, I sense often there is a reluctance to ask something in public, due to that inner voice that may whisper “you are an idiot! everyone knows how to do that.” That voice is a liar. And to reiterate my ability to mess up in public, when tweeted I misspelled my own blog post title.

Yet there is another wonderful aspect about asking questions in public. Educators are eager to help answer! It feels good to do. It’s great medicine in anytime, but especially in pandemic times. I usually like to teach in networked spaces where my students can answer each other’s questions before I can. And no, I am not trying to get out of work — it creates more of community feel when the answers come from each other.

And that’s why the openETC Mattermost channels are a prime place to contribute by asking questions, answering, offering resources, encouragement, and yes, the every helpful reactionary GIF (I leave it to the reader to imagine one below). We have an ideal set up in the OpenETC “Team” for anything, the generic Town Hall channel is a good starting spot, but we have specific places to ask about Mattermost, WordPress, and the Sandstorm / Web Apps.

List of the OpenETC public channels in Mattermost including "Mattermost", "Off-Topic", "Tech Help", "Web Apps", and "WordPress"

And it need not just be technical things to ask about here.

There is also a pending plan to set up something to curate “asks” and “answers”, and no, it’s not an FAQ. A Frequently Asked Question page always sounds ideal, but perhaps it is me, but I almost never find the Q I have much less the A.

Step into the channels and ask and answer each other. That’s the smallest big way to be a part of and give back to the openETC.


Featured Image: From one of the Asks and Offers activities led by the community building champion Nancy White

Asks
Asks flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Hello Co-op

I am ungraciously late in responding to the Welcome to the OpenETC post written a month ago by Tannis Morgan, but as we know, Pandemic Time is warped. Thanks for the warm welcome to my role here as OpenETC Community Coordinator.

In blogging, I never start until I have a title and image in mind, this is a riff on the default post in most WordPress installations, itself a nod to an old tradition in computer programming.

I’m not writing here to talk much about myself, Tannis said a lot, and Google has the rest, but I will toss my calling card site with maybe the most ideal domain name (that’s a long story) at http://cog.dog – that is a WordPress site used in a non-blog post format, and I hope to relay more that there are many many more ways to use WordPress than a series of reverse chronologically ordered posts.

I have had long running collaborations with BC educators, in fact that was my first experience as a young, green instructional technologist maybe in 1996 when I was invited with a colleague to do a workshop at Douglas College and two laters got an invite back for the provincial organization that was the predecessor to BCcampus.

All of this just says I am old.

I was fortunate to have spend 5 months as an Open Learning Fellow at Thompson Rivers University, thanks to folks like Brian Lamb and Irwin Devries who made that possible. That was the egg laying for these SPLOT things you may hear me yammer about.

But being colleagues with Brian and Gran Potter and Tannis got me a backdoor into the OpenETC and access to these platforms. I should say this is a fantastic opportunity for any teacher or student in BC to have access to these platforms, free from the commercial ties that you sell some of your soul to use similar hosted platforms.

When Tannis approached me with an offer to take on this role, it took nanoseconds to say yes. In our initial conversation I had an insight, that mat or may not be meaningful to you (whomever you are reading this). The WordPress service offered here is technically no different from the “free” service at WordPress.com, and the functionality of Mattermost is similar to what you can get at Slack.com.

But this was a difference that popped into my head. At these free commercial sites, you actually have no awareness or even think about who your “neighbors” are on the shared service. But at the OpenETC, even if you never give it a thought, you might take into account the other few thousand WordPress sites here are all people interested in education, learning, art. Even if you do not interact, there is an affinity amongst people who use OpenETC services.

One of the reasons I did not leap out of the gate is that when I teach media, like audio/video/image editing, before they start creating media, I want my students to spend time reading/listening to a range of examples so they can get a sense of what is possible.

Similarly, on becoming this “OpenETC Community Coordinator” I’ve been rummaging around the blogs, the Mattermost Spaces, the Web Apps, just wandering and taking in the place.

I do have ideas of some things to start/introduce here, but I take my lead from what folks here want and need. A big part of my work is going to be championing the idea here of “Contributions Not Contracts.” This means spreading the spirit that there are small things everyone here can do to contribute, not in cash or technical magic, but ones that can help other.

This quasi-planned startegy means encouraging more participating in, asking/answering questions, sharing ideas in the Mattermost space. This is the best place to ask for help. I regularly here directly from people who ask a question but do not want to ask in public “so I will not sound stupid.”

Here is some truth I learned long ago. If you have a question, I bet there are 10,100 times as many people with the same question, all of them not asking because of this fear.

So I will be publically “stupid” often just to break the ice ūüėČ

Mattermost is great for help when you need it, but the answers float quickly away downstream. So we have some thoughts about the ways OpenETC members can contribute by helping curate those useful tips, and ideas. And we are also going to open up some new ways to shine light on the excellent work we see happening here.

I was going to build a new WordPress site for sharing the “OpenETC Community Coordinator” coordinating, but it makes the most sense to do it right here. We will share these newsy and blabby posts around, and soon will add a signup form to get updates.

You see, I rather like blogging, and while many have giving it, I see it as more vital and important now than ever to be publically writing. When I teach, it’s always part of my approach to have students reflect (openly or privately, it’s the writing that matters).

Okay, what’s next? I have that one ready– shortly I am going to reveal a first low barrier way to contribute something valuable here.

You should also know that I firmly believe that all of this edtech work should have a sense of fun, joy, and often whimsy to it. There’s enough seriousness happening around us, and while we should not ignore it, we should also not let it steal away from our humanness to be joyful creatures.

So reply here with comments, ring me in mattermost or in twitter or send me a postcard in the mail. I want to know more about what everybody is interested in, what you want to do with these platforms (heck also what they cannot do).

One more caveat. My position here is funded by BCcampus (if there is any value in this, please thank them, if not tell them to kick me to the curb). But it’s only for 1 day a week or my time, so I am split in many projects.

And I am the only one here getting a paycheck. All of the people who keep the lights on here- the leadership group of Tannis Morgan, Grant Potter, Clint Lalonde, Brian Lamb, Anne-Marie Scott are all doing this volunteer basis. And do not forget that Troy Welch, who fixes the leaky server and tends to all the updates and bugs, is also a volunteer. They are a great group to be roosting around here in the Co-op Coop with.

Stay tuned here for more stuff.

Welcome to Alan Levine, OpenETC Community Coordinator

In the past three years, the OpenETC community of users has grown considerably, as more faculty and staff in BC higher education are exploring teaching practices using WordPress and Mattermost.  This growth signalled the importance of future planning, and led the OpenETC administrative team to create a high-level, three year roadmap. In 2020, BCcampus provided a pilot funding commitment to support the roadmap.

As part of the roadmap, one of the pre-COVID goals was to develop the OpenETC community by providing more resources and fostering a growing culture of mutual support and contributions.  As many of you know, the OpenETC model is a little bit unusual… there is no 24/7 helpdesk, there is no IT department or vendor behind the scenes.  OpenETC runs on community contributions, not unlike a take one, leave one box at your local charity shop.

However, it is important to do this right, and we felt that we needed someone with some dedicated time to model and nurture the community in this direction.  We are thrilled that Alan Levine (@cogdog), SPLOT creator extraordinaire, has come on board to lead the community building over the next few months.  Alan has long been part of the ETUG community, and you may have also come across his work with BCcampus in helping with the BCcampus H5P Kitchen project.  In addition to having fantastic technical and photography skills, Alan is a well-known online community builder and we will be drawing on all of his expertise to help us with this next step.

So what exactly can you expect in the next few months?  As the OpenETC Community Coordinator, Alan will help us ensure a sustainable community is built around the OpenETC in keeping with the OpenETC model that is founded on co-operative principles.

Some of things that Alan will be doing are:

  • Running sessions¬†for educators¬†to introduce the¬†OpenETC¬†and how the model works
  • Running sessions to demo various aspects of the¬†OpenETC¬†toolkit¬†and its application to teaching and learning
  • Monitoring and responding to Mattermost chat channels (Town Square, WordPress, etc), supporting community members to solve their own problems
  • Communicating planned changes to the¬†OpenETC¬†toolkit
  • Soliciting feedback via focus groups, polls, running pilots etc on aspects of the¬†OpenETC¬†toolkit
  • Gathering and coordinating contributions back to¬†OpenETC
  • Showcasing exemplary open education practices
  • Identifying and developing (and helping the community to develop) various self-help resources as required.

 

This is an ambitious list, but our goal is to make the OpenETC as efficient, sustainable, and collaborative as possible.  There is no OpenETC without the BC post-secondary community who share, contribute, and support each other and together we can build an alternative for open ed tech supported teaching and learning in BC.

Do you have any feedback on this list?  How do you see the priorities of this role?  Feel free to leave your comments.

Examples of open education practices enabled by OpenETC infrastructure

https://www.thenorthernview.com/community/prince-rupert-and-port-edward-anchor-point-for-unbc-history-course/

For some time I’ve been wanting to share some examples of what open education practices (OEP) enabled by open ed tech looks like in practice.¬† OpenETC provides open ed tech infrastructure to the BC higher ed sector in the form of 3 types of services:¬† WordPress, Mattermost, and Sandstorm click and go apps.¬† The most visible examples of OEP are in the WordPress part of OpenETC, since Mattermost (open source Slack) is a more private class or group space, and Sandstorm uses-in-practice aren‚Äôt visible to us as administrators.¬†So this is a round-up of a selection of uses of WordPress in OpenETC.

WordPress E-portfolios

Last year, the biggest uptake for OpenETC was in the area of WordPress for e-portfolios. OpenETC provided a couple of templates for e-portfolios that could be cloned with one click, making it easier to get up and running.  KPU was the first to go down this path and we worked with some faculty and a student who also created some onboarding documentation that is now part of the OpenETC resources.  The impact of the WP e-portfolio approach was shared at ETUG in 2019 by Anne Marie McClellan and student Anthony Radjkovich. Since then e-portfolios have been popping up at other institutions.

Simple course sites¬†‚Äď course supplement, showcase student work, alternative to content in the LMS

An obvious use of WordPress is for simple course sites to supplement a face to face course, or to replace what would normally be tucked into an LMS.

One of my favourite examples that I like to share that really underscores the Open ed tech for OEP connection is this example from UNBC.  The community news write-up provides the context, and the course site is a rich resource of the community-based research and artefact collection that students undertook.  has  https://hist493.opened.ca/and https://www.thenorthernview.com/community/prince-rupert-and-port-edward-anchor-point-for-unbc-history-course/

  • https://thedogfiles.opened.ca Showcases the work of students in TRU Law‚Äôs Animals and the Law class
  • https://hist281.opened.ca/ If a course was a podcast, this simple site would be that. You won‚Äôt find text here, just audio.
  • This Capilano University course site for a course on Electronic Literature also connects students to the LMS, probably for the assignment dropbox) https://amahood.opened.ca
  • There‚Äôs also a nice collection of English course sites from UNBC from one prof who wanted a space outside of the LMS and found OpenETC easy to use.

https://engl381.opened.ca/; https://engl211.opened.ca/;  https://engl300.opened.ca/;  https://engl390.opened.ca/

Education-related Websites

Douglas College gets meta and uses openETC to create its Open at Douglas site https://opendouglas.opened.ca

A paper published by a UNBC Physics instructor needed a website to accompany a paper presentation at a conference and this site was created as the ancillary resource for the paper presentation   https://curling.opened.ca

An intriguing site from a UFV history professor that reads like a book https://robinanderson.opened.ca/introduction/

This beautiful site from Jason Toal at SFU is a self-contained resource on how to Teach Visually https://teachingvisually.opened.ca/

Workshops

From Camosun, a workshop on the ethical dimensions of ed tech https://ethicaldimensions.opened.ca

An H5P Studio from UBC https://h5pstudio.opened.ca. The linear structure of this template navigates really well.

Mattermost + WordPress

In my mind WordPress  (for course content) combined with Mattermost (for communication and activities) is a powerful and simple combination for online teaching. But what do students think?

UNBC‚Äôs English 201 was taught by Grant Potter (a co-founder of OpenETC). https://engl201.opened.ca¬† ‚ÄúI used Mattermost in 2018 and 2019 with my Digital Humanities course.¬† Didn’t receive a single email the entire course, students 100% preferred the Mattermost space … it was where they shared links to work on their sites, asked questions, and connected with each other.‚ÄĚ

At Camosun, the teaching and learning centre is using WordPress for their eLearning Blog, tutorial site, and soon to be built out asynchronous workshop site: https://camosunelearning.opened.ca/,https://elearningtutorialscamosun.opened.ca/. They will also soon be using Mattermost to support their new Teaching and Learning council to have between meeting conversation and collaborations.

SPLOTS

I get really excited about SPLOTS because they are truly a minimal effort WordPress template that makes it easy for students to contribute without giving up their personal information. The SPLOT examples in OpenETC are mainly text-based, but the SPLOT family also includes an image-based template (great for more visually-oriented courses) and a new audio version that allows you to record audio directly in the SPLOT! I can’t wait to see what educators do with that one.

 

Code of Conduct and Terms of Use

A few weeks ago we posted a draft Code of Conduct for users of the OpenETC. We asked for your feedback on the draft code and received a number of excellent suggestions on the draft. We gathered your responses as annotations via Hypothesis and as comments posted to our draft Etherpad document.

From your comments, we have made the following changes;

  • Split the Code of Conduct into 2 separate documents; a Code of Conduct and Terms of Use document to better reflect the intent of the content.
  • Added contact forms to each of the documents to enable people to contact someone on the OpenETC administrative team with questions or comments.
  • Clarified the Terms of Use language to remove the word “blasphemous” from the Limitations on Content section of the Terms of Use guidelines.
  • Explicitly noted what OpenETC applications and services the code and terms apply to.

We have posted a revised Code of Conduct and a new Terms of Use document that applies to the three main services offered by the OpenETC, WordPress, Mattermost, and Sandstorm.

We will continue to revise these documents as required and make you aware of changes as the services of the OpenETC evolve.

Thank you for your feedback and being active members of the OpenETC community.

Thank you for your feedback on the proposed Code of Conduct

Thank you to everyone who commented on the proposed OpenETC Code of Conduct. We are reviewing the suggestions and are revising based on your feedback, which included the suggestion to break the Code of Conduct into a Code of Conduct document and a Terms of Use document.

A number of you also suggested some existing Codes of Conduct that we could look to build on which is an excellent suggestion. We are currently reviewing a number of other Codes of Conduct for online communities and hope to incorporate some of those into our second draft Code of Conduct.

For the time being, we have removed the draft Code of Conduct from the site while we revise it.

Thanks again for providing input.

Looking for community feedback on Code of Conduct

Two goals the OpenETC stewardship team are working towards in 2020 is to begin formalizing some processes and guidelines for educators and students interested in using the services of the OpenETC community, and to provide more pathways of engagement with the openETC for community members. High on our to-do list for this year are the development of governance documents, like privacy policies and a code of conduct.

In that spirit, the OpenETC stewardship group is looking for community feedback on a proposed Code of Conduct. When completed, this Code of Conduct will apply to users of any of the platforms or tools supplied by the OpenETC. We have posted a draft Code of Conduct that we would like your feedback on.

To enable your feedback, we have activated Hypothesis on the page, which will give you the ability to highlight and annotate specific sections of the code you may have questions or comments about.

A draft privacy policy is in the works and will be released in the coming weeks for your input.

While these types of governance documents can be dry reading, they are important in helping to define what kind of community we want to work towards developing.

Thanks, in advance, for your comments and feedback, and for working with us to make the OpenETC a valuable and respectful educational community.

Managing Privacy on Your OpenETC WordPress Site

One of the reasons you might be using the OpenETC WordPress service is so that you can share your work publicly on the open web. However, there may be times when you want to restrict who can see your work, and WordPress offers you quite a lot of control and choice when it comes to managing privacy.

  • You can make individual posts or pages private, perhaps to share them only with a select group, or to get feedback on drafts before making them public.
  • You can also make your entire site private, restricting it to all logged in users of Opened.ca, or right down to a select group of users that you choose.

Remember that you can change any of these options at any time. So you can start off fully locked down and work your way up to opening up your site, but perhaps still keeping the odd post here and there more private. It’s up to you to work out what you are most comfortable with.

Making an Individual Post or Page Private

The simplest way to make an individual post or page private on your site is to make it password protected. Only people who know the password you choose will be able to access it.

  1. Edit your post or page (or start a new post or page).
  2. In the Publish box on the right-hand side of the screen, click the Edit link next to Visibility: Public.
  3. Select Password protected and type in a Password.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Click Update (Save Draft or Publish if this is a new page) to save your changes.
  6. Share the password you set with anyone you want to see this post or page.
Screenshot of the Publish section when editing a WordPress page or post, used to make a post private.
The Publish section, visible when editing a post or page.

You can also restrict an individual post or page so that it is only visible to logged in users of your site. Using this option means you will also need to add each person that you want to have access as a named user of your site.

  1. Edit your post or page (or start a new post or page).
  2. In the Publish box on the right-hand side of the screen, click the Edit link next to Visibility: Public.
  3. Select Private.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Click Update (Save Draft or Publish if this is a new page) to save your changes.
  6. Use Dashboard > Users to add the people that you want to have access to Private posts or pages.

Remember that the only people you will be able to add as registered users of your site are people with a valid BC post-secondary email address. In practice that probably means your teacher, colleagues, or fellow students.

Making a Whole Site Private

You have a few choices about how private you want your site to be. You might find that the template your site was created from has a default setting of more or less privacy, so it’s worth being aware of your choices here.

  1. Go to your site Dashboard
  2. From the left-hand menu, choose Settings > Reading
  3. In the Site Visibility section, choose one of the following options:
  • Visible only to registered users of this network
    Choosing this option will mean only people who are logged into Opened.ca will be able to see your site. Remember that Opened.ca is used by members from across a number of Universities and education organisations, not just people from your University or College. This option can be a nice balance of privacy in that you are private to a community of other users probably quite like you.
  • Visible only to registered users of this site
    Choosing this option will mean only people who are set up by you as users on your site will be able to see anything. This is the option with the most privacy and allows you the most control. This might be the best way to start if you are writing about sensitive topics, or just finding your feet.Remember that the only people you will be able to add as registered users of your site are people with a valid BC post-secondary email address. In practice that probably means your teacher, colleagues, or fellow students.
  1. Click Save Changes.
  2. Your site will be updated immediately to your new privacy preference.
Screenshot of the Site Visibility settings in WordPress
Site Visibility settings in WordPress

Making a Whole Site Open

As well as carefully restricting access to your work, using the options above, you always have the option to open your site right up and share with the world.

  1. Go to your site Dashboard
  2. From the left-hand menu, choose Settings > Reading
  3. In the Site Visibility section, choose one of the following options:
  • Allow search engines to index this site
    Choosing this option will mean your site is open to the world and if someone searches for your site using Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo etc it’s quite likely that they will find it.
  • Discourage search engines from indexing this site
    Choosing this option will mean your site is open to the world, but search engines are discouraged from making it easy to find. This isn’t foolproof though. If you really want privacy then look at some of the other options above.
  1. Click Save Changes.
  2. Your site will be updated immediately to your new privacy preference.

Image Credit: Private Barrels flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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