Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Subverting or Flipping #DoOO For an Egyptian Context

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This post by Christian Friedrich (one of my fave ppl in the world to read and converse with) inspired me to write this. Read his post about how his very well-thought-out proposal for #DoOO at his institution went haywire.

This blogpost isn’t a response to it. But an idea that came to me from it and his convo w Laura Gibbs in the comments.

So here is my take. Y’all know why I don’t propose domains over here in Egypt. It’s because some students wouldn’t have credit cards or be able to afford continuing their domain after they leave (and these are among Egypt’s most privileged kids). To me it would be similar to an LMS-tied ePortfolio option, which i can’t believe anyone seriously ever considers.

But what if we flip this a little? 

Many ppl who own a domain start out somewhere freely hosted like WordPress.com or a wiki. Eventually the person feels committed to that space and understands the value of owning their domain and they make the switch. Which is not a difficult thing.

So now I am thinking that this is a natural progression and process, and #DoOO kinda skips it for students. Why don’t we give students an extra bit of agency in deciding to own a domain or not? Maybe this already happens and I don’t realize it.

So my idea is this. Students in my classes are asked to create a space on the web as part of my class but which they can also use to do other stuff for digital self-expression that isn’t graded at all. They learn about benefits of owning their domain and possibly get funds for it from the University, knowing they would eventually have to pay for it themselves once they graduate. They may or may not decide they want to pay, ever, so they keep their stuff on WordPress and hopefully WordPress won’t remove stuff even if they close down. Or they may wanna own their domain after graduation. They can educate themselves about corporations and privacy and all that.. And many might still choose to remain on WordPress.com or such. Heck, we all know how Google, Twitter and (worse?) Facebook violate us and use us DAILY and many of us stay. We have agency here. We make informed decisions to stay despite these issues. But we know them. Same can be said of staying on WordPress.com. It’s not like a disaster not to own one’s domain. It’s something that makes sense at some stage of One’s digital existence, but not the FIRST step imho. 

Happy to hear other thoughts on this. As long as you don’t assume I know nothing about #DoOO. I know plenty about the philosophy. I just think half that philosophy is met via WordPress.com or such. But I just don’t know how it’s implemented (#DoOO) in each institution and whether they (students or faculty) pass through a free dot com step first before they’re offered a domain.

I’m talking from an Egyptian context but this may make sense in other contexts as well.

Update – i remembered later that Ken Bauer does similar in his classes. His tweet here

14 Comments

  1. I like the idea of using the WP service to break out of the walled garden of the LMS and provide agency for students and staff.

    It’s worth noting that You can have a domain of one’s own and still host your site on WordPress.com. I do that because managing my own server just got so tedious. Not sure if that is more or less attractive in your students’ context.

  2. Hey Maha,

    I *think* you are proposing something I’ve been thinking about, only starting one step further back.

    I’ve been thinking that it makes sense to get people into the writing and content using the simplest possible interface and then slowly over time expose them to more and more of the options, back end files, etc, etc. But in my thinking that all happened within a DoOO’s site.

    Are you are suggesting starting one step further back: start exploring while still in someone else’s space and then move on to your own when you are ready?

    If I’ve understood you correctly, you are describing my trajectory into this stuff. Started on institution-run site> wanted to do more> introduced to Domains> wanted to do more> Introduced to back end files, c-panel etc. > wanted to do more > started mucking around with development tools, etc.

    It has worked for me πŸ™‚

    • U got it, Tanya. Start one step earlier as you outlined (which also as u outlined is a natural progression for most ppl)

  3. The places where DoOO seems to work well is places where there is institutional and cross curricular support, so students are using it across courses. For a one course or smaller project or because of the context in Egypt you describe the hosted approach more than makes sense.

    I did it in 2014 for a ds106 for George Washington U where the students were only doing this for the one course. That’s when it occurred to me what you describe- why not focus first on the blogging and reflective writing and go to domains later?

    It’s worth noting too that UMW did not start with domains; they developed a wide based use and approach through UMW Blogs, a hosted multi site which is more or less what you get at WordPress.com A middle ground approach might be if you (or someone who could create a Reclaim account) set up a multisite and offered blogs to students. Again you start with the writing and practice, not the nuts and bolts of sub domains and cpanel.

    • That’s also a good point ur making, Alan, that sometimes as a teacher u want to concentrate on the writing and reflecting (which not every course wants to take deeper into “how the web works” because most courses teach other stuff). The other aspect related to # of courses makes sense also. If it’s just 1-2 courses using it, there’s a lot of assumptions about students valuing it and using it on their own, which i suspect would happen to about 10% of them unless more courses use them.

      Seems to me that wanting to do domains requires a particular type of institutional culture – chicken or egg? I should ask people who implement domains about that. Christian seemed to feel he could introduce that culture and bring domains on top of it – but because it’s so far from the culture (i think) it was completely misunderstood.

  4. This is what Students that I work with do – they choose which service they use – if they don’t what a site – if they don’t want to have a deliberate web presence – they don’t.

  5. So I feel like I am coming to this quite late and I have a hard time catching up with the twitter stream that followed your post, Maha. I see the point in focussing on the writing first, going for the free wordpress.com approach. Immediately, there are two thoughts on this, one is a barrier, the other one is a bit more self-inflicted. As subversive as I would like to be, there is one thing I like about the German system and sensitivity with regards to data protection and privacy: I am not allowed to “force” our students on any kind of service that is hosted outside of the EU (some would even say Germany). I know you picked up on this kind of sensitivity in an earlier post, comparing it to what other folks go through in terms of surveillance, humiliation, privacy-infringement (paraphrasing here, I know there are more layers to your thoughts than a blunt comparison) but I for one do not want to be the guy who proposes to break those rules at my university.

    The other thought is something that was noted here in the comments before by Alan and you, especially: For me, DoOO is also about culture. I want to contribute to a change in teaching culture at my university. That is part of my job description and it is what makes me get up in the morning. One huge lever to change behavior, and with it perhaps culture, is funding. Funding, especially for good teaching, is rare here. If DoOO got funded, I would be able to support educators, others would see and follow, we would be able to lay some groundwork for others. Hosting on wordpress.com for free feels subversive on the one hand, but also like an acknowledgement of a lost battle, somehow. Might have to think about this longer, there’s another post in here somewhere. I just got in a twitter argument with someone yesterday who folllows a techno-solutionist approach of predictive analytics to deal with drop-outs (I would even argue that drop outs are not a big issue in Germany). He got pretty defensive about his approach and started to be a bit more aggressive, in a twitter-kind-of-way. Part of that aggression was that he dismissed anything “open” in teaching as nice to have, but “in the real world, we develop serious tech for real-world problems”. Receiving funding is about that cultural change as well. This is another dimension of DoOO, I think – it might not have anything to do with the teaching itself but I think it’s important. Does that make sense?

    • My main realization from the Twitter convo re your context is that maybe the culture shift is not within the Zone of Proximal Development for your institution (or mine). Which also makes sense given what Alan is saying.
      But i get your point about using funding as a means to encourage cultural change. Maybe i just think that’s the opposite order of things for me, but maybe it’s the correct order for u. Caulfield said sthg yday about zeitgeist – ur German so that word is probably more intuitive for u than me πŸ™‚ i think his point is to create zeitgeist via DoOO rather than what i am suggesting here which wouldn’t do that. But I also don’t know how many ppl at my institution would ever use it, properly or not, so that goes back to Alan’s point. And is important for u to consider what kind of prep ppl need to get there?
      I forgot the European laws re US servers but i am sure u have German platforms.

  6. I just tried to catch up with the twitter conversations, not an easy thing to do πŸ™‚

    Agree that that cultural shift is not to be expected, but that is a gradual process of pushing boundaries, of arguing and setbacks. The Zeitgeist argument feels more universal than that, more wholistic as in “movement” (which I read on twitter as well). I think the next steps for me will be to try and work with educators at my institution, find money to buy Frankfurt-hosted Reclaim Hosting space for 10-15 students and take it from there. And the prep is something I have missed in the twitter conversation (it was hard to catch up, though – twitter does not make that easy), this seems to be the hardest part in enabling faculty to work with domains. The literacies of our faculty are very different (from non-existent as in “I print my email” to “I have three servers in my living room at home”) and domains would be a nice opportunity to work on that. I said this in a comment on my post as well – lots of time and budget would have gone into these conversations and experiments with faculty, hopefully contributing to a change in culture.

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