Is Education Technology a Discipline? and does it matter?

Discipline

Discipline by Brendan Lynch CC BY-NC 2.0

I noticed the recent discussion on whether or not Education Technology is a discipline at Martin Weller’s blog post.

When I read the article that prompted the whole EdTech as discipline discussion, I wondered what was behind the claim that a discipline was emerging.

As Georgetown University prepares to launch a master’s degree program in Learning and Design, a new academic discipline built around the study of education technology, learning analytics and instructional design is starting to take shape.

Hmmm!

Martin gave us a discipline check list –  journals, conferences, professional accreditation, professional (I would say scholarly) society and degree programmes. As he pointed out, in the UK Association for Learning Technology (ALT) provide all except the last.

At this point, I pondered the parallels in my own home discipline Information Systems that started up in the 1970s and spent the next twenty years doing good work and engaging in identity struggles around method, epistemology and ontology between North American and European flavours of Information Systems,as it matured as a discipline.

Definition of Information Systems

Information systems are the means by which people and organisations, utilising technologies, gather, process, store, use and disseminate information.

The flavour  of IS I came to know and love, although it was applied, recognised that social and organisational aspects are important, as well as the technology. Critical approaches found a home here, and within my group of colleagues, undergraduate and postgraduate students were exposed to theories and engaged in practical critique, as well as learning about technology. We were confident that they left us as more informed and questioning practitioners.

My personal interest in education or learning technology was sparked by an opportunity I had in the mid 90s to share resources and support student discussion on a Lotus Notes server. I was hooked by the ease of publishing via Notes to the extent that I even learned HTML when deprived of the Notes server by one of many university reorganisations. When the LMS arrived at our university, my initial optimism waned as I saw the worst features of package software prevail. On the plus side, Blackboard was a great teaching case for student critique as they experienced it, likewise Turnitin.

In my last 5-10 years as an academic, numbers on Information Systems programmes generally declined and research had to fit in with changing organisational structures (publishing in the ‘right’ journals). Being assimilated into a Business School or Computer Science or other departments was common. Perhaps, as information technologies were absorbed into business sectors and other academic disciplines the Information Systems discipline has become disciplined by others.

So my reflections lead me to wonder if the question of Ed Tech as a discipline is the right one to ask. There seems little consensus in the current debate about what a discipline is but if we think about issues of power and economics that help make some disciplines sustainable in universities then research and teaching income are important, as well contribution to the university’s identity. That Edtech has few courses, and many staff who identify as learning technologists are on professional or academic-related contracts (in the UK at least) puts it at a disadvantage in claiming to be a discipline in the current Higher Education (HE) environment. Of course, learning technologists are doing great work in HE but trying to establish themselves as a discipline in their current contexts may be like beating your head against a brick wall, a not unfamiliar feeling.

For me, a far more important issue is the role of criticality in ed/learning technology, acknowledged by Martin and several of his commenters, and very powerfully by Audrey Watters in her recent keynote, a brilliant read . Audrey urges us to put criticism at the centre of our work.

I have a theory about why criticality may not come easily to those who include learning technology in their job descriptions (like me who was dubbed Learning Technology Fellow or learning champion at different times) or mainstream learning technologists. I suspect that when advocacy for learning technologies is part of your job, it can be difficult to reconcile that with engaging in critique of those technologies. And of course, many of us like the shiny stuff.

How many, like me, in the noughties flew under the radar of the ‘official’ LMS into the arms of the fun Web 2.0 apps to support learning activities? What began by seeming like harmless experiments either inconveniently disappeared  or morphed into ubiquitous platforms that eat our data (even when we delete it) and use it to sell advertising services. Here’s my full rant on that subject if you are interested.

One of things that troubles me about focussing on Edtech as a discipline is that it may reinforce some silos that already exist. Some of the great critical voices are already known in Edtech (for example Audrey Watters and Laura Czerniewycz) but there are others, sometimes in Education Departments or Institutes e.g.  Richard Edwards, Lesley Gourlay and Sian Bayne who are mentioned less often. Surely educational researchers talking sensibly and knowledgeably about technologies are good people to talk to.

Let’s open the door and risk the discipline.

Possible futures for innovation and technology in Higher Education

The actual gap between European/ N American tectonic plates or a photo opportunity
The actual gap between European/ N American tectonic plates or a photo opportunity at Pingvellir Visitor Centre?

Kate Bowles wrote an interesting post about how she responded to students’ enthusiasm to use Slack and how it worked out well for her and a group of students in thinking about critical narrative professionalism. I’ve never used Slack but I have heard many good reports of it. Her lovely story of “the everyday nature of artisanal change in universities”  reminded me of my earlier educational experiments with Web 2.0 services such as flickr.com (now much changed), http://del.icio.us/ (apparently in transition), elgg.net (an old favourite and still available as Open Source Software) and of course Twitter, a favourite of many academics but whose use of algorithms is now starting to put off some people. I loved those experiments but a more cynical view from the distance of retirement is of a graveyard of dead or moribund services where some of the undertakers have made off with pockets full of cash or services have morphed into something quite different.

Ben Werdmuller, co-founder of elgg and known.com and not one of those greedy undertakers, has written a powerful essay on how to build an Open Source business. It raised hope for me that there might be possibility for inventive developers and service providers to make a living without fleecing  relying on investors and exploiting users via their personal and activity data.

In particular, I wonder about how software and services that might really help education realise benefits of the Internet in future can come into being as supported services for students and staff. How can the benefits available in artisanal pedagogic change be scaled with technical support across universities?  I already wrote about how building technology is more than a heroic tale of invention and is a messy process of appropriation and working around. Higher Education’s investments in technology have been in infrastructure like networks, computer labs, email services, digital libraries, administrative systems, etc. and of course the ubiquitous Learning Management System / Virtual Learning Environment. When I was working in HE, it was my dissatisfaction with aspects of Blackboard that drove me to try out alternatives such as student blogging, offering Twitter updates as alternative to Blackboard announcements, sharing bookmarks on Delicious, linked within a Blackboard course. A module team I was leading managed to get a Buddypress installation going to provide an Open Source Social Networking Service (SNS) for use in supporting first year students on our module.  After IT support was completely centralised that year, this became possible no longer but we still managed to draw on student personal experiences of proprietary SNS to help them critique their use in business. Each year, students became more aware that there were ‘costs’ of the free service and they applied workarounds but hadn’t thought too much about the broader implications and alternatives until we raised questions with them.

I was interested to see what the business model was for Slack, since it benefited from a huge new funding round in 2015 . In March 2016 Slack proclaimed their goal “One day, Slack hopes to replace email as the main form of electronic communication for businesses.”   Slack’s pricing model is currently ‘freemium’ with 1 free and 2 levels charged per user, with an enterprise version in the pipeline. Less than 1/3 of 2.3 million users pay for service and I would guess that currently most of those are on the Standard or Plus pricing plans.

Something that Web 2.0 services can be good at (certainly in their golden funded early stages) is user experience, and Ben Werdmuller identified that as a weakness of Open Source systems.

It’s difficult for software companies to break into the enterprise market but that’s Slack’s aim. Even ventures like Microsoft Sharepoint who have had some success at the Enterprise level have found to difficult to engage with the complex organisational structures of HE institutions, to move from projects, based in IT Services, to enterprise-wide staff and student applications.

The business models for some SNS like Facebook make member data the product that generates advertising revenue that can have consequences for members.   Stewart Butterfield speaks warmly of Etsy’s business model, having been an early investor, after selling on Flickr to Yahoo.   The reference to Etsy interested me since Gordon Fletcher and I did some research on Etsy in 2012, presented at AoIR in October 2012. We found that there were listings that didn’t comply with ‘handmade’  and that some members were selling goods where their labour was valued little or not at all. Sure enough, the following year, Etsy redefined ‘handmade’ to be not necessarily handmade.  Etsy’s handmade policy is what my dear late mother would have called mealy-mouthed.  On a bit of a puff piece, Etsy sellers make some interesting comments there about flagrant reselling that they apparently couldn’t make at Etsy itself, suggestive of Etsy’s approach to diluting dissent. For me the concept of Etsy (though I am attracted to buying there) seems a bit of a sham. The community and handmade feelgood factor that has helped them to acquire investment and sell shares is more apparent than real – in effect community became a part of the product to be sold as the company was launched.

So are there alternatives to monolithic LMS like Blackboard, ‘member is the product’ SNS like Facebook and chimera like Etsy?

I can think of two examples that are different but that have two things in common: they are grounded in educational practice, based on clear educational philosophies; and they make use of the Open Source blogging software WordPress.

Student as Producer
Joss Winn and Mike Neary have developed the concept of Student as Producer as part of the project questioning What is a University?

The point of this re-arrangement would be to reconstruct the student as producer: undergraduate students working in collaboration with academics to create work of social importance that is full of academic content and value, while at the same time reinvigorating the university beyond the logic of market economics.

Lincoln’s Buddypress site is active and open and Student as Producer is integral to the University of Lincoln’s plans and operation.

Student as Producer is central to the learning and teaching philosophy at the University of Lincoln, and is embedded within the Teaching and Learning Plan and in all module planning. It is fundamental to everything we do at the University of Lincoln, and is one of the key selling points to potential students.

Domain of One’s Own
Jim Groom outlined the history of DoOO at OER16, that I blogged, and Mark Sample gave his perspective as an educator working with Reclaim Hosting. Jim has moved from within HE to a business setting where Reclaim Hosting offer a fairly-priced service for individuals and universities.

Possible Futures
I can’t lay out a neat plan of how Higher Education can offer technology support for innovation in the future but I do think that the ideas and practices put forward by Ben Werdmuller, Joss Winn, Jim Groom, Tim Owens and Lauren Blumfield can inform a richer possible future than one that relies on Silicon Valley to provide outsourced services or neat packaged solutions.

Where will HE institutions turn for technology services in future?

Of course, I haven’t mentioned MOOCs and their providers but that’s another story.

#OER16 Can we imagine tech Infrastructure as an Open Educational Resource? Or, Clouds, Containers, and APIs, Oh My!

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Jim Groom kicked off his keynote by saying that he intended not to talk about DS106 but then acknowledged it was his life. His next confession was that he didn’t do any OER and felt alienated from American model of using Open to lower costs  of textbooks, meanwhile diverting funding away from public education.

Jim riffed on the idea that the money and energy used in implementing and supporting VLE/LMS could be used for different approaches to sharing and practicing openly.

He gave examples of how Wikipedia was used in education in ways that enable students to become producers as well as consumers, supported by their teachers. His next example was femtechnet which worked openly on Wikipedia and across the web, informed by feminist values.

Then he got on to his work at University Mary Washington, enabling students to publish in their own space without the hassle of the earlier tilde spaces. And now, he got onto DS106, a phenomenon that sprang from work with students on courses but became a distributed phenomenon where the digital stories were located in personal spaces but linked from the central DS101 web site.

His next example was a great example of student-generated content, a crowdsourced assignment site where assignments were shared in ‘drive by mode’. The DS106 assignment bank  was the idea of <get her name – anyone know please put in comments> and took off with support from all including Alan Levine who developed supporting features.

Next was DS106 radio, a phenomenon that sprang from the need to have synchronous conferencing at DS106 and evolved into the web radio site that flourishes still.  Another firm favourite sprang from an idea called the Daily Shoot where photographers shared images daily. On DS106 this became the Daily Create.

DS106 thrived not only via Open Source software but also across Social Networking Services like Twitter. DS1016 also uses live video via Amazon Web Services. Jim gave a heads up to Radio #edutalk at #OER16.

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Jim recommended listening to a Jon Udell talk at Educause that predicted that digital infrastructures would change become a network of personal repositories each of which contained all of the stuff that related to an individual. This inspired Domain of One’s Own at University Mary Washington.

Now Jim moved to Project Reclaim and Personal APIs. The personal project is to log all of the places that you are on the web and aggregate links back to your own personal space. He described use of a single tool to do this without worrying too much about which tool or how.

Next he spoke about Opensource Apps for educators and Tony Hirst’s work on Containers in the cloud.

And then, a dramatic and abrupt conclusion of personal spaces linked across the web that, for me, brings us back to we all started.

#OER16 Open Education Special Interest Group OESIG

ALT host the OESIG  #openedsig (but you don’t have to be a member of ALT to join). Viv Rolfe @vivienrolfe opened up the discussion. It was suggested that OESIG join forces with #OERHub and collate and curate existing resources; and promote http://wikieducator.org/GoOPEN for use and development.

Archivist advised use of open software that allowed for portability of resources when repositories disappear. Another participant suggested looking at practice in non-English-speaking  communities. There was also a suggestion to support ease of use and finding; and finding ways of sustaining resources that aren’t just in single HE institutions raising issues of branding.

Web Today, Gone Tomorrow: How can we ensure continuing access to OERs? #OER16

This panel from Vivien Rolfe, David Kernohan, Lorna Campbell, Pat Lockley, Simon Thompson and Leo Havemann explored in different ways  how OERs can be sustained.

The panel kicked off with a video from Pat Lockley @patlockley,  in character as Alex from Clockwork Orange moving on to the decline of OER production, access and use as funding declined, and institutions.

 

The Plight of OER from Pgogy on Vimeo.

Vivien Rolfe @vivienrolfe spoke from a more personal perspective of OERs she had been involved with that were being sustained by the work of individuals rather than institutional buy-in.  #oer16sustain

Questions surfaced issues of sustainability and how it might happen and be supported.

Simon Thompson discussed alternatives to official but ephemeral repositories. First he talked about Merlot.org that appears to be sustainable if not fully open and then suggested that Amazon Education could become an attractive alternative for under-funded institutions. This provoked lively discussion.

Leo Havemann shared research he did with Javiera Atenas comparing 80 different repositories across 10 quality indicators to see how repositories work?  Results were disappointing in terms of scoring on indicators (9 indicators under 50%). Discussion ranged around why this might be, and surprise at low use of licensing.

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Lorna Campbell explained how the spike in OER shown in Pat’s video related to England, from UKOER funding that wasn’t active in Scotland but that practices and (people) expertise did migrate between England and Scotland that can be seen as a form of sustainability. Lorna speculated that repository activity might increase as it declines across the rest of the UK.

Discussion ranged around funding models and their relationship to sustainability.

Innovative approaches to opening up cultural heritage collections for education #OER16

The session at 11.30 – 1 p.m. on Tue, Apr 19 2016 was on the theme Innovative approaches to opening up cultural heritage collections for education

Wikimedia UK, cultural heritage and education

The first presentation was by Lucy Crompton-Reid and Josie Fraser @josiefraser who spoke about the roles of Wikimedians of Residence and models for bringing Wikipedia/Wikimedia into schools, encouraging young people to become producers as well as consumers of knowledge.

Popularization of open cultural heritage resources by content curation for trainers, teachers and OER evangelists

Kamil Liwowski @kasliwowski kamil@creativecommones.pl spoke about public domain projects in Poland and the difficulties for information seekers searching for the open versions of public domain materials that were often encountered first as paid-for content, not just by individuals but also by public institutions.

Teachers may be looking for images that aren’t photos and are free to remix – within 5 seconds. Searching within different collections tends to throw up 1000s of images, making it difficult to choose, sometimes encountering login barrier. Projects work on how to assist teachers on how to encounter and explore the massive, rich digitised cultural connections in contrast with wikimedia resources, located in context, or via bloggers and other social media publishers who act as content curators.

Campaigns are needed to promote what is available and how to use it: also open policies in cultural institution

Cultural institution AKA GLAM for more OER

Subhashish Panigrahi @subhapa , who works for Wikipedia in Bengalaru, India characterised knowledge as something that starts open and becomes increasingly restricted by copyright.  Subhashish contrasted Indian government approach to data and resources as copyright by default with other countries such as UK. This approach increases administrative workload.

He encouraged us to consider life without OER , highlighting the Galleries, Libraries Archives and Museums (GLAM) movement that aims to digitise content for cultural studies. GLAM has shared learning and methodology that is also a resource. GLAM has its own formal training that could be documented better to improve practice across countries. OER movement works by collaboration across individuals and institutions.

Opening Scotland: Museums Galleries Scotland’s Wikimedian in Residence & the diversification of engagement

Sara Thomas @lirazelf , wikimedian in residence has been working across museums and galleries

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Scotland’s Museums and Galleries have a national strategy and the project has played a part in fulfilling the strategy. There have also been unforeseen outcomes, including working with educational institutions as well as cultural heritage organisations. They found that participants increased in confidence in working in open knowledge, and will be interested to do more work in future.

I looking to the future, Sara thinks we need to have courage and to keep helping people in the sector, but the future holds hope.

If ‘open’ is the answer, what is the question? #OER16

Catherine Cronin’s keynote was the first session at the OER16 conference and was live streamed with a video recording here in case you missed it, and an audio recording here, if you like to multi-task.

Catherine started a conversation around the subject of the keynote more than a month before at her blog and #OER16 on Twitter, indicative of her commitment to open scholarship.  The conversation attracted 27 comments so the engagement long preceded the actual keynote.

She started her keynote by situating her own scholarship within a network of scholars, many of whom were in the room (or on the #OER16 hash tag), and acknowledging earlier scholars like Mary Somerville and other influences such as poetry e.g. @byleaveswelive. Catherine spent a few minutes promoting networking by encouraging us to talk with someone we didn’t already know.

Catherine showed mural that evoked the popular movement around the Irish marriage referendum #marref and the role of social media in this movement, encouraging people to vote, and even come home to vote from all parts of the world.

LARGE MURAL BY JOE CASLIN [SAME-SEX MARRIAGE] REF-103588

This was an example what Henry Jenkins called the participatory culture that has its own practices

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Catherine explored:

  • interpretations of Open – educational practices, educational resources, and admission to education e.g. Open University and
  • levels of Open – policy/culture, values, practices and activities

Catherine highlighted some ongoing work she instigated with @vivienrolfe  at http://wikieducator.org/GoOPEN

She acknowledged work done by Richard Edwards; and by Sava Singh, Jeremy Knox, Suzan Koseoglu and others speaking at #OER16.

In her PhD research, Catherine has  come across how important it is for people to balance privacy and openness. Openness is personal  – with decisions to be made about whether to share , with whom, as whom, and what to share.

One question probed whether or not Open Educational Practices  are moving apart from the Open Educational Resources in the title of the conference. Catherine saw her input as equalising the emphasis rather than eliminating the importance of the content/ resources.

Another question asked about the permissive nature of multiple definitions of openness and stressed the importance of freedom flowing from open.  Catherine stressed the importance of context, in exploring who may be left out.

“Move from access to equity and justice” McMillam Cottom, 2015. The last questioner homed in on the issue of Open Textbooks and their role in such a move if used to deflect funding in public education.

This keynote was a fine start to the conference.

Institutional fragility and resilience?

The impossible triangle

Individuals, networks and institutions –  in their impossible triangle of resilience

My very lovely slice of the Interwebz has thrown up lots of interesting ideas about how all of us can (and can’t) take care of ourselves and each other, and how institutions respond to the idea that there might be a problem in caring for ourselves. My ideas are all over the place (not least because I am just coming out of the common cold from hell) but I thought that I would set them down in their current state of flux and see where they take me.
Helen Beetham has written about digital wellbeing  with links to a Martha Nussbaum book that aims to give a theoretical introduction to the capabilities approach to contribute to a partial theory of justice. In a review that Helen references , the capabilities approach is shown as one that questions which genuine opportunities are open to people. Catherine Cronin builds on Helen’s ideas  in the context of real initiatives that help promote staff and student digital literacies

Positioning wellbeing and self-care at the heart of institutional initiatives to build digital capability is both radical and vitally important. 

Acquiring digital literacies and building identity in digital networks has to be a good thing but the institution is a context as well as an agent.

Viv Rolfe has written on institutional responses to the issue of the resilience in the work place. Viv identifies the proliferation of resilience training courses in UK Higher Education, and notes the emphasis on individual attributes rather than what institutions can do. She worries

that the upsurge in this approach as a strategy puts a ‘sticking plaster’ over some deeper seated organisational issues

In this recent article, Helen Lees contrasts the two academic lives she has led, first on a fixed term research contract, and now in a permanent position. She acknowledges that she became more resilient over time but crucially identifes the role of context in this. Precarious employment is not a good environment for learning resilience.

Kate Bowles isn’t sure that HE can be reformed but instead celebrates the kindness that we can show to each other as “we are all here now”.  That seems more attractive than sitting in a room learning how to be less of a problem.

Ronald Barnett  has identified resilience as a disposition but he does not paint a rosy picture of the prospect of conditions of flexibility being able to secure a more responsive higher education system

Forms of flexibility are leading to an enhancement in students’  experience of higher education and to an impoverishment in that experience; and it is by no means clear as to how, in general, matters might proceed from here.

One of the recommendations of this report is to

conduct a self-scrutiny of the extent to which an institution is responsive to its environment.

I retired from UK Higher Education 3 years ago, and have had plenty of time to reflect on the recent turbulent environment of HE.  For me, what Viv describes is a bit of a knee-jerk response from management to a problem that relates more to internal and external environments rather than any inherent deficits in staff or their attitudes.   In my employment, I experienced several occasions where a problem that was experienced in the classroom was not explored systemically to find out the roots and possible responses.  Centralisation of processes eg admissions can not only cause some problems but simultaneously separates the process and those who mandated  its centralisation from its outcomes.  Communication needs to travel up and down hierarchies and feedback upwards on problems can be seen as off-message to preferred institutional narrative, pushing responsibility and blame back down the hierarchy. This is consistent with the worst sort of resilience training.  Staff welfare cannot be looked at in isolation from the contexts in which they work.

Actively confronting challenges, escaping emotions so you can behave in a problem-focused way sounds like a great idea but what happens to staff who try to solve problems within their organisation but are blocked because the solution would involve change of policy within the institution?

As Viv says in her post

What do staff perceive resilience to really mean? Are staff also being encouraged to speak out and are they listened to in their organisations? What if staff perceive resilience to mean not speaking out and to generally shut up?

Viv shared compelling evidence that stress is endemic in HE workplaces. As the labour workforce changes, with fewer permanent contracts, more  short-term and part-time contracts, more redundancies and retirements, the needs of staff are placed in tension. I have to say that the staff who are placed in the most untenable situations are those on fixed and very short-term contracts doing jobs that would previously been have done by permanent staff. They can be paid, usually poorly,  for “teaching” with sundry administrative tasks associated with assessment and student support falling between the cracks.   Full-time staff, like module and programme leaders already themselves experiencing stress from increased workloads, can then be put in the invidous position of  asking colleagues on part-time contracts to increase their work (for example to attend examination boards) for no additional pay or taking on this additional work themselves. This pits staff members against each other without looking to the broader causes.

Not only staff but also students are stressed.  A recent survey found that student wellbeing is in question and students with the lowest contact hours scored lower on satisfaction and wellbeing

‘The survey also provides the best available evidence on student wellbeing. Students are less likely to regard their lives as worthwhile and are less happy than others. This suggests good support services, including counselling, should be a priority despite the impending cuts.’

So responses like JISC Building Digital Capability Project are very much to be welcomed but they should not ignore institutional and broader contexts.  The version of the Jisc ‘Six Elements of Digital Capabilities’ model that is to support Jisc’s offer in the area of Digital Leadership is still in development but it does identify one area where tensions could occur

Specialist: Lead marketing teams with an awareness of the role digital technology plays in organisational branding.

 

How does organisational branding sit with the need for institutional self-scrutiny that Ron Barnett recommends and a culture for not speaking out that Viv Rolfe hints at?

I don’t think that individuals, networks and institutions need be an impossible triangle of resilience but if silencing as a covert form of power exists in an organisation, the triangle can become a neat way of shifting responsibility away from the institution to the individual, thereby increasing the individual’s stress and decreasing their ‘resilience’. Resilience is a shared responsibility but one that exists in unequal power relations.

I have read a lot about fragility in the past couple of years observing and sometimes experiencing examples of male fragility and questioning my own white fragility.  I wonder if there is also some institutional fragility going on in institutions that instigate training for resilience in the absence of self-scrutiny. Is this an example of presence or absence of institutional resilience?

 

 

 

Failing gently but travelling hopefully at #western106 #ds106

Confession time:

This is the second time I have tried to join in with a DS106 class and it’s not going much better than the first time when I sank without trace. I have tried to follow the guidance but am not doing very well at ‘keeping up’.

  • I am determined not to be downbeat about this and I have some great contacts like Mariana Funes on whom I can call so I’ll try to count up:
  • I did the ‘red still life’ daily create after I saw Jeffrey Keefers but I think I was a day late

Red Still Life from objects in Frances' kitchen

Red Still Life from objects in Frances’ kitchen

  • I wrote a blog post linking Bowie to cowboys on the day of his death but then didn’t know how to connect it to #western106 #ds106.
  • I joined in with a #ds106 radio but was quite late so got l got little from it.

So what can I do now?

  • I can recognise that I can’t do ‘daily stuff’ – that doesn’t fit with my life style
  • I can ask ask my friends for help
  • I can focus on a single goal – mine is to learn to make a GIF from videos

Now I can share with you my flaky progress on that goal. I feel a bit ambivalent about Westerns (apart from Blazing Saddles). One of the issues I have with the genre is that women don’t always get a great deal in Westerns.  My idea from recollecting a John Wayne film where he spanked a woman so I thought I could do a ‘critical’ GIF on this topic.

Imagine my horror when I searched youtube and found that ‘spanking women’ was a common trope in Westerns. I think that this is the one I recalled but take my advice – don’t read the youtube comments.  Even worse, there is a spanking scene in the Big Bang Theory.

So that’s it, I now to learn to GIF to critique this trope. All help (except spanking) welcome to save us from a clear line from westerns to 50 Shades of Grey.

 

Bowie and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy #DS106 #Western106

Two things happened today: one momentous, one not so.
First, David Bowie died, unexpectedly for us but not for him and his family.  Like many other people stunned by his loss, I started to root around the Internet and found lots of gems, some that sparked memories and others that were new.  The less momentous event was my decision to join in with the latest DS106, the digital storytelling course, in its current form #western106.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered a link between Ziggy Stardust and cowboys. Bowie acknowledged that the term stardust was taken from the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, a star of the psychobilly genre, apparently.

The music and other artistic performances of David Bowie have brought me so much pleasure but also taught me so much through music and other performance arts about ambiguity of identity and sexuality before the Internet. He brought us out of the 60s and 70s and all the hangups from previous eras.

So let’s enjoy Ziggy Stardust.

And now Bowie is dead the Internet is helping me find out more about him and what he did, so I am still learning from him.

How about this way of writing songs or sparking ideas from your own words? I am already thinking of ways I can use this in working on my own and with other people.

All in all, thank you and good night David Bowie.