My Why

Late last year, I wrote a post entitled “Pursuit of Why” on my personal blog about how I largely ignore… everything in life because of my obsession. It was mostly an apology to those that I have, will, and do offend along the way. It’s really quite simple though, my why is my children. They deserve better solutions, as do all our children.

Dribs and drabs may accelerate though. We’ve been getting more people involved in our issue queues, more general inquires, a 3rd party about to go into production, more people on the project soon through contributions. One in particular is really intriguing though because they come from a K12 background.

I hope that through his influence if he keeps putting up with us, that we can help build a platform that can meet needs in the K12 space. Accessibility being a cornerstone of the system will, sadly, set it apart from many others. Thread 88 is worth a look as there’s a lot of good discussion in there about pedagogy around the platform as well as accessibility discussions —

My kids getting into the K12 space soon which makes it all the more interesting to me. As the versioning, accessibility and quality of things get refined through the efforts of many people talking about and committing to the project now.

Join us, let’s build awesome things —

I will sit passively in your meetings no longer.

No longer will I serve on committees as a passenger, listening, and thinking the same thing as so many others: “this won’t solve anything…”. No, I won’t speak up, disrupt, be annoying, or even engage actively… without further action. It’s easy to complain, it’s time to do something about it, actually do something.

“Talk is cheap” is wrong. All of you sitting there talking is revenue loss, is budgets paying you to sit there and talk. Talk, is actually very expensive when there is inaction.

For too many of us, we sit in meetings, committees that go on endlessly, assess, review, investigate, and not, as an outcome, do the thing that would solve what everyone is actually getting at: Build. We need to Create again. We did at one time, all of us did, the collective of instructional designers went to school to build instruction, education, technology, systems.

No more sitting back, no more passive acceptance of the status quo.

If I’m in your meetings, I’m plotting, actively, as to how I can take your ideas, your demands, your requirements, your desires, and bring them to life. Not by product but by production.

Someone will build the tools you are asking for, I don’t care if you use them, but people will. If you refuse to invest in the production of the technologies that match the pedagogies, not the other way around, we will.

I am a Maker; Expect me.

dribs and drabs

We will take over the world.

Person to person, project to project, one line at a time.

We will tear down the old models brick by brick, replacing products and sales pitches with open arms and open knowledge bases. There will be no proprietary software between the learner and the educator. We will bridge this digital divide not by competing, but by eliminating.

Information Altruism hasn’t changed just my life, it’s changing the lives of many developers now. And while I didn’t create open source or Information Altruism (I merely study it), I am still that 19 year old kid that said he was going to liberate educational technology. I am still too dumb, too naive, too stupid to accept the status quo and, working with reckless abandon believe you and I can; will, make a difference. We can be the “Superman” that documentaries about education have spoke of before.

Anyone can go and make money. Anyone can pitch seed money or angel funding. It takes a different approach to really change things. Are you willing to join us? We need everyone we can, because education is in trouble; and it’s the same trouble it’s been in for decades. We aren’t connecting with large swaths of our “market” our “customers”. The solutions aren’t going to come from “Silco” or the boardroom; they’re already right here; with you and me. We can and will build something bigger. It’s why we don’t speak in products, we speak in philosophies of design and social movements.

You may say technology can’t solve everything, and your right. But it certainly can hindered the process of educating others. We always say students connect with learning differently and so we need lots of examples and modalities to connect with as many students as possible. Meeting them on the level that they learn best. Yet when it comes to technology, we throw everything in the same bucket, regardless of subject or faculty or students and call it a day?

How many students disengage from classes because the technology is a barrier to entry?

How many people can’t connect because of how poorly we route them to one another.

In dribs and drabs, grassroots, deployed in an endless series of configurations, with increasingly less technical expertise required to accomplish the task. To quote a colleague, “ELMS seems like an inevitability at this point”.

Never tire, never give up, never back down. We’re not going away, and through visions of the future you’ll only start to see how different we’re going to make the world. With so much strife, negativity and eye rolling; the world desperately needs dreamers.

Will you dare to dream with us?

This is only the beginning.

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The ELMSLNephant in the Room


A call to action by one of our own. We are all in endless meetings; it’s time to stop talking and realize we’re all developing the solutions already and to unite! We are building the future and I’ve never been more motivated then I have this year. We are a distributed team across colleges here, across institutions (with Wisconsin), and across nations with a group that will release a case study this summer about their ELMSLN deployment experiences.

We can now get a new copy of ELMSLN running on digitalocean by copying and pasting 3 lines and waiting 9 minutes. This sets a server up from nothing to a fully functional deployment, automatically authoring modules unique to the deployment, networking systems together on the fly. This is no longer just a Drupal site, it’s an organism.

It’s only a matter of time before that includes domains, certificates, load balances and beyond. All open, all free. We already have a deployment that self updates when a known configuration works; it’s only a matter of time before all deployments automatically upgrade themselves. They already back themselves up, harden the security of the file system, and run scripts that first discover what needs upgraded, then performs the upgrades. We are not here to disrupt, we are here to fundamentally transform.

It’s no longer about which vendor to get locked into. It’s about which vendor will help us implement and integrate with our processes.

This isn’t just about building an LMS, because that concept of a data storage silo structured like the phpBB forums they are based on from the 90s is dead. This is about building, modifying and sharing whole systems within systems. This is remix culture brought to the edtech space and done in a way that encourages dissent not stamp it out.

This is the network we are building. Let’s build amazing ecosystems together.

Originally posted on Little Wing:

Just over a year ago, Eric Barron was named the 18th president of Penn State, and on May 12, he assumed that role. One of the first things he addressed were the six areas in which every great university should excel, which included:

  • Excellence
  • Student engagement
  • Demographics and diversity
  • Student career success and economic development
  • Accessibility
  • Technology

How, he asked, as one of the premiere teaching, research, and service institutions of the world, could we make ourselves stand out? Numerous committees across the University rose to the charge and began tackling these six areas head-on to identify opportunities for excellence. One group started looking at piloting and identifying a new LMS. Another began investigating “content” — what it is, how we use is, and how we can best serve it. Other groups began exploring the best ways to support our online students. One of the committees on which I serve took particular interest in the economic development part…

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Lego Knight and Dragon

You are the most talented

You don’t have to be the bad guy. You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things. Because you are the Special. And so am I. And so is everyone. The prophecy is made up, but it’s also true. It’s about all of us. Right now, it’s about you. And you… still… can change everything.

Emmet – The Lego Movie

Read it. Believe it. Right now, you, and hopefully everyone around you, is special. I am special, and so is everyone. Stop believing that the only people special, smart, unique, incredible, work and live elsewhere. Everyone is capable of being awesome, believe it and build from there.

Companies, corporations, institutions, organizations; all of them, are only special because we give those words power over us. I have a different words for it: Branding, marketing, collectivism. It is the individuals that makes these organizations great, and that’s why we need to stop take a look at the individuals around us, and realize that we are great also.

A phrase that has really stuck with me lately is “Distribute, everything”. Distributed everything is a phrase built up around the DarkCoin / BitCoin / Cypocurrency communities. And its a mentality we need to bring to education. We don’t need to be consumers anymore.

I sit  in countless product meetings and the question comes up: “Well, is this flexible enough for…” and then an incredible use-case comes out of someone’s mount. Someone incapable of being able to build it themselves, or at least their fear is what keeps them from doing so.

It would never scale

I don’t know enough / have the credentials

I could never build that

I have another phrase for this mindset: BullSh*t.

It would never scale

This is built on the faulty premise that something needs to scale in the traditional sense. If I walk into a classroom and I have a corkboard and students pin articles to it, comment (in real life, like human beings) and then have take aways; does that experience matter less because it was confined to a classroom setting? Or because it was only available to 15 people, is it somehow less important?

The notion of course technology needing to scale to be relevant is complete and utter nonsense. If we ever want to break the factory model of education, then we damn well better get used to the notion that people are different and connect with different learning methodologies. If your talking system scale, the pace of technology and innovation and change make this a trivial point (especially when Distributing Everything).

I don’t know enough / have the credentials

Your right, IT and Educational technology vendors have access to incredibly advanced tools that you could never in your life figure out. Oh wait, it’s called Google and open source. Guess what, here’s some wisdom to impart. There is literally nothing special about what I do. Who I am, maybe (i’m a special unicorn full of butterflies). But what I do, what almost everyone does at this point, is common knowledge.

IT professional workflow: I don’t know something

www dot search engine name dot com

Search field: The problem / error message experienced

Click links on stack exchange

Most of the web is built on open source servers, code and libraries. That means it’s out there… openly. And the majority of vendors are not producing you any secret sauce you couldn’t come up with yourself.

I could never build that

You’re right again! You could never build the things that other people can! That’s because they went to schools that gave them credentials (recall point 2: this is BullSh*t) which enable them and only them to make solutions.

Words like “Cloud hosted solution” and “Scalable” are fancy ways of saying “We use Jenkins (free) to automatically request a new setup of our architecture in Amazon EC2 when you send us your dollars.”. Jenkins, open source, And lets ignore Amazon EC2 being hard to use for a moment and swap it out with DigitalOcean where you can setup a cloud based server with certain resources for a set dollar amount. You can get full blown applications setup for development in 55 seconds, and things are only going to get easier in this area. Right now, you can copy and paste commands (that you most likely googled) into a textfield and it’ll spin up your server and then run those commands.

In the future, the only thing you should be paying for is hosting. Open Source communities (or which you should join) are making the paying for much else kind of embarrassing. Is there risk involved in doing things yourself? Absolutely, so don’t just go off in a basement and do everything without connecting with others. But there’s far more risk of failing future generations by making education the same for all.

So remember, when everyone tells you you can’t or that only other people are capable. Remember…

You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things.

Live like it, stop being a consumer, and lets build a better, more distributed, world, collaboratively.

Who’s brand are you building on the “Radio”?

Let’s look at an idea through a fictional conversation

E: We need to market our brand and attract more long term clients?

B: I completely agree, let’s advertise more of the tv, “radio”, social media, everywhere. We just need to give the proper tease to get people to come ask for our services. What do you provide that people can’t get anywhere else?

E: Well, I have 30 years experience in the field, so I’ll be working 1 on 1 with clients to advise them on their portfolio. We could do a 30 second ad that shows the process you’d go through and has lots of great pictures of people happy with their families because they’ve had a secure “finance” situation thanks to talking with me and my team.

B: Hmm.. I’m not sure that’s the approach we want to take. Here, how about this. Instead of showing your services and saying how great individualized attention is with you, the expert, let’s instead have an infomershial. Yeah… I can see it now. People will be more engaged with it because it’ll be longer; AND, you’ll be able to help more of them because instead of putting it on multiple platforms we’ll only put it on “radio”! You know “radio” is the wave of the future and it travels REALLY far, almost globally. Also, people don’t respond well to that happy families thing, they want to learn about how to make more money so they can buy more stuff. So I’m thinking lots of smiling attractive people swimming in money because they listened to your infomercial and then came in to become clients!

E: err, So you want me to change the message to be a longer discussion of finance, in a more watered down way for more people? And just 1 place? Why would we only advertise on 1 location?? And besides that’s not the experience they’d get by coming in to see us, I don’t know how I feel about this plan. We’re about a lot more then just making people money.

B: Just 1 place; oh you make it sound so bad. No silly, it’s got millions of people on it. I don’t know if you know how technology like “radio” works, but you broadcast a message, people pay attention, at scale, and then the money just comes pouring in. And as for your message, we don’t want something representative of what 1 person’s experience is like; we want this to be eye catching, really wow the crowd to hold onto their attention. That’s the only way your going to make the final sale in the end, is if you present a product that blows people away; ignore the fact that it’s not really what you do, you just have to go with the flow.

E: Hmm.. ok, I mean I guess your right. We do things a bit dated around here and I am really worried that we’re missing out on potentially helping people and bringing ourselves more business.

B: Well, to make money you have to spend money; and the best way to do that is to partner with “Buy-in-large” to put your infomercial out to as many people as possible. Then, once the idea.. {cut off}

E: Wait, did you just say partner with “Buy-in-large”?? I thought this was OUR infomercial, why do we need them? And they don’t have experience in the “finance” industry, why should I trust them to get our my message about how great we are at helping individuals with “finance”?

B: You didn’t let me finish. Your clients are here to make money so that they can buy more stuff, “Buy-in-large” is the perfect fit. They sell stuff to people and provide a platform to sell more stuff upon them becoming clients of yours and “Buy-in-large”s.

Also, you can’t do it on your own. I mean this is “radio”, how are we ever going to put something on a “radio” without partnering with an organization of their size. “Buy-in-large” is exactly the kind of group that we want to be affiliated with.

Trust me, if you want this captive audience’s attention and to potentially turn this into a sale down the road, you gotta pair up with “Buy-in-large”.

E: But that doesn’t even make sense. And really, how captive an audience could “radio” possibly have? I mean I hear that there might be millions of people that goto “radio”s but that it rarely converts into paying business; isn’t “radio” more about just getting our name out there? That’s not what I need, we already have a name for ourselves in this industry, I’m just trying to attract a few more perspective clients and show them quickly how I can help them through personalized advise.

B: Ok, if your ever going to make this work you need to drop this notion that you know what your talking about. I mean, you’ve been at this for 30 years; times have changed. People don’t want personalization anymore, they want large, well presented arrangements that they get for free without any potential market applicability.

You have to trust me, I’m the expert and besides, everyone else is doing it. If your going to keep up the perception that you are also good at what you do, your just going to have to swallow your pride a bit and get on “radio” like the rest of them! It’s the only way to survive in the coming years when business is going to get tight.

E: But all I wanted was to put out a quick notice that we exist and that we’ve got great experience for them..

B: Ya well your perspective clients don’t care about that anymore; grow up. The dream is dead. No one wants the path to a better, more complete life; they want money. So just do this so that I can help you succeed!


E is Education

B is Big MOOC

“financial” = education

“Radio” = MOOC

“Buy-in-large” = Any silo’ed MOOC provider

Thoughts that prompted this:

  • When you give away a product that’s of higher quality then what you make people pay for; will that reflect positively or negatively on the institution?
  • When you associate your brand with a large bucket of logos of other brands, does that not say your all the same; forcing you to focus more on brand management then educating?
  • Don’t tell me this is about education. This is about creating an industry to “Appify” and replace higher education, especially faculty (see recent articles about the 
  • Which brand are you building? The platform? The faculty member? The field? or your own?
  • How long can this all last?

These thoughts do not apply specifically to anyone or anything. I’m sure there are great MOOCs out there taught by great instructors.

The LM-essest 1%: Death by IT governance

As with everything, I have nothing to back this up. But anecdotally from faculty and instructional designers I’ve talked to recently, I’d imagine that they love LMSs if they were allowed to change the 1% of the issues that bug them.

For example, if you don’t have the ability to import a rubric and have to enter it manually from a previous system. That 1% capability of the LMS may be so obnoxious that it sours your entire experience. This isn’t really a problem with the LMS, it’s a problem with IT governance and dated policies.

I’d be curious to see the stats on open platforms like Moodle and Canvas when deployed as large central instances vs distributed, smaller ones at college and department levels. I’d imagine that as you get closer and closer to the end users (as far as levels of governance) that perception of quality of the same tool would improve.

I’d do research, but in the age of Singularity, bloated research is dead and gut instinct is the only way to survive. Because structures and institutions won’t change, the LMS community is doomed to a fate of less customers, more requirements. Unless the larger LMS community adopts google-esk, distributed, app-ified, networked services approach to implementation via LTI or lightweight APIs; it will be in a continued state of decline much like the cord-cutters leaching users out of the cable industry.

I think right now the LMS community’s response will be much like cable: you need us, you’ll come back, you’ll never leave, we’ll just raise rates to make up the difference. 4-5 years from now though, they’ll still be saying the same thing and those that get off the sinking LMS ship (now) will be mas money and students ahead of their dinosaur counterparts.

Because they aren’t willing to change their governance or financial model, they will be in a state of staged collapse over the next several years.  The issue at hand is that technology has changed the nature of the way new businesses and ideas can be disseminated and they are still living in the days of brick-and-mortar style buildings that are trying desperately to remain relevant in the “new”-new IT driven economy.

All it will take is a visionary “uber”-like disruption and the entire thing will be threatened; all because the people making the decisions are unable to step back and realize they are the problem.