Together, we’ll cross this river.

Nature, nurture, heaven and home
Sum of all and by them driven
To conquer every mountain shown
But I’ve never crossed the river

Braved the forests, braved the stone
Braved the icy winds and fire
Braved and beat them on my own
Yet I’m helpless by the river

Angel, angel, what have I done
I’ve faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
I’ve conquered country, crown and throne
Why can’t I cross this river?

Angel, angel, what have I done
I’ve faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
I’ve conquered country, crown and throne
Why can’t I cross this river?

Pay no mind to the battles you’ve won
It’ll take a lot more than rage and muscle
Open your heart and hands, my son
Or you’ll never make it o’er the river

It’ll take a lot more than words and guns
A whole lot more than riches and muscle
The hands of the many must join as one
And together we’ll cross the river

It’ll take a lot more than words and guns
A whole lot more than riches and muscle
The hands of the many must join as one
And together we’ll cross the river

Nature, nurture, heaven and home
(It’ll take a lot more than words and guns)
Sum of all and by them driven
(A whole lot more than riches and muscle)
To conquer every mountain shown
(The hands of the many must join as one)
And together we’ll cross the river

Braved the forests, braved the stone
(It’ll take a lot more than words and guns)
Braved the icy winds and fire
(A whole lot more than riches and muscle)
Braved and beat them on my own
(The hands of the many must join as one)
And together we’ll cross the river

And together we’ll cross the river
And together we’ll cross the river

17 – 1

He sets up behind his own net, walks out in front, defender 1 attacks (toe drag), defender 2 goes for the poke check (play off the boards and past him). Defender 3 is out of position and now only 1 defender left, a simple inside out move, now we’re on the outside on the backhand. Time to apply “the can opener”. This involves 3 weight transfers while doing a short tap on either side of the ball, followed by a toe drag. Now, instead of a normal approach where this would involve a shot 5-hole, I do a 180 hop and then drag to the far post around the poke check while moving left to right and tap the ball in while falling down (the directional transfer at my weight is still too much for my like-new skates with indoor wheels to handle).

Nothing but net (and congratulations from teammates / the opposing goalie because it’s men’s league and quite friendly). 26 years of practice leading to this moment, being able to awe 20+ people in a no-name town with all the speed and stick handling practiced in my driveway. Reliving past memories, or simply escaping reality for a bit. Usually, it’s enjoyable, a way of reliving a bit of my past when I did play some competitive hockey for the school team. Reliving that play in my head against Drexel in the post season where I walked the entire team in my 1st season with my best friend growing up watching me torch his college. This day though, was about something else though; escapism.

I don’t write about hockey, and I don’t talk about how much I play because I try to compartmentalize the worlds a bit. But I noticed something in me that I haven’t felt in a very long time. It wasn’t enough to just score, or to setup teammates. I wanted to.. no, HAD, to embarrass the competition. I wouldn’t just play to relax or have fun, I was playing to escape. And I haven’t felt the desire to escape in over 12 years. Hockey to escape, as friends have noted previously, isn’t the same as hockey to have fun. When I’m having fun, I try stuff, I mess up, I play a typical lackadaisical pick up style. We score some, we let up some, someone steals it (oh well).

No, this wasn’t fun hockey. This was escapism hockey (we’ll get to from what). When I play to escape. I don’t just play, I destroy. For example. I missed the 1st period of our game. At the end of 1, the score was 2-1 our team. At the end of the game, it was 17-1. When I play to escape, I don’t let up. I don’t just want to win the game, I want to make it boring for all involved with how much non-stop scoring there is. I want to toe drag every member of the opposition then tip it off to a teammate for a tap in. I don’t like that person. I’ve kept escapism hockey down for a long time not because I don’t like winning; but because I don’t like the person I am that “accomplishes” the winning.

What am I running from?

I’m running from being trapped in this career without any real way of expressing it that doesn’t seem like it would “get me in trouble”. I’ve always been told I have a “don’t give to F’s” attitude which gets others in trouble and leaves me unscathed. Trust me, it doesn’t make me friends when applied to a work context. I’d love not to be this way, that would be really nice at times.

But I can’t deny who I am. I want to make education a better place. I also believe in pursuit of singularity technologies; technologies that bring about a fundamental transformation in a space of practice, where the previous laws that dictated norms in the space are no longer valid. I’m trying not to allow the words of a keynote speaker drown my enthusiasm (and hopefully at the end of writing this I’ll be back on track) but….

“There has never been a successful open source project that’s stemmed from academia” – Computers and Writing 2016 keynote speaker

This and a few other platitudes that seem incongruent with how our project team sees things:

  • Academia doesn’t produce software, that’s for industry.
  • Have you thought of making this a company, companies can do what the academy cannot?

I’ve been wrestling with these harbingers of doubt. Why keep going? Who’s “Waiting for Superman” (movie, see it) that you are supposedly going to help? No one cares, no one gets it, no one here believes in you that wields power.

 

These thoughts keep haunting me, especially when overloaded with projects that I push myself to get done by impossible deadlines that seemingly have no end in sight (even if “finished”). Why keep fighting, what’s the point? I don’t write to dissuade you from pursuing dreams, but only to realize that imposter syndrome strikes us all from time to time.

After hockey, a friend who I’ve been a sounding board for years returned the favor and I can appreciate why advise seems to go on deaf ears at times. Through all this ranting (though with the real issue at hand involved), he just kept telling me to have fun. To remember, that all of this is about fun. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. And I kept trying to find in my mind more and more “Ya but…” ‘s. My mind wants to rationalize that things couldn’t be that simple. That it couldn’t be me allowing things to crush me in my mind more then they should.

“You’ve built an empire, stop and appreciate that”

In a world where our empires are digital, it’s so hard to actually appreciate them. Anything can be built up and torn down with a simple series of rm -rf *

‘s. When this is true, it is hard to stop some times and realize there are real world consequences for the technologies we build, advocate for and implement….

We’ve mobilized everyone* (almost everyone) in a uniform development paradigm. We’re on the edge of the industry right now when it comes to Web Component architecture (Youtube and McDonalds just released, but I mean, other then them what REAL people are using polymer?).

And maybe because it’s the edge, that’s why it feels so lonely…. but my friend is right. It’s important to keep perspective. To stop, and listen. To enjoy the spring time, focus on what is attainable and keep polaris fixed in her seat as that north star. That ultimate goal of transforming education and educational technology. I’ve been buying too much of my own marketing.. and wanting us to be something more then we are. But then again, no one said there wouldn’t be repercussions, and self-doubt associated with the intentional by-pass of management tracks. It’s just so hard to get over sometimes when the people you trust the most abandon not you, but your ideas…

The game is scheduled, it’s sunny weather outside, it’s time to play… I just need to talk to the sports psychologist before puck drop if I’m going to actually have fun playing the game. Because.. if it’s not for fun… what’s the point of playing at all?

5 reasons to come to Open Apereo 2017 in Philly

I’m here to tell you, yes you, that you should join us at Open Apereo 2017 in Philadelphia June 4th – 8th. Why though? Well, as someone who only attended last year by accident (a friend invited me to join him in his presentation) I can say that I was overwhelmingly impressed by the event. I attend a lot of education / ed-tech / Drupal events, and Open Apereo was by far and away my favorite event I’ve been to; right up there with DrupalCon, OpenEd and UniversityAPI UnConference.

Early bird registration ends this Friday (May 5th) so now is a great time to register and save some coin.

So, here are my 5 reasons you should be there (ok well 6):

1. The people

This beyond any other reason is why you should attend. I absolutely loved the people of Open Apereo when I went in 2016 at NYU. I knew 1 person coming into the event (Dr. Chuck Severance) and left with a nice little network of people that I’ve still been keeping in touch with regularly a year later! Everyone I talked to was interested in why “A Drupal person would be here?” and would leave our conversations with a greater understanding of where I was coming from and why I felt (increasingly as the event went on) that it was important that I be there and get our community to unite with this one.

As an example, I had a 15 minute speaking slot in a session and when I mentioned “I’m thinking of pursuing incubation to join this community” the room of 50 or so people all started clapping (mid session). It was cool to know there’s a group of people beyond my traditional communities that was openly encouraging a technological outsider (nothing there is GPL and nothing there is PHP to my knowledge, and no way is anything there Drupal till now..) to unite with them.

The only other audience of attendees I can relate Apereo to is Open Ed. If you’ve been to OpenEd you know that everyone there has this unified mindset of “We are going to make education better by making open textbooks, open materials, and lowering costs to access as a result, through free or at least advocating cheaper solutions”. Well, take that and apply it to educational platform development. Everyone there whether administration, developers, management, faculty or staff, EVERYONE is unified in mindset that we can improve education and innovate best when we do so as an open community.

2. The mission

Open Apereo is like the Apache Foundation but for educational technologies (What do you mean?). Think of Open Apereo as a way for open source edtech communities to all get together and speak with one unified voice. Does it mean that everyone in the community HAS to use other platforms of the community? No. But it does mean that cross pollination can happen more easily because of proximity and it never hurts knowing what other people with similar mindset (open source all the things!) are up to and thinking about for their next releases.

3. The sessions

[See schedule here] Sunday has a lot of training opportunities and is sort of a “pre-event” if you will with workshops including one on xAPI from the Aaron Silvers and company! The bulk of the sessions of the event run Monday through Wed morning with related events specific to communities within Open Apereo taking up Wed afternoon through Thursday.

One thing I loved about the session selection last year is that it’s all over the place. By that I mean there’s something for everyone to learn and find something at their level. If you want to just get an intro to something there’s Audience tags on all sessions and these are very different from most events I’ve been to. Audience tags include: New comer, student, developer, faculty, staff, Technical, Administration member and Advocate. This along with the Project tag, help to indicate the types of users this is speaking to but also the project it’s about.

*There are four ELMS:LN related sessions this year so we’ve got our own tag 🙂

4. The platforms

Sakai, Open Academic Environment, CAS, Xerte, and uPortal are just a few of the communities involved that play a prominent role at Open Apereo. “But we don’t use Sakai as our LMS?” – Me neither. The best conferences where I’ve learned the most are the ones where I “didn’t fit in”. Innovation doesn’t lay with the same group of people with the same platform all talking to each other, it’s when an “outsider” comes in and provides a new perspective based on their experiences. Open Apereo is an incredibly diverse group on multiple levels, very important for educational technologists though is thought diversity. So many different platforms with different use cases, different countries and world views of education, different clients, different different different. It’s awesome!

ELMS:LN will be represented as well formally now that we’ve gotten into their incubation program (and believe me, we’ve got nothing in common with Sakai, this ain’t no Sakai exclusive event if my rag tag band is accepted to speak anywhere in public).

5. The location

Philadelphia is a hub of educational institutions, along with PA in general. It’s not far from major cities and has a lot to do on its own if you want to roam around post conference / find great places to eat while there. Make sure you spring for a Cheese steak or two (with or without “Wiz”).

6. Lightning Talks (BONUS REASON)

There are 3 lightning talks scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. One of which is mine entitled: You can’t buy the ocean so PLEASE stop trying to purchase your way to NGDLE. I highly recommend you attend if your looking for someone to just “be real with you” about NGDLE and where open source and edtech are situated currently. As someone building in a completely different community (intentionally) I think I bring a very unique perspective to more traditional edtech world views.

Also given the fact that I recently gave a talk at DrupalConNA (Drupal’s yearly, US based national event) and said (well, my colleague Michael Potter said) we are here to save Drupal from itself by declaring the end of the web as we knew it. We plan to do this by eliminating the Drupal Front end way of authoring content in Drupal, I’m not above being as provocative as possible to forge a new vision of the world.

I spent much of this post talking about how much I need / love Apereo, but I think Apereo needs me and what our team is working on just as much. How can ELMS:LN be the best platform it can be? By actively building up communities and technologies not currently in ELMS:LN (huh?). I’ll explain it in this talk and how it applies to everyone in the room working in their cubby-holes on different UX patterns when we could all be working on open UX elements via LRNWebComponents and disrupting ourselves to prevent anyone else from doing so.