Domain of One’s Own
Articles,  Blog

Domain of One’s Own


Domain of One’s Own is a way that each of
us can express ourselves online. Domain of One’s
Own has allowed me to focus on my own web
identity and also being able to relate that back
to my students and how they can work on their own web
identity. An opportunity for faculty and students to be empowered to take advantage of various digital
tools to kind of showcase and present their identity the work that they do in a way that is
open to the world. It’s also a great resource
for teaching too, I have my students using it to build their own portfolios I’m using it in the classroom as a resource
for building web sites for students to be doing public projects. So I think it’s really just an open
resource we can do all kinds of creative projects. Domain of One’s Own offers the
opportunity to push students out into the web in ways that they have
never inhabited it before. They have to grapple with some
difficult questions about how the Web works, about
how things are built on the web, about the choices we make when we build
things on the web, about how we find an audience for the things that we build on
the web. To me it’s it’s more than just a website
where you know it says JackHighland.net or you know and I have my resume up there and
stuff like that, but it’s more a community to me than
anything else. You know this is something that anybody
can do. Anybody can sign up for Domain and get web hosting, that’s not really
particularly innovative in we have not reinvented the web in
terms of providing that service. The way that this is innovative and the way that this does allow other people innovate is that we’re doing it in a
fully supported way. It’s not about saying, no we’re going to limit your choices
so that you don’t do something wrong, we’re gonna expand your choices and then
give you a safety net so that if something does go wrong we’re here to help you. The LMS is the monster that ate higher ed I.T.. I think it’s no
secret that I am not a fan at the LMS. I found that it was really uni-directional, the students got on it to find you know was there a quiz to take? Okay I’ll take it. Is there a grade I can find? Okay I found it. We keep the things that need to be
behind those closed walls in the LMS and everything else should be in Domain of One’s Own. Starting back in the mid to late 90’s it
became our entire understanding of I.T. and
instructional technology. I’m here to share knowledge and that means yes of course in the
classroom, but what about when the semester ends? What
about when the student leaves UMW? What if someone ever came to UMW, but knows someone who was at UMW and wants to learn something I think it’s really
important for what I produce to be freely available.
That’s what I add to the world, right, it’s kind of
ethical thing, I guess you could say. When I switched to using, working with WordPress and working you know as we developed the UMW Blogs the Domain of One’s Own. What I found was that switch from
a sort of, uni-directional, where’s the hoop I need to jump through to a much more collaborative form of
learning and it became, I think, something that was
much more student centered and much more about them initiating the
project’s much more about them controlling knowledge creation itself. The work
that’s done in the LMS is harder for students to control and have access to and since
one of the goals of Domain of One’s Own is for students to
be able to claim their work, to proclaim boldly that this
is their work, work that’s done on an LMS that
we if don’t provide some way for them to get out of that LMS that’s knowledge that’s lost to the rest of the
world. I think we do projects like Domain of One’s Own a disservice when we constantly on talk about them in relation to the LMS, it gives it even
more power than it already has, the LMS does some
things well, it does administrative tasks
well, it does certain kinds of managerial
tasks well. I’m not really interested in supplanting
those tasks with a project like Domain of One’s Own. I’m much more
interested in looking at what Domain of One’s Own does well that the LMS can’t
even touch. People aren’t digitally literate and it doesn’t
have to be full-blown coding anything like that. It’s just that
it’s beyond knowing how to operate Facebook. Digital Literacy is a bare-bones kind of ability to navigate in an information age. We have higher expectations and we
expect that our students will be digitally
fluent, that they will not just be able to keep their head above water, but to
in fact thrive in the digital world. Younger and
younger, people got the less and less than knew
about the digital world and it’s so shocking that for something you use every single
day and that not only in their own personal lives, but in projects researching on the internet
for research papers they don’t know how
it works. I mean they don’t understand you know how an FTP transfers on the Internet they don’t understand the difference, some didn’t even understand that there was a difference between the
World Wide Web and the Internet, they just thought it was the same thing. Digital fluency has to be part that skill set that every student from our department graduates
with and and in that context the Domain of One’s Own is vehicle within which we can introduce students to the concept of
digital identity, introduce students to the wide variety of tools that are required to be a successful 21st century historian or scholar of American Studies and
that’s true even if they don’t go on to be historians. There’s so many people who I just want to
scream at that especially with, digital humanities, like this is the way we can actually
save humanities and you guys keep sitting there arguing back and forth, “what do we do?
what we do?” well this is what we do like how have you not seen? You know when I first started out thinking about this stuff was about ten years ago when I started at Mary
Washington and I remember we were talking about digital literacy and you know, committee meetings about is
testing you know how can we test for digital literacy and that quickly became a conversation
that immediately had a thinking its obsolete
as soon as you think about it. And so when I think about Domain of One’s Own it’s wonderful because It’s about the students I think you know
sort of setting the parameters themselves. What can I create and the boundaries are
just absolutely open. So they’re the ones who are
actually doing the exploration. So literacy itself I think is a is for the
funny term it’s almost too too shallow in a way. I think what we’re looking for is
creativity and the students are already bringing that to us so literacy i think is isn’t ambitious
enough. These are skills that are
critical, so the Domain of One’s Own provides a vehicle for programs,
I think, to approach how do we integrate digital fluency into the curricular experience. I’ve got my sandbox and that’s always been a
powerful thing as an instructional technology specialist to have that same
box space where I can do anything, but knowing now that I can give that sandbox to anyone at Mary Washington and say let’s do this together, let’s build
something let me show you why this is amazing. I mean I wish I had access to something
like this when I was in 6th grade. While in the past when faculty or students
would come to us with an idea or project we felt really hamstrung, we didn’t have
a whole lot of options in terms of technologies to explore we had an LMS with sort of limited
capabilities with open source web hosting suddenly the
sky sort of the limit. Its offer us a lot of possibilities that
we didn’t have before to sort of say you know the world’s your oyster you
know there’s all these different tools and technologies out there we can do any
other we’re not limited by the boundaries of blackboard or the boundaries of WordPress we really
can say what do we want to accomplish here and
what’s available. It allows faculty for one to really think about
what do I actually want students to get out of this
class and to have that be their their first thought and only her
second thought to be okay now what’s the technology that I need
to get there. It’s been a great way for me to
bring all my stuff together because I think as faculty sometimes
it’s easy for us to kind of silo all our stuff, right, to be
like, okay my research is over here and you know my teaching is over here and then this other special class is over here and none of it talks to each other naturally I think LMSs actually
make that even worse in many cases because then you’re just
really stuck thinking of each class is its own thing and then by
semester so literally at the end of the semester that thing shuts off or the the links shut off whereas with UMW domains I’ve been able to bring all my
stuff together so it one holistic thing so that my research and my teaching
and my blogging and all this other stuff can talk to each other and the students have access to it colleagues have access to it both inside
and outside the institution. So it means that I’m no longer this
kind of fragmented person and students can also
see how their work is more than what they’re
doing in the classroom how their work relates to research I’m so brings it
into a wider context. The openness the Domain of One’s Own project really emphasizes learning as a community experience and an outward
facing aspect to it that I think as a state institution
especially we have a responsibility to to be outward facing to show people what it
is that we do and to have students understand that their time
here is not just in this closed space but is something that’s part of a larger
world. This past semester in one of my classes I have a student who is an education majors well as a history major, many students and so I let her turn her term paper
into online curriculum unit in addition to
just writing for me she was creating a unit that she can share with other
teachers that she can bring to a job interview it was something that
was digital, but not just for the sake of being digital,
but for the sake of sharing with a community. So the idea I think is to
find ways to use the digital to help enhance the
curriculum, but also help students enhance what they’re doing
for something that again transcends the classroom. I think we’ve allowed ourselves to rely
too heavily on products and vendors, very often products that are delivered to us by
vendors who know very little about who we are or
what our values are or what our mission is and technology isn’t agnostic you know technology is scribe with values too and when we choose
technologies we choose the values that are inscribed in them and I think when we choose something
like Domain of One’s Own were choosing a very particular kind of values, set of values, that I think underpin the very essence
of what we do in higher ed: values of openness, values exploration
values about experimentation, values of individuality, values of community too, understanding
that the web is a network of things it is not things in isolation, those things are
connected and I take great hope in the fact that Mary Washington has put
resources into into a set of technologies that ascribed to those values.

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