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Laura Gibbs

Chris-Hildrew-Inspired Cats!

2 min read

In a great example of "the power of open" yesterday, Chris Hildrew saw a blog post of mine here and left a comment, which then led me to connect with him at Twitter also! I had learned about him through his blog and this excellent post in particular: 

Growth Mindset Misconceptions and Missteps.

The observations in that post inspired several  cats, and I'm sharing them all together here. As you can see, I was really inspired by his observations about the importance of effort and the need for practice to be purposeful, goal-oriented, etc. For more "Growth Mindset Cats," see the blog: Growth Mindset Memes (the links below go to the posts at that blog for each cat):

That last one is the one I featured in the Growth Mindset Memes update today, and I'll be featuring the others there in the days to come.

This is not exactly related, but since my connection with Chris was prompted by the NTPoC post yesterday, I'm adding the hashtag here too. :-)


Laura Gibbs

Dancing Partners and Multiplicity: Another post for the Power of Creativity (Unit 4)

4 min read

So, I just had time to watch another , this one again with Adam Croom; here's the link. Adam starts off by talking about instructor-student negotiation, especially at the beginning of a new course in a field of study that is new to students. He notes that in that moment of newness, there can be a big mismatch of aspiration and readiness: that is such a great topic to address! Not A-Z immediately, but small things you can do, building on what people already do well. I really like that Adam emphasized how that applies both to faculty as course designers AND to students in their learning. I can really relate to what Adam is talking about here since, as a Gen. Ed. instructor, I am teaching classes that are full of "newness" for the students. 

In the Myth-Folklore class, students might know a bit of Greek mythology but even then not so much (and lots of students enroll in the class thinking it is going to be all Greek myth all the time)... but they often know a LOT about the storytelling that goes on in movies and television, for example, knowing the characters and plots of series like Doctor Who or Supernatural by heart. And hey, Greek "mythos" meant "story" — so it totally works when students find connections between the traditional stories of different cultures and the stories that are familiar to them even now. They often choose projects which build on the familiar and then incorporate the new and unfamiliar, just as Adam mentioned. Building on existing students' strengths and interests and asking them to go somewhere new with that is exactly what the storytelling projects in the class are all about! You can see some Myth-Folklore projects here: Myth-Folklore Storybooks.

Last semester, for example, one student did a mash-up of the "Internet dating site" storytelling genre and traditional mermaid legends: Something new and something old... blended together wonderfully! screenshot

In the Indian Epics class, finding those points of connection is harder at first because the epics are really REALLY new to most of the students in the class, and that newness can even be overwhelming. In that sense, it is a more challenging class for me to teach and in a lot of ways I enjoy the India class more because of that, and in this coming year I am so excited that I have a lot of materials to share with the students that I hope will help with that process of familiarization, now having comic books and graphic novels for them to read, audiobooks to listen to, films and videos, music, all kinds of ways to encounter the epics that I hope will pull them in and help them being their own process of exploration, following whatever thread might tug them along. So, THANK YOU to Stacy Zemke and the OER project in our Library that is helping making all of that possible; if you browse through the comic books we will have available in Bizzell Library related to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, you can get a sense of how cool this is going to be, with so many paths the students might choose to follow! 

I'll bring forward a metaphor of "personalization" from the world of Indian Epics that might be new to readers who are not up on the Krishna literature. Krishna, one of the avatars of the god Vishnu, was much loved by the cowgirls (gopis) of the village where he spent his youth. They all loved Krishna, and he loved them too... and in order to make each of them happy, Krishna would "multiply himself" with his divine powers so that every gopi was able to dance with her very own Krishna. You can read about Krishna and the gopis at Wikipedia. This "Rass-Lila" picture from Prem Mandir Vrindavan shows each gopi with her own Krishna:

Rass Lila (Vrindavan)

And here is a Rasa Lila drawing that shows all the Krishnas and gopis together in a circle, with Krishna also playing his flute in the middle:

Rasa Lila drawing

And here is a Rasa Lila painting:

With a close-up:

Look at all those Krishnas, and all those happy gopis! Krishna's divine self-multiplication for the gopis is a key moment in Hindu theology... and now the Internet's "multiplicity" allows students to each have their own copy of something: it is a key moment in teaching technology! Let's dance, people!

And for your listening and viewing pleasure, here's a Rasa Lila from YouTube:


Laura Gibbs

Unit 4: Power of Creation with Stacy and Adam

5 min read

We've got houseguests this week, but they are on a day-trip today, so I have a little time to get into Unit 4: Power of Creation... and of course that is a topic of huge interest to me, and I was excited to see Stacy Zemke and Adam Croom featured in the videos for this unit. It's very telling, I think, that the people Rob is interviewing from OU are non-traditional faculty, people like Stacy and Adam and Kerry Magruder last week. What would it take to ignite some of these experiments by the "regular" faculty at our school I wonder...? That is a question I will return to later in this post as it turns out!

Anyway, here is a link to Rob's post with the Stacy and Adam videos. Such important topics and questions; for more of how this plays out in my own courses, check out the posts at Anatomy of an Online Course. And for now, here are some quick thoughts in response to the videos:

Stacy talks about having students make the syllabus (and other folks like Mia Zamora, Cathy Davidson, etc. have written a lot about this), but I've never really worked on having students make the syllabus insofar as the syllabus governs everybody's work; given the widely varying level of motivation and involvement, I really feel like I am teaching a lot of different classes, customized around the interests and motivations of each student... so my goal is really to create a syllabus that is flexible enough to accommodate everybody. It's challenging enough for me to get students to make choices for themselves; if constructing a syllabus means some kind of consensus decision-making by the students as a group, I would find that really hard to do for my classes. But I love building syllabuses driven by student choice so, in a sense, each student is making their own syllabus.

I'm really intrigued by students not wanting to write for Wikipedia (Stacy talked about this). She links it up to the question of voice, which is why I haven't really done any Wikipedia-based projects since Wikipedia articles are written in that highly impersonal academic voice, which is not something I teach in my classes, and I honestly don't like writing that way either! I wonder if that is part of the problem for the students; admittedly, college writing often pursues that abstract, impersonal, omniscient voice... but students understandably don't feel very comfortable with that (I think that's a source of trouble for college writing in general). 

Oh look: combine those themes and you get CHOICE and VOICE. I could make those a class motto!

I also love Stacy's analogy about getting Lego kits but then throwing all those Lego pieces into your big box of Legos to use for other projects later. That is such a good way to conceptualize both writing skills AND tech skills! And, as you'll see at the bottom of this post, I love the things you can do with Legos now that I never would have imagined when I was a Lego-obsessed child in the early 1970s.

Adam follows up on that with distinction between "ingredients for invention" and "ready-made knowledge." That is something that surely cuts across all disciplines: we can even see that knowledge AS an ingredient for invention. That's what happens in my classes: insofar as I present content in a traditional way, that is ALL as potential raw ingredients for my students' own storytelling. It's not content for its own sake: it's content for the students to USE.

Time as constraint: Adam talks about this, and I see it as a faculty development problem as much as a student problem. If we think 150 minutes is not enough time to spend on working with students (typical class week), just think how little "free" time faculty have to work on course development in a given week! How many faculty members have that kind of time to spend on open-ended course development, eh? (as opposed to the must-do-now tasks involved in administering an already-existing class).

And again, Adam talks about how students interact with each other's learning narratives, blogs, imitation... but how often do faculty get to observe each other's teaching narratives, blogs, etc.? I think we can do a great job in creating these stimulating learning environments for our students, but the key question is now on the faculty side: how is the university going to create that stimulating learning environment FOR FACULTY so they can develop and grow their own teaching in creative new ways...?

So I guess that is the question I want to pose here: when teachers and students start working together creatively in their classes, all kinds of amazing things will happen, powered by the creativity of all those students. There's nothing stopping us from designing (or redesigning) ALL our courses in this way... except ourselves. I would therefore say that the really urgent problem is how to incite creativity and a growth mindset among faculty, who are often more risk-averse and paralyzed by perfectionism than their students are.

I read a really excellent blog post from a school principal, Chris Hildrew, who addresses the ways in which teachers, even teachers who are promoting growth mindset in their classrooms, can miss out on the growth mindset themselves: Growth Mindset Misconceptions and Missteps. This is an EXCELLENT piece of writing, and it raises some difficult and important questions we need to be asking about growth mindset and what it takes to really transform a school culture. Here's a graphic from the nice slideshow embedded there:

You have only failed if you have given up. Until then, it's learning.

You have only failed if you have given up. Until then, it's learning.

And since Stacy brought up Legos, here is one of my favorite Lego videos. If I had all the time/money in the world, I sure would love to become a maker of Lego videos!!! Voldemort Goes Wand Shopping:




Laura Gibbs

An Open Hub for NTPoC Built with Inoreader

8 min read

Okay, I've created an "hub" using Inoreader, which is an RSS aggregator (like Feedly, if you use Feedly), but which also does so much more, pulling in content from social networks like Twitter and Google+ and then sending that content back out in the form of customized RSS feeds and/or HTML webpages.

Right now (Thursday afternoon, July 30), it looks a bit weird because instead of displaying most recent content first, everything is all jumbled up because I just now set up NTPoC today. Now that it is set up, though, the newest items should start appearing in the RSS feed and in the HTML display.

Since the theme of Unit 3 is openness, I am excited to have these OPEN streams of NTPoC activity available now in both HTML and RSS.

Wait, slow down... what do you mean... RSS feed? HTML?

Okay, yes, I know I need to slow down and explain. Some people may not be using RSS right now, and even if you use a typical RSS reader, Inoreader is an entirely different (and more amazing) creature, so let me explain about the HTML and RSS.

HTML and RSS NTPoC Feeds

For the HTML, just take a look at the rendering of the HTML page that I linked to above: is my domain, and I just quickly put up an HTML page there; you could do that yourself using the Inoreader HTML clippings page and putting it in your own page if you want. (I just put that raw Inoreader page inside another one where I could add some notes on top, links, etc.)

If you scroll on down, what you will see are the contributions to NTPoC that are coming in from blog posts, Google+ posts, and Twitter tweets. It displays 50 on a page (I could configure that to be more or less, no problem), and when you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll find a link for the next 50, and then the next 50, and so on. 

If you click on the hyperlinked title of an item in the stream, it will take you to the original location of the item, showing you the person's blog, the Twitter conversation, the Google+ conversation, etc. So, definitely click when you see something that interest you, and you can explore the source and context.

The HTML page is good for a quick browse, but it is far more powerful to subscribe to the RSS feed instead, which you can do with Feedly or with any other aggregator. Inoreader is the aggregator I use, but Feedly works just fine for reading, as do other RSS aggregators. Here is the feed: NTPoC RSS.

If you open that RSS link in Firefox, you'll get a nicely rendered view, but in other browsers you'll just see a lot of scary-looking code, but don't worry: the idea is that you put the RSS address into Feedly and it will render very nicely.

RSS for Managing Information... LOTS of Information

In my opinion, anybody who wants to keep up with the world of educaton online can benefit from using an RSS aggregator to manage the MOUNTAINS of great information that will pile up as you connect with other educators. With an RSS aggregator, you can manage incoming information the way you manage email with your email reader. Things are marked as read or unread, you can put things in folders, you can star things that are important, etc. etc. The specific features available in the different RSS aggregators vary, and the reason I like Inoreader is that it is the most feature-rich and powerful, giving me all kinds of features (like rules and filters, for example) that make it as easy to manage incoming blog posts with the same strategies I use to manage email.

NTPoC Feed: Details

Okay: where does all that stuff in the NTPoC feed come from?

What you are seeing are all the items in my personal Inoreader account that are tagged "NTPoC." Some of those tags are assigned automatically, and some are assigned by me. Here is how I get all that stuff into Inoreader:

* Dedicated subscriptions in a folder: I subscribed to the blogs that have dedicated NTPoC content. That is my own Known blog (specifically the posts labeled ), plus Rob's Learning Lot blog, and the Power of Connections blog which Rob and Stacy are sharing (and which has a few posts from me also). I would love to have some more blogs to add! More about that below.

* Search all subscriptions: Inoreader looks at ALL the content I am subscribed to (which includes incoming stuff from blogs, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook) to see if "NTPoC" shows up anywhere, and it automatically tags those finds

* Search social networks: Inoreader also searches all of Google+ and all of Twitter for more NTPOC... this creates a lot of redundancy with the content I am already subscribed to, but I am running that layer of search just in case things pop up from people I am not already subscribed to. How great it would be if more things started popping up...! I check to see if there is anything new here, and add NTPoC tag as needed. 

Now, there might be some duplication (especially because people often post on multiple networks; I often do that), and I might also miss something (which is why it is actually great that people crosspost on multiple networks: second chances to see things). Over time, I get a good feel for how to curate a stream, adjusting my own procedures along with the Inoreader set-up to get this finely tuned. I wish I had set this up at the beginning of NTPoC, but it's set up now and I'm curious to see what we can do with these last weeks of the class.

NTPoC: Jump in the stream! 

So, if you want to READ what's in the NTPoC stream, I'd suggest subscribing to the RSS feed with Feedly (very user-friendly) or you might want to give Inoreader a try. Both have fantastic free services (Inoreader has some premium services also, but the free version is great). 

And, even better, if you would like to CONTRIBUTE to the stream, there are some easy ways to do that based on what your own online preferences:

TWITTER. Just add the hashtag to your tweet. It will show up automatically in the Twitter widget at the Power of Connections blog, and it will also show up in the NTPoC stream. (For notes about getting started with Twitter, see the link below.)

GOOGLE+. If you add the hashtag to a G+ post, Inoreader will see your post, and I'll then tag it and add it to the stream, which means I'll get to read your post, which is exciting for me! (Google+ is a kind of odd social network; if you are not already using Google+, I'd suggest starting out with Twitter and/or a blog isntead.)

BLOG. If you are using a blog, you need to let me know to subscribe. You can use an existing blog and label your posts NTPoC (and I will subscribe just to that label), or you can create a new blog just for this purpose. If you don't already have a blogging service that you use, is a very easy free service from Google, and there is also, along with many more. If you want to try Blogger, here are the tips I share with my students: Getting Started with Blogger.

To let me know you have a blog post for NTPoC, just tweet the address of your blog post and include my Twitter handle @OnlineCrsLady in the tweet ... or leave me a message at Google+ ... or leave a comment at this blog post... or send me an email. Once I have the link to your post, I'll subscribe to your blog! I'll also write you back to let you know I got your blog address. If you don't hear from me that day or the next, contact me again (I have houseguests in the coming days, so I won't be online as much as usual).

So... I hope people will want to give open participation a try! When you contribute your ideas and creativity to the open Internet, you are making it a more educational Internet for EVERYONE, not just for the people in whatever class you are taking. 

If you are curious about my own thoughts re: openness and sharing in general, and about Twitter in particular (such a fun and easy way to get online!), I gave two online talks earlier this summer at the Upgrading Online Conference, and you might find the materials useful:

Upgrading Online: Keynote

Upgrading Online: Twitter


See you online.........!!! And thanks, as always, to Inoreader for their absolutely AMAZING service.


Laura Gibbs

We do things better together ... in the open. Thoughts on #NTPoC (Unit 3).

8 min read

So, I finally broke down and logged on at NextThought to see what is going on inside Power of Connections. The theme of the week is open, but except for the great Twitter chat last week, it's really only been Rob, Stacy, and me participating in the open. As a result, I've been working more on my other projects rather than getting into . But I really am curious to find out more, and I do need a better sense of connecting for NTPoC to really work. Plus, as the meme today says, "We do things better together" — so, since the "together" of is happening inside the closed platform, I went to take a look, and I focused on the Activity Board. 

Inspired by the mapping activity, I was going to do a copy-and-paste to snag all the activity and do some formal analysis, but highlighting didn't work, so I just scrolled from top to bottom of the page, looking to see what I could see. Not surprisingly, most of the activity came from Rob (42 items) and Stacy (52 items); I could find this out by using Control-F. It looked like Michael Linville might have been the next most active with 14 items. Maha had 12; I'm not sure anybody else was in double digits. I'm not exactly sure what is represented on the activity board, though, so that's just a rough guess on my part based on what I saw on the screen.

I recognized many names from people I know from open online spaces: Michael Linville and Maha Abdelmoneim, along with Carrie Watkins, Mario Rosas, Meg Tufano, Brent Purkaple, et al. In addition, I did see nine names I did not recognize, but only one of them had filled out a NextThought profile, so these people remained mostly a mystery to me. The one person who had filled out a profile had posted four comments and did one activity, but she has not posted for a while. Since she included her Twitter in her profile, I am following her now at Twitter! 

This low level of participation matches what I saw at other NextThought courses, the one exception being the Chemistry of Beer course, and I think that provides a really great way to understand what is happening / not happening inside the closed platform. With Chemistry of Beer, there was a thriving community of interest that already existed before/outside of the course platform, and so the course inside the platform got all the benefit of that community as a kind of social capital Kickstarter: the community outside the platform was able to spread the word about the course to begin with, and then inside the platform, I am guessing there were all kinds of existing connections which provided a kind of network on which to build and extend, like a seed crystal in a saturated solution.

In the case of Power of Connections, despite the excellent activities from Rob and Stacy, there is not that benefit of the social capital Kickstarter to get things going inside the platform (a few people from NextThought, a few people from OU, but those are institutional identities, not exactly a community identity), and there's also not a lot of "saturation" in the solution, so to speak. The saturation as such seems to be coming from the abundant posts and comments from Rob and from Stacy, but that's not how the power of a course really gets unleashed, at least not in my experience: the powerful thing about connected learning is that the learners are the ones doing the actual day to day learning work, exploring, discovering, creating, sharing, etc., while the facilitators have the big burden before the course even begins, designing the spaces and experiences for the learners to explore. 

Just how much and how well learners interact with each other depends on all kinds of factors: the personal inclinations of the people involved, the types of learning experiences, and also the space and the tools students learners use to navigate the space.

But here's the thing: open spaces, unlike closed spaces, can foster connectivity among participants AND also across communities, so that people might be drawn into conversations, even if they are not "participating" in the course. And isn't that the main thing, after all? I honestly don't care much about "courses" per se (I have all the degrees I want or need), but I am deeply interested in the conversations that can extend my learning even farther, in directions not anticipated by any course syllabus, even an intentionally open-ended syllabus like the one for Power of Connections. 

Just as an example of an in-the-open that happened with me, let me give the genesis of how I made a brand-new connection this week because it is a chain of open connections that keeps on growing:

  • almost exactly a year ago I complained at Google+ about how Feedly was just not working for me, and how much I needed something like Google Reader... in response to that post, Stefan Heßbrüggen (teaching in Moscow, someone I know from shared Latin interests) suggested Inoreader, and it was love at first click: Inoreader was the PERFECT solution for me! ...
  • ... then, through my blogging and tweeting about Inoreader, I got to know Marjolein Hoekstra (who is in the Netherlands), one of the high priestesses of RSS, who has shared with me a TON of great stuff about Inoreader and RSS in general...
  • ... so, just this week, Marjolein DM'd me at Twitter with a link to a blog post by Todd Lohenry about his use of Inoreader...
  • ...and now Todd and I are connected at Twitter and G+ (he is a big Google+ person! yay!), and I'm also subscribed to his blog: he's already given me a good idea about how I can make better use of IFTTT which now offers Inoreader channel.

So, nobody planned any of this: it "just happened," but it was able to just happen because of open sharing online, with people who proactively sought out others and shared their knowledge and experience freely and eagerly. Stefan, Marjolein, and Todd and I all have some kind of overlapping interests, but at the same time we are very much pursuing our own paths that do not overlap at all, and of course geographically we do not overlap either. We are not taking a course together, and we are not a community, but we don't need to be in a course or identify as a community in order to learn from each other: we just need to be connected.

I really believe in connected learning and learning together, and I have yet to experience a powerful learning experience INSIDE a closed platform, despite numerous attempts on many different platforms; it's even harder when the platform is cut off from the rest of a person's online presence, as happens when people don't fill out a profile that links to their open space(s) outside the platform, as was the case when I looked for new people to connect with at NextThought this morning. 

As for connected learning experiences in the open, I enjoy them every single day, and there are always stories that make me excited about what the next day will hold, like this little story about how I connected with Todd this week. Even better: the more connections like that I make, the more connections I am likely to make in the future because, unlike a closed so-called learning management platform, the open Internet really is infinite in its possibilities. And my curiosity is... boundless.

So, as I promised Rob yesterday, I'm going to find some time today to set up an Inoreader hub for to see if people can be tempted to try one connected experiment using an open tool (anything with RSS or via a Twitter hashtag). It will actually be a gigantic mess to start with since I didn't have it set up from the start, but at least we can capture the last part of the course with an aggregator and see how it looks! I wonder if we had had something like that in place, the people who did give PoC a try might have stuck with it longer...? Anyway, it will be fun to get that set up since I am in the process of setting up one for  my Growth Mindset project right now too. By doing that twice, I will get some practice at figuring out the most effective/efficient way to use Inoreader for making these types of aggregation hubs! 

Laura Gibbs

Unit 3: Map Artifact

3 min read

I saw that Stacy had done a map post for Unit 3 of , so here's mine! Update: I just found Rob's map too! For him, LinkedIn is the key. Just as the data from my maps is really intriguing only as you compare one to another, it's definitely more intriguing to compare Stacy's, Rob's, and my maps to see some big differences in how we connect online!

Like with any experiment where the data is being collected without a specific protocol, I'm not sure we can really learn a lot from this analysis (who I actually interact with online is only a tiny subset of followers/following), but it was interesting to see the difference across three platforms that I looked at — Twitter, Google+, and Blogger. I use those platforms really differently, and there is some difference in the resulting maps, though, so I thought I would share the maps here along with some comments about those platforms and what they mean to me. Stacy did an email map, but I am pleased to say that I have made email such a totally marginal part of my life that there is no data there even worth mapping. Stacy also did LinkedIn, but I don't use LinkedIn.

Twitter. I used Tweeps to do the two maps, one of my personal Twitter account (OnlineCrsLady) and the other of my class account (OnlineMythIndia). I'm not surprised that the U.S. percentage is dramatically higher for the personal account (74% as opposed to just 51% for my class account): I've sought out a lot of foreign sources for my class feed. My big emphasis this coming year for my class account is to interact more with sources in India and south Asia, so hopefully that U.S. percentage will go down even more in the coming year with a big bump in India!

Google+. I used CircleCount to do the map of people who follow me, and the U.S. proportion here was down to 42%. That makes sense: one of the things I most value about Google+ is the way I connect with people in other countries. I've also devoted the most time and attention to Google+ as a social platform, and I am really glad to think that my efforts are broadening that interaction that includes more of the world.

Bestiaria Latina. This is my longest-running blog and the one with the biggest membership (although most of the people who read the blog do that by email, which skews the statistics; it has over 2000 email subscribers and I don't think they're included in the page count views unless they click through the email to look at the actual blog). I hadn't checked the stats on this blog in a long time, but I am coming up on a million views. That's an absurd number because so much of that is just robots (those Russian, Ukrainian, and Chinese numbers are all just bots!), but my husband takes me out for sushi whenever I roll over a million at Google+ (I'm about to his 13 million views at Google+)... so I will at least try to get sushi out of this ha ha. This map is from the Blogger stats dashboard; you'll see here that India is not in play. This blog is a holdover from my long-ago previous lifetime as a Classics professor; I gave up Classics as a profession years ago, but I couldn't stop blogging about it! :-)


Laura Gibbs

Unit 2: Artifact Example: A Real Desire to Learn Online

6 min read

I had fun reading Stacy's Unit 2: Artifact Example: My Web History for

The questions she starts from are:

  • What is my documented history in the world of the Web?
  • How has my presence changed over time?
  • What is my current existence in the Web?

From Stacy's post, I learned that she got online in August of 1997, which predates me: my first webpage must be from October or November of 1998 because I took an afternoon workshop in Doe Library at Berkeley on how to make webpages using Netscape Composer... a very simple tool that changed my life forever. Because of the way the socrates webserver at was set up, those pages were not harvested by the Wayback Machine, but I do indeed have fond memories of those first pages. I was hooked from the first moment: the workshop was on a Friday, and I spent all weekend making webpages. And I've been making webpages ever since.

So, beginning with the year 1999, I have spent a substantial amount of time EVERY DAY doing something online. Since 2002, when I began teaching fully online courses, I have spent most of every working day online. In a very real sense, I "live" online. It is a country I inhabit, it is a place I know well, it is a language in which I am very fluent. This beautiful "Map of Internet" by Jay Simons captures that metaphor perfectly: the Internet IS a world.

Here's a close-up of just part of the map so you can see how it works; be sure to check out the Deviant Art page for lots more detail:

Even more exciting: this is a world that I am helping to create, and my students are too. With every tweet and blog post, with every image shared, with every comment and status update, we are creating that land, bringing it out from under the waters of existence, making it solid, giving us something to stand on, a space we can inhabit. I am a true believer in the open Internet and the power of hyperlinks to hold it together, making it possible for us to travel freely through the land we have made.

I have been an eager online content creator for so many years now that I cannot imagine any other way of doing my work. Best of all: I am more enthusiastic with each passing year, feeling more and more confident about the value of the time invested in these projects. I benefit, my students benefit, total strangers benefit. We all benefit.

Instead of trying to provide a history of where I've been online for the past 16 years (I can't even imagine how I would do that), let me just quickly give a list of the online spaces I actively maintain right now, and you'll get a sense of what I mean by eager creating online content. As part of my job every single day you will see me creating content at Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and Blogger, with Blogger being home to MANY active blogs; you can check out my overall content stream at which combines my activity across these various platforms. My latest experiment is with Known, as you can see from this post: I am hoping to use Known to create a new kind of group content-sharing experience with my students this Fall. My students, meanwhile, create blogs and websites too; you can see their work for Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics if you are curious: they do GREAT work.

In addition to these active spaces, I have many other blogs that are no longer active, but even those are still useful; just this week, in fact, I got a nice email from someone who built a Latin macronizer who wanted to thank me for my old Ictibus Felicibus blog — he used it to train his macronizer. It's those kinds of connections with total strangers that make the Internet different from (and better than!) any other educational enterprise I've participated in.

So, going back to the "Map of the Internet," I would contrast the open sense of adventure and exploration — maps make you want to go places! — with the painfully limited, mind-numbing, closed LMS which has become the default web space for all classes offered at my school, even the fully online classes. When we first went with D2L as the LMS for my school about 10 years ago, I was optimistic: it was clearly better than Blackboard at that time, and I thought it would be a good way for faculty who had not put anything online to get started. Little did I imagine the nightmare that D2L would become: instead of being a way for faculty to get started, it has become pretty much the ONLY way faculty share online materials with their students ... and, even worse, D2L has remained frozen in time, oblivious to the social transformation of the Internet that has taken place over the past 10 years. My own life online has become so much richer thanks to the ever more personal ways in which networked learning and sharing now happens online, yet D2L is disconnected from that world, fundamentally lacking in a "networked" understanding of how people learn by sharing and working together.

As a result of this decade-long emphasis on D2L, instead of traveling the wonderful world of the wide open Internet, the faculty and also the students at my school have found themselves locked in a windowless room, unable even to connect with one another effectively inside that space. In a great G+ conversation yesterday, Michelle Pacansky-Brock made a plea for BEAUTY in online courses, and I agree completely: I aspire to both beauty and wonder in my online courses... experiences that are antithetical to the antiseptic, lifeless space that is D2L. What a terrible loss for us all!

But on a happier note, I'll close with my meme cat of the day, a cat who understands that what we need is "desire for the vast and endless sea" ... the Internet, not D2L — and as for D2L having recently removed the word "desire" from its name, well, I'll let that irony speak for itself! :-)

When you want to build a ship, do not begin by gathering wood, cutting boards, and distributing work, but awaken within your heart the desire for the vast and endless sea.

Laura Gibbs

Extending the 25-word improv: Hint Fiction

1 min read

I had to laugh when I went to the next task for because it is "extending the improvisation" — and I had already done that before I read the assignment! GMTA ha ha. As a writing teacher who focuses on creative writing, I would want to adapt the improv task to the writing of 25-word stories. There's an anthology of such stories, and I had even been thinking about making this a creativity assignment to add to the "Growth" Challenges for next semester. Now I definitely want to do that! 

Here's the book: Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer by Robert Swartwood

And here is a really intense one for academics to ponder:

A card in the mailbox: "Withdrawal: student deceased." She remembers the name, the only essay in the stack she'll really read.
(by John Minichillo)


Laura Gibbs

My New Language – Laura

1 min read

What a fun and weird improv challenge for today! Here is my new language in just 25 words. I am curious if the whole lexicon it will fit in a tweet! I am obviously assuming that POINTING is possible and other pantomimg, so there are not many nouns here. I included "air" since we are traveling through outer space and visiting planets.








Image made with

(image made with

Laura Gibbs

Power of Connections: Unit One... THE DESK

4 min read

Okay, this is great: it looks like I have time to complete the "Make a Connection" task from Unit One in before leaving, sharing my desk like Stacy did! Unlike Stacy, my desk is always pretty spartan (i.e. boring). I actually have one really cool thing on my desk: it's an oil core off to the right of my monitor. My husband got that for me for my birthday this year. But other than that, it's just electronics. The desk itself is electronic, too: a standing desk, which I really like, especially during the school year when I am at the desk all day. Up and down is good for the brain. On the wall: Peaceable Kingdom by Hicks and a sleeping fox (from Etsy).

But like Stacy, my BOOKSHELF was much more fun to take a picture of. I have lots of other bookshelves around the house but this is the one to the right of my desk, so it is the one that I see all day and that has the stuff I actually USE on it. Reorganizing the contents is something I do at the beginning and end of every semester, as opposed to my other bookcases which are, admittedly, slumbering happily and gathering dust.

So, what to point out here...

* second shelf from bottom on left: Amar Chitra Katha comic books... ALL of them. That is thanks to Stacy and the OER Initiative in the OU Library. There is a set of those same comic books in Bizzell and they will be on reserve for my students in the fall. Total, complete, utter absolute excitement about this. More here: Amar Chitra Katha comic books. The stack on the left I have blogged; the ones standing up are next-to-be-blogged, and then the two stacks to the right are gosh-I-hope-I-have-time-to-blog-them.

* bottom shelf on the left: Can you see the fox? It says VULPES, and it is from my favorite Kickstarter ever: the PICTURAE project from the genius guys at Pericles Group. They prepared a CC-licensed set of images for language instructors, and you could sponsor a word as the Kickstarter pledge! I sponsored FOX, Latin VULPES, and so I got a framed fox, signed by the artist, as my reward. Here's a link to the Kickstarter and here's a link to the database: Picturae Database. Kevin Ballestrini, if you read this, you know you are my hero!

* The three shelves above the comic books are all India-related books. This has been the great summer of India for me, and I am looking forward to a great year of India as I share the "UnTextbook" with the students I've been working on with the students (latest details). Last year I focused on my Myth-Folklore course, so on the right-hand set of shelves (mostly covered up with pictures and stuff) are the folklore and proverb books that held my attention last year. 

* Do you see the magnetic hovering Tardis on the top shelf left? Doctor Who and Star Trek are my televised passions.

* Shelf of stuffed animals. They each have a story. Some of them feel a lot more sentimental now that my mother has passed away (just a few months ago); she gave me a lot of those animals.

* Cats. Yes, we have two real cats. And anyone who knows me online knows that I do digital cats also. Latest project: Growth Mindset Memes. With cats.

So, I could go on and on about the books and other things on those shelves. About my desk, not so much... but the world of books means a lot to me, as I said in a post earlier today. The world of digital books online is a paradise that I never even dreamed I would get to enjoy in my lifetime! The actual physical books I need to have at hand fill just a few shelves now... but that's only because there is a whole world of full-text books online that I can access now, glory hallelujah!

Okay... I'll be out of town for the next few days, but checking back in when I get home to see what's been happening. Have fun!!!