I just left two long comments on Tom Woodward’s April post about Domains and cPanels and such. The first comment vanished, so I immediately thought “operator error,” in other words, “I messed up.” So I left another version later on, but in the meantime Tom had responded to say that the spam filter was not used to comments and was particularly afraid of long comments, so the first comment is now posted. But the second one is also long, even longer, and I was glad to have written it, too.
So I’ll post both of them here, because I can. Think of them as two coyotes howling at the October moon. Or maybe just Oblio and Arrow, strolling companionably through a blasted landscape. You know, a boy and his dog.
Comment, take one:
Comment, take two (not yet on Tom’s post, and maybe it doesn’t have to be now):
Who knows. I’ll try again. It won’t be as good but it might be shorter.
When we started our cPanel experiments at DTLT in the fall of 2004, everyone but me chose B2Evolution. I had already chosen WordPress. So much for leading by example. I found B2E clunky and ugly. When I was in there, I wanted out. I had chosen WordPress because it looked more like the Web and was eminently tinkerable. Most of all, when I saw their motto was “code is poetry,” I said, “I’ll have what they’re having.” So I thought hard about my choice, but strangely too. And as it happened, it all worked out. (Eventually everyone at DTLT switched to WordPress, which is pleasant to recall.)
Now about cPanel and the Conversation That Never Ends (not that it should, I guess): I don’t want people to learn cPanel. I want people to tinker with the Web, because we’re in the middle of the largest increase in human expressive capability in the history of civilization. That’s what Clay Shirky wrote in 2008 and it’s true today, too. I also vehemently agree with Alan Kay that a) every interface should be a learning environment and b) in every learning environment there should be an invitation to tinker or explore or figure something out. Interface plus invitation to tinker/explore/figure something out = learning environment. And we desperately need more professionals in higher education to regard the Web as a learning environment. I mean <b>the Web</b>, not Canvas or any other LMS.
cPanel is a potential learning environment. I see invitations everywhere in cPanel, but I’m wired up that way. So maybe cPanel needs to be pruned or shaped or otherwise massaged or tinkered with so there are invitations visible and attractive here and there, the way a botanical garden immerses the visitor but also stimulates curiosity, the desire to know more. (I don’t find automobile analogies very useful anymore, if I ever did. Treasure, or gardens, or the music of the spheres, I’m there.)
But the bigger problem is not cPanel. The bigger problem is that most faculty do not have any desire to tinker with or on the Web. Most faculty are consumed by Matters Of Consequence, either real or the kind discussed in <i>The Little Prince</i>. So they drop their projects off at a “Kinkos” (ALT-Lab, DTLT, etc.) and expect to get something back that they do not understand or need to understand beyond How To Fill Things In The Blanks. Now the students see that their faculty have no real depth of understanding about the interface or learning environment, and so they comply and fill stuff in but the conceptual frameworks are missing, and so it all becomes Just Another Online Assignment. That’s a worst case, which means it’s the rule, rather than the exception, in my experience.
The dismal experience many students have had during the pandemic of “asynchronous online classes” that are simply infodumps from an absent professor, facilitated by sleek autopilot LMS environments, is probably more common than anyone wants to know about, much less admit. I love the Canvas phrase “Express Capture,” which means straight-to-Kaltura lecture recording but suggests No Due Process Needed, pedagogically speaking. (Scales well, though, right?)
Unless the faculty themselves are invested in Domains Of Their Own [which name seems increasingly misleading to me, for all sorts of reasons], the students will readily perceive that it’s all just wah-wah-wah from the trombones.
I know Web Workshops Of Their Own has no Virginia Woolf vibe, so I won’t propose it as an alternative, even though I think it’s more descriptive at this point. I also like Ted Nelson’s “Thinkertoys” but that’s obviously a non-starter for folks involved with Matters Of Consequence of the Little Prince variety.
And in conclusion, I shed real tears when I read this blog post, published as a weekly reflection in my Rise of Social Media course this semester: <a href=”https://rampages.us/onlineinrealtime/2021/10/09/media-literacy/”>Media Literacy</a>. I don’t think college is much better than the high school environment this student recalls.
I sometimes think, late at night, that it would be interesting if every single LMS went down, and every single person developing web-facing learning environments of any kind went on a semester-long paid leave, and faculty actually had to learn a few things. Shocking notion, but it does make me stare at the ceiling for awhile.
(Sorry, not shorter; if you made it this far, thanks for reading.)
Afterthought: we all have time for cars, but do we have time for learning just enough to play just a note or two in the music of the spheres?
No, I don’t know where that professional activity would go on an annual report or CV.