4. Teaching on the Open Web

Photo Credit: Alan Levine, “All Along the Pine Log”
“The building of [Domain of One’s Own]…doesn’t occur through any one, single course. It grows incrementally and organically as they move through the incremental and organic process of learning.” –Martha Burtis
“Engaged pedagogy does not simply seek to empower students.  Any classroom that engages a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered in the process.” –bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress


We begin this week’s reading with a chapter that, notably, does not mention technology.  In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks explores the notion of education as “the practice of freedom.”  The chapter invites us to think about the pedagogical frameworks within which we are situating Domain of One’s Own.  Reading hooks, we hope we can have discussion about our hopes for empowering students with a domain of their own.  Equally important to our discussions in this FLC is some collective reflection on how integrating domains into courses might also challenge and empower faculty.  bell hooks is (occasionally) on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bellhooks

Beyond thinking abstractly about Domain of One’s Own as space for critical engaged pedagogy, we are also sharing selected readings that explore the possibilities afforded by the web for teaching and learning. We read a chapter from Martin Weller’s book, The Digital Scholar, titled “The Pedagogy of Abundance.” Martin is a Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University, directs the OER Research Hub, and is a prolific blogger at http://blog.edtechie.net/ where he writes on Digital Scholarship, open education and impact of new technologies.  You can also follow him on Twitter here:  https://twitter.com/mweller . In this chapter, he suggests some of the broader implications and possibilities for radically different pedagogical approaches that digital, networked, and open approaches make available. At the center of Weller’s chapter is the notion of a new abundance of content and connections and its implications for teaching and learning.

In her short blog post, Bonnie Stewart explores the meanings of “open” that the Internet makes possible.  She’s looking in particular at the blurring of boundaries between privacy and professionalism in the sharing and thinking space of Twitter.  “It is the kind of ‘open’ that takes traditionally-closed subject roles like ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ and forces everyone to navigate new ways of interacting, based less on the safety net of hierarchy and formality and more on plain old engagement with ideas.” Bonnie’s piece might help us consider how working with domains invites faculty and students to reimagine their sense of their roles in the structures of teaching and learning.

How might domains be integrated in ways that empower students to participate more fully–to become agents of–their education?  Jody Rosen (an assistant professor of English) and Maura Smail (chief librarian) draw on their experiences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.  In this piece, instructor and librarian collaborate to imagine the ways that open platforms and tools empower students, as well as challenge faculty to reimagine their practices and experiment with new models and relationships in teaching and learning.

Finally, we share a video interview with Alec Couros by Internet pioneer Howard Rheingold.  Alec is a professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina. In this short video (about 12 minutes), Alec shares his approach to networked and open learning and tells the stories of how his students make their learning visible online. Alec blogs at http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/ .  We’ll read a longer article by Alec when we turn to scholarship and digital identity next semester. We suggest you follow Alec on Twitter here https://twitter.com/courosa

Additional Resources

It might be helpful to look at this small sample of DoOO teaching projects, demonstrating some of the ways that faculty and students are using domains in teaching and learning.


Katherine Ostrum teaches Spanish and Portuguese at Emory University. In this post, she blogs about teaching with Domain of One’s own.


McKenna Rose is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Emory University. She’s doing some great work to support Domains at Emory, and her blog includes links to several courses at Emory engaging Domains.

http://digital.anthro-seminars.net/ and http://sts.anthro-seminars.net/

are two course sites created by Davidson College faculty member, Fuji Lozado.  They are both excellent examples of how to use your domain to create digital learning spaces, as alternatives or accompaniments to the LMS.


A short piece by W. Ian O’Byrne on moving from digital portfolios to Domain of One’s Own.


  1. I wrote for longer than probably anyone wants to read…but the conclusion I’ve come to, is that Teaching on the Open Web is messier. I certainly have less control (as the instructor). But it just might be worth it.

  2. I was particularly interested in writing assignments that encouraged students to think creatively about history. I assigned writing assignments centered around “historical dinner parties” in the past and students responded well to them. Therefore, I decided to look specifically for fun writing assignments that would allow students to think about the past in unexpected ways. After skimming through a few pages of the DS106 Assignment Bank, I stumbled upon “Focus on the Background” http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/focus-on-the-background/. I really love this assignment because it encourages (code for “forces”) people to become familiar with key historical actors (for the sake of my classes/interests), but also people outside of the political/cultural/social/economic spotlight. History is not always about “big men”; rather, we can learn so much more (and find far more interesting stories) by examining lived experiences of normal people. For example, in my African Freedom Fighters class today, we discussed Haile Selassie and the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935. While Selassie is clearly an important voice within the story and deserves attention from scholars and students, I would love for someone to write about the Italo-Ethiopian War from the perspective of one of the fierce, skilled Ethiopian women who fought against Italian aggression. This story would allow people to think about the tensions between images of the Ethiopian woman soldier who was respected as an idea, but in reality faced threats of sexual violence from male comrades. This story also would encourage students to think why individuals CHOSE to fight for Ethiopia. On the other hand, someone might choose one of the African soldiers from Italy’s empire in East Africa who were forced to fight for Italy against the Ethiopians. This narrative would detail the realities of conscription and the brutality of Italian colonialism. The possibilities are endless (especially if people are able to access primary source databases).

  3. In reading these articles I am forced to face my own prejudices and insecurities regarding technology. I often find myself defaulting to a skeptical attitude regarding the usefulness of the technologies and techniques that the authors describe. How much of my reaction is healthy suspicion of flashy gadgets and how much is unfounded reluctance to embrace new and valuable trends in pedagogy. I’m not sure.

    Bonnie Stewart’s article, “Twitter for Teachers,” left me cold. The main outcome of her course seems to be that some of her students will keep their twitter accounts. That is great for twitter, and it could potentially be positive for the students, depending on how they use it in the future, but I don’t know if it is enough of a result from a full semester-long class. I didn’t sense that there was much analysis or interpretation happening in that class, though, it could be that there was, and Stewart did not focus on it in the article.

    I very much enjoyed bell hook’s piece on “Teaching to Transgress.” Pushing faculty to transgress in action and thought, and not just is words, partly in the name of an improved pedagogical approach, is intriguing. And difficult.

    I also liked the piece by Jody Rosen and Maura Smale. Their emphasis on pushing students to take responsible for their education (and pushing professors to let go of our control of and authority over the class) is compelling. This is a very useful role for technology to play in the classroom (and outside).

    The Anth101 course site is very impressive visually, but I found the attention to style distracting. One of the dangers of assigning digital projects to students is that form can easily take precedence over content. There is still something to be said for the unpretentious force of the naked word on the naked page: an uncluttered approach to thought — its unfolding through argument and example, in which the source of beauty is the product of the mind, and not that of witty images and sleek formatting.

  4. At the risk of contradicting what I wrote above, I liked the “gif” assignments. Here is a hypothetical assignment for my “Italian Cities in Italian Cinema” course:

    Assignment: “Mise-en-a gîf”
    Pick a scene from the film that you would argue is emblematic of the film as a whole. Trim a clip containg about 20-25 images out of it. Software such as MPEG StreamClip can help to trim a particular scene that you desire to cut out of the video. Next, use software such as gimp to turn the photos into GIF. Following link can help you to do the assignment: http://ds106.us/docs/Creating_Animated_GIFs_with_MPEG_Streamclip_and_GIMP

    To accompany the gif, write an approx.500-word rationale regarding your choice of this particular clip. How does it represent the filmmakers’ project as a whole. What are the most significant (in the true sense of ‘signifying’) elements of this clip? How does it get at the heart of the project. On the other hand, what complicating factors does it leave out? How could it mislead?

  5. The “Audio Self-Reflection” assignment on the DS-106 website caught my eye. This assignment asks participants to create an audio file that explains why they are on the DS-106 website and why they stayed on the site. Again, my primary purpose for participating in this learning community is to make revisions to the writing done in my personal research lab. In addition to focusing on basic lab methods, much of the work I try to accomplish with my researchers is to get them to think (and write) about the work they’re doing in the lab. What do they want to accomplish? Why are they doing something in a particular way? How could they improve their work? What connections can they make to other experiences that they’ve had (in and out of the lab)? I envision tweaking the audio self-reflection assignment to include an audio clip and/or a video that asks students to reflect on their work. This could serve at least two purposes: 1) student self-reflection on various aspects of their work as they progress through a project, and 2) student promotion of their work on their domain (e.g., a landing zone for visitors to the site that provides a quick, clear overview of the work they’ll see on the site).

  6. Currently my students spend a lot of time working on developing innovating ideas that could become business. I think that they could benefit from taking the active brainstorming process out of the classroom and putting it on the open web where others could comment on their ideas and help them to move forward.

  7. I found this treasure trove of assignments combined with the idea to publish them on the open web incredibly helpful. The experimental nature of many of the assignments, so that they are designed to focus on process rather than product, is key to their energy. I was particularly interested in the remix assignments (ie, redesigning video game covers) because they offer a way to critique visual media that is not a written analysis, yet requires analytical thinking.

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