When a Snake Shows up for Unschool

When a snake shows up for unschool, we take the moment to deep dive snakes.

When a snake shows up for unschool, the question “Is it a Copperhead?” leads to consulting field guides, referencing indexes, and quietly observing a living thing in its environs.

When a snake shows up for unschool, we search “pit viper pupils” and “goat pupils” and “eye evolutionary history”.

When a snake shows up for unschool, we interrogate our context (this snake lurks at water sources in semi-arid environments) and connect with a natural world we often forget we’re a part of.

When a snake shows up for unschool, we get fresh air, large muscle movement, and daylight.

When a snake shows up for unschool, we take photos, write a blog post, and then write a blog post about that blog post tying it to unschooling and recess and play and intrinsic motivation and classroom ux and publishing on the open web. 😉

An Option for No Stats

I’m tired of stats. I’m tired of seeing my writing as piles of graphs and numbers. This is a screenshot of the WordPress.com backend for my RV+neurodiversity lifestyle blog, wanderingsmial.blog.

Screenshot of the WordPress.com posts list showing my latest posts. The number of views listed for each post is low, 2s and 3s.
Screenshot of the WordPress.com posts list showing my latest posts. The number of views listed for each post is low, 2s and 3s.

 

The number of views is shown for each post. I rarely mention Wandering Smial publicly. It’s just for me. The numbers shown are tiny and likely always will be.

When I visit the backend, the default screen is stats.

Screenshot of the WordPress.com stats screen for wanderinsmial.blog showing a lot of nothing.
Screenshot of the WordPress.com stats screen for wanderinsmial.blog showing a lot of nothing.

 

Maybe someday I’ll share the site more broadly, but, for now, the audience is me. I don’t want to see stats anywhere in the interface of this blog. I want an option to ignore all stats, to un-surface and de-prioritize them, to opt out of gaming myself.

Twitter followers, podcast download stats, blog post views, the scale, whatever. Life isn’t a video game. Happiness doesn’t have a numerical value attached to it.

Source: Hello, 2018

I love data and I hate stats. Not stats in abstract — statistics are great — but the kind of stats that seem to accompany any web activity. Number of followers, number of readers, number of viewers, etc. I hate them in the way that an addict hates that which she loves the most. My pulse quickens as I refresh the page to see if one more person clicked the link. As my eyes water and hours pass, I have to tear myself away from the numbers, the obsessive calculating that I do, creating averages and other statistical equations for no good reason. I gift my math-craving brain with a different addiction, turning to various games — these days, Yushino — to just get a quick hit of addition. And then I grumble, grumble at the increasing presence of stats to quantify and measure everything that I do.

Source: My name is danah and I’m a stats addict. – The Message – Medium

When using WordPress, it’s easy to get the basic numbers of interest: how many visitors, from which part of the world etc. The next level is Google Analytics… what a plethora of settings and numbers! I stared at them all the time after a new post went up, it was exhausting. I thought about which posts get more visitors, what times are better to publish etc. It’s not directly the problem why I didn’t write more regularly, but it’s a reason why I don’t care about any stats anymore: it’s a distraction. There are no Google Analytics or anything enabled, and if I want analytics back at some point it will be something else.

Source: Why I Failed at Blogging – Think Lagom

I still haven’t looked at stats for Timetable. And I’ve resisted adding follower counts and page view stats to Micro.blog for the same reason. If all that drives you is the number of likes on a tweet, or subscribers to your podcast, it’s easy to get discouraged when the numbers don’t pan out. Or worse, overthink your writing when you know a bunch of people are paying attention.

Everyone has something to say. Write because you love it, or to become a better writer, or to develop an idea. The stats should be an afterthought.

Source: Overthinking stats | Manton Reece

So, getting a post read by “everyone” is harder than ever but reaching hundreds or low thousands of audience has never been easier.

By chasing audience we lose the ability to be ourselves. By writing for everyone we write for no one.

When you write for someone else’s publication your writing becomes disparate and UN-networked. By chasing scale and pageviews you lose identity and the ability to create meaningful, memorable connections within the network.

Source: Small b blogging

When I visit my blog admin, I want the default screen to be my writing, without numbers. Focus reflection on the thoughts and ideas themselves rather than their numerical impressions as mass content.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.

And remember that you are your own audience! Small b blogging is writing things that you link back to and reference time and time again. Ideas that can evolve and grow as your thinking and audience grows.

As Venkatesh says in the calculus of grit – release work often, reference your own thinking & rework the same ideas again and again. That’s the small b blogging model.

Source: Small b blogging

For the vast majority of us practicing educator types, blogging and participating in social spaces is about reflection, plain and simple.  Every time that you sit down behind the keyboard for any reason — whether that’s to join in a Twitterchat, to read bits that appear in your social streams, or to create a new bit on your own blog, you are an active learner.

Articulation of ideas — whether it comes in the short form of a Tweet or the long form of a blog post — requires you to think carefully about what you THINK you know.  Finding the right words to express your core notions about teaching and learning forces you to wrestle with what you actually believe.

Every time we make the argument that audience matters, we forget that reflection matters more.  Our goal shouldn’t be to #becomepopular.  It should be to #becomebetter.  Blogging and sharing in social spaces can help us to do that whether anyone is listening or not.

Source: Audience Doesn’t Matter. | THE TEMPERED RADICAL

CC: @wordpressdotcom, where we’ve talked about changing the default screen from stats to the posts list for years. We find ourselves in an age of disinformation where fatigue with exponential growth and the stats driven disethics of tech and ed-tech is rapidly settling in; perhaps, the time is now.

Default to Open: Open Education, Open Government, Open Data, Open Web, and Open Source

My posts on boren.blog connect humane tech, tech ethics, tech regrets, indie ed-tech, open source, open web, open data, distributed work, backchannels, indieweb, neurodiversity, #ActuallyAutistic, the social model of disability, design for real life, behaviorism, structural ideology, mindset marketing, psychological safety, and public education. That jumble of tags is full of connections and overlap. It’s full of lessons on building for humans and the commons. I try to bring these communities together with my writing and sharing, because in connection there is serendipity, and we urgently need a lot of that going on between tech, education, and social model communities. I feel good and reenergized when educators, tech workers, and autistic and disabled people interact in threads I start. These moments are necessary and make a difference. Cheers for being in the space. Cheers for helping make the commons.

Open education, open government, open data, open web, and open source. These are the foundations of the commons. They should be public, taxpayer supported, and open by default. They should be informed by neurodiversity and the social model of disability because systems are better in every way when designed for real life, pluralism, and bodily autonomy.

Software and the internet are at their best when making human systems more inclusive, accessible, and transparent. In my estimation, the web and the open source stack that powers it were built so that public infrastructure, particularly education, could default to open.

We are responsible for humanizing flow in the systems we inhabit. We do that best when we default to open. This is our calling. Let’s build a tech and ed-tech that confront injustice instead of amplifying it. do_action.

For education to fulfill the promise of “free, life-changing, and available to everyone”, we need indie ed-tech and the social model. “We need to design learning where there is no option for oppression.”

One of the legacies of the counterculture, particularly on the left, is the idea that expression is action. This idea has haunted those of us on the left for a long time.

But one of the reasons that the Tea Party came to power was that they organized—they built institutions. So the challenge for those of us who want a different world is not to simply trust that the expressive variety that the internet permits is the key to freedom. Rather, we need to seek a kind of freedom that involves people not like us, that builds institutions that support people not like us—not just ones that help gratify our desires to find new partners or build better micro-worlds.

Source: Don’t Be Evil

It’s no secret people are more likely to trust the government and value what the government provides if their local government shares information and involves them in the decisions that affect their lives. And when government organizations do share data, best practices, and code, the government as a whole does better by its citizens. Everyone wins.

Source: Default to open · Code for America

Indie Ed-tech is infrastructure that supports scholarly agency and autonomy.

Source: A Journey to discover what is Indie Ed-tech | Heart | Soul | Machine

For his part, in that Stanford talk, Jim Groom pointed to 80s indie punk as a source of inspiration for indie ed-tech. “Why 1980s indie punk?” Groom explains,

First and foremost because I dig it. But secondly it provides an interesting parallel for what we might consider Indie Edtech. Indie punk represents a staunchly independent, iconoclastic, and DIY approach to music which encompasses many of the principles we aspired to when creating open, accessible networks for teaching and learning at [the University of Mary Washington]. Make it open source, cheap, and true alternatives [sic] to the pre-packaged learning management systems that had hijacked innovation.

The LMS is our major record label. Prepackaged software. A prepackaged sound.

Pre-packaged sound. Pre-packaged courses. Pre-packaged students.

If we don’t like ‘the system’ of ed-tech, we should create one of our own.

“Indie ed-tech” – what we’re gathered here to talk about over the next few days – is inherently ideological as it seeks to challenge much of how we’ve come to see (and perhaps even acquiesce to) a certain vision for the future of education technology. An industry vision. An institutionalized vision. Indie ed-tech invokes some of the potential that was seen in the earliest Web technologies, before things were carved up into corporate properties and well-known Internet brands: that is, the ability to share information globally, not just among researchers, scientists, and scholars within academic institutions or its disciplines, but among all of us – those working inside and outside of powerful institutions, working across disciplines, working from the margins, recognizing the contributions of those who have not necessarily been certified – by school, by society – as experts. Distributed knowledge networks, rather than centralized information repositories. “Small pieces, loosely joined.”

“Indie ed-tech” offers a model whereby students, faculty, staff, and independent scholars alike can use the “real-world” tools of the Web – not simply those built for and sanctioned by and then siloed off by schools or departments – through initiatives like Davidson Domains, enabling them to be part of online communities of scholars, artists, scientists, citizens.

Source: ‘I Love My Label’: Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech

Note: LMS = Learning Management System

We roil at the limitations and oppressive qualities of the LMS. But the problem here is not the LMS-it is that, despite our best efforts at creating other platforms, we still think through our own internal LMS. The problem is that whether we are using Blackboard or teaching in Canvas or building a Domains project, we are most likely not doing thinking that is liberative enough.

The point is not just about platform. The point is about praxis.

the LMS is an outlook, a standpoint, a conviction. Like it or not, it is in our blood as a product of our privilege and our educations. It is not a cage we put students in as much as it is an artificial playground over which we can be masters. It is, in fact, a learning space, but not for the content we put there; rather it is a space of enculturation into an oppressive educative model which each of us has born the weight of, and into which we each believe, to varying degrees, students should be baptized. The same is true of the classroom, the academy, the professional conference. These are spaces we understand, where we are not marginal, but where we can invite the marginal to participate, to become not-marginal. And this invitation to the middle is an act we say is elevating, is doing good.

There are multitudes of voices that we won’t hear because we do not feel safe in their spaces, on the margins. And safe, for educators, usually means expert, superior, capable, competent. When we enter the margins from our roosts in academe, we suffer the surrender of our confidence. In the face of what might be being created in the spaces we don’t occupy, our knees wobble.

By offering a room, we make ourselves the lessors. By making space, we claim space. “These are your walls,” we say. “These are your walls that I’ve given you. These are your walls to hang upon them what you would like. I have made them of plaster and drywall. I have painted them. I have put in the studs and I have raised high the roofbeams. But truly, this is yours. I have made you a space where you can be who you want to be.”

We need to design learning where there is no option for oppression.

Source: If bell hooks Made an LMS: a Praxis of Liberation and Domain of One’s Own

There are other considerations as well. How does this tool represent a politics of oppression-the surrender of privacy, data, authorship, authority, agency, as well as issues of representation, equity, access? Who owns the tool and what are their goals? How is the production of this tool funded? What influence does the maker of this tool have on culture more broadly writ? What labor is rewarded and what labor is erased? What is the relationship between this tool and the administration of the institution? Who must use this tool and who is trained to use this tool, and is that labor compensated? These are all important questions to ask, and the answers may play a role in the adoption of any given tool in a classroom or learning environment.

But in many cases, and especially with the LMS, adoption comes regardless of consent. In only a minority of situations are faculty and students part of the discussion around the purchase of an LMS for an institution. In those situations, we must abide by the use of the LMS; however, that doesn’t mean we must acquiesce to its politics or its pedagogy. In order to intervene, then, we must step back and rather than learn the tool, analyze the tool.

When we do that with the LMS, we find that its primary operation is the acquisition of data, and the conflation of that data with student performance, engagement, and teaching success.

Source: Reading the LMS against the Backdrop of Critical Pedagogy, Part One – OFFICE OF DIGITAL LEARNING

Previously,