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My quick thoughts, back stage, and rants as I try to Teach kids about the Web while learning how to help others build a better Web.


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Greg McVerry

Seven Steps to #ProSocialWeb

6 min read

1. Begin with You

Ghandi never said "Be the change..." still doesn't mean it ain't great advice. We need to be the web we want to see.1 

In fact in  my recent efforts into (my approach to getting at ) I have focused on the words of another Yogi (correctly attributed) 

Change yourself and you have done your part in the changing the the world. Every individual must change [their] own life if they want to live in a peaceful world. Paramahansa Yogananda

The web is no different. Be pro-social if you want the web to be pro-social.

I also think beginning with you in terms of learning goals strengthens the . When you have shared goals with others in your network people learn. Humanity always worked this way.

The web is no different. Constantly model learning and reflection. Ask for help when needed and offer when asked.

YOU! flickr photo by Marcy Leigh shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

2. Create Innovation Systems

Recently I have focused my efforts on the idea of innovation systems. I remixed this concept remixed from those who take an ecological viewpoint of sociotechnical systems

According to Freeman (1987) Innovation Systems are “networks of institutions, public or private, whose activities and interactions initiate, import, modify, and diffuse new technologies.” This is usually towards a shared goal.

Massive corporate powers have quickly created market-based systems. I am not one to think these goals are diametrically opposed to (but some do) yet they are different. The goal of a corporation is the stock price. In fact in the United States it is a legal obligation for corporations to focus on profits. Sometimes, often, people suffer.

The web is no different. We need to focus on change but this change occurs at the system level only after a swelling at the agent level.

Climate Change flickr photo by garlandcannon shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

3. Use What You Build

The will only thrive when you have your own space online that you control, preferably from your own domain. The silos built for the masses and the web suffered.

I'd rather have a tent in the fields I own than rent a room is a Castle with someone else's rules....where I toil all day for someone else to profit.

Also something happens when you write from your own place. Folks are not as willing to write graffiti on their own house or shout profanities from their door step. But is more than that. People find an immersive joy in owning and shaping their own truth.

The web is no different. These tools and ways of being exist. Step one in a web is to build out your personal cyberinfrastructure. 

You will never know all the tech and we should never expect people to do the same. Instead, we want folks to know what they do not know and then how to go out and ask the right people to learn it. What Castells and Cardoza called "self programmable learners"

The web is no different. You have a goal and want to learn something just get a website or blog and start documenting the journey.

If you need help just ask us.

workshop flickr photo by shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

4. Keep it Purpose Driven

Find your niche and you can find your community. For many of us we hang in academic spaces or creative writing spaces ike and . Our crew, our people, our tribe.

A shared purpose unites us and this aligns with our personal goals. 

The web is no different. Network around ideas and not people.

2010113-purpose flickr photo by Chris Piascik shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

5. Focus on Diversity and Inclusion

Many find controlling and owning your space online to beyond their means "in financial cost, ability, time, and confidence."

This has always been the case with literacy. I consider literacy to be one of the great equalizers in society (up there with birth control, suffrage, expanding markets, and open borders). We need to fight for basic web literacy as a human right. A means not building FOR the most vulnerable but building WITH everyone to ensure we do not recreate the past.

Silos provide both a haven and a hell for marginalized people. When the web was born people did their identity work building the web. Now, this identity work gets sold back to us.

When we claim we can not "do tech" in communities of color or expectations of owning your content do not recognize historical inequities we end up reinforcing these equities.  

We simply can not name the problem. We must actively work to solve the issue.

Yet even today the Open Source community is the whitest and most male of the tech sector. We can not fix this in the board room or through outreach. Efforts must begin in the classroom and the community. This is where always developed

The web is no different. Make the "Community the Curriculum." We must focus on web literacy across the globe. The time is now. 

This why I think the is more local than decentralized. I keep putting in grants to bring and to local schools and libraries....where we always taught literacy.

Rainbow flickr photo by Michael M Stokes shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

6 Go gLocal

Not sure where @wiobyrne got the idea or who he lifted the meaning from but the has strong local nodes (like Antogonish) and these Local networks connect to a much bigger global one. Either with direct relationships or as allies. Go gLocal Ian says.

Creative Commons is trying this approach right now. Mozilla tried with Clubs but looked for VC like growth overnight, their more successful Reps programs and Firefox contributors, in general, reflect a gLocal approach. IndieWeb has been running camps for nine years with minimal funding.

EdCamps, as an innovation system may represent the best model. 100s of camps occur each year and 1,000s of teachers get connected

The Web is no different. Build strong local groups connected to a global movement. 

It's our world too... flickr photo by tim ellis shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

7. Post Positive 

We all struggle with what to write. The tyranny of the blank screen can drive many into the welcoming arms of social silos. Yet the simplest way to support a is to Post Positive

Be a good person. Say nice things. Document the good you and others do. The lesson we learned in preschool can still teach us much.

The web is no different.

A Balance of Healthy Words flickr photo by Carol (vanhookc) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

1. h/t to Tantek for pointing out the misattribution of Ghandi and sending me into a months long rabbit hole into famous misquotes.

2 To read more check out the hashtags , , and  .

Syndicated to Indie News

Greg McVerry

Entrenched power and systems also hurt .

Web is thirty years old. Every industry is a tech industry.. Yet how many departments in have someone in that field who knows web and tech.... It's usually zero...

How does that happen?

Greg McVerry

Activity Theory and Its Implications for Writing Instruction

David Russell. Activity Theory and Its Implications for Writing Instruction." In Reconceiving Writing, Rethinking Writing Instruction. Ed. Joseph Petraglia. (Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum,1995): 51-78.

The US is the only nation that requires of most students in higher education a course in what is known in the US as "composition."

Citation please.

David Kaufer and Richard Young have called "writing with no particular content," or what is often called in this anthology general writing skills instruction or GWSI

THis could be pusehed on to blogging without purpose. we introduce so many people to their own website bbut only few stick with it from formal education. That would be a good longtitudinal study. Match attrition in terms of involvement based on formal and informal learning spaces.

First, he says, there is a "lack of general agreement about course content, so that depending on the prejudices of the teacher, departmental policy (or lack of it), or current fads, the course may center on

Second, the course cannot "be said even by the most charitably disposed critic to be on the same level of intellectual rigor and maturity as textbooks and class work in other freshman courses such as chemistry or economics"

Cited author never took one of my writing intensive classes, this statement shows some bias

Kitzhaber calls the aims of the course "over-ambitious—to eradicate, in three hours a week for 30 or 35 weeks, habits of thought and expression that have been forming for at least 15 years and to which the student is as closely wedded as he is to his skin; and to fix indelibly a different set of habits from which the student will never afterwards deviate

Kitzhaber admits that those who have studied its effectiveness (and no one had studied this more than he) have "too seldom" been able to find "a comforting relationship between the degree of improvement and the quantity of labor expended."

Activity Theory analyzes human behavior and consciousness in terms of activity systems: goal-directed, historically-situated, cooperative human interactions, such as a child's attempt to reach an out-of-reach toy, a job interview, a "date," a social club, a classroom, a discipline, a profession, an institution, a political movement, and so on

In an activity system, the object(ive) remains the same while the mediational means, the tools, may vary.

activity systems have histories that are essential to their workings. For human beings, these histories are predominantly cultural (though phylogenic change may also play a role)

anges in human behavior and consciousness, individual or collective, are mediated by other human beings through the use of tools

Third, activity systems are dialectal. Change is not one-directional. It is accomplished through joint activity, whether cooperative or conflictual, face-to-face or widely separated in space or time.

the unit of analysis in Activity Theory is not the workings of an individual mind but the relations among the participants and their shared cultural tools. Thus, activity systems can be analyzed from multiple perspectives (of the various participants) and at many levels (from the individual to the broadest cultural levels)

I think I am trying to use innovation systems as a larger analytical tool as it is activity theory with a very organized goal. A shared focus

e Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): the object(ive)-directed interactions among people, where one or more of the participants could not, by themselves, effectively work toward the objective (Newman, Griffin, and Cole, 1989, p. 61). In these "construction zones" writing and learning take place as people, using their tools, mutually change themselves and their tools. All learning is situated within some activity system(s).

If writing were an autonomous skill, generalizable to all activity systems that use writing, improving writing in general would be a clear object(ive) of an activity system. But writing does not exist apart from its uses, for it is a tool for accomplishing object(ive)s beyond itself.

Greg McVerry

Knowledge Building: Theory, Pedagogy, and Technology

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 97-118). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Accordingly, it involves students not only developing knowledge-building competencies but also coming to see themselves and their work as part of the civilization-wide effort to advance knowledge frontiers.

  • Knowledge advancement as a community rather than individual achievement
  • Knowledge advancement as idea improvement rather than as progress toward true or warranted belief
  • Knowledge of in contrast to knowledge about
  • Discourse as collaborative problem solving rather than as argumentation
  • Constructive use of authoritative information
  • Understanding as an emergent

Knowledge building pedagogy is based on the premise that authentic creative knowledge work can take place in school classrooms

One component of knowledge building is the creation of “epistemic artifacts,” tools that serve in the further advancement of knowledge (Sterelny, 2005).

In knowledge building, idea improvement is an explicit principle, something that guides the efforts of students and teachers rather than something that remains implicit in inquiry and learning activities

From a pragmatic standpoint, a more useful distinction is between knowledge about and knowledge of something. Knowledge about sky-diving, for instance, would consist of all the declarative knowledge you can retrieve when prompted to state what you know about sky-diving. Such knowledge could be conveniently and adequately represented in a concept net. Knowledge of sky-diving, however, implies an ability to do or to participate in the activity of sky-diving

The strong version asserts that the state of public knowledge in a community only exists in the discourse of that community, and the progress of knowledge just is the progress of knowledge-building discourse.

New conceptual structures, like crystals and ant colonies, emerge through the interaction of simpler elements that do not singly or in combination represent the new concept (Sawyer, 2003). This became evident with the rise of connectionism in the late 1980s (Bereiter, 1991). Connectionist models of learning and development characteristically generate progress from a conceptually impoverished to a conceptually richer system, sometimes by a process analogous to learning from experience and sometimes only by internal self-organization. Connectionist models are examples of the larger class of dynamic systems models, all of which attempt to deal in some rigorous way with emergent phenomena

There is no way to create higher-level organizations of information, to comment simultaneously on a number of messages, or to make a connection between a message in one thread and a message in another. Thus the possibilities for knowledge building discourse are extremely limited. In fact, our experience is that threaded discussion militates against deepening inquiry; instead, it is much more suited to rapid question-answer and assertionresponse exchanges. Although communities based on shared interests do develop in some threaded discussion forums, this technology provides little means for a group to organize its efforts around a common goal.

“epistemic agency” (Scardamalia, 2000). Although among philosophers this term denotes responsibility for one’s beliefs (Reed, 2001), we use the term more broadly: epistemic agency refers to the amount of individual or collective control people have over the whole range of components of knowledge building—goals, strategies, resources, evaluation of results, and so on

Greg McVerry

I also try to avoid "Build for the masses" as a metric to success. Leads to vaporware in the industry and white papers in academia.

Not how innovation systems work.

You build out from the self and onto the world.

Greg McVerry

George been doing much the same thinking but been borrowing from innovation systems to explain how networks can change systems through slow sustainable growth. Systems only win if we let them. and.

Greg McVerry

@wiobyrne and I are there so you know will be discussed, especially now that Salesforce and Credly both have patented systems (Why the and community did not get outraged over this???) we need to consider alternative to emerging silos.

Greg McVerry

To Go Far Enough #digped

data, but on an engine running on that data—powered by data. Instructure recently announced their “second growth initiative [will be] focused on analytics, data science and artificial intelligence. The code name for this initiative is DIG.”

Data are not evil. Its the profit motive that distort how it gets used and why users lose control, but I want some basic analytic tools in my online classrooms. I want to use chatbots to add scaffold to classes. There are patterns in writing and HTML machines will recognize hours if not days and weeks before. I want all of it.

so it behooves them to be sure we stay afraid. If we weren’t looking for efficient solutions to the messy work of teaching and learning, Instructure’s teacher-in-the-cloud wouldn’t be an easily foreseeable future.

We should be afraid but we should also take action. To say there can never be a place for machine learning in open pedagogy isn't the the right move. We must actively seek data structures outside of the big edtech firms. Ignore their unifiying data platforms, digital credentialing systems, and forthcoming xAPI. Carve out away to share metadata free from the edtech silos.

Martha notes that the four primary goals of the initiative are to:

  • Provide students with the tools and technologies to build out a digital space of their own
  • Help students appreciate how digital identity is formed
  • Provide students with curricular opportunities to use the Web in meaningful ways
  • Push students to understand how the technologies that underpin the Web work, and how that impacts their lives

These are pedagogical goals, not instrumental ones, not goals wedded to outcomes like retention and performance—though they undoubtedly affect those things.

I think we can build a way where we still meet Martha's goals and have some fun new technologies to throw in our classes. For example I have been exploring using the class attribute any HTML element can have to keep metadata in the my plain HTML files where teachers and students can see it. That is part of the problem the edtech prededation occurs becuase we have no idea what they feed on.

This tiny bit of metadata, called microformats, is used by the IndieWeb community to power a ton of fun automation that creates some amazing open learning spaces. I hope to build new bots for badging and building smart tutors. Yet I want it to be opt-in for my learners. You log in with your domain and decide what pages and what type of metadata gets controlled.

Greg McVerry

moved to word organizer to emphasize how no formal leadership system exist (all systems have leaders). Becoming organizer requires organizing 2 events.

Only barrier to leadership (plus centuries of racism and poverty hitting all literacy)

Greg McVerry

Been exploring looking at these spaces from an Innovation Systems and specifically something I loosely calling System Agent Intelligent Network Theory:


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