Wide open spaces

Why Open Matters – Week One

I remember the day I chose English Literature as my major. It is memorable not because I was suddenly free of the the pressure of being “undeclared”. It was memorable because I felt a nagging guilt. Was this a legitimate use of formal education? How will it serve me? Luckily, I was clear about what I wanted. And, what I wanted was a book club.

Book club meeting, by Anda Logn

An English Lit degree seemed too good to be true. We get to sit around and talk about books?  We get to read and reflect together, in real time?

I continued on to a Masters degree because I couldn’t resist. The quality of the conversation kept getting better. Class size shrank from 20 to 8. Discussion continued in many pubs, over many weeks.

When class ended we went our separate ways: we had 4 months to write a thesis. We still went to the pub (this is Halifax), but we were too immersed in the worlds of one particular author or literary movement to share the way we did before.

That was when I figured that a PhD was not for me. More isolation. More time alone with my thoughts. More misery grinding away on a theory that needed to be tested by someone smarter than me.

This first week of #OpenEdMOOC has landed me here.

That class time was an open networked environment. Everything was iterative. We were able to share freely without a mitigating agent. We were releasing early and releasing often. We were grateful for the talent of our peers. The learning was rapid and expansive. Success in learning was success in this network.

Open matters because it allows us to replicate this experience in a digital space.  We can reflect and expand at a rate which matches our environment. But it has to happen in the open and it has to happen in a network.

Open is the enabler – that thing that brings us together at the pub every week.

Split Crow on a Saturday, by Cinderella Sew

The name game

Sharing DoOO Origin Stories

In August, eCampusOntario launched the Extend project. You can learn all about it at Ontario Extend. More on that project to come. As part of our first initiative, we provided participants with a 5 year subscription for a Domain of One’s Own through Reclaim Hosting.

To support our participants, Alan Levine created this Guide to Extending with Domains of Our Own which provides a super simple step-by-step guide to setting up and cultivating a domain of your own. Naming your domain can be a difficult process and is as unique as the person behind it.  I think it is valuable for us to share our DoOO origin stories, so here is mine.

Domain naming

When the challenge came round to create, and more importantly name, this website, I turned back toward a former life as a student of English literature. I wanted to find some comfort in metaphor while not giving over to it completely. In my experience, no one maintains that balance better than Herman Melville.

The Mast-Head is the title of Chapter 35 of Moby Dick. It is the highest point of a ship and a place to spot both bad weather and whales.  It is also a place, as Ishmael describes, to think and reflect. He even goes so far as to warn business-focused ship owners not to hire “any lad with lean brow and hollow eye; given to unseasonable meditativeness” (MD, 135). Those guys won’t get you any whales!

I appreciate the idea of the a space designed for reflection. That is what a blog is, after all.

The kicker in all of this (and with Melville there is always a kicker) is that those same dreamers enjoying flights of fancy in the Mast-head have a tendency to slip. Thankfully the blog is much more forgiving!

For me, this is a reminder not to take myself too seriously. Blogging is such a personal act this seems like an important thing to keep in mind. Thanks, Herman.

P.S – If you’ve suddenly got the Moby Dick bug and want an easy access point, check out Moby Dick Big Read. Each chapter is read aloud by a different person. Public and freely accessible, it is one of my most favourite projects.

For Reference:

Melville, Herman, Moby-Dick 2nd ed. Ed. Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford. New York: Norton, 2002.