Comments on ETS Talk #28: The Digital Commons

I listened to the podcast while riding home this afternoon, so I couldn’t respond in real-time. Here’s hoping my memory isn’t completely jumbled, because there were several things I wanted to respond to. I couldn’t find an entry for episode 28 on the ETS Talk site, so here goes…

iPhone – I agree that the iPhone is an amazingly compelling device. Even if it was just a wifi-enabled iPod that allowed web browsing and email, it would be worth the money. If I was in charge of a department, I would issue each staff/faculty member an iPhone (unactivated – they can activate or migrate their own cell phone plans if needed). It would be money well spent, in order to have everyone able to play with the various collaboration apps we all use, anytime/anywhere.

Digital Commons – this one has me very interested, and a bit puzzled. Unconventional wisdom suggests that students all (or at least largely) have their own gear – how many students don’t already have laptops? How many don’t have recent hardware available? The idea of the Digital Commons as an access point for site-licensed software is interesting, though.

I did start to wonder about the need for site-licensed installed application software, though, in light of available web based tools for story-telling as well as free and/or open source applications for website authoring, video editing, document editing, etc…

What is the role of the 15 Digital Commons? Are they primarily for faculty members? students? Are they primarily training facilities? workspaces? collaboration spaces? For classes, or individuals?

The original Learning Commons at UCalgary had a lab for faculty members to come to work on projects. It offered video editing, image editing, etc… stations, and was used pretty well. But, that was before it was common for these applications to run as well (or better) on the faculty members’ own new hardware. The lab has been closed for almost 2 years now. There is a separate student “Information Commons” computer lab, as well as several computerless work/collaboration areas for students to work on stuff. I don’t have any metrics, but it looks like most students are working in the campus food court with their own laptops, rather than camping out in labs.

If the Digital Commons is a place for accessing site licensed software, can they take it with them? Install on their own hardware?

I’m really not meaning to be negative here, just really curious about how the DC is positioned.

Hot Teams – striking up a hot team to look at Pligg in an educational setting. I’m very interested in that particular project. And I wish I had the clout to pull of similar projects here at the TLC. I mean, I can look at new tools, but it’s largely informal and on my own. Being able to say “hey! let’s assign a few staff members to investigate this” really means a lot to being able to take the time to properly make sense of things.

iPhone, redux – when conversation returned to the great custom iPhone web apps, my first reaction was “but, isn’t the iPhone supposed to be the ‘real web’, not some custom version?” – I’m wondering if spawning a new generation of “built for iPhone” badges on websites might actually do more harm than good. We don’t need another browser/platform war – we’re still recovering from the last round.

Update: they’ve posted the show notes and info for episode 28.

9 thoughts on “Comments on ETS Talk #28: The Digital Commons”

  1. Actually the software in the Digital Commons studios is probably the least significant aspect of the project. The software on the DC machines is the standard Penn State build. Students can use Final Cut Pro (and many other pro apps they could never afford), on any of a thousand public lab machines in 20 or so labs on campus. You really have to look at the total package to understand why Digital Commons is compelling. The facilities are top-of-the-line – HD video cameras, pro lighting, green screens, etc., but we’re making these things very accessible to everyone that wants to use it. The support that this program is providing faculty, staff, and students is excellent. We’re hiring industry professionals to travel around the PSU system (20 campuses) to directly work with this audience not only understand how to use the equipment and software, but how to effectively integrate digital media in their teaching and learning. As we get up and running, the website will offer lesson plans and templates, sample materials, basically everything a teacher or student would need to get prepared and inspired to express themselves creatively in any subject. The website will also support a community where people care share teaching experiences and outcomes. The “commons” idea is very important in an institution with 85,000+ students – everyone has an equal opportunity to learn, create, and share because they all have access to identical facilities, the community, and platforms for blogging, podcasting, streaming, etc. Digital Commons is really the hub for all this activity.

    I hope that gives you a good idea of the bigger picture and the value of what we’re doing. I’d love to chat more about this though!

  2. Chris, thanks for the update. I’m really interested in the idea of providing high-end production gear for students to use. HD cameras. Lighting. Professional editing software. Even cooler is the provision of professionals to support and instruct the students. That’s awesome. Without that, you’d be hoping that staff members could learn the apps in enough depth and in relevant contexts to be able to teach students how to actually do stuff. Having in-the-field pros helping out should be great! I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

    The scary thing is that even with 1,000 seats in the labs, there’s an 85:1 ratio of students to workstations. Will that need to scale up even more?

    I really need to save up some AirMiles to come visit, and see how it all works out.

  3. @Chris (and @Cole, and @Alan, and @Brad) – of course I’d love to be on the pligg hot team! I just listened to ETS Talk #29 this afternoon – sorry for the delay! Just lemme know what I need to do. Do we divvy up roles for the hot team? assign tasks for reviews/writeup? How does it work?

  4. Hey D’Arcy. I’m going to be running the Pligg hot team, starting when I get back from vacation next week. What we typically do is get a group of four to six people who have a variety of backgrounds — faculty, techies, designers, librarians, etc… based on the type of tool. Then we meet a few times over the course of a month and the end result is a one-page white paper that describes the underlying technology, educational applications, licensing issues, a few use cases, and how to get started. Lately, we’ve been using Google Docs to gather the information from various team members in a collaborative manner. We have an old ETS Talk about Hot Teams if you’d like to hear more.

  5. @Allan – I’ve listened to the Hot Teams podcast, of course. Remember, I’m an ETS Talks fanboy 😉 I was meaning more along the lines of logistics for participating remotely. You folks are all in one place, I’m a little northwest of there. Lots of iChatAV? Skype? Google Docs? etc… No worries. I’m sure we’ll figure something out. Thanks!

Comments are closed.