Happy #OEWeek everyone! I was watching Twitter and appreciating all the great stuff coming out of #OERizona20 today, and I saw this gem of an OER Toolkit. It was created by Cheryl Cuillier, Associate Librarian at The University of Arizona Libraries as a shared google document, with the CC BY license.

I thought something this useful and outstanding should live on the open web, too. And I have a much-neglected website. So please find it below, and please join me in thanking Cheryl for this outstanding resource!

OER Toolkit

 “OER Toolkit” by Cheryl Cuillier is under a CC BY 4.0 International license.
This isn’t a complete list, but it should help you start or expand OER usage!
URLs are working as of Feb. 27, 2020. 

 About OER

OER training resources

OER training for library employees

Textbook affordability

Finding OER

Search tools

Repositories and referatories

For higher education

For vocational training

For primary & secondary schools

For all ages

Other OER content

Open pedagogy

Creative Commons 


Measuring impact



Creative Commons-licensed slide decks

  • Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC, shares slides from her many presentations and trainings (look in the SlideShare comments for the direct URL to an individual presentation), https://www.slideshare.net/txtbks 
  • Cheryl Cuillier, Open Education Librarian at the University of Arizona, shares CC BY-licensed slide decks and handouts, https://new.library.arizona.edu/instructors/oer/benefits (scroll down to the bottom of the page to “OER handouts and PowerPoint slides”)

OER publishing

OER customization


Resources for marking free/low-cost course materials in registration system

Tools used for open pedagogy and OER publishing


OER conferences/summits


Original proposal:

This talk builds upon the outstanding presentation: Just a Community Organizer: Visualizing Community for Domain of One’s Own by Marie Selvanadin, Tom Woodward, & Yianna Vovides given at Domains ’17. Another approach to building a Domains community site will be shown. There will be a quick overview of the technologies used to build Muhlenberg College’s community site (JSON, Isotope.js, Puppeteer). Some of the lesser-used features of cPanel (Cron Jobs, directory privacy, phpMyAdmin) will also be briefly discussed.

We’ll also talk a bit about member opt-in/opt-out strategies for community sites, and how to keep community sites current.


Other notes:

This presentation is really a response, or a check-in resulting from the great talk two years back at Domains 2017 entitled, “Just a Community Organizer: Visualizing Community for Domain of One’s Own” by Marie Selvanadin, Tom Woodward, and Yianna Vovides.

We at Muhlenberg began imagining what a community site might resemble for our college.  A solid pedagogical rationale was evident for raising visibility and growing communities of practice across our domains initiative.  But design choices have consequences.

While much of this presentation presents the technologies that comprise the site at community.bergbuilds.domains, the more interesting design considerations focus on:

  • which sites should or should not be included, 
  • how to solicit consent, 
  • how to fairly categorize the work of others, 
  • and how to build a tool that is adaptable to current and future considerations like these.

Some of my personal design considerations are:

  • the community site should be built on a domain
  • it should be “flat”.  In other words, let’s try to build it without a database, account credentials, etc.
  • we should try to feature WordPress, but also other sites (e.g., Omeka ,Scalar, good old-fashioned websites)
  • we should try to have facets, not one-dimensional categories
  • folks should be able to both opt-in and opt-out
  • automation when it makes sense, is helpful

I learned from Tom that Reclaim Hosting can regularly place a file that is a bit like a log file or a report, but also somewhat different.  It is written in a structured data format called JSON that has some neat advantages over building files from databases.

I asked Reclaim Hosting (thanks, Tim Owens!) to generate a similar file for us at Muhlenberg.

I took this file, and wrote a script to extract a WordPress site’s title and tagline for display.  This, along with some other tools like JQuery, Node.js, and Puppeteer allowed me to generate a JSON file that is incorporated into a pretty simple HTML5UP! template.  The result is:


Additionally, this site takes advantage of some lesser-used cPanel components like Directory Privacy and cron jobs.  Building this site has been a great way to develop my skills with the tools available within the cPanel.

My colleagues and I also worked to build a juried list of sites to include on our community site.  Presently, we’re using a Google Sheet to share this work, but eventually I would like to accomplish the same with something on our Domain.  Generating a JSON-based export from a Google Sheet is quite simple.  There are also options for hot-sync’ing your Google sheet to a website using tools like Tabletop.JS.  

There were several members of our group — students, staff, and faculty — selecting and categorizing sites.  I personally used a very simple checklist to make the call.  I asked questions like, 

  • did this person change the default theme?
  • did this person change their site’s title and tagline?
  • does this site remove the “Hello World” posts and comments?
  • is there a sense of the person in the work?

Similarly, my colleagues and I had a meeting to determine which categories to apply to the community site.

And here is where it gets really interesting, I believe.  Questions around classification, inclusion and exclusion, privacy, and individual agency need to inform the design choices and the practices of the folks using this software.  Hopefully, there is evidence of a careful consideration of these concerns in the Berg Builds Community site.  There are certainly ways it should be improved.

This is the discussion I hope we can have in the remainder of our short time today.  Or perhaps we might have an ongoing conversation on Twitter, our blogs, and elsewhere.

Over this summer, I will make some improvements and post my code to github.  I also hope to finish a few directional videos showing how I set things up, which I will post to my blog.

Thanks, and please be in touch. 

I just saw the request for blog posts (from June 8th) from Alan Levine around the question ‘Why Domains’. I’m not especially timely, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. Here are my responses:

comic drawing of one dog seated at a computer explaining to another dog that on the internet no one knows your a dogWhat is your domain name and what is the story, meaning behind your choice of that as a name?

My domain is https://simulacrumbly.com. It’s a portmanteau of simulacrum and crumbly. I’m really conscious of my online self being a kind of limited, distorted version of my real-life self.  A simulacrum, and particularly a digital simulacrum, can only be a surrogate for any multi-dimensional person. This can be incredibly liberating sometimes (like when you’re really a dog).

Other times, I push up against the limits of my own ability to express myself fully and, more importantly, express myself honestly.  So, my response here on this blog is to try a little humor, and to remember that inside my browser, I’m made entirely of cookies anyway — the ‘crumbly’.

What was your understanding, experience with domains before you got one? Where were you publishing online before having one of your own?

I’ve worked on the web and with the web since 1998. I’ve had a hobby site of some kind since around 2000. But I’ve never been a frequent blogger. My main interest is in testing, building, and breaking things. So for me, having a web host was a way for me to learn and do stuff that could benefit me in my professional life. About three years ago, the college where I work rolled out a Domain of One’s Own initiative for students, faculty, and staff.

What was a compelling feature, reason, motivation for you to get and use a domain? When you started what did you think you would put there?

I like this question a lot. Before our Domains initiative at Muhlenberg College, I hadn’t really given enough thought to how I might use my online space for my own growth and my own self-expression. Perhaps because of how my professional work had framed the Web, I saw it transactionally — here’s a project, go build a website. The ethos of working openly, sharing freely, and seeking to belong within a community of practice hadn’t really been a big part of my work on the web.

About two years ago, I was lucky to attend a workshop conducted by some brilliant folks from Storycenter.org where I and several others made our own short, 2 or 3 minute digital stories. In the opening session, Daniel Weinshenker pointed out that for nearly a century, the medium of moving images was a one-way mode of communication. It was only with the advent of inexpensive, commercial-grade video cameras, and really only with the advent of inexpensive digital video editing software, that self-produced films became possible.  Daniel stated simply but powerfully that a democratic society requires two-way modes of expression.  And it hit me, unlike movie-making, the Web has been steadily and surely shifting from a primarily two-way medium to increasingly one-way.

My foremost motivation for my domain is to make it myself, host it myself, know how it works, how to fix it if I break it, and how to build it if I can’t find something out there that suits my purposes.  Right behind that, I want to share what I know, and I want to work openly and collaboratively.  A domain allows me to do all of these things, and mostly on my own terms.

What kinds of sites have you set up one your domain since then? How are you using them? Please share URLs!

Well, I wrote a blog post here about this fairly recently.  I’ve used my domain to set up a URL shortener that I host myself.  Also, I’ve set up a social bookmarking app (https://links.simulacrumbly.com), an RSS feed reader that lives on my domain, a “read it later” app like a self-hosted Instapaper using software called Wallabag, and other stuff like that.

But much of what I’ve done I eventually deleted because I either didn’t like it or didn’t need it anymore. But that is also kind of the point of my domain.  I can manage my digital footprint, and I can exercise a kind of info-environmentalism not afforded by hosted, extractive social media platforms.  So maybe one of the coolest parts of having my own domain is akin to my right to delete what I put on it.

Photo by Wonderlane CC BY 2.0

What helped you or would have helped you more when you started using your domain? What do you still struggle with?

I still struggle with graphic design and the visual aspects of this craft.  It’s just not where my strengths lie.  So after spending countless hours trying, I just decided that it’s not for me.  My aesthetic choices are simpler, perhaps a little plain even.  But that’s okay.  I don’t want a ton of image sliders or nifty animations.  While I appreciate visually beautiful blogs, going forward I’ll prioritize actually getting something written over a need to have it be both beautiful and done.  It would have been helpful to have someone else say this to me.  Your blog doesn’t have to be visually gorgeous or technically sophisticated.  Writing counts more.  Evidence of sound thinking counts more.  I wish someone would have told me this: Don’t look for excuses to not post something.  It’s enough to just write and hit the publish button.

What kind of future plans to you have for your domain?

This is really exciting for me to announce.  Building upon my Storycenter workshop experience, I’ve been studying and practicing and working toward getting my own radio program.  Muhlenberg is very fortunate to have a student- and community-driven educational broadcasting radio station — 91.7 WMUH, Allentown.  In the same way that independent filmmaking makes room for more of us to be both creators and consumers, I think radio is becoming too centrally consolidated.  So I am going on the air as a community broadcaster this summer!  I will have a program that airs locally between 4-6 a.m., and can be heard through WMUH’s livestream, or via Tunein.  In just a few weeks, I’ll be using my domain to post playlists, talk about the program, and to syndicate podcasts.   Wish me luck!

What would you say to other educators about the value, reason why to have a domain of your own? What will it take them to get going with their own domain?

I suppose I’d say that, just as I was welcomed and encouraged, there is already an incredible community of educators ready to meet you and assist you.  I’d say that the pedagogical rationale of Domain of One’s Own is sound, liberatory, active, and engaging.  I’d say that ‘open’ is an antidote to the slow-drip toxicant of neoliberal corporatization of education, particularly with respect to Ed-Tech.  I’d say that domains particularly and the Web more generally, is a solid platform for open educational practice —  where we can be makers, remixers, adapters, teachers, and learners.  I’d say please touch base, reach out, and let’s get acquainted!

photograph of stacked chocolate chip cookies

Platform:  digital infrastructure that positions itself between users and acts as the ground upon which their activities occur.  This positioning, therefore,  gives platforms privileged access to record and analyze the activities of users and between users. [Srnicek, N. (2017). Platform capitalism. Cambridge, UK ; Polity.]

Self-platforming: personally hosting one or multiple free/libre, open, web-based applications as an alternative to privatized web-based tools that almost always extract value from people and their labor through surveillance capitalist practices like  tracking and profiling.  For a collection of examples, see this awesome-selfhosted list by Edward Dickson (Kickball).

I see self-platforming as an expression of my own digital citizenship, and I also see it as my deliberate answer to the call for digital sanctuary.  The frequency and extent to which educators urge students onto extractive applications is of great concern.  Self-platforming offers opportunities to benefit from the collaborative, hyper-textual, asynchronous, and distributed qualities of the web, while diminishing the costs — often hidden to us — of working on proprietary and extractive platforms.

In the same way all benefit from a Domain of One’s Own, we may all benefit from building and configuring self-hosted applications upon a platform of one’s own.  Self-platforming may be best exercised by an instructor on behalf of students.  Instructors often hold leverage over students with respect to web-based applications.  Therefore, offering instructor-hosted alternatives to extractive web applications is ethically sound, considerate, and a generally more responsible course of action.

An clear example of an instructor-hosted alternative to an extractive platform is the deployment of a WordPress or Grav site for coursework and discussion instead of reliance upon a Facebook group.  But there are honestly dozens of potential opportunities when one stops to evaluate nearly any academic workflow.

What I mean by an academic workflow, I’ll confess, isn’t even entirely clear to me.  I tend to think of a start-to-finish process beginning with an idea and ending with some digital or tangible output (e.g., an infographic, a digital story, a paper map, a discussion board post or reply, an academic paper, a performance).  I also recognize that a lot of scholarly work is iterative and therefore less easily represented by the concept of a workflow.  An endeavor may fork, or may merge with another endeavor.  When multiple outputs generate from a single genesis is that one workflow or multiple workflows?  Please forgive in advance the imprecision of speaking about academic labor like this.  Still, I feel it is helpful to atomize my own working across the web, and sharing across and among web-based platforms, in order to find my various points of dependence upon extractive technologies.  This is especially important for experts who work within some gestalt of the web and may not be entirely aware any longer of the ways their tools are inter-connected, API’d, and sharing/collecting data.

An Example Academic Workflow

It’s better to work from examples.  For illustration, here is how I might think about something I’ll call my ‘Hot Topic‘ workflow.

Imagine that I co-facilitate a class that relies upon current topics in news and entertainment to address issues of power, privilege, and difference.  I’ll scan a lot during the week for potential dialogue starters in advance of a weekly class.

This Hot Topic workflow might look something like this:

a screenshot of an iPhone forwarding an article access within Twitter to the Instapaper app

Using my phone, I see an article shared on Twitter.

Scan the article quickly, and send it to Instapaper via my phone’s “activities”

While waiting in the checkout line later that day, open Instapaper, and read a bit more carefully.

Determine the article is very useful, and send it to Pinboard so I don’t lose track of it.

Two days later, sit down at my laptop to prepare for class.  Pull up Pinboard in my web browser, read much more thoroughly, and select the best 2 from among many recently pinned articles tagged #hot-topics.

Use the bitl.y URL shortener for both selected articles as a courtesy to my students.

Post the hyperlinked bit.ly URLs for the readings on a Canvas page.

Send out an alert through Canvas informing students to check the readings before class.

Shortened URLs

YOURLS administration area screen capture

In this example, much of the negotiation occurs across hosted web applications like Canvas, Twitter, Instapaper, and Pinboard.  Some applications are licensed by my institution for the benefit of instructors and students.  Others, like Pinboard, charge a one-time fee.  Instapaper and bit.ly offer ‘Freemium’ accounts and additional functionality for paying customers.  Twitter is ‘free’ but monetizes user attention by selling advertising and collecting user data that is utilized by Twitter and resold to 3rd parties.

Nearly all activity within my Hot Topic workflow is mine, by that I mean the instructor’s.  Terms of Service, mostly, apply to these various web applications and me.  Canvas and bit.ly are the two exceptions.

The privacy policies and terms of use for Canvas are negotiated at the institutional level by, likely, several administrative staff and among them likely a Chief Information Officer or equivalent role.  Bit.ly’s, ToS and Privacy Policies, however, are almost certainly not.  This is tremendously important, I think.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit to using bit.ly in the past.  I think shortened URLs are convenient and often polite to offer at conferences, for instance.  I appreciate this courtesy from others, especially when trying to type a URL on my phone.  But I also think it worth recognizing that bit.ly makes no apologies for the fact that it offers no way for customers to delete shortened URLs they have made.  This violates the principle of digital minimalism and a deliberate digital identity, at the very least.  But worse still, it corrals students (or others) into a grouping they likely can never leave.

Let’s think for a moment about what is associated with a shortened URL on a platform like bit.ly’s.  First, there is the digital item it references.  In this case, an article.  Second, through it’s service bit.ly can collect information about the referrer, in this case, Canvas.  Third, because I’ve shared these shortened URLs with our class, bit.ly can build a social graph.  We all share in common at least one thing — our interest in this link.  There are several other things that can be gleaned through accessing this shortened URL, including:  device type, browser type, quasi-locational data, time of day, and frequency of visits (if you click more than once).  Through 3rd party tracking cookies, even more data can potentially be collected about myself and my students.

The single most important consideration here is this:  students did not opt-in to use of bit.ly and as their instructor in the above scenario I never asked their consent.  The Terms of Service are between bit.ly and me, not bit.ly and these students.  Or conference attendees, or trail clean-up volunteers, or activists, or any other association of people clicking on a convenient shared point of interest.

I find the URL shortener to be very illustrative and helpful when talking about the choices instructors make, often unknowingly, on behalf of students all the time.  Well-meaning and, in at least one respect, considerate choices made by an instructor to advance a pedagogical objective have unconsidered consequences where surveillance capitalism is concerned.

One answer within my immediate control is self-platformed alternatives.  Within the Domain of One’s Own Installatron is an application call YOURLS: Your Own URL Shortener  (https://yourls.org).  It installs with one click, can live within a subdomain, and is really, really easy to administer and use.  Of course, the point of a shortened URL is to be shorter.  Acquiring a short domain name (I like name.com as a domain registrant) and dropping it on top of your DoOO makes a lot of sense, too.

I wish to provide a couple caveats:  First, shortened URLs have been used to direct the unsuspecting to malicious content on the web.  This is done by disguising the sketchiness of target with an innocuous-seeming short link.  I wanted to establish a trust relationship with my shortened URLs, so I acquired a domain name very similar to my Twitter handle (@floatingtim).  I’ve set up http://floatingt.im/ as my shortened URL domain, so if someone sees this shorter URL on Twitter or elsewhere, and knows about my Twitter handle, it will seem legitimate.

It warrants mentioning that YOURLS also collects minimal metadata on those accessing shortened URLs, but likely nothing to the extent of bit.ly or other similar services.   Unlike other services, I can decide when I wish to delete a shortened URL, and whether to make use of the administrative metadata at all (I typically don’t look at it).  Maintaining a URL shortener for myself and for use by those with whom I interact, means I can assure the minimum amount of data is collected, and can be disposed of as soon as possible.

Domain of One’s Own as a Platform of One’s Own

It’s possible for me to replace, without a great deal of effort, every web-based tool within the Hot Topic workflow except Twitter.  There are a lot of folks out there exploring ways to avoid or greatly limit reliance upon the LMS in favor of WordPress or Grav, so that likely isn’t new ground.  I’m pleased I managed to replace my Pinboard account with a self-hosted implementation of Shaarli.  It’s not within Installatron’s options, but installation was as simple as unzipping Shaarli’s directories and following a few configuration instructions.  I took some extra time to match Shaarli’s stylesheet to my blog’s, but that was mostly for the fun of it.  Bringing Shaarli into my blog means I can share publicly many of my pinned links while keeping others private.  Social bookmarking may seem like an outdated interest, but when the aim is to model scholarly behaviors and skills I think it deserves a place upon a scholarly platform of my own.  I installed my bookmarking app within the subdomain of https://links.simulacrumbly.com so check it out.  Or you can just click ‘Links’ in the menubar above.

I also replaced my dependence on Instapaper by installing Wallabag.  I did this outside of cpanel using the Cloudron solution now being evaluated by Tim Owens and Jim Groom at Reclaim Hosting.  A major motivation for replacing Instapaper is side-stepping the ad tracking and commodification of my reading habits by the Instapaper platform.  But other motivations include the potential to model sound information literacy practices (scanning, clipping, culling, tagging, categorizing, etc.).  Wallabag, like nearly all F/LOSS projects, invites feature enhancements by the community.  Beyond feature enhancements, I am afforded the option to customize my instance of Wallabag as I wish.  This could be hacking it’s data store or changing its look and feel.


We all construct our digital workflows.  Some I’ve observed are really damn impressive and reveal a mastery of craft.  Others are brutally inefficient and leave me hoping for an opening to offer some respectful alternative.  And most are somewhere in the middle — good enough to get things done but likely not the fastest or cheapest or simplest or safest or most extensible.  Periodically, I drift into “macro thinking” and dream of some IFTTT or Google Apps Script liberation.  But these are cruel and fickle gods, and they profit from your labor, too.  Instead, I see self-platforming as offering real possibilities for DIY while finding ways to work that are efficient and relatively free of web surveillance.  Consider, the power of the hosted extractive platform is derived in great part by our dropping our data right on their doorstep.  Contrarily, anyone who has ever tried to leverage cURL or wget, gone down a regex rabbit hole, or attempted to build a crawler or a scraper, knows that what makes these massive extractive platforms work is the free labor we, as users, provide to them while we stuff their databases with our behavioral traces.  Self-platforming, if nothing else, will make surveilling my work across the web more expensive and labor-intensive for those who wish to do it.

In the coming months, I’d like to closely analyze my work and document several of these scholarly workflows.  Next, I’d like to prioritize which platforms are the most egregious to use and support, either through analyzing their Terms of Service and Privacy Policies, or through other kinds of cost/benefit considerations.  Next, I want to ask if using and promoting these tools impacts:

  • only me,
  • only me and professional colleagues,
  • or me, my colleagues, AND STUDENTS

and based on this knowledge, prioritize self-platformed alternatives to anything students use or might use, like the URL shortener, for instance.

While I work, I will share what I learn along the way.  I’ll be writing more about the installation and configuration of Shaarli, Miniflux, and Wallabag in future posts.  If you are interested in working together, please reach out.  I’d love to read your comments and learn your thoughts, too.

Photograph by Rachel Strum CC BY-NC-SA


Throughout the spring of 2018, I have been supporting a cohort of outstanding faculty at Muhlenberg who are preparing online courses to run throughout this coming summer.  We began this learning community by carefully considering the Community of Inquiry model, and particularly building Social Presence within online courses.  Video production for students, from short lectures to daily messages, is one important area of focus.  But video production by students – as a means for students to co-create and collaborate with their instructors and fellow learners – is also emerging as something in need of support and experimentation.  This post will address use of Kaltura’s CaptureSpace Recorder tool available to all students and faculty at Muhlenberg.  I’ve begun this exploration with CaptureSpace Recorder because it is available for Windows and Macs, fairly easy to install and learn, and offers a tight integration with our Canvas LMS.  But I hope to continue this exploration in future posts where I will consider PlayPosit, VideoAnt, WeVideo, and wrap up with VoiceThread.  If you have other suggestions, please let me know and I’ll try to work them in, also.

CaptureSpace Recorder

Essentially, anything on your desktop can be recorded.  Our Zoom application has some similar affordances, but the real strength of CaptureSpace Recorder is likely how easily it integrates into each individual My Media area of Canvas.  Many of us have used VoiceThread as a way to collect and deliver personal introductions.  I’d be curious to see if CaptureSpace Recorder might serve a similar purpose.  The presenter could select a single image to place either as a desktop wallpaper or opened within a simple image viewer (Preview for Macs, Photo Viewer for Windows, Web Browsers, Skitch).  The explication could happen over the image either as voiceover, or with the talking head situated in a corner by utilizing a webcam.

This personal introduction can serve to acclimate participants to the tool, which could then be used to present practically anything from slide decks to video commentary.

Here’s a quick walkthrough with screen shots.  Please take a minute to install the desktop client.  Practice opening something on your workspace and recording yourself.  Again, I’m really curious to learn how this might be incorporated into your courses.

Setting it up

First, click on the My Media area of a Canvas course.  Then the blue Add New button, and then select CaptureSpace

This will present the option of either downloading the Windows or Mac desktop client OR launching the CaptureSpace Recorder if the client is already installed.


Once the software is installed, recording your screen with your microphone and/or camera is pretty easy.

You’ll see a short countdown, and then you have the ability to pause and resume your recording.  There is also a whiteboard option for diagraming and sketching.  Whatever you have active on your desktop will be recorded.  This could be YouTube or Netflix, or a slide deck, or just about anything.
Warning:  Whatever you have active on your desktop will be recorded.  I have a trick for easily disabling alerts, email, etc., and I’ll share it if you like.

When you’re done, you click the Done button and the video will render.  Then, it’s an easy matter of uploading the video to your My Media space in Canvas.

​ ​
This is a personal store.  In other words, these videos aren’t shared with the Canvas class yet.  That happens in the next step.

After the video has been uploaded, and is listed in an instructor’s or student’s My Media area of Canvas, you can insert the video from the text editor tool that is common across many aspects of Canvas.

There is a small blue chevron in the text editor, right beside the YouTube button.  This expands the menu, and here you’ll find theEmbed Kaltura Media option.  Once selected, an instructor or student can pick from the videos stored within their My Media.​  This can be done in assignment submissions, in Discussion Board posts, or even on Canvas pages shared to the entire class where students are given edit permissions (I’ve used this a lot).
Reach out and let me know how this goes, if you like.  I’ll work up similar posts for the other video platforms mentioned above in the coming days.