My workshop at EDMEDIA 2019: #booc

Screenshot from, sometime ago.

Screenshot from, sometime ago.

How to survive the hurricane and thrive on your course. A practical weather-proof introduction to build one own’s course portal #booc.

This is the title of my fun workshop of today at EDMEDIA 19 + Innovate Learning in Amsterdam. BTW, it’s FREE (as in beer) for conference participants, but you should register beforehand.

Abstract: This workshop focuses on how to build a “weather-proof” class design that is open, connected and (almost) fully controlled by faculty, while promoting active, participatory learning. We will create a web-based open and connected course space using a self-hosted installation of WordPress. The course is built stage by stage, and participants will be able to understand the various design concepts while practicing them. At the end of the workshop, participants will have a functioning open web portal for a class. We will start by understanding how WordPress works and how easily one may publish multimedia content. Special emphasis will be placed on use of images (with appropriate rights license and attribution), and GIFs. Also, we will discuss the importance of open web-based personal publishing in a space that is controlled by the authors. Data ownership will also be overviewed. Web tools, plugins and WordPress themes will be discussed and used throughout the workshop. As an example, refer to two course portals I developed over the years for courses in Computing (, and New Media (–where inspiration and vicious copycatting stemmed from Jim Groom and Alan Levine‘s work (see later). Media will be produced and embedded in the site by participants. Finally, we will appreciate how a course designed in such an independent and participatory way, allowed for minimal shutdown time when the Maria storm hit Puerto Rico in 2017, and how students and myself rearranged the course to obtain maximum learning and sharing opportunities.

Topical Outline

1. The (Open) Web

History of the Web
What is the Web?
We are were the Web. Remember?
Blogs, Twitter & the Syndication Bus
Open education and connected learning

2. WordPress publishing & Personal hosting

Overview of WordPress publishing—blogs
The links the Web is made from
Blogging it all

3. Building a course portal

Structure / menus
Themes and User experience
Syndication (the Connected part)
Pages & Widgets
External tools (SPLOT’s?)

Finally, the inspirations from a number of authors and researchers in edtech will be openly placed in our context: namely, Siemens’s Connectivism; the role blogs may have in an educational setting where writing (and generally, media production) is central to the curriculum; Jim Groom’s and Alan Levine’s ds106 course system; Mike Wesch’s ANTH101 (so brilliantly implemented by Tom Woodward) and others.

This is dedicated to those brave students of inf115 who dared to break the bubble and work on the course in the aftermath of the terrible hurricane that struck Puerto Rico and our University in September 2017. This is the video reportage they did.

And this is the photoshoot of the whole cohort of my students in Fall 2017.

Last, this is the initiative taken by Alan Levine for #care4sagrado at the time, which bridged the online and the atom worlds when he asked people to mail postcards to us. Which led us to meet Parisa Mehran and start the Puerto Rico Connection podcast.


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The PR Connection podcast – Preparing for the 9th episode

I was talking to Alan, only a few days ago, for our infrequent conversations that get upgraded as episodes of our podcast The Puerto Rico Connection. In this case our conversation took longer than usual, and I was pleasantly immersed in something I don’t usually do on the phone–at least, not since I was in my twenties–talking. The conversation was nice and as you can expect, very friendly. Alan was recording most of it, so he will have to cut the tape short if we want to stay within our self-imposed (but hardly enforced) rule of the twenty-minute episodes (and avoid some idiocy I said for sure).

We were talking first about a scheme to share and store some links that each of us deemed appropriate for episode discussion. He says potahtoes, I say potatoes, you know. We both love social bookmarking (we are archetypes from the long-gone Web era–before people called the Web, Internet) and Alan uses Pinboard while I shifted from to diigo when the need, unfortunately, arose. How to share socially links commonly tagged with the two platforms? [Simple solution, I could switch to pinboard or viceversa, but we don’t like simple solutions]. Well, Alan pushes his own links automagically to diigo with a simple IFTTT recipe (read: algorithm, program). So, we have a number of links on diigo, but we knew diigo would not allow to search for global tags, so the only option seemed to form a group, which would be cumbersome and not really open. Now, for an assignment at a class I teach (New Media, inf115), my students are building a distributed and shared DB and we just discovered that diigo actually supports global shared tags, even though it does not advertise it. So, a link does the trick:

`` gives all the links we both publish on diigo. But this is not all: diigo also (again, without advertising it) publishes an RSS feed out of the global tags’ view. Ipso facto, Alan posted a widget with those links on the podcast’s blog He surely used a widget (or shortcode) to push the links onto the page. But the links carry no description. After trying oput a couple of iterations with IFTTT and other semi-autometed machinery, we sort of settled to simply copy & paste the diigo links with the descriptions. Have to say that with the right add-on in the browser (in this case I used Want My Rss, since  it conserves the links’ descriptions) it works well enough. See the next post for a proof of concept.

Alan also suggested we add annotations (provided by the wonderful to the links page, so we (and others) may add feedback and ideas directly connected to a link or text passage. Grand ambitions, aren’t they. But it’s nice to think this way. See the proof of concept in next post for this.

Once this was settled, instead of talking about links that none of us had read beforehand, Alan sort of began talking about the first black hole image that originated from a concerted effort of some 200 scientists from all over the world.

And I got hooked on a quest for singularities. I’m spoiling a little from the episode, but suffice it to say we talked about the black hole:

Image from NASA

The singular question: is this a photo of a black hole? Because in my vocabulary, it ain’t, given the level of information processing from pure data reversed onto pixels. Still, a great image about one of the most unknown object in the world-wide universe. Hahaha, love  silly jokes.

A couple of days earlier I saw an Alan-made animated GIF that is so genius you have to see it now,

So I got an idea: what if we push to the limit our constraint of 20-minute episodes? We’d certainly be able (albeit with some difficulty) to begin and close a 2-minute episode, and (with more difficulty) a 0.2-minute one, or a 0.02 episode. But, could we even think about a 0-total-time episode??

It won’t be a singularity, but a simple zero point. Like a line collapsing, to the limit, to just one point. Some starting point, isn’t it? And, talking about zero, nothing, nada, look at Heidegger:

[Featured image: Sucking Eric Cartman GIF by South Park.]

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Springtime Questions?

I have been working pretty hard these weeks on my classes. Almost all feature a syndication hub built within a WordPress-based  Web portal. I’m talking (Computing fundamentals) and (New Media and social networks) [both in Spanish]. Plus I’m doing a Web Content Management course where, you guessed it, my students opted to create accounts with our friendly reclaimers at Reclaim Hosting and start building web portals quickly. By the way, the constant thinking on those courses has me by the jugular and I loose appetite about blogging… but here I am.

Now, sooner or later a number of questions and issues come to mind. Lately, I have forced me to put down such questions of paper (in a list, of course). I love lists (Umberto Eco said lists protect us from death.) Whom am I going to pose such questions to?

Well, a certain friend who’s been living in the northern lands has the habit of conversing with me periodically and record such mundane exchanges through the podcast technology. Now, he even set up our own podcast to have its own Puerto Rico Connection casa and its presence in the iTunes store. Problem is, I am lazy and haven’t even talked about setting up a date for our next episode (the latest being from January).

So, dear Alan, shall we? Fact is that I still have a problem with the comments here, and haven’t worked it out yet, so you won’t be probably able to respond here. But nevertheless, I have a series of questions that claim a conversation. And, like you say, we have this podcast as an excuse to talk together.

The questions I’d like to discuss, on or off the air, are–and here cometh a full-fledged numbered list:

  1. Should we increase a bit the frequency of our episodes? And stick to the famed, no-rational-given 20-minute rule?
  2. Would you do a little presentation of SPLOTs for my inf115 class?
  3. We just begun the Una foto cada día fest. Want to participate?
  4. Want to talk regarding the class’s official Instagram account being wiped out because it didn’t follow regulations?
  5. I am eager to read on occasion Medium publications and articles. Is it worth the price? I mean, if we go on this way, navigating the Web will resemble supermarket browsing.

This questions are meant to be pondered about, no matter how naive they may be, by me and my aliases and friends. Who dares?

[Featured image: Springtime in Saskatchewan, Flickr photo by Alan Levine, published in the Public Domain.]

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Posting from Evernote [via Zapier] & some a-maze-ing women painted by Sofia Bonati

[This is a post that originates from Evernote. I take note of something, then push it to an Evernote notebook. Later, an engine by Zapier [sort of like IfTTT] pushes the new stuff to this blog as a draft. Finally, I edit the resulting masterpiece. I love automated soulless machinery.]

Mazes, who doesn’t love them? Here are a few of Sofia Bonati’s amazing ladies-with mazes and other patterns.

For the past couple of years, Sofia Bonati has been drawing intricate portraits of women against a backdrop of mazes and floral patterns. […] “There are definitely elements in my work that naturally relate to feminism. The portraits I draw reflect the complexity and power of women.”

From The Guardian, Sat 30 Dec 2017


So this is an interesting things that’s happening with artists and photographers everywhere, who are using digital tech to make new forms of art (or of their art). Many also use Instagram and the Web to showcase and share their work.

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Love in the time of human networks

This story has had some impact on me, both because of its grand love and its humility. It is a grand love story since it is the story of the love affaire  of a past president of France, François Mitterrand, a very formidable, powerful politician and married man. The affaire happens with a 20-year-old girl, Anne Pingeot, an art history student 27 years his junior. Nothing new under the sky, one would say. But the fact is that this story would stop only many years later, at Mitterrand’s death. I was instantly touched by the long-lasting, secret relationship, and by the possible silent “complicity” of his own wife. Woman in the shadow for long, Anne gave also birth to a daughter who just recently came to bear her father’s last name. Mitterrand saw Anne often, and they were in love until his last days, for 40 years. “Anne, mon amour”, he wrote at the beginning. And later, “Anne chérie”,  “Nannour”, “Animour”, “Nannon aimée”.

“Journal pour Anne” by François Mitterrand (Gallimard)

They lived almost together for a while, in Paris and the South of France. Strange thing, to maintain secret a story under the nose of everybody, including the press and the political enemies. That was, in France, a private matter of the heart between two persons, lies and secrets notwithstanding, and so be it. And sure, there were no CNN nor social networks then! One could think of John Kennedy, but he was nowhere close to have had a full, secret and long love story like his French counterpart. In other places such a thing would perhaps have triggered a puritan reaction of questions, eye rolling and more lies and an impeachment request. Nor the time is anything like the present, when a woman in Anne’s position would not stay silent and possibly see the whole story with very different eyes.

I like the humility of Anne, and the utmost fidelity of this man who was a womanizer. Why did she never claim anything? How did she come to accept the whole situation? I am enthralled by her silence, without knowing anything else–I am surely elaborating from my own imagination, here.) What were they quarreling about when they did so?

How do I know this? The letters between Mitterrand and Anne have been published in France and I read an article on such a publication. Plus, there is a “Diary for Anne {Amazon link]” from the very Mitterrand, which contained poems (“Why Anne is to be loved”) and collages from newspapers, in addition to diary entries. “I met you and at once I knew I’d be leaving for a long voyage.”

While Anne, once curator for sculpture at the Louvre, still lives in the shadow. She gave the materials to the editor, but wanted nor sought book presentations or conferences. She who was a second wife, practically. Chapeau, Anne!



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