In the interest of regularly documenting the work I’m doing at the University of Mary Washington here, I wanted to draft out a post on some of the spaces and projects I find myself involved in as I flesh out the details more over the summer.
Makerbots and Mashups (and Makerspaces)
We got our first 3D printer courtesy of George Meadows at the tail end of the fall semester last year. I spent much of the Spring dreaming and tinkering with it as we started wondering what a course surrounding them could look like. Well a lot has happened since then. Not only has our work (which I blog about semi-irregularly over at makerbot.umwblogs.org) been covered by Makerbot Blog, but they’ve also asked me to start writing a series of posts specifically for their blog that outline another exciting part of this experience: the building of a Makerspace at our library here at UMW (thanks to Rosemary Arneson).
The Makerspace is an exciting concept that will carve out a location directly inside the library for students to start tinkering and playing with 3D printing, Arduinos, heck even sewing and basic woodworking. These are skills and processes that students of a liberal arts college aren’t often exposed to and it gives them real hands on experience at creating and making things (not to mention the cognitive work of collaborating with students to dream up and build things on your own). With my bachelors in Studio Art this scratches a personal itch in that I see this as the ultimate intersection of art and technology in the liberal arts in a way that I truly believe could have profound effects at UMW.
Meanwhile George and I will teach a freshman seminar course this fall which will help build this community of “makers” here on campus. The course has 18 registered and will be an exploration of the DIY nature of these tools. The students are also part of the Domain of One’s Own pilot (more on that in a minute) so their work will be published on their blogs for all to see and interact with. We also hope to kickstart a student club out of this group to also encourage other students not currently in a discipline using the space to be involved. The combination of the technology, the space, and the students all make this a very opportune time to jump in headfirst with this stuff and I’m excited about the possibilities.
A Domain of One’s Own
I’ve written a bit about Hippie Hosting and the goal of building a server hosting coop that others could use cheaply. The efforts of that project helped jumpstart conversations about how we might provide the same functionality for free to students. Thanks to the help of Justin Webb, our CIO, this is becoming a reality. This fall we will give 400 students their own domain and hosting to build out whatever space online they want. It will be integrated into the curriculum of the courses they take and we hope (expect) that it will be so successful that we can roll it out next year to all freshman (~1000 students). What I love about this project is that it doesn’t define a particular product but rather frees students up to explore any technology or implementation of their domain they’d like to explore. Install WordPress, install Drupal, build your own PHP system, map to an existing service like UMW Blogs or Tumblr if you want. It’s all possible and you keep your domain and migrate your data when you graduate. I believe it’s the next logical extension of the UMW Blogs system that has come before it and a powerful way for students to take ownership of their digital identity online.
We did a lot with this last fall, most notably with DTLT Today and my exploration of using Wowza for livestreaming without ads. This summer we are finally getting a copy of Wowza installed on a server here at UMW. I’m excited about the potential of quickly and easily firing up a machine running Wirecast (or even just grabbing my iPhone) and going live, as well as the ease of being able to setup multiple channels for any faculty member to take advantage of this. I think last year we just started to brush the surface of what’s possible when you can provide a system for educators to connect with the world quickly and effortlessly. I hope to expand on that some more in the coming months.