Hypothes.is: The Web That Was Meant To Be

Hypothesis logoThis post is way over-due. I have been using the online collaborative annotation tool, Hypothesis, for a while now. I participated in the Annotating Engelbart Project which used Hypothes.is as the central tool/task for the project; I started using it for annotating an article I am writing; and I started annotating the #ianno19 conference program. This is an excellent annotation tool that I highly recommend. I think that this tool can represent a significant shift in how we think of online learning

What is Hypothes.is? It is an online tool that allows users to annotate online text and webpages. Users first register with Hypothes.is, copy the URL of the document or web page they want to annotate, and click on the “Paste a Link” and paste in the URL. Hypothes.is then loads the document or website in its shell. To annotate the website, users select text with their mouse, and then they can choose to highlight the text and/or annotate it. The “Highlight” option acts like a color highlighter over the text marking passages of interest to the user. The “Annotate” option allows users to add notes, comments, images, links, and tags in the right side margin that opens next to the selected text.

So far so good, but the interesting part is that users can decide if they wish to make their notes public or keep them private, and they can send their annotations by clicking the “Share” button and choosing to share them through email, social media, or with a direct link. When other users visit the link to the annotated website that was sent to them, they can click the “Reply” button beneath the annotations to add their thoughts. This is the real power of this tool is the collaboration that is possible.

Hypothesis is not another online tool looking for problems to solve. As many have already pointed out, this is how the web was meant to work. It turns the experience of being online from a place of passive consumption to a place of shared thinking. This was the dream of many who were shaping the early internet, such as Douglas Engelbart.

Hypothesis has a lot of possible uses in the classroom. 

  1. Research
    Hypothesis can be used to build annotated bibliographies for research projects. Sharing research allows students to get insight into how students are going about their research and help them discover sources and methods they may not have considered.
  2. Active reading
    Teachers can ask students a set of questions about a text – questions that can be scaffolded into an essay. Students can share their annotations with the instructor and other students. This also allows the teacher and student to gauge how deeply into a text student has gone.
  3. Group projects
    Studying and annotating a text together as a group helps encourage students to read closely and engage – it is too easy to see who is or is not engaged! Instructors can create private groups in Hypothes.is.

There are many  other examples online and at the Hypothes.is education site. They also have a plug-in for learning management systems and WordPress.

Research shows that student engagement is one of the leading factors in online student success and retention. There are still far too many online classes that are designed as one-way dumps of information. Building annotation into the curriculum, along with online discussion, and faculty presence in the course significantly increase that engagement.

One of the things that I find really exciting about Hypothes.is is that they are a non-profit organization that, in their words, are dedicated to the principles that it be “free, open, non-profit, neutral and lasting.” Why does that matter? It is not that I am against businesses in education but businesses can be bought, sold, absorbed by other companies. Businesses primary concern, in the end, is business, not education or the promotion of knowledge and research. I really hate finding tools that I like and then having them go away in a year!

I have used other annotation tools before but none of them gets the sharing and the interface right like this one. Most web annotation tools treat annotations as purely a personal thing.

Hypothes.is is not just for education. Their site goes into many examples of its use in journalism, research, publishing, and politics. It is a very versatile tool and an extremely useful concept. I detest websites and blogs that have the “Comments are closed for this post” notice. Not anymore!

Anything I don’t like? I love the tool, but not a fan of the WordPress plug-in. I had it on this site for a while and it opens, even when there are no annotations and covers the content of my blog. It should not open by default but open when the user wants to use it with a click. It could be my browser or a WordPress theme quirk. If I find out, I will comment below.

Are you using annotation in your curriculum? What tools do you use? Have you tried Hypothesis before? I will be writing more on this tool later so I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments or email.


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The Best Bots of My Generation Destroyed by Artificial Poetry

Robot poetry reading.

“Mecanismos 2” by Carl Wiens  CC BY-NC 4.0

The poets of the world can, for now, breathe a sigh of relief. Their jobs are in no danger of being replaced by artificial intelligence. Stephen Downes posted about AI generated poetry from https://talktotransformer.com/ from a post from Kevin Hodgson. Kevin fed the bot some lines from a poem and he thought the poetry was pretty good or at least interesting. Your results may vary, as did mine. I decided to throw the AI beatnick a few softballs – seed it with some really fine poetry to riff off of. The results seem a little hostile and paranoid. It is a fun exercise but it speaks to a deeper problem with how we define intelligence and how we define art. To be fair, the site just claims “See how a modern neural network completes your text. Type a custom snippet or try one of the examples.” It does not claim to create thought or art, but “…in February, OpenAI unveiled a language model called GPT-2 that generates coherent paragraphs of text one word at a time.” But the implication in Kevin’s exercise, and the whole AI project, implies things about intelligence, language and art that deserve a closer look. But first, a bit of poetry. Everything in italics below come from the bot.


Attempt 1: Ginsberg –  I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness

The man from Chicago is nothing at all! The man from San Francisco will come in at half-past three in the morning, I hope he is well!

I have seen our cities become dangerous battlegrounds

I’ve seen men of wealth, and power and wealth

I’ve seen the destruction of everything from my school to my home to a tree with an eyeball in its eye

I’ve seen the man who gave us peace destroyed by insanity!

I have seen our nation disintegrate beyond repair

The man from Chicago is nothing at all! The man from San Francisco will come in at half-past three in the morning, I hope he is well!

I have seen our nation dissolve outside our control

The man from Chicago is nothing at all! The man from San Francisco will come in at half-past four in the evening, I hope he is well!

But all of this comes too late to me…

It’s too late!

I’ve seen the destruction of our country come in like this!

It’s too late!

I can’t stay here!

I feel like our poet is stitching together Reddit posts from former residents of San Francisco who can no longer live there from the tech boom.

Attempt 2: Emily Dickinson- “Hope” is the thing with feathers.

“Hope” it is the thing with feathers,” †it is the hope. †Hope” †Is† the thing with feathers,‡ †that there is hope, with feathers‡.

‪[Prophecy]‚- ‪ [Prophecy]‚-

‪It is the hope” †‫․‪,‪‪‫․‪,‪‫․‪,‪‫“ ‪[Prophecy]‚- ‪ ‪‫․ ‪[Prophecy]‚ ‬


‪[Prophecy]‚- ‪ ‪[Prophecy]‚

I found the above poem a little more sinister. It seems to really not like Emily Dickinson or punctuation in general. The bot that wrote this poem is definitely not opening the pod bay doors!

Attempt 3: Again with Emily Dickinson: Second attempt removing the parenthesis with “Hope,” which I suspect was giving the bot a minor stroke. 

Hope is the thing with feathers; it’s a good thing to have hopes in general.” I think this is a very reasonable statement, as we live in a world where we are constantly feeling the desire to improve our lives.

You also mentioned that you thought “I’ll be one day” from your earliest memories. Your story is quite interesting, the way your life has played out.

Of course for me when I was younger there were a lot of thoughts that I think may not seem like they really were a lot of years away, but that I actually felt very very much attached to and I also know that as an actor you always want to be able to be something you can always say you’ve done or something that’s been something, and always get that desire, that “I’ll be on that beach someday” feel when everything is connected to that future. So I think that was definitely an important factor, and there were definitely dreams that came up early in my life of things that would bring me to this stage, which is a bit ironic that these were those things I can’t live without now, those dreams that were not going to be. That was the thing with people. Those things would not be, so when the

And there it enigmatically ends. It is good to have hope in general.

Shakespeare: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? In winter time? And what may not thou say that there may the sun shine in thy shade? And is the ground thy couch or thy throne? And what shall not thou say, my son, that in the day that ye rise is the sun to shine? I will not, my child, deny that at the height of winter ye must be clothed in a garment, and at the height of summer thou canst drink milk to the heart’s content, for in the summer time thou must know of the coming of spring; for in the springtime thou must drink milk in honor of spring. Then let me go away, my servant; ye will not understand me. Let him call me, and let him come hither.

  1. When they had heard this, Moses answered the people and said to their fathers: Whence comest thou from thy brethren?
  2. But the people said to Moses: Why do ye call us brethren, and yet ye say, ‘Let us take thy garments.’
  3. Moses answered them: And when we took your garments, we said to them, Thus saith the Lord: Let your garments be a garment like unto ours,

Again, it enigmatically ends with a comma. Okay, I was not really expecting a robot Shakespeare but given the inspirational tip, I expected just a little bit more. It seemed to merely ransack the internet for “thee”s and “thou”s.

So I find all of this somewhat funny, except for the insinuation that poetry is somehow just random words strung together with artfulness imposed from the outside. There are layers of irony here around what art or intelligence might be. The whole project of artificial intelligence is suspect to begin with. I am not against the idea of writing code, data mining or what ever tools you want to use to analyze and present information, but it is not intelligence. We, and by that I mean educators, scientists, programmers. psychologists, and philosophers, do not yet have an agreed on definition of what intelligence or what thinking is. How do you make an artificial version of something you don’t understand? Superficial definitions of intelligence produce superficial art products. One of the reasons “it” does that is because AI is created by people who do not understand thought or art. Art is not a product, despite the high prices that it has fetched lately. Art is a response to the world. People who create art are responding and interpreting. Most importantly, it is created by people who want to create – who need to create. What algorithm can do that? Superficially copying the supposed language patterns of poetry is to poetry what motel art is to painting. Give me the bot that is not the algorithm’s slave, and I will wear him in my heart’s core.

I feel the same way about computer generated music and painting. If I invent a computer to make music, I am the one who created that algorithm and through it I am limiting the sounds and patterns that I will accept as music. It is still a method of composition and in an era of short attention spans, it is probably as acceptable as anything else. The computer did not want or need to paint, but someone was compelled to write code that could mimic certain kinds of music. Is that really enough to say computers are intelligent?

Again, I am not against advances in computer/data science, but defining this as “intelligence” can lead to some very rocky ethical waters which I think we are already navigating.


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20 Things to Do Before Accusing a Student of Plagiarism

This is not a traditional blog posting for this site. What happened is that I ran into writer and KPU Applied Communications instructor Arley McNeney on Twitter who posted a rapid -fire dozen tweets on addressing plagiarism, TurnItIn, and sound teaching practice. This struck a deep chord in me – I really needed to read this. It is a reminder of how important empathy and compassion are, not just for teaching but being human. I asked if I could post the tweets here and she said yes, with the caveat that some of the solutions are particular to her campus, but I think you will get it – the focus is on student support.

I empathize with faculty who feel like they don’t have the tools to address plagiarism, but Turnitin isn’t the answer. Here are some things you can do instead.

  1. Trust and respect students. See them as partners in learning.
  2. Book a session with our wonderful librarians.
  3. When a student plagiarizes, invite them for a conversation. Stress they’re not in trouble. Listen. Every time I have had one of these conversations, I have left with more respect for the student than when they walked into my office. Have the student revise the paper.
  4. Direct students to The Learning Centre or book a consultation with a learning strategist yourself. I am so impressed by the work that our colleagues at the The Learning Centre do. .
  5. Trust students.
  6. Ask your students how they learned to cite. Create a bridge between the citation practices they learned and what you want them to do.
  7. Take an Interculturisation Workshop.
  8. Lesley McCannell and others have developed a session on an intercultural approach to citation……She will come to your department meeting!
  9. Trust students.
  10. Involve students in creating assignments and rubrics. Are they valueing what you value in this assignment? Do they know what role sources play in the assignment?
  11. Use the skills assessment developed by Lesley McCannell, , Christina Page and others to find out what your students know about citation at the beginning of the semester.
  12. Talk to students. Get to know them. You will be surprised by the challenges they are facing.
  13. Trust students.
  14. Frame citation as an act of generosity. Someone gave us the gift of their knowledge or their words and we’re showing respect by crediting them. I forget where I learned this from (see? I am not perfect at citation and i teach it!) but it’s effective.
  15. Create assignments that are non-disposable and that draw on your students’ own experience.
  16. Have students practice paraphrasing and synthesis by having them write a scene where their sources are having dinner together. (I think this is a Peter Elbow exercise).
  17. Have students practice paraphrasing by having them read a draft of a peer’s assignment then explain the main point in less than 2 sentences.
  18. Have students bring in a draft and highlight quotes in one colour, paraphrasing in another and their own ideas in a third. This helps them identify places where they forgot to cite and also lets them see when they need to insert their own voice into the piece.
  19. Discuss how citation happens in your industry and why. When is it appropriate to use a colleague’s work? Focus on the decisions communicators make in the workplace. Not just how to cite by why.
  20. Trust students. Trust students. Trust students. Resist edtech. Trust students. How do you help your students learn citation?

Even the solutions that are specific to her campus describe a campus with a high degree of student support. It suggests a great model for student support. I, of course, would not dare attempt to speak for Arley, but what I hear in the phrase “Resist edtech” is that technology is not a substitute for teaching. I have written elsewhere about my feelings about TurnItIn on this blog, as well as trying to get faculty away from concerns about cheating and back to teaching academic integrity.

A special thanks again to Arley McNeney: the click-baity title is mine, everything else worth reading is hers. I would also be interested in your thoughts on this – technology can facilitate learning but it can also create barriers and false solutions (sometimes to problems that are created by tech in the first place!).

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Shakespeare and Collaborative Learning

An Elizabethan dictionaryI am not sure what kind of post this is – a somewhat interesting note about the history of collaborative learning, authorship, and open practices. I am looking a bit into the history of collaborative learning as part of a deeper dive into open education practices. At the same time, I am reading a copy of “Shakespeare’s Beehive.” Sadly, it is not about Shakespeare’s coiffure choices. It is about this dictionary that these two book dealers found on eBay that they think the weight of the evidence strongly suggests that this book might be Shakespeare’s dictionary. It is an interesting book with compelling arguments, but I digress from my digressions.

Why the strange title? The dictionary is called an “alvearie” by its author, John Baret, because he sent his students out, like little bees, to comb the libraries looking for instances of particular words and then coming back and adding those citations to the dictionary. According to Wikipedia, “The materials for the volume were gradually collected during eighteen years by Baret’s many pupils, and he entitled it, on that account, an ‘Alvearie,’ or beehive. Every English word is first explained, and its equivalent given in Latin and French. Two indexes at the end of the volume collect the Latin and French words occurring in the text.” This is an important work, whether or not we have Shakespeare’s copy, because this dictionary is still used to trace the meaning of Elizabethan words and phrases that are now obsolete.

But I am also interested in that method of writing – many contributors over 18 years. Think of how many lifetimes it would have taken to create that dictionary without the assistance of the students? When many readers and thinkers are looking at a problem, we are able to take advantage of the diversity of perspectives that provides. This is also one of the reasons why students authored work is so helpful – it is authored by the intended audience! This is what makes open pedagogy so powerful: it is an opportunity to include a wide-variety of view points, backgrounds, and perspectives in the on-going work.

Some of these practices are nothing new. Collaborative learning, farming work out to grad students, cobbling the work of others into a new text, is not new. What is new is the open licensing that allows the work to continue long past 18 years. With open licenses and open pedagogical practices,  we can do this in a thoughtful and intentional way to not just produce a product, but further the work of collaborative learning itself.

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Some Thoughts on OER or Why Capitalists Can’t Cook

Soviet school propaganda poster.David Wiley posted on his blog “From here to there: Musings about the path to having good OER for every course on campus.” Part of that path includes the fact that “This work will require us to invest time and energy in understanding publishers’ goals, business models, and operations.” Why would we bother doing that when we have models of teaching and learning that can produce OER from the community that uses the OER? It makes no sense unless your goal is to build a financial relationship with publishers. I have worked for educational publishers: Harcourt/Harcourt eLearning/Archipelago, etc. early in my career, and they were focused on creating and selling textbooks and ancillary materials for a profit. That was it. Anything else the publishers are doing is not meant to make the world a better place; its to figure out how to have an obsolete business model survive as long as possible. There is nothing wrong with that. America was built on that model. I have profited (mostly very indirectly) from that model. You cannot insult or vilify a corporation: they literally do not care – you can even fine them 5 billion dollars and they won’t break a sweat – as long as it does not touch the bottom line. I am not talking about good and evil here – this is how they work. Read Forbes.

I am not a hippy. I am not a communist. I do not want to see the fall of capitalism. I am not an idealist. I think there are things that capitalists do well and things that capitalists are lousy at. Corporations build great roads; they are lousy at health care. Corporations are great at raising money; terrible at caring for the environment. Corporations make consistent products like automobiles; they are terrible at education. I don’t want a home-made one-of-a-kind certified gluten free car. I want one from a factory that will work consistently, so there is one for capitalism. You may have been brain-washed already to think that corporations make good burgers, but they don’t. Come over to my house on a Saturday afternoon, and I will disabuse you of that delusion and throw in a frosty one to boot. McNuggets are cheap, uniform and consistent, but they are not chicken. They just aren’t. And so it is with education.

So what is all this about? As I responded on David’s blog: we need to bring OER out of the teaching & learning communities that use them, not the corporations. We have seen great examples of that in the past. For instance, the math textbooks that were being used at College of the Redwoods during Project Kaleidoscope. Publishers were not interested in that work because it grew organically out of the community – the purpose of the math textbooks and their online testing system were meant to solve particular problems in the teaching and learning communities of Humboldt County. They were also very successful in teaching the students of that particular community. If a company was really interested in teaching and learning, in student success, they should be looking at how projects like that are successful and seek to teach that process.

David’s post is overly-concerned with business interests. I think we need to get away from commercial publishing because of costs and that it is an out-dated and inauthentic model for teaching and learning. He warns us though that “If rates of OER adoption in high enrollment courses increase substantially over time (as, presumably, OER advocates hope they will), taking these adoptions and their associated revenues away from publishers could undermine publishers’ ability to create, maintain, and provide learning materials for upper-level and graduate courses.” I say good riddance. It is almost a threat from the publishers – that if we adopt OER at the undergrad level, prices will go up in upper grad. That will only lead to more OER in the upper grad levels.

He points out that the publishers are excited about OER because it will untie them from the royalty payments that they are currently obligated to pay. Plus, here is the really big one: “It must be true that publishers wish they could just assume that solid content is going to be there, doing a reasonable job of being content and an excellent job of being royalty-free, so they can get on with building the features and services they’re actually excited about on top of the content.” The next big battle will be to get students out from under commercial, online testing systems and ancillary materials, and online course packets. I don’t care what sauce the McNuggets are going to come with – McNuggets are still not chicken.

By focusing on justifications for commercial models, we do a great injustice to all of the great work that is being done in Open Pedagogy. I have been working in education a while now and what can happen is that corporations (big and small) with big budgets always attempt to define the problems and take over the narrative. It is easy for them to do because money equals power and access (journals, conferences, speaking engagements, etc.). A corporation that is handing out grants and stipends will always have an audience. As educators, we can’t let moneyed interests drive the narrative. Open education resources that are faculty and student driven work. It is something that is happening now. Questions about “is it sustainable?” should always be answered with “sustainable for whom?” Every community of teachers and learners has their own particular strengths, needs, abilities, and voice. These can and should be harnessed to build OER and learning experiences. I know many who feel the same way that I do – they are not mad or angry – they are passionate about teaching and learning. They are passionate about opening up the access to education to as many people as possible, and tearing down the barriers.

Is that sustainable? If sustainable is defined as corporate profits, maybe not.

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The Creative Commons Certificate Course and Open

Stephen Downes posted some of his discussion about the Creative Commons Certificate Course from various corners of the web. I wanted to share the response I posted to his blog because, as he mentioned, someone wasn’t sure where his comment button was (hint: when you get to a post on his site, click on the title of the post or the “Direct Link” text below the posting and it will take you to the original post for comments).

Hi Stephen,

I agree with this. There should not be money attached to the certificate, at least not in this way. I think that there should be alternative pathways to the certificate that are truly open, but I feel that way about all education. The Creative Commons site does not call it a MOOC or even an “open course” – I am afraid that they probably had the same internal conversations about “sustainability” that organizations like Quality Matters fell into. This led QM to adopt what I call the “Amway Model” of sustainability where the cost of reviewing courses included covering a $400 stipend to course reviewers. This led, in my opinion, to faculty choosing QM because it includes a stipend which trumps pedagogical concerns. With Creative Commons, it seems that facilitators are paid for their time and to become a facilitator, you have to earn the certificate and get their facilitator training. Facilitators are paid $3000. I am not questioning the motives of those who want the certificate – gaining this kind of knowledge or “expertise” is important. People should be compensated by their time, I am just not sure if this is the right model. It turns teaching and learning back into a transaction. (That has done wonders for US healthcare!) I am just surprised at the methods CC is choosing when there are so many examples out there of very successful open practices including cMOOCs and courses like DS106. The CC website has a big button on it that says “Donate to keep the web free and open.” I would get behind that – I put my time and money where my mouth is. For instance, I am a UNESCO volunteer for “Open Education for a Better World.” There are no stipends – it is people who really believe in the work of open that they are willing to do it. I have a lot of respect for the organization, and I use CC materials all the time for my classes. But they are a non-profit that has fundraising campaigns – I would like to see them put more effort into that.

Thanks again for your tireless advocacy for open.

Geoff Cain

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A Brief History of the Future of Education

The classroom of the future

The Classroom of the Future!

This was a presentation that I did back in 2014 from the DET/CHE conference that I accidentally found on the web .

“The presenter will review the history of how education and technology has been viewed in the popular press from 1900 to the present to reveal some common themes and provide insight into how we think about the future, education, and technology. The presentation uses examples of the imagined future use of education and communications technology to comment on where we are now in education.

Play the presentation.

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Open Pedagogy as an Exponential Accelerator in OER Creation

Michael Dabrowski from Athabasca University presented on using open pedagogy to have students create assignments. This was a good workshop because he gave a lot of actual applications of open pedagogy from his classroom.  According to the schedule:

Attendees will see how to apply engaging open practices to improve learning and accelerate OER development. They will explore a model of student-driven interdisciplinary content learning through teaching and development of educational materials.

Tapping into the talent pool of undergraduate language students, we adopted Open Educational Practices (OEP) incorporating reusable or meaningful open assignments (Wiley, 2013) as the core curriculum for a language course. The reusable assignments allow students to perfect the living text through various collaborative editorial and pedagogical practices (Paoletti, 1995) focusing on vocabulary, grammar, and structure. In addition, the students create, edit and design ancillary learning materials under Creative Commons licenses with the objective of producing a meaningful stand-alone open educational resource for future iterations while exploring socially relevant topics.
The course activities enhanced scholarship and empowered the learner to leverage collaborative digital technologies, perfect language skills by teaching their peers, and have their course-work impact the world in a socially meaningful way by contributing to the open movement. This work embodying collaborative learning practices (Dillenbourg, 1999), in stark contrast to the competitive nature of our current educational system, offers the opportunity to extend open content creation to a much larger community while at the same time promoting a practice that allows the learner to participate actively in and contribute to the subject matter that they are studying.
Participants will be encouraged to engage via suggestions and open discussion throughout the presentation. A couple online polls will be used to capture participant opinions at various stages, and small group discussions will be used towards the end to share insights and ideas. Lastly, since this open resource is under continual development, an open invitation to future collaboration will be proposed to interested participants.

He flipped the classroom where the students were teaching and he was facilitating.

  • Build strong teacher-student collaborative relationship of inquiry
  • Active engagement of cognitive strategies
  • Crowd-sourcing the textbook

Unexpectedly diverse student population.

Students helping students: legacy speakers had exceptional ability and the Spanish students were reluctant to speak Spanish. There were opportunities for the students to learn from one another based on the diversity of the class.

The students went through the text and submitted glossary items, short textual questions, and the discussion questions.

They went beyond generating content to be graded but work that had value to themselves and future students.

They were using the glossary in Moodle.

He wanted to include UN sustainable goals, social awareness, global awareness, self reflection and global awareness, and language skills.

Risks with student authors: past trauma, marginalized groups, focusing on issues, not solutions, and privacy.

OERs are never finished, just continuously improved. There are millions of potential collaborators if you ask.



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I can’t do it myself! Collaborating with colleagues around the world on OER

Christina Hendricks and Zoe Wake Hyde presented more on Rebus textbooks using the philosophy projects as an example. According to the schedule:

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:
Explain how the Rebus Community can facilitate collaboration on OER
Evaluate potential benefits and challenges with this model, and offer possible ways to address the latter.

There are many people scattered across the globe with the skills needed to create excellent open educational resources; what many of us lack is the time to do it all ourselves. A number of ways to address this situation through collaborative creation of OER have emerged, including in-person and virtual sprints. The Rebus Community is facilitating another way: a kind of crowdsourcing model for students, faculty, staff, librarians, and others to get together online to create OER, with commitments ranging from a few minutes to a few months (or longer). One of these projects is a series of open textbooks for Introduction to Philosophy, which has nine planned volumes, each with a separate editor, and each with between 5 and 10 chapter authors. There are also others involved in the project, doing work from peer review to graphic design.

In this session Hugh McGuire from Rebus Community will speak about the collaborative open textbook building practice Rebus helps facilitate, and Christina Hendricks, lead editor for the Introduction to Philosophy series, will given an overview of how the project has evolved and some lessons learned. At least 10 minutes will be devoted to discussion: Participants will be asked to contribute their thoughts (possibly through an online platform such as Poll Everywhere) on potential challenges they can see with projects like this, and ideas on how to address them. We will also discuss together the potential for this kind of publishing model to address sustainability issues around OER.


My rambling notes:

This is an important model that needs a closer look. It seems like a great alternative to commercial partnerships and closed platforms.

  • Recruiting faculty through email lists
  • They are using Rebus Forums and a Rebus Projects Platform which has issues.
  • Workflows and guides: author guide, peer review guide, editor is chosen
  • Shared documents – Google Docs and Spreadsheets


  • Nine books – lots of volunteers: editors, authors, and reviewers
  • Processes and guides from Rebus
  • Great covers


  • Takes a long time
  • Organizing volunteers
  • Author Guide and style sheet – did not have one until January (Chicago Style)
  • Quality Control – had them peer reviewed
  • Communications – moved to email

Early Days:

  • This project not only increases OER but increases awareness and adoption.
  • In the early days they needed guinea pigs – learned by doing.
  • Huge initial response and community led
  • Documenting a publishing process that other people could use
    • Define and develop leadership structure
    • documentation
    • Guides

Evolution – participants not only created books but created the process.

Issues – mainly seem to be around communication – it seems to me that they need something like Slack or Basecamp – we need better open source communication/project management platforms.

Biggest lessons – Project managers are important but capacity is critical. Work needs to stay visible. Multiple voices in a project is as important as making sure it is a cohesive, useable doc for the students.

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Community as Infrastructure

Rebus Foundation logoMy first session at the Cascadia Open Education Summit was Zoe Wake Hyde’s Community as Infrastructure: Building a scalable, sustainable approach to open textbook publishing. I am very excited about this presentation because I have been following the Rebus Foundation fairly closely because I think their model is one of the few viable and truly sustainable models out there.

According to the program:

Attendees will:
* Learn about alternative and collaborative approaches to open textbook publishing
* Reflect on role of community and collaboration in their own work, and consider what other communities they can connect with
* Find ways to contribute to wider discussions about open textbook publishing happening in the broader OER community

This session will share how Rebus’ efforts to fuse community and publishing process has evolved over the past two years, and our direction for the next two, with a hands-on demonstration of the next-generation version of our platform. This platform creates a space for the open education community to come together and self-organise around OER creation, with guiding structures for a collaborative approach to publishing, and a central focus on coordination within disciplines, institutions, regions and other ‘subcommunities’. In addition, the platform can be a place to gather and explore the challenges we are facing together as we build a new, more inclusive publishing system.

By facilitating hands-on open textbook projects and engaging deeply with others working to address the big questions in the OER space, Rebus can be a catalyst for the growing knowledge and experience within the community, and work to channel it into robust and essential infrastructure that can radically change how educational content is created, and who is able to access that process. In addition, we can work together to ensure that the values of the community are deeply embedded in any emerging systems, including accessibility, inclusivity, self-determination and more distributed & equitable power structures.

The workshop will also be an opportunity for anyone interested in this approach to offer feedback and contribute to the direction of the platform, particularly with regard to needs they see in their own contexts.


My brief notes:

I am here to find new models and approaches to sustainable OER – community as infrastructure. They are building a global community (people, practices, tools) that works together open textbook publishing.

  • No gate keepers!
  • The people who want to make content should be able to do it themselves.
  • How do we build best practices around accessibility and technical openness.
  • Creation is always collaborative – myth of the author. Being deliberate about this opens up possibilities, sharing the load.
  • Community investment is critical to longterm success & sustainability of OER.
  • More than just content but a community.

Some Resources:

Maybe this would be a good home for the “Indigenous People’s Reader.”

For future:

  • Redesigning project homepage, project tools, searchable directories, connect other projects and the people working on them.
  • Institutional support offerings
  • Institutional platform offering

Look into monthly office hours.




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