Going Live with DigitaLobby
Today we launch the SPU DigitaLobby, a space for students, faculty and staff to engage the Open Web in their teaching, learning and scholarship.
SPU has a long history as a pioneer in understanding the importance of digital identity and transformation in cultivating the minds and character of its community members. In the 1990s, SPU was one of the first schools to offer everyone on-campus web space for such development, and when many schools jettisoned the space SPU continued to support the MyHome project. Unfortunately, the rapid acceleration of skills and abilities needed to build websites made it difficult for new faculty, students and staff to engage the space and create sites with the same attraction and power as those people interact with outside of SPU.
In June 2015, several departments and organizations at Seattle Pacific University (Educational Technology & Media, University Communications and Computer & Information Systems) partnered together to create a mechanism for the expansion of teaching and learning through digital means that would facilitate an easier entry into building high-quality sites. Using a WordPress multi-site package developed by City University of New York called Commons in a Box, the groups worked together to develop an opportunity for using the Open Web to support growth and transformation for students, faculty and staff. A rough pilot was set for 2016-2017 with the expectation that between 25 and 30 users would engage the pilot, building 8-10 sites and establishing 3 or 4 groups. If successful, the pilot would go live and growth was expected to increase steadily over the next several years.
Success was immediate and far-reaching. Before the 2015-2016 school year began the project had met its pilot estimates, and by the middle of Fall 2015 there were double the users, sites and groups as expected. Growth continued, and today there are over 125 users working on over 50 sites and in more than 10 groups. Today, the project is open to all. We still plan to grow within our means, so access to the project will be via request in the coming months, but requests will be accepted for anyone interested in using this space as a tool for teaching, learning and transformation.
There are numerous resources available for people who are interested in engaging WordPress sites. We have developed a brief tutorial based on the specifics of our server, and the tutorial ends with a separate tutorial from academic ecologist & education website pioneer Chris Mattia through Lynda.com (access to Lynda.com is free to anyone with a Seattle Public Library account, and an account can be created online). In the coming weeks and months we will populate this site with tutorials on how to use WordPress in building as well as facilitating learning experiences.
At the 2016 Academy Awards, Pete Docter (the winner for Best Animated Feature Inside Out) encouraged people of all ages to make things. This is the same advice as Gary Stager, CSFD/ETM's Winter Speaker, provided in his workshop and lecture. Making and creating is seen in educational literature as a vital part of what it means to learn; the construction of knowledge through practice and engagement. Making can be easily seen in STEM fields, and there is an obvious connection between Computer Science and building a website, but the affordances of WordPress allow anyone an opportunity to being documenting, developing and partitioning their creations in a space to share with others. DigitaLobby is an opportunity to build in a space where aesthetic quality is easy and trial/error encouraged, but also where community can grow and thrive as a supplement or augment to the SPU community and beyond.