Author Archives: Bob Cole

The DIRT | Dec 10 News from the Office of Digital Learning & Inquiry

Digital Detox 2019 to Focus on Bias & Inclusion in Digital Spaces

Written by Sarah Lohnes Watulak

Digital Detox 2019 - Bias and Inclusion in Digital Spaces

The Office of Digital Learning and Inquiry (DLINQ) is excited to announce our second annual Digital Detox.

In DLINQ, we look holistically at “the digital” in our lives and in our educational environments. This means we examine the promises and the risks of how we use digital tools, how those tools impact various facets of our lives and interactions, and the increasingly blurred edges between physical and digital realms.

Digital Detox is an initiative to reduce the toxicity of our personal digital environments and how we engage with them. The theme of this year’s Detox is Inclusion and Bias in Digital Spaces. When you sign up to participate in the Detox, you’ll receive a twice-weekly email newsletter in January and early February with actionable strategies for reducing exclusion, increasing inclusion, and combating bias in digital spaces. Topics include data and digital redlining, radical listening in digital spaces, critically considering tools, confronting the invisible digital divide in higher ed, and more! By mindfully taking on this detox, you will begin to develop critical and healthy habits in digital spaces.

Digital Detox 2019 is created in partnership with DLINQ’s Inclusive Design studio.


Fourth Edition of “Small Moves” Instructional Design Blog Series by Heather Stafford

Teacher’s Desk – Linn School, by Todd Petrie

Heather Stafford continues her blog series to dig deeper into some of the small moves that were discussed during her October 25th online workshop ‘Student-Centered Course Design Using Canvas.’ In the series Heather shares activities and design elements that faculty can implement to amplify connectivity of a class.

In the forth edition of the series, Heather features the practice of establishing virtual office hours with a combination of Canvas’ scheduler and Zoom web conferencing tools.


Amy Collier Hosts Digital Fluencies Workshop on Misinformation, Bots and Sockpuppets

Written by Bob Cole

On Tuesday, December 4th, Amy Collier facilitated a workshop titled “Misinformation & Bots/Sockpuppets” as part of Middlebury’s Digital Fluencies series, co-sponsored by the DLA, CTLR, Davis Family Library, and DLINQ. The session invited participants to explore the following questions: What role do bots (automated fake social media accounts) and sockpuppets (human-operated fake social media accounts) play in our digital information environments? How do you spot a bot or sockpuppet and try understand their influence? How do human, non-human and hybrid actors infiltrate our digital “public” spheres, and how might we combat them? 

During the session Amy situated the wicked challenge of dis/misinformation within the context of our current digital information sphere which is heavily consolidated among a few big tech companies (e.g. Facebook, Google, Twitter) and primarily driven by their commercial interests. The work of “bad bots” (BTW they’re not all bad) and the goal of active disinformation campaigns is to hack the public’s attention in order to sow doubt, erode trust, polarize, destabilize, and radicalize. Amy noted that while propaganda is not a new phenomenon in the United States, what’s different about what we are seeing today is the massive reach that these forces can have, especially when they are activated in heavily siloed social media platforms accessed by hundreds of millions of people around the world. The impact of coordinated dis/misinformation is even more pronounced as our information spaces have become equated to our personal identities, what we believe, and how we feel.

The metaphor of environmental pollution guides Amy’s approach to talking about the effects of dis/misinformation in our lives and is foundational to the work of DLINQ’s Information Environmentalism Studio. Through inquiry and exploration we can move beyond a sense of learned helplessness about the toxic state of our information environments. We can work together to develop new critical habits like fact-checking and bot-spotting to raise our awareness of the influence of algorithms in our information spaces. Ultimately, however, Amy suggests that to reclaim the web we are going to have to place more pressure on platforms to change policies. The commercial platforms will not make moves to change until they see an impact on their bottom line.

A few resources mentioned from the workshop:

How Hate Groups Forced Online Platforms to Reveal Their True Nature, John Hermann, New York Times

Congressedits Bot, Wikipedia

Information environmentalism research: Fake accounts and mis/disinformation on Pinterest, Amy Collier, DLINQ’s Information Environmentalism Studio

Russia is gearing up to misinform the U.S. public about Syria. Here’s our cheat sheet to identify Twitter trolls. Jack O. Nassetta and Ethan P. Fecht, Washington Post

Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Oxford University Press 


The Digital Fluencies Series investigates what it means to develop more critical facility with digital technologies. Faculty, students, and staff are all welcome to participate regardless of digital skills. Learn more about the series at go/digitalfluencies.


Dig Deeper:
Under the pavement, the dirt is dreaming of grass.

― Wendell Berry

Featured image Weston Beach by James Ting

The DIRT for December 3-7, 2018

Teaching Online & Hybrid Conversation Series Hones in on Building Community in Digital Spaces with Dr. Bonnie Stewart

Written by Amy Slay
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
On Monday, December 3rd, DLINQ welcomed Dr. Bonnie Stewart for our forth Teaching Online and Hybrid Conversation Series session, Building a Community of Learners Online. Dr Stewart is an Assistant Professor of Online Pedagogy and Workplace Learning at the University of Windsor, Ontario. In her research, she investigates how knowledge, power, and technology intersect with and impact education. Stewart led an engaging conversation with Middlebury faculty and staff about participatory learning, sharing frameworks and strategies we can use to design and foster online spaces that are true learning communities. For those unable to join the discussion, we recorded introductory remarks as well as Dr. Stewart’s slideshow that helped to frame the discussion. This video, as well as notes captured from the session (which include links to resources), may be accessed on the Teaching Hybrid & Online Initiative page on the DLINQ website. As the end of term approaches, stay tuned for announcements of more sessions and other DLINQ events planned for next year. If there is a specific topic about teaching and learning online that you think should be included in the series, let us know!

Third Edition of “Small Moves” Instructional Design Blog Series by Heather Stafford

Heather Stafford continues her blog series to dig deeper into some of the small moves that were discussed during her October 25th online workshop ‘Student-Centered Course Design Using Canvas.’ In the series Heather shares activities and design elements that faculty can implement to amplify connectivity of a class. In the third edition of the series, Heather features the use of the ungraded survey in Canvas as a tool for collecting learner feedback at different stages of a class to help inform adjustments to teaching. Keep an eye out for future posts in the series in coming weeks.

Pilot XR Studio Hosts Idea Exchange

Written by Bob Cole

On Friday, November 30 a handful of students, staff, faculty and guests met in the College’s Wilson Media Lab and the Institute’s Digital Learning Commons to network, share projects, and exchange ideas on the use of virtual, augmented, mixed and extended reality technologies. DLINQ’s Joe Antonioli in Vermont and Bob Cole in California hosted simultaneous meet-ups at each site to further promote the pilot effort to develop an XR Studio connecting people, resources, and practices that are exploring these emerging media and their transformative potential for teaching and learning. To create opportunities for cross-institutional connections, the two labs were joined together via Zoom providing glimpses into the spaces and a productive channel for discussion. During the first half of the session guests at each site were able to interact with one another and share examples of explorations they are engaged in. Some highlights included hands-on time with the Geology department’s Augmented Reality Sandbox, a Spanish professor’s use of Google Tilt Brush for students to create representations of literary themes like the apocalypse and power, an environmental policy professor’s prototypes of interactive visualizations of coastal sea-level rise due to climate change, and virtual 3D renderings of North Korean missiles developed by research scholars at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. During the second half of the session, the groups discussed the potential value in working with XR technologies for teaching, research, and creativity. Some of the affordances mentioned were the ability to reach new public audiences through these new media, the potential to create immersive virtual environments that simulate real world situations, visualizing abstract or difficult concepts, exploring issues of digital embodiment, and offering alternative ways to explore and reflect on course content through immersive virtual experiences or real time social VR situations. As a follow-up the groups shared their thoughts on the opportunities and resources we might begin to leverage to support creative development with XR. Some initial next moves that were recommended included establishing some shared collaborative spaces for further idea, knowledge, and partnership opportunity sharing. More pictures from the session below – if you are interested in learning more about XR resources or joining the conversation get in touch with us at dlinq at middlebury.edu

Dig Deeper:

Gold’s father is dirt, yet it regards itself as noble.” ― Yiddish Proverb

Featured Image by freddie marriage on Unsplash

The DIRT for November 26-30, 2018

Internationalizing Web Literacy E-Book Project Crowdsourcing Translations

Written by Alice Wu, Globe Multilingual Services
Globe Team from left to right: Max, Nika, Jessica, Alina, Alice
As we reported in the late June edition of the DIRT the Office of Digital Learning & Inquiry is partnering with Middlebury Institute’s Globe Multilingual Services to internationalize (translate and localize) Mike Caulfield’s open source e-book, Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. The target languages include: French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, and Ukrainian. The final translations will be uploaded to Pressbooks, the site where the current English version of the book is being hosted. Since the beginning of the fall semester, the Globe team has been busy recruiting volunteer translators from language schools across the U.S. and abroad. The response from universities has been enthusiastic, and the team is planning to ramp up recruitment even further moving into December. The team recently set up an instance of their open source crowdsourcing platform for translation and they are currently testing a multilingual WordPress site using the WPML multilingual plugin to enable content availability in multiple languages. The team has also secured a grant from Middlebury to host translation nights at the Institute starting November 26. “Translation Night at MIIS” will be a weekly gathering where graduate student translators will contribute translations to the Web Literacy project while enjoying pizza. Web Literacy’s Globe team includes a diverse group of graduate students in the Translation and Localization Management Program (TLM) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Their roles are as follows: Alice: Account Manager, Chinese Project Manager Nika: Marketing Manager, French Project Manager Jessica: Technical Lead, Italian and Spanish Project Manager Alina: Terminology Manager, Ukrainian Project Manager Members are responsible for managing all aspects of the project including logistics and technical issues while the project managers for specific languages recruit talent for their respective languages, domestically and abroad. For more detailed project updates, see the team’s Facebook page, or get in touch with Marketing Manager, Nika Allahverdi [nallahverdi at miis.edu]

Second Edition of “Small Moves” Instructional Design Blog Series by Heather Stafford

University Bridge by Brandon Giesbrect, cc licensed on flickr at https://flic.kr/p/avDHs9Heather Stafford continues her blog series to dig deeper into some of the small moves that were discussed during her October 25th online workshop ‘Student-Centered Course Design Using Canvas.’ In the series Heather shares activities and design elements that faculty can implement to amplify connectivity of a class. In the second edition of the series, Heather features the use of multimedia and interactive discussion tools in Canvas to build social capital among and with students. Keep an eye out for future posts in the series in coming weeks.

Librarian Presence in Canvas

Written by Kristen Cardoso and Bob Cole
As Middlebury Institute’s User Experience Librarian, Kristen Cardoso is passionate about improving learning experience for graduate students in Monterey. With the Institute moving towards developing more hybrid and online short-term programs, Kristen and her colleagues have begun thinking about how the Institute’s library could best serve students who may be away from campus. She notes, “…my colleagues and I have done a lot to improve the library’s physical spaces for students; however, our user experience work with regards to the library’s digital spaces have been mostly limited to our website and the library catalog.” Library staff help students through email and over the phone (and very rarely, even through their Facebook page). To transform Library services, she adds “…we knew we were going to have to find a way to provide online the warm, welcoming, and personal service that we currently offer in person.” After discussing the idea and the platform requirement for having librarians embedded into Canvas courses with Bob Cole, Kristen agreed to run a mini-pilot with the two sections of EDUC 8510: Educational Research Methods, currently being taught by Netta Avineri and Deniz Ortactepe. The pilot started about mid-way through the semester, but so far, the results are encouraging. Kristen began by posting an announcement in one section’s Canvas site and posting to the discussion board in the other, and then sending out an email through Canvas to everyone in both sections. Kristen also posted a brief instructional video and created a Library Resources & Tips folder. Acknowledging the positive response to her virtual presence in the courses, Kristen reports that “several students responded to my presence in Canvas, although most of them chose to come and see me in person for help! I’ve helped several students with APA formatting, using our databases, and writing a literature review.” After checking in with the professors, they decided there would be value to also visit the class in-person. This connection led to good discussions about open access publishing and citing sources using tools like Zotero. In the future, Kristen thinks that embedding librarians into Canvas courses from the beginning of the term could be really beneficial and create opportunities for librarians to connect with students taking classes in Monterey or remotely. Inspired by DLINQ’s recent Teaching Online & Hybrid conversation series event on humanizing online learning, one idea Kristen would recommend to further establish librarian presence would be the addition of a personal, introductory video so students can get to know her.

Dig Deeper:

“If you see a whole thing – it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives… But up close a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.” ― Ursula K. LeGuin, author

Featured Image by Oli Gibbs on Unsplash

The DIRT for November 19-23, 2018

The Shape of Gratitude

Screenshot of DLINQ staff - hand turkeys The weekly DIRT news and updates is on brief hiatus this week as the Middlebury community in the United States takes a breath to gather with friends and family in recognition of Thanksgiving. In our monthly all hands meeting last week we created a little space before we said goodbye for team members to channel their inner five year old. There were smiles and laughter across our web conference as we traced our hands and outfitted our gratitude turkeys with balloons, hearts, bandanas, hashtags, hats, stars, tails, and feathers. There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Wherever you are, we hope you too find some time to reflect on and share the many shapes that gratitude takes in your life. See you next Tuesday! Featured Image by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

The DIRT for November 12-16, 2018

Hey! Thanks for reading the weekly DIRT! As we approach the end of the year, our office is beginning to reflect on our work. One thing we are thinking about is how we tell our story and connect with our communities. So, look for some changes in 2019 as we plan to re-launch the DIRT as a monthly subscriber-based newsletter. We’re still working out the details, but current subscribers to our site will continue to receive notifications when posts are published and we will be actively campaigning to invite new subscribers. With this re-design, we’re excited about ways a new format might help us share our story and dig deeper into important conversations about the digital sphere and digital learning with the Middlebury community and beyond!

“Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts”, Prototyping Conversations on Privacy and Security

Written by Joe Antonioli and Amy Slay
 Mozilla Lightbeam screenshotDo you know who has your data? What do companies know about you? Who are they sharing it with? How are they keeping it secure? Recently, a number of Middlebury faculty and staff joined the INTD 0254a Innovation in Action: Design Thinking class for a discussion titled “Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts” led by DLINQ staff Joe Antonioli and Amy Slay. The pilot conversation, informed and inspired by DLINQ’s 2018 Digital Detox and attendance at the 2018 Digital Pedagogy Lab immersive course on Access, Privacy, and Practice, took a look at personal data privacy and security, and the information we share when we communicate using the web. Some of this information we provide when we use social media sites. Other information is extracted from us via pervasive tracking, usually without our knowledge. To better understand the magnitude and impact of tracking on the web, we explored a number of visualization tools including:

Ghostery – a browser extension that helps you identify and block trackers. Lightbeam – a browser extension that creates an interactive visual of how trackers follow you as you browse the web, and the relationships between trackers. Am I Unique? – this website helps you understand your device’s uniquely identifiable fingerprint.

The conversation concluded with a handful of tips for safer habits that could be used without drastically changing our lives. Our hope is that this initial conversation will serve as a model as we engage the broader Middlebury community in the conversation.

Related posts:

3 Ideas – Digital Pedagogy Lab 2018 Reflections Access, Privacy, and Practice — Reflections on Digital Pedagogy Lab, 2018

Heather Stafford Kicks Off  “Small Moves” Instructional Design Blog Series

Written by Bob Cole
Learn, Unlearn, Relearn by Giulia Forsythe cc licensed via FlickrHeather Stafford is launching a blog series to dig deeper into some of the small moves that were discussed during her October 26th online workshop ‘Student-Centered Course Design Using Canvas.’ In the series Heather plans to share some of the activities and design elements that faculty can implement in class to amplify the connectivity of a class. In the first edition of her series, Heather suggests that a screen captured virtual video tour of a course Canvas site can be a very effective extension of a course syllabus creating opportunities for instructors to establish teacher presence before a course meets for the first time and also to communicate course expectations. Keep an eye out for future posts in the series in coming weeks.

Documenting Content Based Instruction Project Update

Written by Jason Martel
Middlebury Institute Summer Intensive Language Program - RussianIn a late-May installment of The DIRT, Bob Cole wrote about a brewing collaboration between DLINQ and Jason Martel, TESOL/TFL Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Middlebury Institute’s Summer Intensive Language Programs (SILP). The goal of the project was to create multimedia artifacts that showcase the Middlebury Institute’s expertise in content-based instruction (CBI), an approach to language teaching that involves the simultaneous learning of language and non-linguistic content like cultural studies, environmental issues, and current events. Bob and DLINQ multimedia specialist Mark Basse met with Jason from SILP during the spring semester to set terms of partnership and an initial timeline for the project. We are happy to report that the project is well on its way to meeting its goal! During the Monterey summer term, three SILP instructors agreed to having their language teaching documented: Claire Eagle in French, Vita Kogan in Russian, and Gabriel Guillen in Spanish. In preparation, each instructor was invited to sit down with Jason for a thirty-minute recorded interview during which they discussed their experiences with and beliefs about CBI. During September and October, Claire, Vita, and Gabi reviewed the raw video footage that Mark captured to identify significant instructional moves and weave together coherent representations of their lessons. This week, Mark has received their outlines and has begun the task of editing the annotated segments into a coherent whole. The next step will be to finalize and review the videos – both the classroom lessons and interviews – so that they can be shared publicly on the SILP website. It is our hope that these videos will be helpful tools for the foreign language teacher education community. For example, we envision foreign language methods instructors using them for observational analysis in class and shown as models of effective teaching practice in their courses. We are grateful to DLINQ for helping us turn this idea into a reality!

Dig Deeper:

“Sunflowers end up facing the sun, but they go through a lot of dirt to find their way there.” ― J.R. Rim, author

Featured Image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

DIRT Digest | Oct 4 – Latest News from the Office of Digital Learning & Inquiry

The Office of Digital Learning & Inquiry (DLINQ) has an active blog and weekly updates called “The DIRT”. If you are not yet a subscriber, here’s a digest of recent news and updates from recent weeks in case you missed them:

DLINQ posts its weekly blog series, “The DIRT!” on Tuesdays. This is where you will find updates on projects, news, and developments from staff in our Middlebury, Vermont and Monterey, California offices. We invite you to subscribe to blog updates and visit our “About” page to learn about our office. Explore our “People” and “Projects” pages where you will find links to our areas of work, and learn how to connect with us.

Featured Image by Veliko Karachiviev on Unsplash

DIRT Digest | Sep 6 – Latest News from the Office of Digital Learning & Inquiry

The Office of Digital Learning & Inquiry (DLINQ) has an active blog and weekly updates called “The DIRT”. If you are not yet a subscriber, here’s a digest of recent news and updates from recent weeks in case you missed them:

DLINQ posts its weekly blog series, “The DIRT!” on Tuesdays. This is where you will find updates on projects, news, and developments from staff in our Middlebury, Vermont and Monterey, California offices. We invite you to subscribe to blog updates and visit our “About” page to learn about our office. Explore our “People” and “Projects” pages where you will find links to our areas of work, and learn how to connect with us.

Featured Image Photo by The Nigmatic on Unsplash