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MiddCreate

It's time for you to have a domain of your own.

MiddCreate is Middlebury’s open web design project, based on the Domain of One’s Own initiative. All Middlebury faculty, staff and students have access to MiddCreate.

About the initiative

With MiddCreate, faculty, staff, and students can create online websites and spaces for writing, self-expression, professional, academic, or creative portfolios, and more. 

THE MISSION OF MIDDCREATE is to provide spaces on the web where students, faculty, and staff can explore and connect their learning, experiment with digital tools for teaching and learning, and create a digital identity that is owned and managed by them, to take with them when they leave Middlebury.

MIDDCREATE PROVIDES SUBDOMAIN NAMES and web space to members of the Middlebury community, encouraging individuals to explore and develop their digital identities using tools such as WordPress, Omeka, Media Wiki, Known, and more. MiddCreate supports an individual’s agency in creating their digital identity through processes of reflection, self-expression, and connection to other learners and experts.

LINQ UP WITH US

Want to learn more, or wondering how to get started? Here are three ways to get involved with MiddCreate.

More Details

What is MiddCreate? How is it different from our hosted blog environment, sites.middlebury or sites.miis? and Why do this MiddCreate project at Middlebury?

Self Help

MiddCreate is all about agency—it's up to you to imagine what you want to do, try it out, and learn from it. Here are some helpful how-to documents covering general information about how to set up and manage your domain, what you can do on your cPanel dashboard, and some of the applications you can install.

Get Started

MiddCreate is more than just a space on the web. It's a place to practice digital fluency, create a digital presence, and have more agency and control over the tools you use on the web. What are you waiting for?

Go deeper...

More—A round-up of all things MiddCreate

Blog posts, announcements, events, and reflections

 

Developing Digital Literacy Through MiddCreate

Last Monday I had the privilege of virtually joining Joe Antonioli's 'Innovation in Action: Design Thinking and Problem-Solving' class at the Middlebury Vermont campus. His students have spent the semester designing innovative solutions to some of Middlebury’s academic technology challenges, including those associated with MiddCreate.

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Digital Tools Guide

This guide is an easy, visual reference for you to determine which tools might be right for you based on what kind of task you're working on and what you're trying to achieve.  6522

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MiddCreate Course Sites

Interested in creating a course site or assignment using MiddCreate? Not sure which application fits your needs? Look no further! This guide will provide resources to help you think through how a domain can best serve you and your students.

A “Domain of One’s Own" asks us to consider the infrastructure. It asks us to understand the Web and our place on it. It asks to us to pay attention to the content we create — as teachers and as students — and to weigh where it best resides — who has access to it, and for how long.

- Audrey Watters

Technology is all about removing limitations and building connections. The MiddCreate application you select for your course site or project should connect your students with new, useful content and experiences. Having specific goals is the key to maximizing a digital tool’s value. It's also important to determine how the new tool will figure into your existing tool inventory and pedagogy. Do you intend it to replace something or is it just an addition? Thinking about these questions will help inform your course objectives, determine how to proceed with initial set up and how much time the configuration will take.

Design Your Project

It's a good idea to focus on what the technology can do uniquely well (such as enabling multiple modes of participation) when thinking about how it will integrate with your course. MiddCreate applications like WordPress, Known, Dokuwiki, and Omeka can be used to help your students collaborate and build a sense of community among the class. There are many models by which you can achieve this. For example, by establishing a communal space where everyone can create content, or by syndicating content students create individually to a community space.

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You might also consider the site's intended users and audience: who will be utilizing the site and how will they interact with it? Will this change over time? An example of this would be having students collaborate to draft information into a wiki resource site, then opening it up for public contributions once the initial entries are completed. In order to make this run smoothly, an instructor would need to understand not only how to create and edit pages within the wiki application, but also have a plan for how to configure changes in privacy and multiple user access settings at each stage of the project.

Every application has unique aspects that will require careful thought and intentional planning to ensure that your project fulfills its purpose and provides a rewarding, enjoyable learning experience for everyone involved.

Identify Appropriate Challenges

Before you decide which MiddCreate tool to use, properly consider its drawbacks. These could include limitations that arise due to its features, or the extra time and effort needed to create, maintain, and grade digital assignments. You and your students are busy, so you’ll want to consider how long it will take to get your site ready. Will the application require extensive configuration to make it do what you want it to, or will it be usable soon after installation? Consider this carefully when planning your course, learning objectives, and the timing of assignments you expect students to complete.

You should also take into account how comfortable you and your students are with technology. Think about the tools they have used previously and how those compare to your potential selection. Even if students lack experience with this kind of digital tool, it could still be a valuable learning opportunity, but be aware that using it may require planning in extra time to accommodate the learning curve.

No doubt you want to give students the freedom to explore their own ideas and interests. However, leaving things too open can be intimidating and cause students to feel lost. The best way to increase students’ comfort level with new, experimental methods of learning is by including clear structure. Provide detailed requirements and frameworks for those who need them, but encourage students to take off in their own direction when appropriate. Remember that digital tools can give students the chance to take risks with the material they are learning, providing instructors insight into their students' unexpected capabilities.

Plan for the Future

After students complete assignments, it might be nice to ask if you can feature the best work for all to admire. It's also a good idea to archive the semester's best examples for future classes. When students are struggling to find inspiration or understand what the project should look like, it often helps to give them a look at some of the best work from previous semesters.

Another thing to consider is whether you'll be using the same course site again in future semesters, or would like to archive and duplicate it each time. Think about how much of your content you can create as separate assets that can be easily migrated if and when you decide to move on.

Evaluate the App

Think you've found the right digital tool for your site? Go though the questions in this handy, comprehensive guide to choosing digital tools for course sites. This resource offers queries to develop and improve the digital pedagogy of your classes, focusing on the unique complexities and responsibilities that incorporating MiddCreate’s web tools into a curriculum may present.


Additional Resources


Learn more about MiddCreate »

If you’d like help getting started in MiddCreate, feel free to drop by the DLC Learning Lab or make an appointment with a DLC staff member.


Written by Clarissa Stewart, Graduate Assistant in the Digital Learning Commons, 2016

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The locks on our bridges

This excerpt is from my talk with Sean Michael Morris and Amy Slay at Open Education 2016 about Critical Instructional Design. Read Sean’s post Critical Instructional Design and Acts of Resistance for his take, which mine follows. 

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What does Middlebury’s new IP policy mean for you? (Part 1)

At the September 2016 Board of Trustees meeting, the Board voted unanimously to approve Middlebury's first Intellectual Property policy. The new policy is a result of a year-long process that involved input from faculty, staff, students, Board members, and external advisors. The Intellectual Property Working Group (IPWG) developed the policy after surveying the landscape of higher education policies and discussing Middlebury's values and institutional capacity. After the IPWG drafted an initial version of the policy, we began hosting open discussions with Middlebury community members and providing opportunities feedback via a commentable draft on the IPWG website. We also developed a series of short case studies to help clarify the intent of the policy.

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Moodle to Canvas: Language Assessment Transitions

With Middlebury's recent institution-wide transition to a new Learning Management System (LMS), many instructors as well as programs have worked diligently to migrate existing learning content from Moodle to Canvas. Moodle, which has been in use here for a number of years, houses significant learning content across the institution and continues to be available throughout the academic year while educators transition their work to the new LMS.

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Advice for working across distance

Middlebury is launching a strategic planning process this year, called Envisioning Middlebury. As part of this process, two committees of faculty, staff, and students from across Middlebury's programs were formed to help shepherd the process and to be ambassadors to the community at large.

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Language Learning and the Digital

We think of language learning as an in-person endeavor. At its most elemental level, what is language really about if not about me standing here – in person – talking and reaching out to you with my voice and the body attached to it? Language is about the words, yes, but it’s also about everything that goes along with them: my facial expression, the way I use my hands and arms when I speak, my posture, the earthy feeling of company that comes with a knowledge of my physical proximity. How can communication happen without those things? How can language be disembodied? How can we possibly learn a language without tangible, physical presence?

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WordPress Privacy Settings

"Almost all arguments about student privacy, whether those calling for more restrictions or fewer, fail to give students themselves a voice, let alone some assistance in deciding what to share online."

Hack Education author Audrey Watters highlights an issue that everyone using technology in the classroom or to share their work online has to grapple with. When we think about it abstractly, it's easy to recognize that privacy is very important. But when it comes to online spaces, privacy is sometimes unwittingly sacrificed or overlooked. In educational settings, it's not always explored fully in a way that engages students, listens to their concerns, and informs them of their rights. We are all responsible for protecting our own privacy. This post is intended to explore the topic more deeply and give some guidance that will hopefully help you decide the boundaries of what you are comfortable with sharing.

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The distinctions between public and private spaces are often blurred on the web. The nature of how websites are constructed means that privacy settings can add multiple layers of security that hide or show different things to different people. When you first create them, most sites will automatically be set to a public privacy setting, meaning everyone can see what's on it. You are responsible for adjusting these settings for your own needs.

On a more personal level, how can we use privacy settings to enhance our work? It might be helpful to reframe this distinction as "thought space" vs "public space". We can use privacy features to help us draft our ideas in a contained environment just for ourselves and our collaborators, before sending them out into the public arena where they will interact with the opinions of the greater world.

thought-1014406_960_720Before sharing anything on the web, think about whether it's something you would mind sharing in real life. Consider carefully before revealing identifying information, like usernames, passwords, your real name, addresses, and phone numbers. Someone could use even a small piece of information like this to find more about you via a reverse search. If you want to keep your personal information from being entered into public, searchable record (i.e. general web search results), you may want to avoid filling out forms that require those details or posting them anywhere online.

SITES dot and MiddCreate Domains

Middlebury hosts two WordPress based platforms, SITES dot MIIS (Institute) and SITES dot Middlebury (College), which are available for you to create content on. MiddCreate provides our community members with an entire domain of their own, and is hosted through Reclaim Hosting, a company that offers a strict privacy policy. It was reviewed and approved as our vendor by the Information and Technology Services group (ITS) at Middlebury. Reclaim Hosting doesn't make any intellectual property claims about what you host on your MiddCreate domain (unless you post something they created or wrote).

Some people may wonder how the US Department of Education’s Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is implicated in projects like these. FERPA only requires that student records not be public unless a student gives permission, so ultimately you have control of how much information is made available.

What this means is that anything you make on SITES dot or MiddCreate can only be made public with your permission or by your own choice. You have full agency to control the level of privacy you want to set for your websites. If you're creating something for a class assignment, you will probably have to find a way to allow your professor to access it for grading purposes. However, an instructor cannot force you to use identifying personal information or share your content without your consent.

WordPress Privacy Settings

WordPress powers not only SITES dot MIIS and SITES dot Middlebury, but is also one of the most popular applications on MiddCreate. Almost 26% of sites on the internet use WordPress, so it's very useful to familiarize yourself with the privacy options it offers. It's important to understand what these option mean and how your site will be affected by any changes you make.

Content Visibility

When you create a post you can save it as a draft instead of publishing it right away. Drafts are only visible to people who have login access to the Dashboard of your WordPress site. Once you publish a post or page, you can customize its visibility under the "Publish" sidebar in the editor. You have three visibility options:
  • Public – The page will be visible to everyone.
  • Protected – The page is protected with a password you set. WordPress will prompt you for the password on your initial visit to a protected page, and only people who have the password can view a protected page. You can password protect post-by-post, or entire areas of your site by using a plugin.
  • Private – Pages are only visible to Editors and Administrators*. Private pages are not visible in the Reader, feeds, or in any search. A page can be private without being password protected.

* Learn more about WordPress user roles and permissions in this resource from WP Beginner.

Private Site

If you’d like to make your entire website private, you’ll need to adjust your general privacy settings. They can be found under Settings > General on the left-hand sidebar in the Dashboard.
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Search Engine Visibility Options

You can also choose whether you want your site to show up in search engine results. In WordPress, these options can be found under Settings > Reading > Search Engine Visibility.
  • Allow search engines to index this site. – This is the setting used by most blogs. It allows everyone to read your site and enables it to be included in search engine results and other content sites.
  • Ask search engines not to index this site. – If you want all human visitors to be able to read your blog, but want to block web crawlers for search engines, this is the setting for you.

** Please note that these options cannot force search engines to not search your site at all.

Knowing how to manage your identity and information online is a critical part of developing digital literacy. Whether on social media, as part of your academic work, or in your everyday web browsing, privacy is something we all have to think carefully about in order to discover what our comfort level is and how much we are willing to share with the world. You have the right to choose what amount of engagement is most appropriate for you, and protect yourself and your information accordingly.

I hope this article has provided a useful framework for thinking about privacy, but if you have any further concerns or questions, feel free to drop by the DLC for more advice!


Additional Resources

Want to take control of what people find about you online? Check out our web presence resources.

Concerned about malware/spyware and fending off invasive hacks? Learn more about web security.

Created by Clarissa Stewart, Graduate Assistant in the Digital Learning Commons, 2016

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Photo Credits:

Header photo by Boudewijn Huysmans on Unsplash

Butterflies Photo by Emiel Molenaar on Unsplash

Spotlight Photo by Daniel Tseng on Unsplash

Peppers Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Gardening Tools Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Grass Photo by Christian EM on Unsplash

Woods Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash