Video 2: Digital Tools

Back to video 1 (transcript)


In this video, I will talk briefly about the choices I made for the digital tools we use in the course.

For many of your courses at Muhlenberg you will use Canvas, also known as the LMS (Learning Management System, sometimes also spelled #elemess). In this course, things will be a bit different, and we will barely use Canvas! There are three reasons for that.

First: My educated guess is that most of you will never use an LMS again after you leave college. So why not instead be a bit more adventurous, and explore possibilities that will serve you beyond graduation?

All of you use the internet daily, and at the end of the course you will be able to set up a website and manage its contents, using WordPress as a CMS (content management system); you can put that straight on your CV! And if you want to explore more, the Digital Learning Assistants and I are more than happy to help you play around with other online apps, tools, and sites, or maybe even become a DLA yourself.

A second reasons is that when students join us from abroad, they may not have access to the LMS easily. As you know, sites like Google and Facebook are not accessible from mainland China; even a VPN (Virtual Private Network) does not always work; I have heard conflicting reports about access to Canvas, even with a VPN. To the best of my knowledge, that is not an issue with Bergbuilds.

Another reason to move out of the LMS and use our own websites, is to increase the safety of your data, and your privacy. Wait? What? Being out on the internet means more privacy? Yes: this paradox exists because on your own site, you determine what you put out there. There is also no big company hoovering up data to try and craft ads to sell you things. And did you know Canvas gives me a lot of information that you probably don’t want to share? Such as: when was the last time you logged in? How long were you there for? How much time did you spend on that quiz? On your website, you’re in control.

And it is highly unlikely to go viral or attract unwanted attention (it’s never happened with bergbuilds, as far as I know). But if you want the attention, a website and a blog make it much easier to share with friends and family.

Think about how easy it is to share good work with a future employer: a link to a professional looking site, including hyperlinks, images and maybe video, rather than a dog-eared essay with a sea of words… And after a course closes, or after you graduate, you don’t lose access to work you created. You have your Bergbuilds website for free for the entire four years you are at the college, and for another full year after you graduate. You get a chance to archive your work, or you can simply register your own personal domain and migrate all your content there. In other words: nothing has to get lost, if you don’t want to.

There are three types of tool or web-based apps we will use extensively in this course.

The first site or tool is a social space, where you can talk with other students, and ask questions. This is the Cloud Lounge, because it’s not a physical space, but I hope it is inviting enough to hang out and goof around (I love history memes! Please share links to your favorites!) You can also ask and answer questions about assignments, about course contents, and share resources, links, files etc. It is a very informal space, and feels to me a bit like a combination of Facebook and Twitter: social, and fun. (No, real fun. I’m the only old person on there.)

The second tool is WordPress, which is the basis for your own personal website and blog hosted on Bergbuilds. As I just said, once you’re set up, it’s your site to have and to hold, to play around with, to break and to fix, until one year after graduation.

We will also build towards a contribution in the online exhibition in Scalar, you’ll hear more about that later in the semester. For now, it’s enough to understand that once you know how to use your website, Scalar is very easy to navigate and use, because it is very similar.

We will also use a social annotation tool called It allows for easy and private annotation of websites, including your own, and we will use this to give feedback on each other’s work. (Yes, you can annotate my websites!)

You will set up these tools this week, so you’ll be set for the rest of the semester.

Link to Video 3 (transcript)