Feb. 10th, 2015

usernamenumber: (devi)
Sooo, here's the deal: I got an email from a guy I know who knows a guy who is casting for a new reality TV show (flier and casting questionnaire linked below, with permission). Here's how he describes it:

It is my understanding that show is set up to be like a docu follow. It will be a reality show. Docu follow in reality tv typically means they are there to follow the flow of how the group interacts together with no scripting.

The angle they are looking to create is the reality version of The Big Bang Theory.

To be honest, I'm pretty dubious about the fact that they seem to use Big Bang Theory as their touchstone for real-life nerd archetypes, but if it's legit and relatively non-exploity... maybe it could be cool? Or horrible? Or both? "Memorable", perhaps?

If you're interested and have a household or circle of friends you think would be fun for this, feel free to submit the questionnaire. It will ask for a list of friends and their contact info (so be cool and get permission first!). Feel free, but in no way obliged, to include me if you want, though I'm still not 100% sure I'll be down for it if they're interested in me.

Flier and questionnaire are here:


Email the questionnaire to jimmy.murphy brightroadprods com. He says they need responses ASAP, and will be sending things off on Friday.
Because the form had character limits, I didn't get to submit exactly this, but I'm pretty happy with what I wrote, and since it's a project I'm genuinely excited about, I thought I would share.

Federated learning experiences: toward the invisible LMS
The modern e-learning world includes a wealth of innovative and powerful tools for developers of educational content. Some of these are built into learning management systems (LMSes) like Sakai, Moodle, and edX, others are designed to interact with LMSes using standards like SCORM and xAPI, and still others are designed to operate as stand-alone learning experiences, with little or no thought given to integration with a particular platform.

This talk starts with a central premise: “the more an LMS tries to do (e.g. creating content, hosting content, recording grades, etc), the more limiting it ultimately is, resulting in lock-in, inflexibility, and lost options for innovation and experimentation.” From there, it proposes taking a page from the anti-monolithic philosophy of Unix: each component of a system should do one thing very well, and cooperate well with other components for more complex tasks. In other words, authoring and hosting content, storing student records and providing a user interface that ties it all together should be handled by independent, modular components of an organization’s e-learning ecosystem.

This is illustrated with a demonstration of Swag, a non-profit project being developed by tunapanda.org. Swag “federates” learning experiences from an arbitrary set of sources, which can include stand-alone content like XOT objects, content hosted in one or more traditional LMSes, and things it would be difficult or impossible to integrate into a traditional LMS, like activities using non-web-based applications. These are presented using a game-like interface that organizes experiences into “maps”, and awards points (“swag”) for each accomplishment. A set of scripts gathers learning records from each source, converts them into a common format (xAPI), and stores them in an independent learning record store. The result is an approach to learning management that in its most radical form could enable completely self-directed, self-motivated learning with minimal dependence on any particular platform for creating or hosting educational content.

This is all open-source, and if you have the time and inclination to help (it's mostly node.js and Django), get in touch, and/or check out the git repo here:


I also submitted this:

Using Ansible to automate the maintenance of your e-learning ecosystem.
Ansible provides an easy but powerful way to define configurations that should be applied to servers, and can make deployment, maintenance, and change control easier whether you have a small number of servers or hundreds. This workshop will demonstrate building a set of Ansible “playbooks” to provision a Linux virtual machine hosting Xerte Online Toolkits and its dependencies (web server, database, etc).

This one also touches on a really cool open-source/non-profit project I've been working on, which aims to use ansible to make it easy to provision classroom servers that can provide a local wifi network with locally hosted educational resources from sources like wikipedia. edX, and Khan Academy with no dependence on an external Internet connection, for deployment in facilities where bandwidth is either non-existent or prohibitively expensive. We even have a test deployment in a refugee camp in Jordan coming up soon.

Another JCC talent shout-out! I joked that after the cruise I was going to just go get everything by any artist whose last name sounded like "grey", because in addition to Jean Grae, there were two really cool singer/songwriters: Brian Gray and his remarkably precocious teenage daughter Zoe Gray.

I heard two songs by Brian: one that made me laugh, and one that made me cry, right there, on the deck of a cruise ship. It stabs me right in one of my biggest fears and twists the knife in a way that hurts but is also inspiring.

Laughing: "Man Crush" http://briangray.bandcamp.com/track/man-crush

Crying: "Just a Dream" http://briangray.bandcamp.com/track/just-a-dream

Then at open mic Zoe got up and did one of the best teenage nerd anthems I've heard, "Castaways":


You can hear more of her stuff at https://zoegray.bandcamp.com/



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