The Bus Has Left and There’s No Coming Back

On October 13 and 14, the Digital Learning Team at Muhlenberg College had the pleasure of hosting our friends from Reclaim Hosting, Jim Groom and Lauren Brumfeld.  I’m not exaggerating when I say the days were packed and both Lauren and Jim were generous in their authentic engagement with the various staff, faculty, and student groups they met throughout the visit.  The Digital Learning Team spent a long morning with Jim and Lauren, in critical discussions about how we are launching bergbuilds, our Domain of One’s Own initiative, and how to make it sustainable.  It was heartening to hear their sense that the intentionality framing our early efforts has been critical to successful Domains projects on other campuses.  Indeed, from the earliest moments of exploring the possibility of Domains at Muhlenberg, conversations with folks leading Domain of One’s Own initiatives at other campuses were vital to shaping our understanding, goals, and approach.  This includes Kristen Eshelman at Davidson College, Andrea Rehn and Whittier College, Jill Leafstedt at CSU Channel Islands, and more recently, Martha Burtis at University of Mary Washington, Adam Croom at Oklahoma University.  It also includes Andrew Rikard at Davidson, who woke up early one summer morning to share with our Digital Learning pre-O students his perspective on what it means for him to connect his learning to his own domain.  Each of them has been generous in sharing their experiences getting started with Domain of One’s Own and have taught me a great deal about the kind of support and strategic thinking that is useful to iterate and sustain a local Domains project.

And I think they all said, if you can do it, bring Jim Groom to campus.

Having Jim and Lauren on campus for two days was an opportunity to intensely explore with them the kind of local Domains scene we hope to cultivate in our community.  They paid close attention in each conversation and it was clear that they were listening deeply for the themes, values, meanings that were surfacing across many different gatherings over the two days–with the Digital Learning Team, the participants of a Domains Faculty Learning Community, the student Digital Learning Assistants, and with students in the first year seminar, “Who Controls Your Digital World?” taught by Tina Hertel, director of Trexler Library at Muhlenberg.  During his workshop with the Faculty Learning Community, Jim very seamlessly worked with Digital Learning Team folks as if they were longtime colleagues–and in doing so really meaningfully called attention to the expertise on campus, especially with instructional technologists Jordan Noyes and Tim Clarke, and Jenna Azar, instructional designer.  Long after Jim and Lauren’s visit ends, these are the three who will hold much of the responsibility for cultivating and supporting Domains at Muhlenberg.


Digital literacies and identities are at the heart of these conversations, and so it was really intentional that Tim Clarke (Instructional Technologist) and Jenna Azar (Instructional Designer) chose the library for the site of Jim’s talk.  This is a perfect place to emphasize how central librarians are to our Domains project and to digital learning in general at Muhlenberg.   In the moment that Jim took the mic, it seemed as if he might bring the library roof down.  Everyone loved it.

Sean Miller, manager of Media Services, helped transform the library concourse into a presentation space, and also captured Jim’s talk on video.  He gets credit for the howling mic gif, too.

Jim’s full talk can be viewed here:

Here’s the Storified version of tweets from the students in the class, Who Controls Your Digital World?  Jim and Lauren visited their class earlier during the day and then they attended Jim’s talk in the evening.


One message was pretty consistent across the many conversations throughout the two days: the importance of blogging.  Not just the idea of blogging about our work, but the idea of blogging as our work.  We were all struck by how often Jim emphasized how critical it is for us to model for students the kinds of practices we aim to encourage and grow among them, including blogging, working openly, in public.  Jim and Lauren made the strongest case for making blogging part of our regular work (“if you’re not blogging, you’re not working!”) and I’m certain that this is just the first of several posts to come reflecting on the ways our work has been enriched and catapulted by our visit from Jim and Lauren.
I was inspired by the pedagogy of ds106 (#4life) in which the instructors hold themselves responsible for completing and publishing assignments alongside the students.  It was an activity from the ds106 assignment bank that inspired critical engagement during a session with the first ever cohort of Digital Learning Assistants.
Here’s where Lauren’s presence was key–she was able to share with the students her perspectives on Domains as a recent grad, and how she made the most of her experiences in the Digital Knowledge Center at the Un iversity of Mary Washington. Thinking with Lauren and Jim about how the DLA program can help cultivate a deeply student-centered mission for Domains at Muhlenberg generated some of the most exciting and inspiring ideas for the work ahead of us this semester and throughout the year.  A space (physical and digital) for them is in the works, but in the meantime interested folks can follow the DLAs here on Twitter.


We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and I’m looking forward to collectively processing some of the key ideas and aesthetic elements that Jim and Lauren helped surface with us.  Until then, I’m going to remind myself of something Jim said early on: “Domain of One’s Own is won one post at a time.”