Weller’s chapter was an interesting start, and I appreciated the note towards the end that the pedagogies being posed were not a how-to guide, but rather a glimpse of some of the possibilities. It seemed to me that elements of many of these strategies are not too far from our ideal classrooms/teaching strategies (critical engagement and knowledge construction over knowledge acquisition, open-ended questions/problems and diverse possible solutions, etc), though they’re often not entirely realized. Certainly some of that is due to educators’ various constraints–time, resources, experience, comfort, effectiveness devising strategies to pursue those goals, etc. But I also think students’ comfort levels matter as well–they also have expectations for how education works and what its outcomes are supposed to look like–since as Madsen-Brooks points out, there has been an emphasis on content over skills like considering/critiquing content.

Part of the student discomfort I’m imagining would arise from these models is due to exactly the changes Weller is arguing should produce some sort of reconceptualization of teaching strategies (and the list of skills Madsen-Brooks produces–can you imagine telling students in a classroom that your goals for the class remain ambiguous, and your priorities may change?), that is, the abundance of content/connections as the core of educational models. I think we tend to be leery of that abundance because there is so much “bad” content out there, and based on my experiences, many students struggle to effectively assess it, so educators feel the need to moderate/curate it (hey, recreating that “scarcity” sort of like DRM etc). And here the “power of the crowd” gets a bit scary because of its potential to authorize (based on numbers/popularity rather than complete understandings–see Madsen-Brooks pondering Texas’ content standards) problematic knowledge. So I think lots of this would have to start with, or really intensely moderate and develop, some of those basic skills of assessing selections from among that abundance. Of course, making this a collective assessment rather than leaving it to individual learners to decide might help alleviate that challenge somewhat.

Incidentally, this reminds me of a conversation with Jim Groom a couple of years ago when I was setting up a UMW Blogs site for my Colonial America class, and he was tossing out ideas about how to construct an online archive of primary sources, located and introduced and tagged and categorized by students as part of their course work, that then subsequent classes could add to as well as draw on. There would ultimately be more content than every student would use (abundance), but there would be that process of selection and constantly growing materials available. The thought was totally overwhelming at the time, but getting more intriguing now. I could even see this crossing classes, with upper-level history classes aggregating things (curating them as a group) and lower-level classes deciding how to draw on them as a resource. Madsen-Brooks’ “Crafting Idaho” is an interesting example of how this could work, and so is Historic Buildings of UMW.

Twitter. I’m in the Reluctance spot still. I don’t especially want to be that visible, and the service will remain firmly in the professional realm for that reason (there are students present in that space and able to follow me). I do see how it could be a great tool in terms of networks>hierarchies, succinct thoughts (we can often drone on, and this forces you into a more constrained format, hopefully more “punchy” comments), etc., but I’m also glad to see that even people who made it central to a class found it uncomfortable to do so at times. What I do especially like is the cross-class potential–a hashtag for our methods students who are spread across three sections but working with parallel syllabi/assignments/goals, for example.

What’s the best method for setting up photo galleries? I have tons of pictures I’ve taken at historic sites I’ve visited, and I want to share them. Is my best bet to set up a subdomain ( and install a photo gallery management web app? Or is there some sort of plug-in/effective way of doing that within WordPress, and just adding the “Photos” to the menu there?

On a similar front. My main page has a menu option for “Domain of One’s Own,” but we have a subdomain set up for the blogging we’re doing for our workshops/meetings/readings. I want those two connected, for people clicking “DOO” on the main page’s menu to see what I’m blogging about in terms of setting things up (I want a transparent process to be as evident as the product, especially since I’ll be using this as a model and experience when I’m teaching our methods class in History). Can I have them redirected to the subdomain?

I like the widget that creates a clickable word-cloud using my tags. Good stuff.

I need to mess with themes and colors more, but I feel like that’s not incredibly productive, and like I could end up sucked down into that vortex. Perhaps not the best way to spend my time. Happier with my main domain than the subdomain, so maybe I just need to stick with simpler/straightforward. I did try a few background photos, but they didn’t do well–you couldn’t see any of the interesting elements, and so what was there just seemed useless. I’ll work on that, because it would make what I think are fairly wide borders somewhat more interesting.

Also, I think since you have to set up a subdomain to run a different web app, those are more like outbuildings (garage, garden shed, wood shop, chicken coop, etc) than rooms in the main house.

Reading the Campbell piece made me wonder about introducing a Technology-Intensive course designation that would fit alongside UMW’s Writing-Intensive and Speaking-Intensive designations/requirements. I know we have the new Digital Studies minor, but that is an opt-in program, whereas a TI designation might be a way of broadening our definition of the types of skills liberal arts majors WILL (rather than COULD) develop at Mary Washington. Maybe that goes along with the long-term goals of giving incoming freshmen web space, and has already been discussed, but it popped into my head, and a cursory Google search reveals that there are a few colleges out there with TI courses.

Prompt: Chambers talks several times about becoming acquainted with the Terms of Service (TOS) of the online tools we use. Look up the TOS for one or two services you regularly use Facebook, Twitter, Google TOS, LinkedIn. Could you understand them? Where they what you expected, and, if not, why? What surprised you most about what you read? If you read more than one, how do they compare?

Responding to this as requested would actually require me to go look at the TOS of these services, which sounds awful. However, my cynical self suspects that such is deliberate on the part of those who write them: make them so awful, tedious, and opaque to your average user, who’s in a hurry to set up their account, access content, whatever, that they will do everything they can not to read the TOS, and you can then include whatever you want. I tend to just assume that if I were to read and understand these things, I’d know that I’m not protected, and nothing I do is sacred or unwatched in some way; as a result, I share as little real information with these sites/services as I can, and if I can’t avoid sharing information, I sometimes decline to go ahead with accessing whatever service it is. I do try to pay attention to discussions and articles in other news sources that report on changes to, for instance, FB’s TOS (which seem constant, and really, again, who wants to go read through the whole thing again and try to figure out what has changed, and whether it has gotten better or worse?), and respond accordingly. What I try NOT to do is take too seriously the rants and posts in people’s FB news feeds supposedly telling me what has happened with the latest changes, and how to undo them.

I know this response isn’t quite what this prompt is intended to produce, but I also think it’s not an atypical response, which in itself is worth bringing up and discussing.

Prompt: Spend a moment and consider what makes up your current digital identity. Write down what you think people would find out about you if they were to search for you on Google. Then do an actual search and see what you find. How does your perceived presentation of your digital identity compare with your actual one?

My expectations: my presence will be fragmented. I suspect I’ll show up with some connections to UMW (on the History and American Studies page), as well as U.C. Irvine (I know at least the grad program keeps a list of graduates and their current employment status). I know I’m on as far back as Irvine, though I made a conscious effort to avoid returning to the site and haven’t been there in a couple of years. Though it may not be clear it is the same Jason Sellers, I may show up in the by-lines for news stories I wrote for the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review; stories for the Daily Californian more clearly connect with me, since I’m a Cal grad. Some conference programs are probably floating around, as well. I believe my Facebook settings are such that that page won’t show up (I try to pay attention to when FB changes its settings and defaults and makes people opt out, and go update settings then); and LinkedIn may appear since I have accounts, but I rarely/never do anything with them, so there shouldn’t be much there. I also know there will be those pages of phone numbers and home addresses that I’ll appear on. As far as Jason Sellers people who aren’t really me, I know there’s a country singer/song-writer who will show up, presumably higher in the search results than I will.

First, an interesting aside: Google displays a profile on the right side of the page that includes just my Gmail address, notes my profile is only 20% complete, and suggests, “Stand out from other people named Jason Sellers, update your profile.”

And there are plenty of them. As expected, country singer Jason Sellers dominates the top of the list, with a Wikipedia entry, a YouTube video, and three other pages. I want to distinguish myself from a Texan with a background in gospel music. My UMW profile does show up in the 6th spot, which seems respectable. That, however, is followed by a Facebook Jason Sellers with spiky hair (yeah, not me–though I also don’t appear on the list of “Other Jason Sellers” on this page, so apparently I’ve got the settings right), Jason Sellers Racing, a German photographer, and an actor in New Zealand. That’s the first page of results. Page two has some more of those guys, a Chevy dealer in Kalamazoo and a chef in Asheville, NC, while page 3 turns up a BMX racer, a high school baseball prospect, and a University of Washington scientist with the same middle initial as me.

I also make my return to the results via RateMyProfessors; On page 6 we get one of my book reviews, published in a digital-only journal.

Interesting, the Irvine stuff cropped up only in one of Google’s “searches related to jason sellers,” specifically “jason sellers california.” There I got top billing, but still have to share the first few pages with tons of others. More intriguingly here, the bottom of page 3 is my new domain.

I also tried “jason sellers history,” where I don’t have to share top billing. With that, I get UMW, Bemidji, and Irvine hits; the first 6 results, and 8 of 10 results on page 1; plus the top two spots on page 2, including my new domain.

So basically I have a presence, but it’s sort of buried in the midst of a lot of other guys named Jason Sellers (a not uncommon name). Unless you add my discipline on the end, which helps, though there’s still no one-stop shop. I’m actually surprised not to see any of my newspaper stories show up, though I’m also not complaining–the Boyd reading made me wonder about whether I would have an outdated public identity. I can find my stuff in the Daily Californian by adding the newspaper name to my search, but the Chico newspapers don’t turn up. I’m fairly happy that most of what comes back quickly is related to the last few years of grad school and my early career (which I guess makes sense). I wouldn’t mind the RateMyProfessors stuff getting pushed down in the results, whatever it says, but that motive is part of why I want my syllabi up and visible on my page.

Jim asked us to collect other sites and places on the web that are important for our professional community. Here’s my initial list.

Professional organizations:

The American Historical Association, our big professional organization (with their recently revamped–and much-improved–website).

American Society for Ethnohistory, an interdisciplinary organization committed to creating “a more inclusive picture of native groups in the Americas.”

The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, located in Philadelphia. The Center hosts a variety of events, sponsors conferences (I’ll present at one in March), edits a book series, and issues a journal.

The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture is based at William & Mary. It hosts conferences and symposiums, issues the premier journal in colonial American history, and partners with UNC Press to publish monographs.

More casual and/or closer to home:

My people in the Department of History and American Studies at UMW.

The website of Jeff McClurken, UMW History and American Studies department chair. Jeff is incredibly active in the digital humanities.

The Junto, a group that can explain itself: “The Junto is a group blog made up of junior early Americanists—graduate students and junior faculty—dedicated to providing content of general interest to other early Americanists and those interested in early American history, as well as a forum for discussion of relevant historical and academic topics.”

Historiann, which I include  in part because of the blog, in part because I love Ann Little’s scholarship.

The website of Jana Remy, a graduate school colleague and historian who teaches Digital Humanities at Chapman University.

…there was my first post.

Welcome to my blog about my experiences in UMW’s Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative. Here is where you’ll be able to find my posts about trying to build my domain, about the experiments and failures and hopefully a qualified success or two. Here is also where you’ll see what frustrated me so much that I stopped tinkering with the web and read a book about alfalfa irrigation in Idaho instead.

Ultimately, I hope to use the space I construct to share some of my work and engage in ongoing conversations about it, publicize some of my courses, serve as a model for students in our methods course (HIST 297-298), and develop a hub that connects to a variety of Fredericksburg-area historical resources.

You can find my main page here.