My Revels at Marlboro College Graduate School Now Are Ended

Marlboro College Graduate School in Brattleboro, VT

Marlboro College Graduate School in Brattleboro, VT

I miss pizza night. Pizza night was every other Friday. Halfway through a three-hour class, we’d break for pizza that was ordered by the school: part of my tuition, as I figured it. What made it so enjoyable wasn’t just the pizza, it was the chance to talk and relax with the instructor and the other students in the class — the people I had been communicating with almost daily via online posts and replies in the dead-quiet hours of the very-early morning.

It was a long road to a master’s degree. I started classes when one of my daughter’s was two years old, and halfway through my program, my second daughter was born. Marlboro’s mixed format of in-person and online classes made it possible for me to finish my program while keeping my sanity. Online classes were demanding, and I was often up until between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. participating in asynchronous conversations on our Moodle-based online class forum. Then I would get a few hours of sleep and go to work. That put me and my family through a lot of stress. In-person classes happened on Friday night and Saturday of ever other week. They were a relief. I swear, they were even fun, and I looked forward to every one of them.

So, I was ecstatic to finish the program and get my degree. Getting invited to speak just made it that much better.

On August 25, I was one of the three students given the opportunity to speak to the graduating class about their experience and their thoughts of their respective program. Each of us represented different areas of discipline: technology, teaching, and management. I was the techie — a little ironic, because I’ve been a graphic designer for 20 years — but I am happy to play the dual role.

Like many other graduates, my oldest daughter, who is three, ran to my side and joined me as I accepted my degree. There couldn’t have been a better way to graduate.

My speech appears below.

It’s All Been Great Fun

The stack of books generated during my MSIT program at Marlboro College Graduate School

The stack of books (the physical ones) generated during my program at Marlboro College Graduate School

Hi, my name is Andreas deDanaan. Later this morning, I will be a graduate of the Master of Science in Internet Technologies program.

I came to the program to learn how to build a better website. I had long been a designer for print media, and I had dabbled in creating a few websites. But, I felt that I was flailing about as I tried to make the transition to web technologies. I ran into a fellow designer who told me about Marlboro College Graduate School. I began looking into it and getting very excited about the prospect of enrolling.

What I expected to learn in the program was how to build sites with dynamic content. I was impressed with some of the projects I’d seen, and I was impressed with the students and teachers that I talked to in the program. I began to get the happy impression that I would learn more than just how to build sites. Sure, I’d get introduced to project management and entrepreneurship, website usability and accessibility, but I suspected I’d get some surprises, too.

Statistics on the adoption of new technology were staggering to me once I started paying attention. The number of Facebook users, smart-phone users, eBook readers, YouTube uploads were climbing at a pretty incredible pace. Wikipedia now has editions in 285 languages. It has over 22 million articles combined. These were written and edited collaboratively by volunteers around the world on software that is freely available. You can start a wiki website easily. Anyone can contribute to Wikipedia. I wanted dynamic content. Well, Wikipedia has very dynamic content.

Ever since my Bachelor’s Degree in English, I’ve always had an interest in different cultures, which expressed itself with some post-graduate coursework that I did in cultural anthropology. So, I couldn’t help but notice during my courses here how Internet technologies were disrupting and challenging our own culture — how we have adapted and changed the way we behave, interact with each other, and even learn and think:

  • How blogging, and posting to social media with our always-on devices makes everyone a bit of a journalist and documentarian. People around the world record events wherever they go and post them to the public record on Facebook, YouTube, Flicker. Sometimes, this is all about fun, but sometimes it’s very serious, and it’s those times, it has actually played a role in challenging authoritarian governments around the world.
  • How the ease of copying — pictures, video, software, music, books — is challenging our code of ethics and our concept of property. Content producers have been forced to experiment with different restriction schemes such as paywalls, and digital rights management. Enter The Creative Commons license, a new way to approach copyright. It allows the legal “remixing” of content — something that the Internet practically begs users to do anyway, and a practice we’ve come to expect of one another.
  • How the it-never-forgets quality of the Internet and ability to broadcast our own personal views has enabled among many other things, cyberbullying, which is a deadly serious problem that has affected the lives of many children and has played a role in several child suicides. This same personal megaphone quality is also tied to the increasing political polarization of our society.
  • How crowdsourcing and social apps have aided massive coordination efforts such as [watch a re:publica video on and crisis mapping] a crisis-mapping website and open-source platform that brings together technologies like text messaging, and social media for humanitarian efforts. Ordinary citizens all over Kenya in 2007 and 2008, when violence erupted after disputed elections, bore witness to human rights abuses via their cell phones. “Collected more testimony … with greater rapidity than any reporter or election monitor,” as the New York Times put it. That same technology has been used many times since in many countries (for instance, after the massive earthquakes in Haiti in 2010 and Japan in 2011).
  • How our influence over each other permeates our social networks — now extended into digital networks. Enterprises large and small spend huge amounts of resources trying to reach the wider audience that social media makes available.

All these things make up the ecosystem — so to speak — of the Internet. Building a website in this ecosystem suddenly takes on a lot of gravity. It is humbling and inspiring at the same time. The process of building a website has changed drastically in a very short time. My work has been transformed by open-source software in which communities of software engineers, programmers, and designers, create, distribute, and use software that is free to use and build upon. The growth enabled by this has been huge, not just for the larger community, but in my case, it allows me to create much more than I realized I could. So, yes! I did learn how to design and build a website with dynamic content.

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