A visual history of the last 10 years of my life working on what I believe will save education. What is saving education? Lower costs, increased access, increased accessibility, increased empathy in a population through more relatable technology platforms that connect humanity rather then divide. Improve educational outcomes and experiences, improve everything. Innovate with us.
It's not here yet, but I wanted to write about the birthday of something very important in my life. An idea. An idea planted like a seed in my historical timeline to ever alter the course of my small history. That idea was originally called ELMS.
Before the network (ELMS: Learning Network), before 1 million + downloads of code produced by the project, 100s of reusable modules, the automated deployments of today and the architecture we have... there was a document, a white board, and a mission statement. In the basement of an dormatory at Penn State, I started my first and only career; building instructional technology.
The document in question was to put into writing the ideas we had on a whiteboard of the applications we needed to build. Nothing existed that did what we needed, and online education was still an infant. But in this basement, we drafted the statement that would unknowingly shape my future.
This is from the document with a timestamp of 09/20/2007:
ELMS stands for E-Learning Management System and is an open-source effort developed at Penn State’s e-Learning Institute. ELMS looks to make courses easier for staff to develop, deploy, and manage through a simple drag-and-drop method of content creation and organization. The overall goal of ELMS is to improve the student’s experience with e-learning courses by allowing educators to be more creative and flexible with the way their material is presented online. (emphasis added)
It would only make sense that I rediscovered this statement in 2017 shortly before the 10 year birthday of the idea of the project. This isn't the birthday of ELMS:LN (that's around 4 years old) but it's our history. In those days we were arguing to exist, to invest and build better options then existed at the time (which look childish by today). It was not about expansion, it was about survival.
Today, in the expansion season of the project, we just scheduled interviews for a new hire with direct ties to the project. Another developer was hired recently a few streets over, interviews are being conducted for another who will contribute, and a 3rd party has hired a developer who has been active in contributions.
Our interviews are set to take place, of all dates, 09/20/2017. If only that little whiteboard meeting and word doc could see where we were now. The types of projects we work on, the things we take for granted now, the pace at which we can roll out prototypes and bring ideas to fruition. The increasing gains in areas of UX and accessibility of our applications (plural now since those early days).
Where we go from here, into the next 10 years of ELMS, as a learning network, I'll try to hold off on spilling. I know where we're going. I know the power of what we're building, the automation, the decentralized publishing models, the collapse of inefficencies, the deeper connections we can weave in humanity. We're going places far beyond just the notion of placing media on a screen and helping to manage it. We seek, eat, sleep, and breath transformation.
The two lead developers (me and @hey__mp), as well as those we direct, have completely overhauled and retooled our skillset in order to launch a new application in a bleeding edge framework (Polymer). Riding on top of an increasingly headless Drupal, we are pushing increasingly towards a highly polished, 1-page app style experience that's approachable and able to orcestrate the multi-domain monster.
Why is this important? I just said we. We retooled. I'm increasingly not the only voice in the destiny of our project... our.. project.
Yes, I quite like the sound of that. The direction for our future is being set by more and more people buying into the pattern, the vision, the idea I disrupted myself with.
We don't think we can influence and transform the education technology and outcomes of tomorrow: we know we can.
Happy Birthday little tree; how beautiful your branches are becoming this season. And thank you for giving me purpose in my work.