What’s the hubbub about PubPub?

Day 10 of 12apps PubPub logo

On the 10th day of #12Apps, my true love gave to me: PubPub, your hub to community publishing! It’s an easy app to make your research stronger. It’s an app to create your own community or participate in multiple communities of practice among researchers, publish books and journals, and host conferences.

Ten Leafs a-Leaping illustration by Werner Zimmerman

Ten Leafs a-Leaping from A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas by Helaine Becker. Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman.

What is PubPub?

PubPub gives research communities of all stripes and sizes a simple, affordable, and nonprofit alternative to existing publishing models and tools.

– The PubPub Team https://www.pubpub.org/about

I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps you’ve met members of the Open Learning Team at a pub at academic conferences, or even joined us on the requisite pub walking tour in search of sustenance, and to keep tabs on the Leafs game. No, I’m afraid this blog post is not about that kind of pub. But, we definitely could entertain a lively conversation about PubPub in a pub, if you like!

Punning aside, PubPub is an academically supported, open-source, and end-to-end alternative to proprietary publishing models and platforms. Developed with strong institutional support from MIT’s Knowledge Futures Group, a joint initiative of the MIT Press and MIT Media Lab, when PubPub says they are open source, they mean business–paradoxical as that sounds–releasing all of their code on Github. PubPub operates on a non-profit, free forever, researcher-friendly business model. How cool is that?

Moreover, PubPub actually “gets” the true nature of our work as academics (when we are not teaching or doing service): the iterative process of conducting research, drafting manuscripts, reviewing the work of our peers, and publishing. While we can and do conduct individual research as independent scholars, the design of PubPub draws on the fundamental insight that scientific research and knowledge creation is a collaborative enterprise.

As a computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) researcher focused on investigating knowledge creation using iterative design-based research methods, clearly, I’ve already drank the Kool-Aid. But how can I convince you, dear reader, to give PubPub a whirl?

We know that collaboration cultivates research quality, enhances resource utilization, and increases our impact (Hsiehchen, Espinoza, & Hsieh, 2015). Circulating pre-prints on non-commercial servers (e.g. bioRxiv, OSF Preprints, SocArXiv) facilitates conversations and feedback on a manuscript prior to submission (Maggio, Artino, & Driessen, 2018). Sharing our work early, before it is finalized through publication, is what PubPub calls “community publishing.” Let’s take a look at an example of such a PubPub community, next.

Responsive Science

screenshot of Responsive Science PubPub research community

Responsive Science is a community that uses PubPub as

“…a platform for researchers to share their scientific goals and progress with the communities that may one day be impacted by their research. By actively inviting concerns and criticism from local citizens at the very beginning of each projects, technologies can be redesigned to more effectively address societal needs.”


Imagine posting grants, papers, and proposals to engage the very people who will be impacted by your research findings.

For instance, check out video recordings of the Mice Against Ticks team at community meetings with the citizens of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cuttyhunk. These do not follow the style of an average community meeting. They take a rather lively, musical turn in some cases:

Well, that particular PubPub example is a tough act to follow, isn’t it?

In Science in Action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society, Bruno Latour (1987) conducts enquiry on how someone–a researcher–utters a statement and follow how another character, one that they dub the “dissenter,” believe or disbelieve what was said. Responsive science turns the notion of “intra-group discourse” among members of a research lab on its head by promoting “inter-group discourse” (Woodruff & Meyer, 1997) with a larger audience comprised of real people in the community, people who might be somewhat more unbiased and critical of your research than say, your fellow lab mates working on the same project. Nevertheless, such critiques can help you hone your dialectical argumentation and persuasion, thus enabling you talk about your research in ways that intelligent people not in your discipline can readily understand.

As a segue to an entirely different kind of example, I’ll let you in on a secret. Virtually all of you know me as a social scientist or even a “real” scientist (several of my pubs are included in the dblp computer science bibliography). However, did you know that I have a MA and BA in English Literature? Yeah, think serious paradigm wars unfolding in my head.


To tell you the truth, when I first saw the title, Frankenbook, on the PubPub site, I thought of “Frankenfish.” Not the 2004 American horror film, but rather of stories of genetically-modified salmon that my colleague from the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency would regale me with on his visits to the Learning Centre where I worked for Health Canada in the BC-Yukon Region.

Imagine my delight to find out that Frankenbook is

..a collective reading and collaborative annotation experience of the original 1818 text of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley


This project was launched in January 2018 as part of Arizona State University’s celebration of the novel’s 200th anniversary. This PubPub community allows scientists, engineers, and creators of all kinds to explore–through annotations and discussion–Shelley’s first novel (yes, she started writing it at age 18; think about your first-year student writing this novel) from scientific, technological, political, and ethical dimensions, as well as its historical context. Two hundred years later, Shelley’s text inspires us in films, parodies, cartoons, costumes, memes, gifs, etc.


Examples of #public Annotations on the book, Frankenstein, at Frankenbook.org/pub/book

The annotations on the 1818 text stay focused, unlike my own inattention and shifting frames of reference. I can’t resist connecting Shelley’s the Romantic era novel with pop culture referents like the brilliant 1974 comic scene, “It’s Frankensteen,” in the scene where Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) meets Igor (character not in the original book).

Books from my collection and current prices for new copies, in CDN, on Amazon.ca. Left to right: Norton Anthology of English Literature ($115.76), English Romantic Writers ($586.08), English Romanticism ($45.95), and Frankenstein ($46.92). Total cost $794.71. Wouldn’t it be nice to save students nearly $800 using an open solution?


The discussion posts are many (413), multi-vocal, and ongoing, with posts continuing many months after the project launched.

Example of continuing discussions on Frankenbook many months later

Both the annotations and discussions are more legible than the private annotations that I madly scribbled in pencil on hard copy books as a student. Like this:

Annotations on "Prometheus Unbound" by Percy Shelley

Note: Mary Shelley’s work and Frankenstein are on the “marginal syllabus,” outside of the main body of Perkins’ English Romantic Writers. Oddly, works by Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley’s maiden name) are in included in the main body of the book


PubPub is a powerful app because it creates a hub where participants in a community, whether they are students participating in a learning community in a traditional, hybrid, or online course; a community of practice of literary scholars critically analyzing a text and seeking reviews and feedback; or scientific researchers engaging the larger civic community as partners in their research process.


While I haven’t yet fully explored PubPub’s capabilities for embedding rich media content (e.g. H5P in PressBooks), or LTI integration with a Learning Management System (LMS) like Hypothes.is, I feel confident in saying that PubPub is worthy of the hubbub that it’s creating in open education circles.


So keep an eye on PubPub, it has a lot of potential to transform the way you enculturate learners into your discipline, whether you research and teach in the humanities and social sciences, or in science and engineering.

Annotating in the Open with Hypothes.is


For the 7th app in the series, we bring you Hypothes.is !

Ever wanted to have a really great, stimulating intellectual conversation with students or colleagues?
Do you think it’s just crazy talk to dream that you could actually have a meaningful conversation online, with people who have never met face to face before? Read on.

seven swans swimming-six white swans and one black swan

Have you ever assigned a reading–a novel, an article, a bunch of poems, a play, etc.– for your students to read thoughtfully before they came to class? Or, maybe you’re like me and you participate in a book club where you actually read--in addition to eating, drinking, and catching up–to discuss ideas that you’ve read and really thought about? 

Hypothes.is is an open source software that enables you to annotate text on the web and PDF files, and layer a conversation over it. Hypothes.is non-profit organization funded through the generosity of donors, and through donations from individuals.   No implementation required by the author or publisher. Simply install a browser extension (I used the one from the Chrome web store), and you’re good to go. Until you click on the Hypothes.is talk bubble, it might look like this:

screenshot of Hypothesis website showing some of annotations on it

See the screenshot below, this time with the extension expanded:


Imagine the possibilities! For example, you can design instruction to have your students annotate the reading before coming to class so that you can formatively assess…

  • what ideas students find interesting and would like to discuss more
  • what ideas students have difficulty understanding
  • what ideas students have misconceptions about
  • etc.

From the annotations, you have data–yes, data–to inform your teaching and adapt your lesson plan accordingly (of course, if you want to conduct research with this student data, you will need REB or IRB clearance; check with your peeps). You can adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of individual learners, groups, or whole class. Now how cool is that?

Need Inspiration? Check out These Educational Innovators…

Bodong Chen: Designing an un-LMS approach to conversations

Dr. Bodong ChenBodong Chen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at University of Minnesota. His research focuses on devising computer-supported collaborative learning environments (CSCL) and analytics for knowledge building (KB). Bodong is brilliant and publishes prolifically. But did you know he’s also an innovative teacher? His humility belies how leading edge he is in open educational practices. Bodong writes open textbooks on very on-trend things like social network analysis for his course CI5330 Social Network in Education, and learning analytics for his course CI5371 Learning Analytics: Theory and Practice. He uses Hypothes.is to design a networked conversation outside of the LMS for these courses.

Recently, I caught up with Bodong when he joined a Community of Practice event organized by Dr. Rebecca Quintana, a Learning Experience Designer in the Office of Academic Innovation at University of Michigan. Rebecca designed a conversation where we used Hypothes.is to annotate Bodong’s article (Chen, 2018) before the event AND THEN discuss them at the event, attending in person OR online. Very cool!

Community of practice event at Academic Innovation at UMich

#Marginal Syllab.us

Now, I have to confess…I’ve known both Bodong and Rebecca for many years. We all completed our PhDs at OISE/University of Toronto, and come from the same “stable of illustrious researchers” (to quote Niki Davis) and share a love of design, learner-centered pedagogy, learning sciences, design-based research, visualizations, knowledge creation, etc.

Through social networking via Bodong on Twitter, and serendipity as I tweeted about critical digital literacy for a Community of Practice conversation with guest Dr. Bonnie Stewart, I was introduced to Dr. Remi Kalir‘s work on the Marginal Syllabus Project.

Dr. Remi Kalir-Marginal-Syllabus-Dec11-sessiion

It interweaves web annotation using Hypothes.is, geeky book club, and equity conversations. It plays on the multiple interpretations of the term “marginal”–authors whose writing may be considered contrary–or marginal–to dominant education and schooling norms (see http://marginalsyllab.us/about/).

Experiential learning is a powerful thing. I was invited to participate as a reader-respondent in a webinar–with people I have never met–to discuss “Generative Principles for Professional Learning for Equity-Oriented Urban English Teachers” by Allison Skerrett, Amber Warrington, and Thea Williamson on December 11


I was quite literally marginal to this conversation in more ways than one. I connected with my American colleagues via Zoom from Windsor, ON in the marginal lands of Detroit, MI (Please note: The University of Windsor sits on the traditional territory of the Three Fires Confederacy of First Nations, which includes the Ojibwa, the Odawa, and the Potawatomie. We respect the longstanding relationships with First Nations people in this place in the 100-mile Windsor-Essex peninsula and the straits – les détroits – of Detroit).

In my work, I have strayed far from a background that includes a MA in English Literature and teaching K-12 students written composition. I’ve focused on teaching or analyzing written communication or networked online discourse in the higher education, especially at the graduate level, for the past 16 years or so. But this work, annotating in the open not just for an individual, the teacher who grades the assignment, hits close to my heart in teaching K-CEO learners to write for an audience.

Join the conversation #MarginalSyllabus for 2018-18 at http://marginalsyllab.us/conversations/the-2018-19-syllabus/      



This post is part of a 12 Apps of Christmas series from UWindsor’s Office of Open Learning. Celebrate the season with us by coming back each day until December 21st to learn about a new technology-enhanced teaching & learning tool!

#COOL18 Guest Blog Post by Jane Sylvester & Clayton Smith

We’re pleased to publish a series of guest blog posts from learners in the Exploring the Edges of Online Teaching course in the Certificate of Online and Open Learning (COOL)!

Open Pedagogy

Clayton Smith, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Windsor

Jane Sylvester, Applied Learning Coordinator, Career Development & Experiential Learning, University of Windsor

extending the contributions by Paula van Wyk, Negin Minaei, John Freer, Phebe Lam, and Richard Lebert to the Week 3 group blog in the course.

Defining Open Pedagogy

8 attributes of open pedagogy diagram

Image license CC-BY 3.0 -https://wikieducator.org/File:Eight_attributes_of_Open_Pedagogy.jpg

Robert Barr and John Tagg introduced us in 1995 to a new way of approaching teaching by suggesting that “We now see that our mission is not instruction but rather that of producing learning with every student by whatever means works best.” (p. 13)  The challenge of moving from teacher-centred to learning-centred instruction still dominates the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning literature and the thinking of a good many of us who are looking to enhance our teaching to focus more on what the student does rather than what we do.

The open education movement, and open pedagogy in particular, may well pave the way for us.  But it is a little confusing on how to get started with this novel approach to teaching and learning.

Firstly, open pedagogy does not seem to be well-defined.  Some definitions centre on open educational resources (OER) or OER-enabled pedagogy, while others speak about the “open web,” social justice, collaboration, innovation, and learner empowerment.

  • Robert Schuwer calls open pedagogy a way of “connecting the outside world to the educational process in institutions in an open way, using available open tools to realize that, creating and reusing OER by both teachers and students, realizing an active form of learning.”
  • David Wiley writes “that the terms ‘open pedagogy’ and ‘open educational practices’ are understood so differently by so many people that there is literally no  hope of achieving a useful consensus about the meaning of either of these terms.”
  • Rajiv Jhangiani describes open pedagogy as “innovative teaching and learning practices that are only made possible through the application of open licenses.”

But what is clear is that open pedagogy provides teachers with an extended (that is, in addition to more traditional ways of teaching) set of instructional methods to make their teaching more active.

Maha Bali finds that innovative instructors look to use open pedagogy to:

  • Put focus on content, including making use of OER materials and helping students to curate their own content;
  • Focus on teaching by, for example, giving students the opportunity to comment or modify the course syllabus;
  • Making student work public through public blogging, creating podcasts or websites, or editing Wikipedia; and
  • Encouraging students networking in public.

Bali goes on to suggest that “open pedagogy is all about having a belief in the potential of openness and sharing to improve learning.”

David Gaertner explains that getting students to think outside the limitations of the university is crucial (CTLT, 2018):

Devon Ritters pulls all of this together when he says that open pedagogy is “the ability for learners to shape and take ownership of their own education.”

Open pedagogy clearly can be seen to connect with Barr and Tagg’s call for us to move from an instructional to a learning-centred way of teaching.

As we look to enhance our teaching in both formal and informal instruction, we will continue to explore how to make the most use of this new approach to teaching and learning.

Collaborating with Students in Open Pedagogy

As a class, we discussed examples of open pedagogy, specifically collaborating with students to create online and open educational resources (OER). We identified some pros and cons. An obvious pro is that everyone can freely access these learning materials, which is a good thing for students from all walks of life. The reduced financial burden promotes inclusivity and provides everyone with a more equal educational opportunity.

A possible con, with our limited experience with OER, seems to be that we could be sacrificing quality of information that is shared. However, as more individuals talk, share experience and examples, we thought that there is an opportunity for knowledge to expand beyond the limits that may be otherwise possible. Thus, we proposed that perhaps the role of the professor is guiding the quality of content, and the role of the student is to more fully investigate the topics and share related experiences that may help others to more fully understand certain concepts.

Open textbooks go through a peer-review process, just as in traditional textbooks. The reviewers might include faculty members working directly with the students, and internal or external reviewers in the larger educational community. For example, you can post a call for qualified reviewers in the Rebus Community, which has a helpful guide for making open textbooks with students.


Bali, M. (n.d.).  April open perspective: What is open pedagogy anyway?  Retrieved from https://www.yearofopen.org/april-open-perspective-what-is-open-pedagogy/

Barr, R. B., and Tag, J. (Nov-Dec 1995).  From teaching to learning—a new paradigm for undergraduate education.  Change, 13-25.

Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, University of British Columbia (2018). Open Dialogues: How to engage and support students in open pedagogies  Retrieved from https://youtu.be/PGVzKqvKhQw

Bronwyn. H.(2015). Eight attributes of Open Pedagogy. Image Retrieved from https://wikieducator.org/File:Eight_attributes_of_Open_Pedagogy.jpg

Jhangiani, R. (n.d.).  April open perspective: What is open pedagogy?  Retrieved from https://www.yearofopen.org/april-open-perspective-what-is-open-pedagogy/

Schuwer, R. (n.d.).  April open perspective: What is open pedagogy?   Retrieved from https://www.yearofopen.org/april-open-perspective-what-is-open-pedagogy/

Wiley, D. (n.d.).  OER-enabled pedagogy.  Retrieved from https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/5009