Published: Nov. 13, 2019 By

SPLOT logoWhat is And SPLOTs*? Sounds like a made up word... (Well, it kind of is. Read on.) 

Let’s start with BuffsCreate. It’s simply a web hosting pilot project offered for the College of Arts & Sciences, which gives students a domain of their own. We’re very excited about all the possibilities for students to host online portfolios, course projects, and blogs, and to begin building digital identities that they own and control. With a variety of open source applications available in BuffsCreate, the possibilities for teaching and learning are endless!  

Ok, now, what the heck is a SPLOT? Why, it’s the Smallest Possible Learning Online Tool! This tiny teaching tool makes a big impact but doesn’t require complicated technology. SPLOTs are WordPress templates that allow students to contribute content without any kind of log-in or sign-up process. In a nutshell, the template enables a student to automatically publish content to a shared course site using a simple form. It presents the opportunity for students to consider why and how to openly publish their work. Numerous options within the template allow for: 

  • password protection for individual student entries or an entire course site

  • public entries that appear anonymous, yet notify the instructor of the submitting student’s identity

  • instructor moderation of posts before publishing.

Take this SPLOT for a test run! Just click the Add to Collection link in the left-hand navigation menu to post some content on the site.

SPLOTs can be used for a number of purposes such as blogging, collecting resources, or class introductions. Pedagogical benefits of SPLOTS include writing for a more authentic audience and developing essential employable information and digital literacy skills. To spark your imagination, here are a few examples of Arts & Sciences faculty using SPLOTs:

  • Beth Osnes, Associate Professor in Theatre & Dance and ASSETT’s Faculty Advisor, and Nii Armah Sowah, Senior Instructor in Theatre & Dance are currently using the TRU Writer SPLOT in their Performance and Community Engagement course. Students learn and develop performance techniques and activities to effect positive social change and encourage community building. For their SPLOT entries, students create a very short video of one of these activities and upload it along with a title, description, and logistical information. This course resource, the Community Performance Toolbox, is meant to serve as a living repository for students as they move into careers as practitioners of community engagement.

  • Anthony Abiragi, Instructor in the Program for Writing & Rhetoric, is participating in our BuffsCreate Special Interest Group and using the TRU Collector SPLOT in his course, Topics in Writing: The Documentary. Students find and analyze examples of the purpose and uses of documentary techniques. He makes use of the available privacy settings as he learns more about students’ response to the tool. Students find and explore examples of documentary techniques such as:

    • Analysis of cinematic technique

    • Short-form cinematic interpretation 

    • Analysis of forms of documentation 

    • Conceptual / philosophical analysis of cinema

    • Analysis of contemporary visual culture.

Professor Abiragi finds this assignment to be a productive relation of “word and image,” which is a common topic in visual culture studies. Additionally, he makes use of the available privacy settings as he learns more about students’ response to participating in this kind of assignment. Below is a screenshot of his application of this tiny teaching tool.

Screenshot of the SPLOT page from Writing 3020

  • Two other faculty members are currently preparing course assignments using SPLOTs. Nicole Jobin teaches history in the Sewell RAP and is using the TRU Collector SPLOT to emphasize media literacy by asking students to evaluate online resources relevant to the course and create an entry for the curated list. Dianne Mitchell, who teaches literary analysis in the English department, will be using the TRU Writer SPLOT to analyze and annotate the poetry of Hester Poulter. 

These are just a few examples of what you can do with SPLOTs, which are a great way to get your feet wet with BuffsCreate. And BuffsCreate provides so many more opportunities to let students be creative with wikis, photo galleries, or podcasts. Yet, the real value is that they can do this while owning their work and data and not giving it over to third-party corporate interests. It provides possibilities to experiment with and learn the inner workings of the internet; to learn practical, employable digital skills; to grapple with complexities such as building a digital identity, information environmentalism, and data ownership; and to experience the internet as the “open web” it was initially intended to be. It’s the world our students live in. Let them play and learn there.  

For more information and how to get started using SPLOTs and BuffsCreate, contact Amanda McAndrew and Caroline Sinkinson

*SPLOTs are the work of Alan Levine, developed during an Open Learning Fellowship at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, British Columbia