Sunday, 1 November 2009

Personal Cyberinfrastructure

I read the article A Personal Cyberinfrastructure with interest. Gardner Campbell pulls no punches when he advocates for personal cyberinfrastrucure. He says:

"Suppose that when students matriculate, they are assigned their own web servers — not 1GB folders in the institution's web space but honest-to-goodness virtualized web servers of the kind available for $7.99 a month from a variety of hosting services."

The reasoning is:

"In building that personal cyberinfrastructure, students not only would acquire crucial technical skills for their digital lives but also would engage in work that provides richly teachable moments ranging from multimodal writing to information science, knowledge management, bibliographic instruction, and social networking. Fascinating and important innovations would emerge as students are able to shape their own cognition, learning, expression, and reflection in a digital age, in a digital medium. Students would frame, curate, share, and direct their own "engagement streams" throughout the learning environment."

There's so much here it's difficult to digest it all. However, the principle seems sound. Give the student real ownership and there can be real manifestation of personalised learning - a subject I reflected on in Personal Learning Environments - Concept not Tool. This is the kind of personal choice I was talking about but with the stability that education institutions crave. He continues:

"This vision goes beyond the "personal learning environment" in that it asks students to think about the web at the level of the server, with the tools and affordances that such an environment prompts and provides... These personal cyberinfrastructures will be visible, fractal-like, in the institutional cyberinfrastructures, and the network effects that arise recursively within that relationship will allow new learning and new connections to emerge as a natural part of individual and collaborative efforts."

This post is more quotation than reflection from me but I wanted to capture the essence of his ideas. The obvious question to arise from this is - are we ready for such a scenario? Clearly, it's no and I shudder at the idea of trying to sell this to the UK higher education world. However, I stiill love to be involved in an example of this nonetheless.

I might as well finish with some for quotation from this article. This time concerning the current LMS/VLE world:

"Higher education, which should be in the business of thinking the unthinkable, stood in line and bought its own version of the digital facelift. At the turn of the century, higher education looked in the mirror and, seeing its portals, its easy-to-use LMSs, and its "digital campuses," admired itself as sleek, youthful, attractive. But the mirror lied."

I include this to illustrate a particular frustration of mine. We think we are fully Web 2.0ed up, we think we are fully e-learning compliant. The truth is we are not. It's open to debate whether we should be or not (I say "yes") but don't think you've captured and are practising what it's all about when all you are doing is using VLEs as file repositories with token discussion boards! The 'we' here is UK Higher Education by the way. But I think you could extend it all education with confidence.

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