Monday, January 23, 2012

Personal cyberinfrastructure - neat idea...but...

This week, the main topic of DS106 seems to be personal cyberinfrastucture, and the reading from Gardner Campbell associated with this week is available on Educause. It was an interesting reading, and a short one at that.  The main idea is that instead of giving students a prepackaged webspace where they can only run HTML (or maybe PHP), get them a free virtual server where they can run anything they want (like Apache, wordpress, coldfusion, etc.) so that they can experiment freely. It is through this experimentation that they will learn.  I must say I agree that people learn through experimentation - I must have pulled my old (first) Mac open a few times to peek inside, and I must have corrupted my system volume  quite a lot of times to see what makes a computer work (or not work!).

This also fits in with another MOOC that I've been following along (a little less now since it's becoming less and less structured) - change11 and the theme of changing higher education.

Let me just say that I agree that students ought to have a space, that they call their own, and that they can experiment.  They need to be able to develop that digital literacy in a way that's not constraining.  In a similar fashion, on my own campus, I've been advocating for a required course on computer and information literacy for each and every incoming freshman - similar to the required math and english coursework that they have to do. This recommendation comes from 13 years of seeing students graduate and not be able to use a computer effectively. There is only one problem: where does such a course fit? Does it replace some other requirement? If so, how do you deal with the politics of courses that were once required that now are not? Do you augment the requirement for a BA/BS by another 3 credits?  Does it become a non-credit course that you have to take?

It's quite interesting that these types of questions go unanswered because people don't want to touch them with a 10 foot pole :-)  Until these hard questions are asked and answered, I don't see information & computer literacy (and by extension personal cyberinfrastrucutres) taking off on colleges across the country. Just my 2 cents.
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