A Personal Cyberinfrastructure

Posted: 2012/04/03 in Uncategorized

I recently read an article called “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure” by Gardner Campbell.  This article discusses past, present, and possible  future relationships between the education community and computers (specifically internet usage).  Gardner Campbell begins by describing how the early days of the web in the higher education community started off  by involving workshops on basic HTML.  There were presentations on course web pages, allowing staff, and in some cases students to generate and manage content in “public.html” folders that appeared on connected desktops within schools.  Few people understood how this process worked, aside from issuing e-mail address’s during new student orientation.

As a result of growing online dependence, courses began to appear online, and  students began to experience online education.  Students could do everything from registering for classes, to participating in online discussion’s.  This gave faculty and students easy-to-use online capabilities that seemed to be the way of the future at that time;  however,  according to Clay Shirkey, (who wrote an article on “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable”)  “that wasn’t progress.  It was a mere “digital facelift.”

Then, the web changed once again with the creation of Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, ect.; and it is argued in this article that higher education almost completely ignored this, and failed to empower students to use their imaginations in a digital world.   Gardner Campbell stated that “The “progress” that higher education achieved with massive turnkey online systems, especially with the LMS, actually moved in the opposite direction,” and that the “digital facelift” enabled the higher education community to deny both the needs and the opportunities emerging from this new “era” of the web.

Gardner Campbell believes that the future of education lies within the students ability to build his/her own “personal cyberinfrastructure.”   Students will be given their own web servers and domain name upon matriculation.  Lab seminars will be conducted by instructional technologists, and advisers within the faculty to ensure students know how to operate this system. Basically, students would build a their own “personal cyberinfrastructure,” that would continue to modify and build throughout their college career.  According to Campbell,  students would not only acquire crucial technical skills,  but would also  be participating in an environment that provides “richly teachable moments.”  Information science, knowledge management, bibliographic instruction, and social networking would be incorporated into the students curriculum, and there will be  “fascinating and important innovations” that would then emerge as students are able to create their own learning experiences, expression, and reflection within a digital medium.

In my opinion, the “personal cyberinfrastructure” may be the direction education will decide to transition to, due to the growing importance of technology.  Gardner Campbell makes a lot of valid points when expressing that fact that students need to be able to learn technical skills, and be “internet savvy” in an age where technology is quickly improving.  However, I don’t think education should decide to go this route.  The fact of the matter is, technology is a great thing, but I fear that if a society grows too dependent on technology, it will cause even bigger issues.  For example, when I was a child and my mother was cooking dinner, she would say “go outside and play,”and I would go outside and all of my friends would be having fun together.   Sadly, this isn’t happening anymore (at least in America), now mothers are saying, “go play X-Box or check FaceBook.”  This is a problem for me due to the fact that technology is taking away the value of personal interaction.  Children who grow up in an online world, will have online teachers, and online friends, some of which they will never have the chance to meet in person.  Take that same “sheltered” child and send him to a job interview, and then on to a “real life job” in which he has to “actually” interact with people, and he will most likely fail.  Like I said, technology is great, but people should not base their lives and their entire education around technology alone.

  1. lockmantuj says:

    Your object to the idea of personal cyberinfrastructure on the grounds that too much reliance on technology and time spent online detracts from face to face socialization is an honest and valid concern. But I feel it misses the main thrust of what Dr. Campbell is suggesting.

    Online technology and the need to fluently deal with vast amounts of information will increasingly be part of our personal and professional lives. If students don’t learn to come to terms with the technology and develop the skills to function knowledgeably in school, one has to wonder where they will pick up the skills.

    This is not meant to contradict your concern about the demise of face to face social interaction. I don’t think it is an either or situation. But finding a balance will become increasingly difficult if one doesn’t keep your objection in mind.

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