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“Personal Cyberinfrastructure” Reflection

Reactions and reflections on  A Personal Cyberinfrastructure and A Personal Cyberinfrastructure Revisited (video), by Gardner Campbell.

As someone in a teaching/tech support role in higher education, many points brought up in these works rang a bell for me. For years, specifically, is the use and misuse of our LMS systems and other large-scale, university-provided software programs we push out and support (most recently, an ePortfolio tool), for students and faculty. Gardner touches on this when referring to the “digital facelift”.

Let me help you spend your teaching career strugging with Blackboard
A visual I created on someecards.com to illustrate how I feel when I am supporting this process.

 

“The “progress” that higher education achieved with massive turnkey online systems, especially with the LMS, actually moved in the opposite direction. The “digital facelift” helped higher education deny both the needs and the opportunities emerging with this new medium.”

I often wonder is what subtle (or obvious) ways the use of these tools, and the support we offer in a centralized mode, may be hindering some basic digital literacies. Are these boxed-store solutions that provide little to no customization to the end user impede the learning? Most importantly, are they negating critical problem-solving steps? I have spent a lot of time showing faculty how to access “help” menus and how to use google, because they are used to picking up the phone to call their tech support that they haven’t tried some basic fixes first.

They become reliant on the tech support, and why shouldn’t they expect it? This is a product they are expected to use when working here, that we have suggested and supported, that we boast as what the student wants. When I read these excerpts referring to students, I can’t help but think about ALL learners, including my faculty leaning on me to learn about teaching with technology.

“Templates and training wheels may be necessary for a while, but by the time students get to college, those aids all too regularly turn into hindrances. For students who have relied on these aids, the freedom to explore and create is the last thing on their minds, so deeply has it been discouraged.”

On the flip side, here is the other thing I notice– for some faculty we work with, the “digital facelift” they are attempting as part of their own teaching development is perhaps their first introduction to creating and publishing in an online environment. I know that can be hard to believe, but I see it all the time. Through some of the peripheral skills that get introduced as a result of the LMS learning path, are the only way they have learned them, and in some cases the only reason to seek them out. The context in which they are learning these skills are inside the box of the LMS.

I’m speaking of:

  • using the wysiwig editor
  • embedding
  • hitting the <html> Struggle1680x1050button at all for any reason
  • understanding video and audio file types

For example, as I support them in uploading video to Blackboard, I encourage thinking about uploading to Youtube or somewhere that will be public, what that means, why that is valuable to both them, their students and the institution. What are the considerations?

To me, one of my favorite magic tricks in Instructional Design work comes when someone walks into my office saying “I need to learn how to use this box”, and the conversation ending up moving to “We’ll lets first talk about what you are putting in the box, and why you have decided that is the box you need”. That conversation has the ability to change the direction of learning entirely.

There is a lot of power in what Gardner presents as an artifact of creation of one’s own domain, so someone could present:

“I made that a certain way and that reflects my understanding”

It would be great to start from scratch with each instructor as they walked in a present them the “bag of gold’, but the thought encouraging instructors to throw away their LMS course and publish to their own domain seems daunting in many of  cases (not all, though), especially if its not currently part of the larger vision at the institution.

So maybe all I can do for now is what he promotes as…

“Innovate from the edges” .

Published inDigital Citizenship

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