Archive for the ‘Gardner Campbell’ Category

Response to Gardner Campbell’s article and presentation

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Having no prior experience with computer science, I have to say, reading Gardner Campbell’s article and listening to his presentation was quite a different experience for me.  Some of the technical jargon made it a little difficult to follow parts of the article, but I think that’s just something I’m going to have to get used to for the semester; and that’s okay, I’m willing to try it.

I think Dr. Campbell makes some valid points about the need for students to create “personal cyberinfrastructures,” particularly when he discusses the need for self-expression in a digital space.  I have had few classes where online interaction—let alone creative online interaction—played a role in coursework.  However, in the one class that I was required to “blog” (Blackboard-style), it was nice to participate in a space where students could collaborate beyond the traditional classroom environment.  To put this experience some context, it was for an education class, so students were required to share student teaching experiences in online discussion groups.  I truly think the opportunity to collaborate in a digital environment enhanced the challenging process of learning how to teach.  It was easy to learn from everyone’s experiences as we constantly shared interesting tips and anecdotes from weekly or bi-weekly practicum sessions.  That being said, considering that an environment as stifling as Blackboard could induce productive student-driven discussions, I think a more creative and versatile cyberinfrastructure could only improve on this means of sharing ideas.

Speaking of development as a student, I was interested in the notion of building on a personal cyberinfrastructure from matriculation to beyond commencement.  I think of how I have changed as a student at UMW and all of the “data” that I’ve produced in the last three years.  The type of environment Dr. Campbell describes would be the perfect space to track my personal and academic development since freshman year—much more satisfying and revealing than a boring GPA or standardized test score to “prove” how I’ve matured since matriculation.

I was also interested in the notion of being a producer and user of data.  Dr. Campbell used the game Little Big Planet as one example.  Although I’ve never played this game, he mentioned tagging user-created game levels for other gamers to use.  This tagging reminds me of a website that I use (http://www.last.fm) for tracking the music I listen to with iTunes and my iPod.  Similarly to Little Big Planet, users (i.e. music data producers) can tag artists according to user-created genres so that other users can use these tags to listen to artists relevant to their musical tastes.  Data acquired from your account is also used for suggesting artists you might like.  I wonder if this kind of tagging could work for students’ ideas, too?  It would probably make sharing ideas easier, as well as connecting with people with similar interests.

If nothing else, perhaps creating personal cyberinfrastructures will redirect students’ energy from constant Facebooking and toward more productive, but similarly engaging, environments.

Campbell Reflection

Monday, August 30th, 2010

I’ve taken 102 credits during my time as a student at UMW, and the class that I remember most is the one that promoted the type of digital learning environment Gardner Campbell presents in his article “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure” and presentation “No More Digital Facelifts: Thinking the Unthinkable About Open Educational Experiences.” While I can only name a single course (excluding Digital Storytelling) that encouraged students to become managers of their own space and data, I also consider it one of the favorite and most memorable classes of my undergraduate career.

As Campbell notes, higher education’s version of the “digital facelift” appeared legitimate. The environments he references-online class registration, grade displays and forums-are certainly convenient in education, but Campbell got me thinking, “What do these digital environments really do for me long-term besides save me from a trip to Lee Hall to register for a class or save some paper by posting an assignment only the professor will probably read to a Blackboard forum?” I benefit from these online services in the short-term, but when they’re compared to the personal Cyberinfrastructure Campbell presents, their advantages fade, and I realize the real digital environment all of higher education needs to embrace is one that gives students the freedom to “discover and craft their own desires and dreams” (Campbell).

I like the direction Campbell points academia toward as he discusses the personal Cyberinfrastructure and explains, “[Students] would become, in myriad small but important ways, system administrators for their own digital lives. In short, students would build a personal cyberinfrastructure, one they would continue to modify and extend throughout their college career—and beyond.” The work we do as students (and beyond) would retain its value and always be available, a feature Blackboard forums and class web pages fail to provide. There would be more opportunities to connect, customize and produce, even after a course ended or a student graduated.

As I viewed Campbell’s presentation and read his article, I continually thought back to the single class at UMW that seemed to understand the validity of the digital education environment Campbell urges higher education to welcome. Professor Zach Whalen gave students the opportunity to begin building their digital lives in his Spring 2010 Writing Through Media Course. We purchased our own domains, and over the course of a semester, began crafting our digital identities. In those fourteen weeks, I was able to explore several creative possibilities in the way I presented my digital content, which included the subject of my blog and myself. In class projects posted to our websites and through my blog, I had many opportunities to explore topics through audio, video, text and/or images. There were few limits to the way I could appeal to and/or interact with my audience and classmates.

As a student, I loved my experience in Whalen’s class because it allowed me to feel creative about a topic of my choice and think outside of the typical “what the professor wants” attitude. In this case, the professor did as Campbell suggests and was able to “…lead by example—to demonstrate and discuss, as fellow learners, how they have created and connected their own personal cyberinfrastructures” (Campbell) by giving us a tour of his own digital identity, introducing us to HTML and CSS, assigning us digital projects we could design around our blog’s focus and showing us the digital tools available to expand our digital lives. And now, like Campbell foresaw, I am continuing to modify my digital life through my college career, and am confident I will continue to foster it well beyond my graduation date. I see where the personal cyberinfrastrucutre has value because of the educational experience I had in Whalen’s class, and I want to continue learning and exploring how to become an “effective architect, narrator, curator and inhabitant of my own digital life” (Campbell).

At the same time, I can’t imagine some of my past and current professors (and perhaps even some of my classmates) endorsing the idea of a digital identity, and I wonder if higher education is currently “stalled” in some ways regarding the idea of personal cyberinfrastructure because not everyone is past the “digital facelift” stage. Rather, they are content with connecting through Blackboard or Eaglenet and may not know how to lead by example when it comes to a digital identity. Campbell concludes his essay with, “Those of us who work with students must guide them to build their own personal cyberinfrastructures, to embark on their own web odysseys. And yes, we must be ready to receive their guidance as well.” This sounds great in theory, but in some cases I wonder how certain professors and students in higher education will even meet at and then eventually emerge successfully from this point.

Digital Storytelling: Week 1

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

I’ve been meaning to write this post ( and the following three) incrementally over the past month, but time has been tough on me these last few weeks. I’m getting the blogging DTs being away from the bava for so long, but reading and interacting with the blogs the students in Digital Storytelling have set up and gone crazy with has provided a necessary shot of methadone during my dry spell. And I figure what better way to start blogging in earnest again than featuring some of the stuff that’s happening in that space while trying to talk through my ideas for and experiences with the course thus far. So, here it goes…

Week 1:
The first week was setting the table for logic of the class. The first night was basically my attempt to be as honest and upfront as possible about the course. Namely, the nature of the class will require that their work be entirely open, and they will be required to purchase and maintain their own web hosting space and domains for at least four months. I wanted to stress these facts immediately in the event anyone was uncomfortable with the idea of their work being out in the open, or was intimidated by the prospect of managing their own web hosting space. And, to be honest, I’m glad I did, because the class had at least five student drop after that first night, and ten more came in their stead.

So while the second night of class started out similarly with the necessary warnings that the course was going to be a chaotic experiment and I’ll only be able to see as far as the headlights allow at any given time. (Not sure this is the most responsible or even fair approach on my part, but it’s the truth.) Their first assignments for this class were to read Alan Kaye’s and Adele Goldberg’s “Dynamic Personal Media” essay, Gardner Campbell’s “A Personal Cyber Infrastructure”, as well as watching his “Bags of Gold” performance at OpenEd—a necessary complement to the essay (particularly because this presentation had a hard edge that suits Gardner’s passion for this topic).

But the second night of class was really marked by the virtual presence of Gardner, who was kind enough to Skype in and kick off a class he very much inspired. There was no title to our free range discussion that lasted almost an hour—but Michael Reamy’s reflection on the talk actually indirectly suggests a title I like “A Dangerous Misconception, or why technology is not stuff.” Gardner was on fire, and hearing him go on about Alan Kaye, Doug Engelbart, and the poetry of processing is always something special, but the way in which he frames the metamedium of thinking through and about computers as more than stuff is required listening in my opinion. So below is the audio from his talk and thanks again for “being there” Gardner.

Download Gardner Campbell on the “Personal Cyber Infrastructure”

You can get a sense of the wide range of responses to Gardner’s talk by searching his name on the course blog here. But there is not question that Gardner’s quote from Alan Kaye, “A computer is an instrument whose music is ideas,” resonated deeply with everyone there.