gotta remember to run time machine…

oops. it’s pretty easy to forget to plug the external drive into the laptop every now and then so it can get backed up automatically. On the desktop at work, I leave the time machine drive plugged in, so it’s always up to date. Need to be less forgetful with the home laptop, considering that’s where all of our family photos live…

three pressing challenges

a discussion board post for my “conceptualizing edtech” course, archived for posterity. It was written for an audience (fellow students in the course) that may not have much background in living online, so I settled for using terminology they may have seen before. It’s also supposed to be a brief post, so I didn’t go into anywhere near the depth I could/should have…

Three pressing challenges for learners in creating and using technology in an educational context.

1. control and ownership

If we learn what we do, then we can extend this philosophy to educational technology. Students are now able to “do” their own technical infrastructure, meaning they can be in control of what they use, how they use it, why, where, and for whom. This shift toward being able to manage a personal cyberinfrastructure sets up students to be able to function far more effectively on their own, without needing the constraints necessary for institutionally provided and supported infrastructure.

Campbell (2009) writes1 :

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. Many students simply want to know what their professors want and how to give that to them. But if what the professor truly wants is for students to discover and craft their own desires and dreams, a personal cyberinfrastructure provides the opportunity.

Jim Groom, from the University of Mary Washington, is teaching a course at the moment on digital storytelling. Much of the course involves working with students to set up their own publishing spaces, and in working together to build their personal infrastructure. They manage their own web publishing platforms. They write and publish. They integrate and contextualize. These are skills that they will use after they graduate.

Students (and teachers) being able to manage their own technical infrastructure and publishing platforms means they will be able to control what they publish, how they publish it, and to retain it as a living archive of their professional scholarship. These things are difficult, if not impossible, strictly using institution-provided infrastructure such as Blackboard. This personal infrastructure becomes, as much as I cringe at the term and the acronym, a Personal Learning Environment. (see some example PLE diagrams, as collected by Scott Leslie)

2. overwhelming options

If we are using non-instutitionally-provided tools, the list of available options becomes potentially unmanageable. Which tool(s) should I use? For what purpose(s)? How do I use them? What do I do with them? What are the risks? The benefits? It is easy to become overwhelmed, which is why institutionally-provided solutions are so appealing.

But, by becoming an active member of the larger community, and engaging with people who are working on similar things (students in a class, faculty members in the same department, etc…) it is possible to take advantage of what the other people in your personal learning network are doing – to use similar tools and therefore to be able to support each other. To find resources of interest and share them with each other. The PLN is best described as part of the Connectivist theory (Siemens, 2005)2 .

3. literacy

And, finally, if we are managing our own infrastructure and engaged with a network of people working together, it is crucial that we understand the implications of what we are doing. Literacy is essential, due to the implications of privacy, copyright, and the nature of online discourse. Digital literacy is not a new concept. See, for example, Jones-Kavalier & Flannigan’s (2006)3 description of the nature and importance of digital literacy. It is critical that we understand the nature of the media we are using, that we are aware of how they shape what we do, and that we are able to take advantage of the affordances they offer – as well as manage and mitigate the limitations.

4. Solution?

The only solution I can think of is to just dive in. To live with a whole bunch of technologies. To not see them as separate, distinct, or extra, but rather as just the way things work. Write a blog. Publish a newsletter. Manage a wiki. Shoot some video. Post photos. Just spend time doing it. Manage your own personal cyberinfrastructure. Build your personal learning environment. Engage your personal learning network(s). They are there already, you just need to tap into them.

  1. Campbell, G. 2009. Personal cyberinfrastructure. EDUCAUSE Review. 44(5). 58-59. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume44/APersonalCyberinfrastructure/178431 []
  2. Siemens, G. 2005. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, Vol. 2 No. 1, Jan 2005. Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm []
  3. Jones-Kavalier, B.R. & Flannigan, S.L. 2006. Connecting the Digital Dots: Literacy of the 21st Century. EDUCAUSE Quarterly. 29(2). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSEQuarterlyMagazineVolum/ConnectingtheDigitalDotsLitera/157395 []

the twitter effect

Rereading Alan’s post on his blog hiatus, where he takes a month off of posting on his blog to comment elsewhere, I was struck (as always) by the patterns in activity he described. I decided to take a closer peek at the activity on my own blog – I’ve been thinking a lot about discourse analysis lately, so it’s at least partially non-navel-gazing.

Here’s the graph for the first few years of life for my blog. It started out as a private, personal outboard brain, then kind of took off with a life of its own.

a pretty graph, about nothing

Interesting. This blog’s heyday was 2005-2006. A lifetime ago, in intartube years. Then twitter happened in January 2007. It would be really interesting to run some latent content analysis on both posts and comments, to see if they’re different BT vs. AT. Are the activity patterns different? Is the content different? Linking patterns? etc… It’d be completely nonscientific, but fascinating nonetheless…

TEDxUofC

It looks like the University of Calgary is planning a series of TEDx events: TEDxUofC – the first one being next week, just days after the TEDxYYC event.

After previously saying I wouldn’t go to a TEDx event because of the way they’re set up, I’m happy to post that they don’t have to be that way.

Registration for TEDxUofC is open, and cheap. Students get in for $5. Everyone else gets in for $10. It doesn’t get cheaper than that. And there’s no “how awesome are you?” filter on the registration. You prove your awesomeness by showing up.

Now this is interesting. A series of focused events, each on a different topic, open to anyone who wants to come and make a difference. Sure, the speakers are selected ahead of time. Sure, the topics are selected ahead of time. That’s ok, and the way it’s set up looks like it could provide an interesting series of events.

Now, to try to arrange child care for The Boy™ twice a month, so I can head down to Hotel Alma (the new facility on the main U of C campus). Actually, I wonder if he’d like to go. He is a student, after all…