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Expansive Technology

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Assignment #1, Response to Gardner Campbell’s article and video

Gardner Campbell’s article¬†A Personal Cyberinfrastructure talks about technology’s relationship with the classroom, and how it hasn’t always been evolving in the most efficient ways. ¬†In his essay Campbell poses the idea of giving students more control and opportunities in the schools to give them a head start outside. ¬†He offers that by giving them some server space and the opportunity to express themselves and work on a whole new level of communication, fixing problems that he¬†perceives¬†in the most commonly used LMS (Learning Management Systems) used today.

As a student who has found himself to normally be much more adept with computers and technology in general than his teachers, I have always welcomed teachers who attempt to shake that trend.  Teacher who have provided me with opportunities not just to learn practical web skills but also to be able to develop the work far more have always become the professors whom I look forward to seeing.  Professors who stick to using Blackboard have never been able to instigate anything but the most basic discussions.  In contrast I have been in classes where the required blog posts have taken on a whole new life and become great sources for debate and perspective.  By giving people widely adaptable mediums to make their work both public it offers much more practical in the skills which the student would acquire.  Having helped all of my friends with various computer problems in the past, I have also found that by giving my friends a website to play with they have learned skills that they otherwise would have painfully learned in the workplaces.  Campbell suggests that this would allow students to more quickly become adept with technologies which will become more and more important in the future.

The Video

Much of these themes are repeated in his video with Jim Groom, talking about “Digital Facelifts.” ¬†In this video, Gardner again talks about how the recursive practices in use today are far less practical and helpful then instigating the students to become more active in managing their online presence. ¬†What I again found interesting was his idea about providing webspace for educational communities. ¬†His BlueHost at UMW project (which made me happy as I had used BlueHost for several years prior) was very interesting as I have always found the UMWBlogs to be an interesting place for ideas. ¬†He follows this up with a good analogy relating how an old technology (ballons) thwarted the new one (RADAR) as a segue to how educational technology and practices have antiquated themselves. ¬†This is something I have always found, as I have always found technology to be both interesting but more pressingly important in being a productive person. ¬†In my educational career I have always thought that while there was a good attempt, it never pushed anyone I knew to look beyond just using what was already created. ¬†Blackboard, which I have always thought to¬†stymie¬†conversation and discussion is useful and practical as a website, simple webscripts (like the forum software phpBB mentioned in the video (which I have also used, though in high school I yearned for IPB or vBulletin)) to offer a much more open discussion. ¬†I have been in far more interesting discussion on sports blogs and video game discussion boards about small features or minute differences in games than I have even seen in a BlackBoard discussion page. ¬†While not his direct purpose, I have always thought that if offered most people would love to voice their opinions on the internet. ¬†My friends have posted pages of thoughts on a music blog that we all started, but find it hard to crank out a short essay on blackboard. ¬†By giving people control of their message and their medium I think that they are more comfortable creating content.

Michael Wesch’s Video

The last video again touched on all of this, with¬†Michael Wesch talking about technology’s role as both a motivator and disrupter in education. ¬†He poses several thoughts about this which I have always agreed with, as I have spent my fair share of nights online procrastinating on assignments. ¬†I have always known that efficiently using technology is crucial to getting work done as it needs to be, but have also had the same problem with actually using it. ¬†His story of being a professor is interesting in how he worked with his students. ¬†He uses all this to get to his point of being “knowledge-able” rather than “knowledgable.” ¬†His points are good, and his insights into several different situations in interesting to hear. ¬†Again he works all of this back to his point, which I liked. ¬†Wesch, along with Campbell are really refreshing voices to hear after having been told how to use Blackboard in almost every class I have taken in the last seven years. ¬†Hearing about how people are working with technology to catalyse students’ interests in both a classes subject but also¬†dynamically¬†using technology to create content.

At one point he uses his trip to Africa to frame a point on controlling how technology is used is crucial, especially in mediating relationships and the balance of power.  While I was confused at first, his point is very good and his story does a very good job at bringing it all together.  While I think that as an analogy it is a bit stretched, it was still a very valid point.  In continuing on about the media, I also found myself in agreement to a certain point.

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