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Assignment 2: A Personal Cyberinfrastructure

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Hey! Look at me, I made it to Assignment 2!

After reading the article and watching the presentation, I have been thinking about two things:

  • My own personal cyberinfrastructure
  • Our students and how they could use one

My own personal cyberinfrastructure is more of a cyber-in-fracture-structure as I am ALL over the place. For seven years, I held monthly sessions in my role as the Instructional Technology Specialist where I demonstrated and explored all of these new and foreign worlds like Flickr, Twitter, Remember the Milk and more. I always joked that it was my job to sacrifice myself on the altar of the internet gods and create accounts everywhere to see what tools would work and what would not work so well for faculty, staff and students, both for educational and for personal uses. Because of that, I do have accounts everywhere from Posterous to Tumblr to to 30Boxes to Pageflakes and so on. Many of these sites are stagnant now but I use those experiments to help guide faculty to the best tool for the job (if a technology tool is indeed the best for their need)

I bought my own domain name over four years ago and installed WordPress on it because I knew I needed to learn how it worked from the backend and I couldn’t do that with a account. Then, I started hosting some friend’s sites and blogs. Then, I decided that I needed my vanity URL so I bought that domain as well. The four years have been a great learning experience about how blogs work, how server management and database management work, etc. It was a great primer for when I was sucked into Jim Groom’s work with WPMU at UMW and decided that we needed that here at Pellissippi State.

So, my thinking for our students is that WPMU gives them a primer for getting started with their personal cyberinfrastructure. We are a community college. Many of our students are here for a shorter amount of time. Many will transfer to a four-year school, others get their certificate or degree and head off to the workforce and, for many, life happens and they have to drop out for a long or short while. I agree with the vision of Gardner and Jim that the student needs to be a curator of their work or work of others that have influence and importance to them as well as narrators and sharers of their own work. The Pellissippi Blogs site tries to help with that. It is open to all faculty, staff and students and once you sign in, you have a blog created. I am the curator of the site and collected plugins that I thought would help make their sharing, writing and curating easier. Of course, I would love to have more but baby steps….baby steps. I do encourage them to understand how to export the WP files and to use other sites like Flickr, Vimeo, Photobucket, etc to host their media rather than rely on the measly 25 MB I can offer each blog.

Three notions from Gardner’s words that pricked up my ears….

I am really taken by the notion of being a producer and a consumer. Much like Gardner’s example of the LittleBigPlanet levels, I see YouTube and even social bookmarking like Delicious as ways to get this kind of thinking started with our students, who often come to college not quite ready to be producers and having been consumers of a much more stagnant variety than we want. As an example, even just adding the concept of tagging to an assignment of collecting links in Delicious has helped both the student understand a vital aspect of curation as well as provide the faculty member with an organic, always refreshing list of URLs to resources relevant to her class.

The second is the notion of “decorating the locker”. I have over 90 templates in our WPMU site. I do not go into detail about themes in our introductory training. I just mention that it is there and that they can go “theme shopping”. It is always delights me when I see a student’s blog and it has a theme that is not only NOT the default but also not even on the first three pages of the theme area.  I am hoping that having it open for the school bloggers to choose their own look for their site as well as how they want to use or not use plugins provide for a locker that is truly theirs.

The last notion is that of “Open = Vunerable”. I was just recently turned on to the work of Brené Brown and her research into vunerability. After watching her TEDx Houston talk earlier this week and then reading and listening to Gardner, I realize that the fear of “putting it out there” is a real one. I started recalling my own blogging path and how it took me many months before I was writing on my blog rather than just posting the results from a “What 80s movie are you” quiz or linking in my Delicious bookmarks for the day.  Doing the Project365 photo project was a great starting point for my growth in openness and I agree that being vunerable is scary and hard and can lead to “looking the fool” and that is hard for most of us, I would think. But, if this is where the learning and growth  emerges and it allows us to connect with someone else to share that growth and courage the learning among each other, I think this little techy-feely hippie can get behind that!

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