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.