No digital facelifts? Try making cakes instead

January 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Over the last week I have watched the video of the  talk given by Gardner Campbell and Jim Groom at OpenEd 2009.

I have watched it in fragments, 20 or 30 minutes here,  10 or so there. Betwixt  these watching sessions I have thought about and pondered the points made in the  presentation and discussion. It was thought provoking and entertaining and this combination has meant  I  have returned to it several times, watching overlapping  fragments: I thoroughly enjoyed the 48 minutes of presentation and discussion. I returned to it because it was fun: Gardner is a great presenter, the timing of his jokes was excellent {‘but is that scalable?’ 🙂 }, the metaphors and similes  apposite.

The main theme that I took from it is that of the meta-tool. The example Gardner used was the alphabet, a set of characters that can be applied in other tools to effective purpose (e.g. via pencils in handwriting, or via the printing press in publishing). The point is that whilst particular tools may be very useful, and selecting the best ones for a particular task is crucial, knowing how to select and apply meta-tools for a particular application is where the real gains can be made.

I agree with the notion that knowledge and application of  cyberinfrastructure meta-tools will enhance and support scholarly  practices i.e. those described by Gardner:

  1. narrating e.g.  describing  through blogging
  2. curating (taking care of stuff, managing)
  3. Sharing

and I wholeheartedly agree that any attempt to introduce the personal cyberinfrastructure to students will NOT work unless it is ‘baked into the curriculum’ as Gardner suggested. So for me, as an educational technologist,  the key question is:

how to present the personal cyberinfrastructure as a set of ingredients that each faculty can bake into their own curriculum cake?

Wedding Cake Tasting #2

Originally uploaded by Thom Watson

I think that each faculty must make its own cake, formed from a similar set of ingredients, but produce something that is just right for its application, for its domain.

This cake making approach is essential because no faculty or course will have the study hours free to embed cyberinfrastructure knowledge on its own, for its own sake. It will have to be cooked up with a topic that is a core part of the course.  For example, the topic of understanding, analysing, describing and discussing the rhythm in poetry for a 2nd year  literature course, or discussing, sharing and experimenting with data analysis methods for a level one statistics  course. The advantages of the personal cyberinfrastructure approach need to be clear to both faculty and students in both cases, and the cakes will have to taste just right to both faculty staff and students for the baking to be judged a success.

It will need domain experts (i.e. facult staff) and educational technologists to come up with the right recipes initially, but once the cooking starts I’d hope that the domain experts (be it poetry or statistics or whatever) could finish the job and make their own choice of recipe the next time round!


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