A domain of my own – Part 3 – ‘…here there be dragons’ or how do we make sure everyone knows a dragon slayer??

sandcastle dragon consuming a person with a shovel

CC Licensed flickr image (BY) shared by user topgold

I stink at blogging. My later spring semester was CRAZY busy with a swirl of major grant-writing (we won’t know the result of which until the fall), a visit from our accrediting body, taking a course, teaching a course…One big writing thing ended and another began. I am just now coming up for air. What is below is/was another in my post series on my domain adventure. I still want to get these thoughts down….so am posting this albeit late.

Okay, I know that quote (in the title) is a stretch…but I am referring to the notes at the margins of the old world maps where the ‘known world’ ended…and that is precisely where I have been with moving along my site development. (Don’t worry kids, I know some dragon slayers so all is not lost! More on that later…)  😉

What has happened since we last chatted? Well, let’s see. I have a fresh new WordPress install as the overlay to my site. I am building in there (as I mentioned in my last post). I struggled some with naming conventions and file paths and such (and I am certain I have made mistakes in this part already-but learning by making mistakes is a good thing). The WordPress part has been – well – okay, I’ll admit it, even good fun. I lost track of time experimenting with various themes I might select and install that say ‘me’. I have built-out my page structure for the site I need at least for now. And…yes, I am understanding that if I had done this (managed my own doman and all) – from the beginning – (…choose any beginning here: beginning of my work in IT, beginning of my latest ed tech related grad work, at the beginning of DS106 last year….) the task would not be quite so unnerving now. Which brings me to the primary theme for this post:

Part of the whole reason I am trying to capture my swirl of thoughts about this as I go…is that I think  there is something MUCH MORE IMPORTANT at the heart of a personal cyberinfrastructure than the domain of one’s own part (first time writing/saying this outloud, but I have had this ‘gut’ level feeling about it for a while…). There. I’ve said it. (And I must preface what I am about to ATTEMPT to write with the very clear and explicit acknowledgement that this is still an epiphany-in-progress. Read it as such). So, …right now today, I don’t think that a PCI is the only pathway to that central essence.

Now that I got that off my chest, let me attempt to explain. I want to point to some especially relevant excerpts from Gardner (Campbell)’s essay (A Personal Cyberinfrastructure) that get to some of what I am thinking. Here’s the first nugget:

“Fascinating and important innovations would emerge as students are able to shape their own cognition, learning, expression, and reflection in a digital age, in a digital medium. Student’s would frame, curate, share, and direct their own ‘engagement streams’ throughout the learning environment…students would …develop the tools for even richer and more effective metacognition…” (my emphasis added).

True all of that….but especially the part about students shaping their OWN cognition and learning…..So here’s where I (think I) differ about a personal cyberinfrastructure. I believe there are MANY ways to nurture that personal shaping of learning… and to support it. Of course, encouraging curation through a personal domain is ONE way, but I am not convinced that it is THE (one and only true) way. Mike Wesch put it this way in the comment stream on the Chronicle piece about him back in February (A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working):

 “My main point is that participatory teaching methods simply will not work if they do not begin with a deep bond between teacher and student. Importantly, this bond must be built through mutual respect, care, and an ongoing effort to know and understand one another.

Still with me? So, I believe the most important element in distilling down teaching and learning  to the most atomic is the resides in the relationship-that ‘deep bond’. Maybe the nexus that allows for the expression of this bond is around the co-creation  and understanding of cyber-artifacts. But that can’t always and won’t always be the only way the bond can be made evident. I tried to explain this in a post I wrote last spring. I am convinced of it now more than ever. At the heart of the cyberinfrastructure is the connection it is likely to engender. The conception of that connection is that teacher student deep bond. Okay, enough on that. I have to let this ‘sit’ now that I am trying to actually write it. One more thing about the PCI:

I still work with and encounter people every day – faculty AND students – who have no idea about the kind of learning possible through the ‘networks’ many of us (in ed tech) live in and take for granted. Some are even fearful of it. I am here trying the PCI to see where it might take me. I want to experience it …fully (and I have way far to go before I can say I am there)…to see if my theories about the deep bonds are correct. That’s where the dragon-slayers come in. I can tell you that without Tim Owens at  Hippie Hosting, I would have abandoned this whole thing pretty early on-because of the dragons.

IF PCIs are to work, learners need support.
(Gardner says that here:

“To provide students the guidance they need to reach these goals, faculty and staff must be willing to lead by example — to demonstrate and discuss, as fellow learners, how they have created and connected their own personal cyberinfrastructures.”

and here:

“Those of us who work with students must guide them to build their own personal cyberinfrastructures”

Here’s that bond thing again – learners need SOMEONE to help them along the way. Everyone will need their own dragon slayer. They will need some way to construct at least a beginning understanding. Some learners will be able to assume responsibility for this after just a little help. They will ‘get’ that curation thing and run with it. Others will require much longer and more support.  Now, do Tim and I have a deep bond?  Not exactly…except the one that you get when you live ‘in the network’ and you become known around by/with/amongst others of like mind. The ‘bond’ is with the network and because we are both part of it – slightly different nodes, for sure – we ARE  ‘bonded’.

I am not even sure any of this makes any sense to anyone other than me….but there, I have TRIED to write it. And here’s what my site looks like right now: http://cindyjennings.net/udl/