Friday, October 28, 2011

One webserver per child

Below is a fairly long quote from Gardner Campbell's Educause 2012 presentation, A Personal Cyberinfrastructure. Jim Groom introduced it at Open Ed 2011.  Campbell advocates giving every student their own web server to administer over the course of their school career. I will let you read his words, and then I have a few thoughts.
"Suppose that when students matriculate, they are assigned their own web servers — not 1GB folders in the institution's web space but honest-to-goodness virtualized web servers of the kind available for $7.99 a month from a variety of hosting services, with built-in affordances ranging from database maintenance to web analytics. As part of the first-year orientation, each student would pick a domain name. Over the course of the first year, in a set of lab seminars facilitated by instructional technologists, librarians, and faculty advisors from across the curriculum, students would build out their digital presences in an environment made of the medium of the web itself. ... They would play with wikis and blogs; they would tinker and begin to assemble a platform to support their publishing, their archiving, their importing and exporting, their internal and external information connections. They would become, in myriad small but important ways, system administrators for their own digital lives. In short, students would build a personal cyberinfrastructure, one they would continue to modify and extend throughout their college career — and beyond."
I really love this idea. The younger generation is digitally immersed. They have a presence in all the social media platforms. They use technology and the web like they drink water. But, do they control it? Are they reaching their full creative potential? Are they in charge of their digital presence?

At OpenEd11, alternative ways of showing what you know were a hot topic; badges that highlight education challenges completed, portfolios that physically show what you know and what you have done. There is no need for specialized portfolio software when a blog with entries tagged "portfolio" can show off your best work. These are elements that would naturally fit into a student's personal cyberinfrastructure.

The web is full of services to help you engage, socialize, share, and perform. With their own webserver, students can put that all together, take control of when, where, and what to showcase, mix and match and combine elements, invent new things, decide what is private and what is public, switch services when needed, create their own spaces. Students can create their own journals, newspapers, radio stations, chat rooms. These are skills everyone should have, not just us geeks.

Several prestigious universities have created communication programs that span their undergraduate programs, with the goal of producing articulate alumni. Creating and curating a personal cyberinfrastructure could easily fit into such programs and enrich them for the digital age.

And of course tying this all back to my passion for open education, lets get started created courses and learning materials about making this real. Sounds like a challenge for School of Webcraft to me. And how about some new modules in Connexions on getting students started and creating programs in your school?


  1. Watch out. This is a disruptive vision, the original vision of the web, and governments and corporations like Facebook, Google and Apple are doing their utmost to crush it. Many people have written eloquently about this, so I won't belabor it.

    I would however like to point you at two resources, in case you aren't familiar with them already: the well-articulated project and the writings of Jon Udell, with as an entry point.

  2. Thanks for the links. I have seen the unhosted project and it is an interesting idea and I do think students working with their own webserver would be experimenting with just this sort of thing. Also nice Jon Udell link.