I have a lot of issues with this article.
Probably the number one issue in general though is that it appears that Campbell is advocating a “personal cyberinfrastructure” when it seems he doesn’t have any real computer-science background or programming ability, though he talks about integrating technology into the classroom, and students lives.
This is just one of those things, some people get the basics, and some people don’t. In my estimation, almost any programmer you find that has applied many of the concepts of information processing to their comprehension of the natural world will be able to quantify just about anything you throw at them short of human emotions.
What am I talking about? Take for example some random everyday object, perhaps an orange. If you gave any particular person an empty book, and told them to describe that orange down to every last detail they possibly could, and gave them an unlimited amount of time to write in the book, what would they write?
Someone without any programming experience whatsoever might write down some well thought out words about the orange. They could have some paragraphs, or if they were particularly detail oriented, they might find some way to describe some sections of the orange.
Okay that’s great, but what about a skilled programmer?
A skilled programmer might develop some ground-rules to describe the orange with as much detail as possible. They might develop some kind of system to specify certain hues and colors. Likely some numeric system where any slightest notable variations in the color of the orange might be represented by different numeric values within the color-coding system. Also they might develop some way to describe the shape of the orange using numbers. Likely they’d plot different points within a three-dimensional space and write down the coordinates in the book with an accompanying explanation about how the coordinates should be interpreted if read by someone else. They also might develop some algorithm to describe the texture of the orange so that if someone were to use the algorithm described, they might be able to engineer a similar texture compared to the orange’s. This could continue for quite awhile depending on how much effort the programmer would put into his book describing the orange, but the point is that compared to the person who uses English alone, without some algorithm or numeric coding backing the description of the orange, the person without such ability would most certainly not be able to articulate accurately as many details.
Where does this factor into Campbell’s article? I don’t see any mention of programming, but I do see mention of some concepts that imply someone would gain such ability/knowledge by simply running their own web-server and maintaining it with school-related content.
Sure, you might learn a thing or two about how to deal with setting up software, and how to social network effectively, but it’s no substitute for a fundamental understanding of how computers work, or how computers process information which someone can learn much more easily by learning some basic programming.
The short answer here is that anyone can throw as many buzz words as you want around, but it’s no substitute for the basics of computing and information processing.
Here are some specific quotes that make me question if Campbell really thought out what he was writing about:
“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.”
- “shape their own cognition, learning, expression, and reflection“? It’s just a $7.99 web server right?.
- The content, critical-thinking, and thoughtfulness put into what someone writes/says doesn’t care if it’s on a piece of paper, or a web server, or spoken.
- There are plenty of people who can type a good article, and express themselves and their ideas very well, but how/when will putting your content/learning materials on a web server magically lead to better cognition when it’s the same mental process behind the words?
“students would study the design and function of their digital environments, share their findings, and develop the tools for even richer and more effective metacognition”
- “metacognition” learn about how you learn right? Learn about how one’s own mind works right? Before you even mention the word “metacognition”, I want to hear more about giving people a fundamental grasp of what computers are, and what the nature of information itself is as opposed to web servers, and extending the LMS concept. (How many non-CS people know what binary is, and how fundamental it is to almost all information we comprehend?)
I think this piece is getting too negative so I’m going to stop it here, but at the very least I just want emphasize that anyone, even children can learn some basic programming skills that will likely give them skills that they can extend as they choose throughout their life. For anyone who’s serious about doing so, I recommend checking out Khan Academy’s section on computer science, I’m sure they have some great intro videos which explain things in a clear way for beginners.