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Debating with Gardner Campbell
October 27, 2009 - 9:27pm

Gardner Campbell will be moderating/participating in an EDUCAUSE POINT/COUNTERPOINT session with myself and John Fritz: "Learning Management Technologies: Enterprise System or Consumer Good?"


John and I convinced Gardner to expand his role in our POINT/COUNTERPOINT because, frankly, we want to hear what he has to say. Officially Gardner will be pushing us to defend and expand on our debate positions (John has the pro enterprise LMS side and I'm arguing the anti). But in reality I'm not so anti LMS, John is not so pro LMS, and Gardner has done some really innovative and original thinking around this topic.


Go and check out Gardner's EDUCAUSE Review New Horizons column: "A Personal Cyberinfrastructure."


Gardner argues that one way to look beyond the limitations of the LMS would be for IHE's to give all students their own personal, virtualized Web servers - and let them build up both a digital identity and a set of skills in this space. By giving students flexible digital platforms we could move the conversation from traditional modes of teaching and learning to supporting students in the process of learning through enabling them to "discover and craft their own desires and dreams."


Providing students with a personal cyberinfrastructure will allow them to become "effective architects, narrators, curators, and inhabitants of their own digital lives" while at the same time building up fluency (and therefore economic options) in the digital medium.


I'm not sure that I accept that the centralized LMS has had a negative impact on learning and teaching. In advocating for a personal cyberinfrastructure Gardner makes the case that this method is a necessary antidote to the structural barriers imposed on the learning process by our existing systems.


He writes:


"...Higher education largely failed to empower the strong and effective imaginations that students need for creative citizenship in this new medium. The "progress" that higher education achieved with massive turnkey online systems, especially with the LMS, actually moved in the opposite direction. The "digital facelift" helped higher education deny both the needs and the opportunities emerging with this new medium."


What I've witnessed, and what I'll argue in Denver at the session, is that the LMS can be a powerful catalyst and enabler of change (active learning) when paired with both thoughtful pedagogy and the sort of open, user controlled, public and collaborative tools that Gardner thinks should be standard. Keep the LMS integration with the student-information-system (SIS), keep the grade center tools (hard to get right), keep the assessment engine, keep the reporting (we don't do that enough as John will point out) - and then do what Gardner wants on top of the LMS.


Still ... Gardner is nothing if not persuasive. One of our sages, and I worry that in our debate I'll find myself nodding my head yes as he lays out his points.


Gardner's blog can be found here.


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