I’ll Resist the Seinfeld Reference

I’m currently participating in Davidson’s first cohort of faculty, students and staff experimenting with Davidson Domains.   Davidson Domains is a program spearheaded by ITS and the Digital Studies program at Davidson:

which will provide every Davidson student a unique domain name and access to an open source platform like WordPress. The Web domain will serve as a foundation students’ online presence at Davidson and beyond. As students progress through the Davidson curriculum, they will learn how to add content to the domain from any aspect of their experience. Students might use it to display outstanding assignments, samples of internship work or research experience, and more.” 1

This is a great opportunity for the students to have a Domain of their own.  They can experiment with many web-based technologies and develop a personal digital presence with relatively low barriers or risk.  The space is theirs, and they needn’t be concerned with making errors or “breaking it” as they can simply reset and start again if necessary.   Even better when they graduate they will have the option of taking the domain with them.

Given the level of freedom the students will have ,  I was surprised when at an informal gathering of users one of the professors teaching a class using Domains indicated that he felt his students weren’t willing to “dive in” and start using it.   They seemed to want extensive guidance on what to do and how to do it based on a very flexible assignment.   On reflection, and in examining my own attitudes towards “hacking” and tinkering with software I now find the students response much more understandable.

While I have always enjoyed technology and tried to be at the forefront using it innovatively in libraries, I am results orientated.    Most often I’ve tried to use new technology to accomplish tasks I already know have value and how to do, or conversely tried to use established technology to do accomplish new things.  What is particularly daunting is the notion of trying out new technology to try and do new things.    This is what the professor in question was trying to do with his class.  He was leaving the choice of technology, and what they would try and do with the technology, up to the students This has the potential to create a real quandary for grade (read results) oriented students who are use to having to be creative in research and scholarship but have often done so using mandated technology.  I can definitely see having one more choice to make, what technology to use, being quite daunting.

I really hope the Davidson students will be able to work through any trepidation and take advantage of the great opportunity Davidson Domains affords them to tinker and experiment, and that the faculty and staff supporting them will find ways to encourage them and make them realize that this extra choice to make is liberating not problematic.    It may take so baby steps, and I suspect that much of the most interesting work will take place outside of formal coursework.

Hopefully the students (and faculty and staff) will have fun figuring it out.


1. Abare, R. (2013, December 13). Mellon Foundation Awards Davidson $800,000 to Expand Digital Studies – Davidson College. Retrieved from http://www.davidson.edu/news/news-stories/131213-mellon-foundation-digital-studies-award