I updated the “Blogging, Domain of One’s Own, and WordPress“ section of ”Communication is oxygen. Build a districtwide collaboration infrastructure and an open by default culture.” with selections from “The Web We Need to Give Students – BRIGHT Magazine”.
Giving students their own digital domain is a radical act. It gives them the ability to work on the Web and with the Web, to have their scholarship be meaningful and accessible by others. It allows them to demonstrate their learning to others beyond the classroom walls. To own one’s domain gives students an understanding of how Web technologies work. It puts them in a much better position to control their work, their data, their identity online.
As originally conceived at the Virginia liberal arts university, the Domains initiative provides students and faculty with their own Web domain. It isn’t simply a blog or a bit of Web space and storage at the school’s dot-edu, but their own domain – the dot com (or dot net, etc) of the student’s choosing. The school facilitates the purchase of the domain; it helps with installation of WordPress and other open source software; it offers both technical and instructional support; and it hosts the site until graduation when domain ownership is transferred to the student.
And then – contrary to what happens at most schools, where a student’s work exists only inside a learning management system and cannot be accessed once the semester is over – the domain and all its content are the student’s to take with them. It is, after all, their education, their intellectual development, their work.
But there remains this notion, deeply embedded in Domain of One’s Own, that it is important to have one’s own space in order to develop one’s ideas and one’s craft. It’s important that learners have control over their work – their content and their data. In a 2009 article that served as a philosophical grounding of sorts for the initiative, Gardner Campbell, then a professor at Baylor University, called for a “personal cyberinfrastructure” where students:
not only would acquire crucial technical skills for their digital lives but also would engage in work that provides richly teachable moments…. 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. Students would frame, curate, share, and direct their own ‘engagement streams’ throughout the learning environment.
The importance of giving students responsibility for their own domain cannot be overstated. This can be a way to track growth and demonstrate new learning over the course of a student’s school career – something that they themselves can reflect upon, not simply grades and assignments that are locked away in a proprietary system controlled by the school.