Constructing and Visualising Abstractions (and the Role of Virtualization Technologies in Facilitating such Contradictions)
This paper describes the use of virtualization technologies to facilitate teaching and learning of aspects of the Information Systems curriculum in higher education. Platform virtualization is particularly beneficial to learning in specific areas of IS as it allows for core system components to be visualized by the learner rather than abstracted from her, which, in the experience of the authors is a characteristic of a deeper learning and understanding. The authors contend that there may be a tendency to abstract physical system design considerations in IS education, largely because teaching / classroom / laboratory infrastructures make it difficult to accommodate meaningful teaching and learning in the area of physical system design. The result may lead to an unbalanced programme offering, skewed toward the application of formal analytical techniques and tools to develop the logical information system, and devoid of meaningful experience of the physical system designs used to host these information systems. The authors are motivated to address this imbalance through the application of platform virtualization technologies in the support of learning. In particular, virtualization technologies, whose primary purpose is to abstract the underlying physical system hardware, can be employed, almost paradoxically, to allow such abstractions to become “un-abstracted”, and as such to be visualized by learners in support of their learning. An orienting theoretical framework is presented, which is informed by theories of constructionism, sociality, collaborative learning, the notion of a ‘spiral curriculum’ (Bruner), and the development of ‘habits of the mind’ (Meier) in learners, and which provides the backdrop to the authors' motivation. A design based research methodology was employed in this study into the teaching of two subjects within the IS curriculum to undergraduate students (35 students in total) and the findings of that study, along with experiences of teaching and learning with virtualization technologies are presented.
Keywords: Education, Pedagogy, Virtualization
Lecturer in Computing, Department of Mathematics & Computing
Lecturer in Education, National University of Ireland