The edupunk credo seems to be more and more relevant as the cuts in school budgets continue.
Knowledge work is not performed by independent individuals but by interdependent people in interaction. A new way to understanding work and competencies is unfolding: knowledge that used to be understood as the internal property of an individual is seen as networked communication. This requires us to learn new ways of talking about education and competencies. What is also needed is to unlearn the reductionist organizing principles that were inherited from manufacturing. Work is now communication and the network is the amplifier of knowledge and value added.
Sometimes we try to make ourselves smarter. We call that research. Sometimes we try to make our peers smarter. We call that publishing. Sometimes we try to make our students smarter. We call that teaching. And that’s it. That’s all there is. These are important jobs for sure, and they are hard jobs at times, but they’re not magic. And neither are we.
David Cormier is the man – or one of them – behind the concept rhizomatic learning and he reflects on the assessment in the case of MOOCs in a recent blog. MOOCs are one of many possible ways of implementing rhizomatic learning, but I suspect that the nature of many of the MOOCs that will be organized by big universities in the near future will not be very rhizomatic.
Dave Cormier has come to a conclusion regarding assessment that seems relevant for the idea of rhizomatic learning:
What we are learning is contextualized by each individual differently, according to their experiences, their understanding and purposes,
The things that are learned are not definite, but flexible and complex
Assessing what someone ‘knows’ is an act of enforcement of a given point of view, not a helpful guideline to learning
It’s not very popular to criticize the existence of traditional subjects in the curriculum, especially not mathematics. Nevertheless, more and more freely thinking people are doing just that. Maybe this is part of a (too) slow, but major rethinking of our education system, maybe not.
A few days ago Andrew Hacker, an emeritus professor of political science at Queens College, City University of New York wrote an article in NYT, saying among other things: “It would be far better to reduce, not expand, the mathematics we ask young people to imbibe.” Hacker is however fairly traditional, not an edupunk or a revolutionary like Ivan Illich or the former Yale professor Roger Schank who says: “I gave up being part of the Education system so I could begin to change it.” and “We must stop this. Stop teaching children that math matters when it does not. Math in these tests means algebra, trigonometry and such, which almost never come up in anyone’s life.”
None of these people of course claim that mathematics or language is useless, on the contrary. They claim that teaching these kinds of subjects the way it has been done for more than a century is ineffective and also devastating for the motivation for a large part of pupils/students. For that small percent that really need mathematics, chemistry in their further studies, another way of learning would probably be more effective.
I share their opinion.
A little extreme, but that’s because it’s an answer to the US right wing activists efforts to eliminate teaching about evolution etc. in american schools.