The edupunk credo seems to be more and more relevant as the cuts in school budgets continue.
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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.
For people who want to develop their understanding of themselves as humans and of society, there is probably no single, better source in the western world right now than The RSA. And I’m not exaggurating. The produce videos and podcasts of presentations and discussions with the most interesting people, often academics/writers but also politicians and business people. Think TED, but three times deeper and wider and without the flashiness.
At the RSA website there is a link to Matthew Taylor’s blog , Taylor is the Chief Excecutive of the RSA and sharp as a knife. He often comments and reflects on past presentations, and combines the insights in interesting ways. In his most recent blog he writes about how the society and its actors need to move – and is moving – towards a more networked, relational way of working, away from the hierarchical tradition:
Professor Keith Grint has explored the approach needed to address these wicked issues and speaks of the need for leadership which is ‘about questions not answers, ‘about reflection not reaction’ and ‘about relationships not structures’. To that I would add the thought (derived from this book) that leadership in less complex, more deferential times was about push (driving out instructions, messages and products) while now it is about ‘pull’ (finding ways of engaging people, fostering collaboration and attracting talent).
In an earlier post named University challenged he comments on the state of universities and states:
The ‘kind of university the 21st century needs’ could be hypothesised as follows:
Hierarchical authority – ‘post bureaucratic and ‘normative’ i.e. based on creating a strong and inclusive conversation across the university about role, mission and distinctive character. Rather than acting as a transmission belt for governmental and commercial pressures mediating those pressures in pursuit of a shared vision. (As Keith Grint advocates; questions not answers, reflection not reaction, relationships not structures)
Solidarity – rekindled through the development of a new public value model for universities emphasising the unique contribution they can make as integrated institutions cultivating ‘new enlightenment’ values (both within and without the institution).
Individualism – ‘entrepreneurial’ (universities as experimental places not just places which conduct experiments), and ‘humanist’ (exemplifying a post materialist ideal of individual development and fulfilment (e.g. resolving the incompatibility of ‘deferential’ learner and ‘sovereign’ consumer through the development of the ideal of student as citizen).
It would be really nice to live long enough to see a clear movement in this direction, and, if possible, be part of it.
Despite reports funded but Government, academic institutions and professional psychologists, decrying learning styles theory, and VAK in particular, it persists across the learning world, promulgated by poor teacher training and ‘train the trainer’ courses. It would not be far wrong to describe it as a theoretical virus that has infected education and training on a global scale, kept alive by companies peddling CPD to teachers. Its appeal is clearly in the intuitive appeal that learners are different, which is certainly true but there appears to be little evidence to support the idea that they can be put into these simple boxes. Learning professionals certainly need to understand the considerable differences between learners but the debate seems to have fossilised around this caricature of a theory.
However, when learners and educators have to fight the existing education system in order to learn and teach, it’s time for dramatic change.
Professors need to stop and really think about education. Of course, the problem is that they have no motivation to do so. They are well paid and having a good time. Only the students suffer.
– Roger Schank in his blog Educational outrage
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