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Edupunk – Where is all of this headed?

The open learning movement has taken the world by storm, especially in the area of higher education. The possibilities of the internet seem endless and innovators and ed techs are constantly creating tools and coming up with ideas to make learning more accessible and at a lesser cost. But the established institutions are not taking this threat lightly. They have acknowledged open education but have worked their way into it and have set up proprietary rights. Jim Groom and Brian Lamb in their article, Never Mind the Edupunks; or, The Great Web 2.0 Swindle have warned about the dangers of this infiltration and the overt and covert means that are used.

Jim Groom, coined the term “Edupunk” in 2008,

to describe the growing movement toward high-tech do-it-yourself education, independent from traditional institutionally controlled venues and commercial tools, such as Powerpoint or Blackboard and other closed Learning Management Systems. According to Groom, “Edupunk … is about the utter irresponsibility and lethargy of educational institutions and the means by which they are financially cannibalizing their own mission.”

Related to the term edupunk is  the concept of DO IT YOURSELF (DIY), which is bypassing the established educational institutions and using the resouces of the internet to educate oneself and learning from others online.The idea is to be independent of all the commercial aspects of education and become more responsible for one’s own learning. Because of this growing influence of open education, colleges are being forced  to adapt and some have  begun to offer courses online free of charge , such as those offered by MIT  named  on OPENCOURSEWARE.

The idea of collaborating with others is an integral part in the open education system but not everyone agrees completely. One such person is the New York Times columnist, Susan Cain, in her article, The Rise of the New Groupthink , calls for the return to the individual effort and claims that many creative ideas are the result of people working by themselves and not in groups. This is contrary to what Jim Groom is saying. The relatively new offering online of the course entiled “DS 106”, goes against what Susain Cain is proposing.

It is worth noting that open education is now a prevalent idea in places such as New Zealand, Canada, China and other parts of the world. We in the United States sometimes tend to be parochial in our thinking but the internet is a world wide phenomenon and ideas emanate from just about any location.


Before starting AC 230 I had heard that it was about how to use media in the classroom .From the first day I knew it was going to be different. The relaxed nature of the classroom environment and the professor’s informal way of teaching made me less apprehensive. I came into the class with very little, if any, computer skills. The assignments were interesting and as the course progressed then I started to see the bigger picture. I think we were being taught to become responsible for our own learning, that all the answers were there for us to discover and that we needed to change the way we think about education on the whole and digital education in particular.

The course allowed me to see for the first time the idea of “open education” and its possibilities. Names like Jim Groom, Gardner Campbell, Clay Shirky and Anya Kamenetz suddenly became familiar as I was required to read the ideas these modern thinkers expressed. I learnt about the possibilities of “flexbooks” and how they could transform what happens in classrooms. Very soon I realized that this was not the class I thought I signed up for. There were still assignments to cater for K12 students but there was more emphasis on the philosophy behind the digital revolution that we are experiencing. I also learned stuff like certain aspects of Photoshop to create a GIF animation, how to create and embed videos on Youtube, and setting up my own blog . I was also able to interact with educational bloggers and listen to cutting-edge lecturers in their respective fields.

Although the entire course was interesting and informative, one feature stood out for me and that was the fact that I knew I would learn something new every day. I especially liked the Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) lectures but I was most intrigued by the idea of “open education”. I can’t think of anything at the moment that I did not like about the course, however, it would’ve been better if we had more time to do more examples of what we were being taught. I know learning is an ongoing experience and I will time to improve on what I have learnt.

Why is it not happening? Gardner Campbell and the need for “cyberinfrastructure.”

Gardner Campbell began his talk by asking ,” Why is it not happening?” He was referring to the fact that even with all the tools and marvels that have been developed with regards to the internet,why are we still stuck in using the internet  mostly in a  “transactional mode”,like Blackboard. He  points out the dangers of what Clay Shirky calls  “digital facelift”. He then prescribes three recursive practices to fight digital facelift and this is possibly the best advice for teachers.

The practices he recommends are 1.Narrating -(thinking aloud like blogging)  2.Curating -(organizing your online stuff so it is easily available to you and others as well. 3.Sharing -posting your work so that others can see and possibly use. Arising from this is the  encouragement and recommendation to create one’s own “cyberinfrastructure”. One of the ideas that I really like from this talk is for students to enter the” producerly domain”.Here Gardner is calling for students to be active participants and create stuff,..(much like Prof. Smith in AC 230). The idea I like most is

But if what the professor truly wants is for students to discover and craft their own desires and dreams, a personal cyberinfrastructure provides the opportunity. To get there, students must be effective architects, narrators, curators, and inhabitants of their own digital lives.6 Students with this kind of digital fluency will be well-prepared for creative and responsible leadership in the post-Gutenberg age. Without such fluency, students cannot compete economically or intellectually, and the astonishing promise of the digital medium will never be fully realized.

This is the task facing educators, to take initiatives to make their students digitally fluent.. I also like the idea he mentions

students should be system administrators for their digital lives

I am aware of the lesson I am learning in AC 230 right now, about creating my own space and the reminder that this space reflects who I am.Who knows, in the near future , employers will look at this space to evaluate clients and hire people..Another important point Gardner makes at the end is that all these ideas will not work until  they are “baked into the curriculum”. This is the challenge I will face as a teacher,, what can I do with their students to advance my students so that they can become more digitally fluent to participate in the world they will live in.