Walking Stick Blogger

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EduPunk Under the Magnifying Glass

I have been reluctant to continue to talk about the term “edublogging” largely because of the possible associations some might make with edupunk. This is a big scary monster in the closet I need to confront, and address a few issues.

For one thing, I am not a supporter of the edupunk movement. I want to work to improve formal institutions of learning, not set them aside, nor work outside them. I firmly support efforts for providing a range of educational experiences for learners within institutional practice networks.

I strongly believe that DIY education is fundamentally flawed whenever it acts to reinforce learners’ wariness of formal instruction. I do not believe the DIY movement will lead to better-educated learners – it will more likely lead to the very commercialization and stratification within society that edupunk supporters want to defend against. It will result in canned educational products, distributed to the majority of learners as commodities at low price and at great profit. The corporate interests will support DIY; the double-speak of corporate spokespersons will rail against formal instruction and formal institutional training, and praise the enlightened learning objects instead. For the majority of society, the high price of formal instruction will be out of reach – DIY education will be the substitute, the opiate of the masses.

By praising the very tenets of edupunk (independent learning, DIY, and anti-commercialization), corporations will use these principles and twist them to their own ends, creating a chasm where before there was a gaping digital divide.

I strongly believe it is not about emphasizing one type of ideology over another, it is about shifting our stance from expecting others to provide us the educational learning experiences we think we need, and work more cooperatively with experts, both within and outside institutions, those who have spent years and years of academic and vocational training, and engage in a more empowering learning contract for us to embrace lifelong learning.

I am unsure whether supporters of edupunk have an unrealistic optimism about individual learning, but I think that letting individuals rely on crowd-sourced materials for knowledge rather than on experts is terrifying. The other question I have is to what extent edupunk supports independence of thought and spirit, personal autonomy and personal volition?

I am firmly convinced that one learns more when the act of learning combines independent thought and action of a self-regulated individual learner with the mentoring of an expert. This combination is what we need to be seeking to encourage.

We need to make the shift from learning to use online learning tools exclusively as a means of meeting expectations of instructors, getting the highest possible grade, and completing degrees, to learning to use these tools for our own ends, to be independent, self-regulated lifelong learners as professionals, as members of families, and as citizens.

We need to make the emotional shift from showing and acting upon our reluctance over voicing our opinions, to possessing what can be only described as impervious optimism, to be courageous enough to “connect-for-oneself” despite the real possibilities of ridicule and indifference, from oneself and from others.

We need to make the emotional shift from reticence and fear over voicing our views, and bolster our resolve and strengthen ourselves, so that we can confidently write for ourselves even in the absence of any guarantees of reciprocity, of feedback, or of acknowledgement from others.

Learning for oneself can be done in a DIY context in the absence of experts; however, it can also be done with the support of experts. Which would most people prefer, if given the choice?

Institutions that act to protect the interests of experts as well as empowering learners to learn within a protected, safe practice network, will continue to thrive. The challenge is to support learners, and their instructors, as they embrace and cultivate autonomy, mastery, and purpose to shift learning to what Tony Bates refers to as the fourth way, in which “…a renewal of teacher professionalism is required.”

Is EduPunk serving to renew teacher professionalism, or undermine it?

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netizenship • July 16, 2010

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