Remain Calm. All is Well.

Just got back from UVic where I gave a talk to a small group from the Electronic Textual Cultures Laboratory. I was going to write a longer post than this, trying to situate my talk somewhere between the binaries of Disruption-as-Solely-the-Province-of-Neo-Liberal-Discourse and the Education-is-not-broken-at-all poles the discussion seems to be falling into these days (and apologies for picking on Martin, I’m just too tired to dig out a better straw man example of the latter argument.) Because I think there is a third (and fourth and fifth and…) possibility here, that

  • there are lots of pieces of education that don’t work very well but
  • there are some pieces that do and
  • there are values and people involved with educational institutions that shouldn’t just be chucked away in the pursuit of economic efficiencies but
  • the network is indeed a disruptive force, and
  • that disruption will not simply lead to some techno-utopian ideal and
  • commercial forces will use it to continue the march of globalization towards an uninhabitable planet filled with alienated, over-medicated people unless
  • we start to change many of our relations, along many vectors, and not just rearrange deckchairs.

But that doesn’t fit well on a t-shirt. Plus even those who think it maybe sounds like a good idea in theory don’t think it’s actually possible any longer, if it ever was, so we might as well shut up and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Anyways, I’m not going to write that post. I (hope I) WILL keep working in “education” and “learning” in ways that embody the changes I think we need to bring about, which likely mean lots of beans and rice in my future, cause its a future where we stop living on borrowed time. But I’m growing weary of trying to convince anyone else. This talk was meant to simply offer some small examples of ways we can implement technology that both harness the liberating power of the network but also make small steps towards changing how universities relate to what’s outside their walls. These changes in and of themselves are insufficient. But they start to position institutions differently, in a way I think will serve them well in the battles to come (if they happen at all; I’m not so naive to think these aren’t rearguard battles, and despite a disdain for the language of warfare, make no mistakes, there are sides to choose.)

Anyways, the slides are below and the full text of the speech of the talk is available here (sorry, no recording.)


And I can’t help leaving you with this clip from Animal House, which comes to mind every time I hear another person downplay the enormity of the challenges facing us

6 thoughts on “Remain Calm. All is Well.

  1. sleslie Post author

    P.S. if you missed it in the last slide of the talk, I wanted to highlight a paper I ran across the day before which I think says may of the things I’m trying to say but in much more measured and better researched ways:

    Should we Take Disintermediation in Higher Education Seriously?
    Expertise, Knowledge Brokering, and Knowledge Translation in the Age of Disintermediation

    Carlos A. Scolari, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain

    Cristóbal Cobo Romaní, Oxford Internet Institute, UK

    Hugo Pardo Kuklinski, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

    I don’t think they reference Martin Weller’s work, but like him they put John Boyer’s model of the four key functions of the university to useful ends in looking at how to adapt to the new landscape.

  2. Martin

    In defence of myself, I think I was making the point, or at least some of them, in your list. My argument is not that education isn’t in need of change, or that there aren’t very exciting things we can do, but rather a protest against the self-serving ‘everything is broken’ rhetoric. As with the post on disruption, I’m more interested in looking at the bits that can be usefully changed and adapted. I think too much of the trendy hype now (see almost any presentation at SXSWEdu) is trying to create a problem to establish a business as the solution, rather than genuinely trying to do something useful in education.
    We probably have about 2 or 3 models of large scale education at the moment, and if people struggle with them we just send them back through. So, I definitely think we need more, maybe we need 20 or 30 models (or 200 or 300). What I definitely don’t think we need is to replace this one model with a new single model, which is what the education is broken/buy my disruption crowd (I don’t include you in this collection) are often trying to do.
    So, I think I’m in wholesale agreement with you – I’m just reacting against the bland language and empty claims I see bandied about in so much ed tech that it makes me seem like a grouch who doesn’t want _any_ change.

    1. admin

      Martin, I’ll apologize again for what amounts to my laziness – while the “Disrupting Disruption” post did tick me off a bit (likely because it struck a nerve) I agree that you and I aren’t that far apart and that you are not a good poster boy for the everything’s-fine camp. I don’t know that I’m in such close agreement about having existing models that “work” because from my perspective it needs to be a pretty narrow definition of “works.”Anyways, when I get a moment I will revise the post with a better example as I know it was unfair and just lazy to single you out.

  3. Martin

    PS – I agree, the network IS proper, real disruption. I don’t doubt that actual disruption does exist, I just think it’s only found in about 1% of the places its claimed. So, the internet, yes disruption, Mr Shiny’s new business model of educating people based on everyone being a super-motivated San Francisco kid, probably not as much.
    PPS – I’ve become quite cynical haven’t I?

  4. Chris Lott

    Sounds like the talk went well…even if it didn’t, the nascent conversation here and pointers to more of it that have already happened make it worthwhile (to me, the leech).

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