6.06.2008


Just a few days ago the term "Edupunk" appeared on the edublog scene here, quickly got a mention in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and I found mention of it in this post by David Warlick.  

This idea resonates with me, and perhaps it has as well (or will) with the education 2.0 community because it directly addresses some of the best things we strive for, as well as the criticisms surrounding 'all things 2.0'. To preface this, there's something that drives me a little nutty about people who are dismissive of the potential of web/learning/education/school/whatever 2.0 . It often gets derided as just being a new name for an old convention ("back in the day, we had bulletin boards, and we used phone lines to connect to the internet, and it took 7 days to upload a text document, and we liked it!"*) or a sign of complicity in corporate influence in schools. It has been passed off as all hype and no substance - in fact, some people have even used their own blogs as a platform to discuss the meaninglessness of "web 2.0". I'm sorry. What? Isn't that a bit like making a documentary about how un-influential film is as a medium?


What people don't seem to realize is that there is nothing inherently wrong with - or good about- web 2.0. Similarly, there is nothing inherently good or bad about a hammer.  Its just a tool.   As a tool, its incredibly effective at driving nails into wood, but it also functions quite nicely as a doorstop, for cracking nuts, or putting dents into people's heads if used against its intended purpose. However, one key difference between these two tools is that web 2.0 doesn't actually exist. 

Sorry. 

Web 2.0 is simply a frame- a phrase that shapes our conception about a kind of online interaction. I'm stealing borrowing that phrase from George Lakoff's fantastic book, Don't Think of An Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives. The name we give something shapes the way we think about it, but it also codifies meaning.  When we say "web 2.0" we're describing an amorphous form of online communication and interaction.  Web 2.0 isn't the learning itself, its an agreed upon understanding of a system that allows the learning to happen. 

In this way, the edupunk idea is important because it re-frames the idea of integrating 'web 2.0 technologies' into the curriculum as a distinctly anti-consumerist, pro DIY pedagogy. As such, it removes it from the tired criticism that has tied "web2.0pians" to corporate interests.

The other reason that I like the term is because the '-punk' suffix suggests the same kind of challenge to centralized authority that critical pedagogy makes to the top-down educational model.  This is something that is something that has been endemic to my experience with web 2.0 both in and outside of the classroom.  We are giving students the In having students create online content, we're asking them to construct and present their own knowledge. They are not presenting and publishing this information as experts, they are presenting and publishing this information as learners.

That is exactly what makes the interactivity and immediacy of web 2.0 so exciting - it allows people to share in the raw beauty of the first attempt - something that is often lost in the refining process. Looking through my art teacher glasses- it encompasses the same kind of energy that is captured in a quick investigative sketch, which can be infinitely more powerful than the carefully refined and determined final project.

In concordance with the rejection of centralized authority, "-punk" suggests an embrace of anarchy or chaos.  The thought of "classroom", "technology" and "chaos" together in one sentence might suggest a mass of computer lab desks piled in a protective fortress in some recreation of Lord of the Flies (although the conch is now an ipod, and Piggy's Mac Air is smashed to pieces).  Organized Chaos, on the other hand is a useful strategy in the progressive teacher's playbook.  In her book, The Dialectic of Freedom, Maxine Greene describes this kind of environment as an "open space" - a place where students have freedom to explore new ideas and direct their own learning.   I don't know if she'd appreciate the association or not (although after taking one of her classes and reading a few of her books I expect she would) but to me, she'd be one of the original edupunks. 

Whether the term "edupunk" gains a footing as a frame for progressive integration of the 2.0 pedagogy, or if it disappears into the into the meme void with the hamster dance, it doesn't really matter.  It has already begun a debate that furthers our understanding about the relationship of our ourselves to the global community through technology.  Ignoring the irony of the edu-punk-ness of the debate itself, it should remind us of the necessity of these kinds of discussions -not to define us, but to allow us to continually reflect on the nature of this constantly changing relationship. 


*this is only funny if you are hearing Dana Carvey's Old Man routine in your head.

1 Comment:

  1. rebecca said...
    Edupunks, represent!

    OI!!!

    ;)

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