Wednesday, June 04, 2008


I've been chewing on an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about the "edupunk" movement that just might be coalescing. The term was apparently discussed publicly for the first time only 10 days ago by Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington (scroll to the bottom to see an extensive list of trackback links to discussions), was covered less than a week later in the above article, and now has a brief wikipedia article. From Jim Groom's blog post:

" ... in my mind the technology is often the means through which the communal acts are traced, recorded, and archived. The learning happens not as a by-product of the technology, it is, or rather should be, the Raison d’ĂȘtre of the technology. The teaching and thinking happen within the medium of texts, videos, film, images, art, conversation, game playing, computers, etc. Technology may provide new ways of delivering and accessing this information, and mark the basis of many a medium, but the idea of a community and its culture is what makes any technology meaningful and relevant.

This is why the idea that “it is about the technology” makes BlackBoard 8 so troubling to me. If it is about the technology, then capital can quickly recognize this fact and co-opt all the hard work by so many to move outside of the taylorized vision of educational technology grafted upon our institutions. If the technology is what is important, than what do we say if a faculty member or student notes that Bb can do what can, or can “mash up” YouTube, Flickr, and Google Earth maps like WPMu, or can make content at long last open, or has a slick AJAX interface, then we what what can we say about the technology?

...if we reduce the conversation to technology, and not really think hard about technology as an instantiation of capital’s will to power, than anything resembling an EdTech movement towards a vision of liberation and relevance is lost. For within those ideas is not a technology, but a group of people, who argue, disagree, and bicker, but also believe that education is fundamentally about the exchange of ideas and possibilities of thinking the world anew again and again, it is not about a corporate mandate to compete—however inanely or nefariously—for market share and/or power. I don’t believe in technology, I believe in people. And that’s why I don’t think our struggle is over the future of technology, it is over the struggle for the future of our culture that is assailed from all corners by the vultures of capital. Corporations are selling us back our ideas, innovations, and visions for an exorbitant price. I want them all back, and I want them now!
To quote Leslie Madsen Brooks blog, "In short, edupunk is student-centered, resourceful, teacher- or community-created rather than corporate-sourced, and underwritten by a progressive political stance." And check out D'Arcy Norman's edupunk heroes.

What I found most interesting -- in addition to its viral spread -- were the comments on the Chron article and Jim Groom's original post. Issues of ownership of content, the closed nature of some learning management systems versus open source, tools such as Edusim or ScholarPress, the value of common tools for supportability (I've heard that so often to stop oh-so-scary innovation), and whether Edupunk itself is technology for technology's sake.

The critiques are equally interesting. That edupunks need to grow up. That an edupunk movement isn't the right answer. And, in a lighter vein, that appropriating the word "punk" and its associations isn't, well, appropriate.

While Jim Groom might like to deny it, it's a full-fledged meme. It's official when it bleeds into another discipline -- Libpunk.

Regardless of whether the term is a good one or not, whether this is a movement or not, or how an organization is going support a thousand educational technology flowers blooming, I am glad to see a conversation about new pedagogies, innovation in educational technologies, open sourcing of tools and content, and the role of a Maker/DIY community in higher ed.

If it's anything at all, this blog post speaks to me perhaps the most: Edupunk is a mindset, not a technology movement.


mjgiarlo said...

"libpunks" is a good name for our team. :)

Jim said...


Do I have to admit it is a meme? I was hoping it had already become a full-fledged ideology. I guess what we really need is a manifesto :)

Leslie Johnston said...

Who says an ideology can't spawn a meme as an unexpected outcome? :)

mjgiarlo said...

It just struck me that "edsupunk" is just as good a term.

Leslie Johnston said...

I'm sure Ed will appreciate the gesture ...