can’t stand unicorns. this’ll have to do…
there’s a long, boring story behind this. not sure if/how to tell it. for now, just the frownie face…
Last night, I nuked my blog. At first, I was just doing it to make a point, but I quickly reached a point where I was almost convinced I was going to leave it nuked. I was going to toss the albatross overboard, and start fresh.
But then I got an email from someone I’ve never met (although I’ve exchanged a few emails with him over the years). He convinced me to put the blog back up.
This whole edupunk stuff lately – it’s caused some strange reactions in people who get so hung up on the word. It’s not about the word. It’s about the concept. The idea that participatory culture needs to be more than just Web 2.0 Buzzword Compliance. The idea that it’s not about radicalism, or conservatism, or antiestablishmentism. It’s not against anything. It’s about standing up and doing things, and not just talking about them.
But my blog is strictly just a bunch of words. Just a bunch of talk. I described my edupunk heroes, because they are the people whom I look up to because they aren’t just talk. They live this stuff, and have for years. They don’t do it for recognition, or visibility, or fanfare. They just are.
One thing the blog nuking showed me is just how hard it would actually be to completely nuke it. I’ve got backups of files on several hard drives, database dumps in several safe places. Even if I actively tried to delete every backup, I’m sure I’d miss something, and some form of this blog would live on. It’s some kind of freaky albatross-cochroach hybrid…
The lawn between the C-Train station and Biological Sciences Building, freshly washed by a brief rainfall. I was struck by the sheer greenness of this.
On thinking about edupunk, it strikes me that I’ve been drawn to a group of people that have embodied it for years. People that are open. That prefer to DIY. People who share, remix, mashup, and generally operate in the spirit of what is now being called edupunk. Here are my edupunk heroes, who inspire me every day (in no particular order). There are lots of other people that inspire me constantly, but when I think EDUPUNK, these are the people that really push me.
Reverend Jim. The poster boy for edupunk. Jim’s been kicking out the jams on this stuff for years, running completely against the traditional establishment. He teaches courses without an LMS. He mashes up wikis and blogs. He incites radical DIYism in everyone he meets. Jim’s hardcore exploration of DIY and individual publishing have made me rethink the nature and value of enterprise systems (they still have a very important role, but not in the way I used to think they did…)
DJ Wiki. The man who lives in a realtime mashup. His work with the OLT interns is absolutely amazing. He’s taken a group of students as interns, and has essentially pushed them into the role of professional edtech developers, conference facilitators, and so much more. He provides guidance, and lets them explore. And the stuff they come up with as a team is mindboggling. Brian’s mastery of media and depth of literary knowledge are simply stunning, and only matched by his openness and willingness to share.
Viral professional development. Jennifer has been working to help instructors at BTC to adopt pragmatic openness – starting by sharing as much of her professional development activities as possible. She set up an Elluminate play session today for several of the BTC instructors, and invited people from outside (via Twitter) to participate. As a result, we had an interesting discussion while playing and exploring a new tool. It was a casual way to safely learn a piece of technology, while modeling the power of the Network. Very cool stuff. Jen is brave, open, and able to connect people in a way I’ve never seen before.
50 ways to tell a story? Serious edupunk. Inspiring hundreds (thousands?) of people literally around the world to take DIY storytelling into their own hands and craft, publish and share their own stories. Alan’s been living edupunk for as long as I’ve known him (and that goes way back to the early 90’s when he ran the Director Web community website!) Alan has always been a trailblazer, an experimenter, and a pioneer of community based collaboration.
Alec’s ego is big enough. I’ll just link to my previous post on Alec.
Anarchy and individual empowerment, modeled by a person employed by the federal government of a G8 nation. Stephen’s been pushing toward personal publishing and DIY for years – long before most of his colleagues (including myself) understood where he was going. I first met him several years ago while working on the EDUSOURCE national learning object repository project. He was talking about stuff back then that we’re only now starting to see come true, most notably the use of RSS as the syndication format. Stephen is one of the few people whom I trust to see through rhetoric and hype, to break something down to the simplest components, and to see how things relate to an individual’s ability to control their own destiny. OLDaily. gRSSHopper. hardcore edupunk.
The director of an edtech unit at a huge university, who hacks WordPress themes for fun and publishes to blogs, wikis, podcasts, and various other community sites with impressive frequency and depth. Cole constantly pushes the people he works with, and the people in his Network, by encouraging people to collaborate and contribute. He’s the one who first saw the value in Twitter, when I initially dismissed it as silly and banal. He gets community in every sense of the word.
I am humbled by what these incredible people do. And am trying to figure out if and how I contribute back to the edupunk culture. I suppose 366photos is pretty edupunk (but not particularly strong on the edu- side of things). I suppose helping push Drupal, Moodle, Mediawiki, etc… on campus is a bit edupunk. And eduglu could definitely be called edupunk – but it’s still just a McGuffin, so likely doesn’t count for much at the moment.
Still, when I consider the work that these people do on a regular basis, my head spins.
He ran a grad course, completely in the open. He invited a whole bunch of people to join the class, where students and guests discussed and explored ideas and strategies, and shared the combined output. He modeled some serious DIY chops, drawing on more free (and non-free) bits of tech than I could track, and pushing the students into the driver’s seat as part of the process.
The course had structure and definition, but was also fluid and organic. Responsive. Adaptive. Open. It was an edtech course, using insane amounts of tech, but the magic was in the non-tech aspect of the course – that students were in control (but not out of control).
Alec Couros is seriously hardcore edupunk, and hopefully his students will have picked up on some of that. Imagine what will happen when his students unleash that philosophy in the classroom…
The cool and exciting thing is that Alec isn’t the only one doing this stuff! Will people that go through this kind of course be able to go back to “traditional” courses? What will happen, down the road, when these people start running the show? Interesting times…
A duck swims in a pond near the University of Calgary campus.
Jim’s been talking about edupunk a fair bit lately (starting with the killer post The Glass Bees, then Permapunk and finally tying in the awesome Murder, Madness, Mayhem wikipedia project), and Jen wrote up a piece that dovetails nicely into the concept. There’s something about the edupunk concept that is resonating deeply in me.
It’s a movement away from what has become of the mainstream edtech community – a collection of commercial products produced by large companies. Edupunk is the opposite of that. It’s DIY. It’s hardcore. It’s not monetized. It’s not trademarked. It’s not press-released. It’s not on an upgrade cycle. It’s not enterprise. It’s not shrinkwrapped.
It’s about individuals being able to craft their own tools, to plan their own agendas, and to determine their own destinies. It’s about individuals being able to participate, to collaborate, to contribute, without boundaries or barriers.
And it’s not new. The early days of the “edublogosphere” had a definite edupunk vibe to it. Long before that, we had seen edupunk, and it was awesome. I remember when Hypercard was commonplace. When teachers and students would regularly build and adapt their own interactive applications, games, and databases to support classroom activities. Without fanfare or infrastructure or strategic planning or budgets. When Hypercard was killed, it was an end of a renaissance era of DIY edtech.
But, the key to edupunk is that it is not about technology.
It’s about a culture, a way of thinking, a philosophy. It’s about DIY. Lego is edupunk. Chalk is edupunk. A bunch of kids exploring a junkyard is edupunk. A kid dismantling a CD player to see what makes it tick is edupunk.
I’m not about to suggest that technology isn’t important or relevant to edupunk – of course it is. But only as an enabling piece of infrastructure. Technology can empower individuals, amplify actions, and connect communities. But without the edupunk philosophy underlying it all, it’s just a bunch of technology. Uninteresting and irrelevant.
One of the coolest classrooms I’ve ever been in is the Engineering Design Lab at the University of Calgary. It’s a classroom from the outside, but is really nothing but rows of workbenches, armed with any tools and materials imaginable. Drawers full of Lego for building prototypes. Cabinets full of Mechano for piecing together simple machines. A full machine shop for building more complex ones. It’s a place where the students are not only allowed, but encouraged to explore and create. Working in groups to create and solve problems. Critical thinking. Inquiry. Experiential. And it is the most hardcore edupunk class I’ve seen.
Another bonus photo! It’s been a fun day, photographically. This is the MacKimmie Library Tower, on the University of Calgary campus. It’s going to become part of the Taylor Family Digital Library complex, and is scheduled to get a makeover, including new cladding. Not sure what the final design will look like, but it’ll probably be quite different than this…
Spring has hit in full force. The clouds that have hung over Calgary for weeks are gone, replaced by the famous neon blue. Trees all over the UCalgary campus are in blossom mode, and it smells fantastic.
Bonus photo for today! Five bridges across the Bow River, as seen from the Bowmont Natural Pathway.
There’s been much handwringing about the “edublogosphere” not flocking to follow self-proclaimed leaders. That people are disgusted because other people don’t clamor to follow someone else’s lead because they say they are leading something. I’m not going to link, or point fingers, or name names. I’m going to keep this post short, because I could very easily devolve into full-on rant mode.
Leadership is earned, not taken. You’re not a leader just because you say so. People shouldn’t be compelled to follow you just because you make a bunch of noise. If you are a leader, people will follow you. If you’re not a leader, they won’t. Get over it.
That, and one of the beautiful things about the “edublogosphere” is that there aren’t any leaders. There doesn’t need to be a leader. It’s a community of peers, and every individual’s perception of the community is different, according to their connections, needs, and contributions.
Stop worrying about leading, and just work on affecting the change you want to see.
Update: My language was unclear, and I was (rightly) called out by James Farmer in the comments. Here’s the bit I responded with to clarify what I was trying to say:
“what I was trying to get at is that there is no set of “official” leaders – my leaders are different than yours, and they are different for every individual. There is no defined hierarchy that everyone agrees define “the leaders” that must be followed…”
The rain has stopped, and the skies have begun to clear. The Bow River valley has turned vibrant green, and flowers are blossoming all along the Bowmont Natural Pathway.
The rainy season has hit Calgary for the last week. No residential flooding yet, but the river and creeks are rising. Thankfully, the rainy season doesn’t last very long here in the high prairie desert…
It rained almost nonstop the entire time we were at camp. The kids all had fun, though, and that’s all that matters…