I am overjoyed at the public conversation that’s going on amongst principals from DIY U and allies in the community.

Just wanted to add a couple of thoughts of my own.
First. Obviously my knowledge of any of the domains included in the book (history and sociology of higher education, current higher education policy, progressive politics and economics 1960-the present, student loan policy, social media, open-source, pedagogy, higher education administration, careers, management and leadership, Tuvan throat singing, or the personal experiences of an immigrant studying in a community college in Texas) is miniscule compared to the knowledge possessed by people within those domains.
I don’t think I know anything (comparatively) about any of this stuff. I don’t think I know what it’s like to be a professor because my parents were both college professors. I especially don’t think I know anything about what it’s like to be a college student in America today. The experience of a legacy, traditional-age, honors graduate of an Ivy League college with no student loan debt and a lifelong facility with learning is laughably opposite of representative. I know that.

So why did I write the book? To start a bigger conversation. I had the opportunity to cross-pollinate between domains and bring information from one domain to another, and as a public-facing media person who can write a short, readable book and go on the radio to talk about it, I can bring these ideas from all of these domains to the outside world. As Prof. Wiley writes:

“This is a complex, multi-faceted problem we’re trying to solve, and the better people are versed in all its aspects, the better off we will be.”

Also, I’m always thinking about the experience of the individuals known as students. The last chapter of the book is a guide for them for this reason.
I really feel like it’s the biggest missing piece from this conversation, and as I start going to more and more of these conferences and gatherings, I look around and say, where the hell are they? (Not grad students; you guys are pre-professional academics). In fact, I got an invite to speak at a higher ed conference just last week, and they explicitly said, “You will be representing the voice of the students by default” (AKA I guess b/c I’m in my 20s for 6 more months and everyone else there is 10 years older).

I am not your students. I don’t want to speak for them. If you can’t figure out how to include them in the conversation, that is exactly what’s wrong with this picture.
When Prof. Feldstein says that the vision is incomplete, I think that this piece is exactly what’s missing. You can’t create a revolutionary new education system *for* people. What’s happening in social media is showing that bottom-up, user participation is the only way.
Prof. Downes hits this point really well, I think.
“In fact, what we see on the internet, and especially (albeit constrained) in web 2.0 services, a blossoming of creativity and initiative. Even if this currently represents only a minority of the population (and studies, depending on how you look at them, argue both ways) it seems clear that this is something that has taken hold and is in the process of becoming mainstream. It is activity and work that is taking place outside educational institutions, and would, if it could, take place outside the corporate environment. ”

I would like to make visible the learning that people (students is such a dull word) are doing of their own accord and own initiative. I think when certain educational projects (Wikipedia and TED Talks are two obvious examples) get too popular, audience-driven and exciting they naturally exit the realm of what we consider to be education, because we all know education is boring, hard work imposed from outside authorities.
Just because you didn’t decide what people should be learning doesn’t mean it’s not education.

Update: I was using the term a bit jocularly and inexactly, but for the record:
“Michael Feldstein is Principal Product Manager for Academic Enterprise Solutions (formerly Academic Enterprise Initiative, or AEI) at Oracle Corporation.”

“Stephen Downes works for the National Research Council of Canada…specializes in the fields of online learning, new media, pedagogy and philosophy.”

5 Responses to “Thoughts On Michael Feldstein, Stephen Downes, David Wiley & the Open Ed Movement”

  1. If starting a conversation was your goal, then you are doing a great job. Your work is nothing if not provocative–in a good way. (As an aside, I’m not a professor, although I appreciate your giving me the benefit of the doubt.) And you’re right that you have stepped into the role of being a voice for your generation, whether or not that was your intention. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, especially when balanced with the sense of humility that you show here.

    I particularly like the last sentence of your post, but it begs the question of what education is and, maybe more importantly, why you want it. There’s nothing wrong with leaving that undefined for an individual, but when you start having taxpayers or teachers or institutions or governments or any other non-student stakeholders (whether individuals or organizations) investing in it, there has to be some agreement on what it’s *for* in order to get the cooperative effort. One of the things that I took away from your first chapter is that, as problematic as the bundling of various services may be for today’s university, it’s exactly the putting together of all of the pieces that enabled different stakeholders to believe that they were investing in…well…whatever it was that they wanted the university to be. There was a productive ambiguity in its purpose which enabled the creation of social and economic bonding. If those bonds break, if you break the Katamari Damacy, then you need some other cohesive force if you don’t want downsizing and disaggregation to turn into atomization.

    If students are going to step up and demand a new social contract (still a big “if” at this point), then all the stakeholders who participate in that contract need to have some agreement regarding its goals and their importance. Without that, DIY U will mean that students are on their own.

  2. For the record, I should also not be referred to as “professor”.

  3. [...] Thoughts On Michael Feldstein, Stephen Downes, David Wiley & the Open Ed Movement » DIY U [...]

  4. Mark McGuire says:

    Hi Anya

    Greetings from New Zealand.

    I just ordered a copy of DIY U after reading the sample chapter of the book and following some of the online comments that it has generated.

    Stephen Downes initiated a useful discussion about your book and the ideas it presents on his website (http://bit.ly/aI5WwD). The following is my contribution to that thread, which deals, in part, with the question of whether or not the problems associated with institutionalized education can be solved by creating different kinds of institutions (or reformed versions of the institutions we already have).

    “I must agree with Stephen here. The problem with institutions and organizations is not limited to education. Over time, institutions almost inevitably experience goal displacement. This is the process by which the initial objectives (the provision of education and support for research, for example) are superseded by the need to protect and expand the increasingly expensive and entrenched management structures and administrative personal. Branding, marketing, and advertising become central concerns and require increasing resources. Words (mission statements, slogans, and tag lines) replace, and are often at odds with, action. The image of the institution in the media becomes more important than the reality on the ground. Diversity and criticism is suppressed by the requirement that the organization speaks with one voice. Top-down management structures and increasing job specialization hinder innovation and discourage a sense of personal responsibility. By rewarding institutional loyalty, the process accelerates and becomes self perpetuating. In the education sector, these problems are exacerbated by the incredibly damaging idea that education is just another business selling commodities to consumers in a “free” and competitive market. Education is a human right, a public good, and a community project.”

    Electricity enabled the centralization of production and contributed to the conditions that led to the development of the 20th century corporation. The Internet, and related networked digital communication technologies, is enabling new kinds of formations that don’t require the same physical plant or organizational structures. We can become self-actualizing searchers, connectors, and learners in a collaborative, public, and open environment without predetermined rules or preordained leaders. By recombining the free exchange of ideas and artifacts with everyday social life and work, we can reinvigorate our communities as we reinvent education. Most established institutions and the elites who own them, manage them, or are employed by them, will not give up their privileged and powerful positions without a fight. This will have to be a bottom up movement.

    All the best,


  5. monika hardy says:

    I can’t put the book down. Well I did for a bit to post this:

    We shouldn’t need more money, or time, or real life problems to solve…
    we just need to be smarter about choices.

    Thank you Anya.. for sharing your insight and expertise.

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