I have a piece in the Winter issue of GOOD Magazine about Dennis Littky’s work with College Unbound. I wrote about College Unbound briefly in DIY U and I’ve followed his work closely since them. I am impressed as hell with what they are doing.

Over the past two years, Littky has launched College Unbound as a prototype for how higher learning can cater to kids, instead of the other way around. Students live in small, tight-knit communities, work one-on-one with advisers to fashion individualized learning plans built around a job or internship that speaks to a personal passion, pursue independent research related to their fields, and cover the humanities and math together in seminars. It’s an update of the educational model Littky has been refining over three decades…

Littky’s artisanal, hands-on approach—he often uses the slogan “one student at a time”—flies in the face of the prevailing vision for education reform. Typified by Khan Academy’s short math videos and adaptive learning software, which were lauded by Bill Gates himself from the TED Conference stage this year, the new model calls for cutting-edge technology, millions of users, and massive amounts of automatically generated data on student outcomes.

UPDATE: I am beyond thrilled with the two individuals who have presented themselves to help out with this course. You will be in good hands if you want to participate–I am excited to see what they come up with!

I’m going on maternity leave in about a month. I’d love to find someone to take over the next round of our course on P2Pu.org.You’ll be partnering with the awesome Alison Cole.

Basically this is a group of people from all over the world interested in self-learning. New people are signing up every couple of days. They are working on the tasks found in the Tutorials section of the Edupunks Guide: writing and posting personal learning plans, trying to build their learning networks and find mentors.

This is like a community manager job where your job is to engage with and encourage people interested in pursuing their own independent paths. Get them to talk to each other and to offer feedback and help point them to other useful resources. We’ve tried posting videos and screencasts and scheduling Skype calls as a way to make the group more interactive.

This is for people really interested in online and self-directed learning, but you don’t have to be experienced. P2Pu is an awesome community that is actively building, updating and experimenting with their platform for self-organized learning.

Time commitment is only a few hours a week for up to 12 weeks, whatever you feel like you can do.

send me an email at DIYUBook@gmail.com if you want to try it!

I spoke about student debt on the “human mic” at Occupy Washington Square Park, described in the Village Voice as “a smaller group autonomous of, but loosely affiliated with” #ows. They’ve been having general assemblies, working groups, and speakers including Angela Davis and Judith Butler.

Here’s a video.

An NYU professor, Andrew Ross, who also spoke, is affiliated with organizing the occupy student debt working group. One proposal they’re knocking around is a “debt refusal” campaign–get 1 million people to sign on and then all stop paying their loans.

It’s an intriguing idea that I haven’t heard before. People who can’t pay back their loans are in a pretty rough spot as individuals, but then again, it’s no guarantee that there’d be safety in numbers, either.

Anyway, it was fun speaking for the mic (where the crowd repeats your words every few phrases.) Here’s what I said.

36 million Americans have Student Loan Debt
That’s two-thirds of college graduates
It totals one trillion dollars
that’s more than credit card debt
$27,000 per person
I’ve been writing about this problem
for seven years
Student Loan Debt negates the American dream
We’re told that if we work hard
the smart ones,
the ones that deserve it
will be let through the gates
and into the middle class
but there’s a catch
College tuition has risen
more than any other good or service
In the US Economy
since 1978!

Tuition increases and debt increases
make each other possible.

So what’s to be done?
Number one, Abolition
I think that’s a nonstarter politically on its own
you have to admit that American college students
are a privileged part of the 99 percent
But if you call for a general amnesty
On all kinds of debt
A bailout for the 99 percent
I think it makes sense morally
And even economically
Number 2, direct action
You can just stop paying your loans
I know people who have done it
You will never have credit
You will never have assets in your name
You will never go back to school
But the good news is
They can’t repossess your brain
Number 3, Bankruptcy protection
For both private and federal loans
This is very very important
It’s been shot down several times
In the past few years
But there are bills right now
In the House and Senate
And now’s a good time to call for it

Number 4, this is the most important
Attack the source
which is the cost of higher education
My last two books
and the free Edupunks Guide
are about self-organized peer to peer forms of learning
often using open digital resources
that are free or very cheap
I see the Occupy movement
And this event this afternoon
as an example of self-organized education
I think everyone has the power
to take control of your own learning
and provide an alternative
that puts the institutions on notice
that they must lower their costs
Because education is a human right.