The (edtech) hippie revolt.

23 04 2014

One of the strangest rabbit holes I’ve gone down as a result of all this edtech blogging is the association between early developments in computing and the counterculture of the 1960s. While I’m not going to try to explain it here, you can read a really good summary of those links in John Markoff’s What the Dormouse Said from 2006. I actually assigned that book this semester and am currently pursuing those links with students in my 1945-Present class for the first time.

My students final paper assignment asks them to compare Markoff’s book to Michael Lewis’ The New New Thing and look for continuities between the 1960s and the 1990s. Much to my amazement, we found at least nine or ten of them while exploring possible paper theses the other day. I think it helps that Lewis’ book is now just as dated as the history that Markoff covers (which actually makes it better for use in history classes than when I first started assigning it!).

If you’re wondering whether I might have brought this paper topic up to the present, the answer is “no.” Every last inkling of the Hippie Revolt has dissipated from Silicon Valley. How do I know? Check out this note which my friend Historiann got from her administration up in Fort Collins the other day:

This seminar will provide information about the university’s involvement in a national consortium that promises to enhance learning and teaching. The consortium, which includes several leading research universities, is exploring new directions in the use of instructional technologies. The intent is to facilitate and accelerate digital learning using the best integrated digital systems available that make it easy for faculty and enhance learning. The ecosystem consists of three components: a digital content repository/reflector, a service delivery platform, and a learning analytics service. The digital content repository/reflector will allow us to regain control over our digital learning objectives, allow faculty to choose to share/reuse digital content easily and seamlessly while preserving their digital rights. The service delivery platform is Canvas by Instructure, and has the characteristics of easier use by faculty and faster development of courses in it. The best learning analytics will be deployed and evolve apace as this area develops.

Historiann was rightfully flustered by this terrific example of edtech gobbledy gook. [My favorite word in it is “ecosystem.” What’s yours?] I’d try to translate for her, but what’s the point? That would be playing the game on their home field in a struggle that we faculty are bound to lose.

Instead, let me suggest an alternative strategy: Think outside the box. If administrators and for-profit edtech concerns want to colonize our educational turf, then move the playing field. The easiest way to do that is what I’m pretty sure Historiann’s response is going to be: Don’t use their commercial learning management system and don’t teach online.

But even people interested in using more online tools than Historiann don’t have to surrender control of their classrooms to “The Man.” As I wrote in the Chronicle Vitae piece linked to above, Jim Groom, who blogs at Bava Tuesdays and who remains my hero, is working on a project to facilitate and teach faculty members to control their own domains, Reclaim Hosting. I, for one, want to learn how to use technology to teach history better, but I HAVE TO BE THE ONE WHO DECIDES WHAT CONSTITUTES “BETTER.” After all, I’m the one with all that teaching experience, not our administrators and not the techies who work for our LMS provider.

Does this position make me a hippie? Good. [Insert obligatory legal weed in Colorado joke here.] I think educational technology could use a lot more hippie and a lot less revolt – at least revolts of the unnecessarily disruptive kind. Don’t you?



7 responses

23 04 2014

Heh. Thanks for the link & the trailer for Hippie Revolt. Awesome!!!

Yes, my answer is exactly as you predict. Maybe when I return to teaching in fall 2015, I’ll call my classes “be-ins.”

23 04 2014

I’m particularly fond of the phrase “digital content repository/reflector,” which makes me picture a mailbox holding the digital content with a bicycle reflector slapped onto it.

23 04 2014

as someone who lived in the East Village in the 60’s and got started online in California in the 90’s. I agree — without even needing to look at the sources or looking at an image of Stephen Downes to remind me. There are also some good pieces by early computing, network people along the same lines. I’d look for them right now, but I’m trying to cut back on my multi-tasking


23 04 2014

Use the side door 😉

23 04 2014

Wow. What a great example of a rhetorical FAIL.

This part is just comprehensible enough to be scary:

“The digital content repository/reflector will allow us to regain control over our digital learning objectives, allow faculty to choose to share/reuse digital content easily and seamlessly while preserving their digital rights.”

What the hell does it mean to “regain control” of one’s “objectives”? And what are “digital rights”? (I’m guessing it means “intellectual property rights in your course materials.”) I’m thinking of that old adage: when someone offers you money, close your wallet. When your administration offers to increase your control, beware of losing control. When it offers to preserve your intellectual property rights, better check for loopholes in the university’s IP policy. Before uploading your course materials onto that repository/reflector, better read the fine print.

23 04 2014
Pat Lockley

I sort of wrote this about this. I want to write code with people, not for people

23 04 2014

Everyone–go read Pat’s post. It’s wonderful.

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