[iDC] refreshing education

Ryan Griffis ryan.griffis at gmail.com
Thu Oct 27 19:58:32 EDT 2005

I think Anna and Simon's points about the dangers of technological 
determinism are really important here, and relate to other things being 
discussed of a non-technological nature (as i guess all of this is, 
The notion that the "classroom hasn't changed" and is resisting the 
historical trajectory that the rest of the world is taking is kind of 
odd. University's are in a particular state of crisis (in the US) and 
becoming ever larger venues for the interests of privatization. it's 
easy to look at a large lecture hall, complete with a corduroy jacketed 
professor using slides, and take that as a metonym for the university 
structure. but i think that would be a mistake.
universities are a business, and one that uses what may seem like 
"antiquated models," based on numbers and scarce, politicized funding.
sure, the "literate culture" represented by traditional disciplines in 
academia seem to replicate Greenberg's opposition of modernism 
(literate culture) versus kitsch (pop culture). but i think we have to 
also consider what the desires of students are (and importantly, where 
they come from) when we think about shifting from a hierarchal model to 
one of collaboration and peer learning. college is an extension of a 
larger educational paradigm, not a break from it. i think many 
academics are resisting non-hierarchal models for a reason. this isn't 
a defense of traditional models, just a cautionary remark about the 
unbounded critique of them.
the US context also requires an acknowledgment of powers that are using 
examples of "experimental education" (in many instances just 
traditional classes that are merely talking about pop culture in a 
critical manner) in order to disassemble public education as we know 
to criticize educators/education without dealing with the whole 
political economy (Marxism was brought up afterall...) surrounding its 
mechanisms seems counterproductive. looking at the parallel 
developments in the business world would also be crucial. talk about 
the classroom in the living room, what about the cubicle in the 
sure collaborative teaching, peer learning, inventive networking, 
appropriation as productive tactic... all great.
i don't think we get there by pointing the finger at power-point. it's 
a tool. maybe not as interesting or groundbreaking as P2P software, but 
it's not the shackle of progress either.
yes, university's are in trouble (in the US at least), but i don't 
think that their path to survival is necessarily bound to liberation 
unfortunately. the removal of the top-down pedagogical system doesn't 
necessarily lead to utopia. i've been in many a faculty meeting where 
"customer" was used seamlessly with "student."
that being said, i agree that there is something to making micro 
changes (taking a cue from de Certeau)...
i don't mean to write in this authoritative tone, as my experience is 
actually pretty limited. but i'm a product of the academic pyramid 
scheme myself.

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