[iDC] duplication theory of educational value

Margaret Morse morse at ucsc.edu
Fri Sep 16 19:07:24 UTC 2011

Sent this just to Adrian by mistake--and saw that John and Alex responded in a similar vein.  Hope you don't feel piled upon, Adrian.  Your post was a strong catalyst.  MM

Dear Adrian,

I feel like I must step in here.  Your list of what is needed to be educated is lacking in some very important elements.  Also, why should we be thinking in terms of either DIY or a formal education?  I think we need both in our lives--I learned as much from the context of a university town--with its misfits, eccentrics and brilliant people ahead of their time, fomenting ideas and developing skills and experiences that grounded me in the school of life--as I did in my classes. The university and the town are overlapping communities that are like a catalyst and generator.  In my isolated past, I knew what it was like to be a autodidact without discourses to test and hone my ideas.  At university I had exposure to thinkers who were far more useful than experts, people I would not have anticipated studying with before I discovered them.  They were multi-generational and in touch with history.  Many were Jews in exile from fascism--I was lucky to catch the tail end of their careers.  

In other words, your list doesn't include the matrix or culture in which ideas and practices grow and are exchanged and the cross-roads aspect of a university community with many discourses.  Perhaps such a scene can be duplicated, for instance, in a hub like Silicon Valley or New York.  I would wonder, in the first case, whether the matrix includes the breadth of historical and cultural knowledge and experience that helps create social as well as personal meaning and fulfillment in what one is creating.  As for New York, it IS a rich mixture of artists/intellects and scholars.  If you are thinking about the cost of education now and whether it pays for itself in careers, the statistics I overhear suggest it still does.  However, an education has intangible value that would not be utterly destroyed even if one did not achieve the specific goals and aims one expects to. Then the improvisation of DIY becomes extremely useful.  This is not to deny the suffering and deprivation that all the people without jobs endure.  Nor does it forget the stratification effects of our contemporary political and economic system. 

For whatever it is worth--

On Sep 16, 2011, at 5:38 AM, Adrian Miles wrote:

> hi George, et al
> On 16 September 2011 03:25, George Siemens <gsiemens at elearnspace.org> wrote:
> I'd be interested to hear comments from list members on where we find the value point for education today...i.e. why go to university instead of a diy approach?
> My thoughts are here: http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2011/09/15/duplication-theory-of-educational-value/
> I am currently wondering similar questions, though in the specific context of media education and practice. I'm also writing a presentation that is going to be a bit of a riff on this idea for a conference in October here in Australia. But my answer is pretty simple. I'll stick to media as it makes my argument easier, but I think it translates pretty well (YMMV).
> 1. you once went to uni to get access to equipment that were otherwise scarce:
> i. video cameras/edit suites (very expensive, big, etc)
> ii. expertise in how to use such things
> 2. you once went to uni to get access to resources that were otherwise scarce:
> i. reference books
> ii. journals
> iii. a decent library that had books in your area of interest
> 3. you once went to uni to get access to expertise that was otherwise scarce:
> i. experts (academics)
> ii. content via these academics (lectures, classes)
> In this model (these are the reasons I had for going to university, and I was mature age, and largely self taught around cinema studies) quantity matters. How big is the library, how significant the academics, how good the cameras. You learnt, you didn't, but the 'experience' of going to uni was as much access to this stuff as it was about anything else. In other words access was what generated the quality of the experience, the institution in many ways didn't actually have to do a lot, except be.
> This model is now redundant for all the reasons that I think are obvious to us. So, if I don't need a university for access to equipment (I have a video camera in my pocket, my laptop is an edit suite, and I can distribute to the planet via the web), or for high quality commentary and knowledge (free journals, library access, MIT courseware, blogs, specialist online forums), and I can now email these very academics, practitioners or just listen to podcasts of very high quality content, why would I go to uni?
> Stephen Downes answered this very well recently, along the lines (I am paraphrasing) of "learning how to become". The scarcity model is gone, but it is still about quality and the quality is in enabling for students a shift in their understanding. Of themselves as thinker practitioners (or practitioner thinkers), of their discipline, of their relation to all this stuff out there, of their role in a knowledge economy where knowing how counts for more than knowing what. 
> I've no idea how much sense that made, as I'm still distilling this. But increasingly I understand that the difference I have made that made a difference was never been about content, about teaching *more*, but in providing, mentoring, modelling a variety of things that are more abstract, and teaching myself how to help students to find and learn these things themselves. What Schön would characterise as some sort of reflective practice, the sort of 'back talk' that you do and need to learn to find and listen to to be a good theorist, maker, learner. So the qualitative change is not in them coming to learn more, that's a collateral outcome that's going to happen anyway. It is a qualitative change in their own understanding about something that will matter. Or, as I mention above, learning how to become. 
> I could go on, but that's enough. However, I will finish by saying that the contemporary university is in general not like this, and to do this you more or less find an eddy for yourself in the university and do it because the university as an institution is stuck in about 1980 (on a good day) and as far as I can see still thinks my points 1 to 3 above are what matter.
> an appropriate closing
> Adrian Miles
> about.me/vogmae
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