Aaron Sumner


SXSW Interactive 2009 Day Three Takeaways: Edupunk: Open Source Education

"Edupunk is about how teaching and learning technologies can transform education." It was pretty much all downhill from there for Edupunk: Open Source Education. The long and short of it: Existing, corporately-created learning management systems make it too easy to shovel content online and institutionalize education. These systems make education transactional, not relational–the current model is "oppressive."

From there, this panel devolved into an academic debate over whether universities are still relevant, whether or not it's OK to use Twitter, Google, etc. in education, and what we mean by the "public good" and schools' role in working toward it.

I don't want to exert any more energy recapping this panel. What I would like to share is the back channel commentary that erupted. The panel, being the "punks" they claim to be, developed their own chat mechanism through which to share messages with the audience. (Aside: This mechanism had a horrible user interface in that the URL was too long and included too much non-English. Who still enters .cgi in URLs they hand out? That's worse than included index.html in your address, almost.) It got what, maybe 10 messages? Twitter, meanwhile, with its #sxswed hashtag, was lighting up with criticism of the panel, its lack of real-world credibility, and overall academic, ivory tower snobbery. The money shot was when someone used the "punk" chat mechanism to share with everyone that the Twitter-based chatter was for more voluminous and engaging. Presenters, be ready: The back channel is talking about you whether you like it or not.

In closing, here's my general rule of thumb: If you have to use your clothes, or the music you listen to, or the actual work "punk" to help others identify you as "punk" (edupunk, Rob Curley, cough cough), you ain't punk.

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