What’s this about Edupunk?

My first chance with my aggregator in days was the few minutes I had yesterday afternoon, at Olive Garden, waiting on my meal from the appetizer page — iPhone in hand.  At the top of the list was Stephen Downes’ daily filter — a good reason not to get very far. 

First to catch my eye was mention of North Carolina institution, Wake Forest University.  It seems that they, along with a growing number of liberal arts colleges and universities, are not requiring SAT or ACT scores for acceptance, or are making the standardized test optional.  The concern, according to a May 27 New York Times article (2 Colleges End Entrance Exam Requirement), are growing doubts about the tests’ validity in predicting academic success.  Also, there is growing evidence that these standardized test favor applicants from privileged backgrounds.  The article says that..

Some schools that have made standardized tests optional have found that they have attracted a more diverse student body, with no decline in academic ability.

Wake Forest University’s decision is important, because of it’s reputation, ranked 30th among national universities by U.S. News & World Report.

Cyberpunk Picture
A picture from Flickr
What also rocked my boat, and continued to draw my attention through the calamari and stuff mushrooms (a mistake), was reference to Edupunk.  Like Downes, I was drawn to the Cyberpunk movement, read many of the novels, and was intrigued by the network cowboy thing.  Edupunk, I’m not so sure about, for several reasons, partly because I’m too old to be comfortable identifying with the word punk.  Yet there are some very interesting distinctions being made in the still very sparse conversations about the concept.

It seems to have been coined by Jim Groom in his blog, Bavablog.  He starts providing examples in Permapunk.  Another, more direct explanation comes from Mike Caulfield in Edupunk.  It seems to be a rejection of  recent moves, among corporate contributors to the education community, to insert aspects of Web 2.0 applications into their products.  Specifically mentioned was Blackboard.

Mike implies that all the version 2.0 references may be part of the problem.

..Classroom 2.0, Learning 2.0, and even Web 2.0 itself — work against this very notion that what we are chasing here is not product, but style. What does the 2.0 version number symbolize if not a shrink-wrapped box or set of features?

It is certainly one of the most interesting aspects of the read/write web that so much of it has come from very small, garage and dorm-room endeavors, and that the growing toolset lends itself to inventiveness among its users — emoting a do-it-yourself (DIY) spirit. 

As we continue to promote the use of a more participatory information landscape for learning environments, I think that we should be explicitly promoting this DIY aspect — a sense that the information can be shaped and controlled by professional educators, and that sharing this control with students can be an appropriate, information-abundant, learning pedagogy. 

I do not have any real objection to corporate embrace of these tools.  We’re all trying to make a living. 

What worries me, though, is school officials hearing the buzz, and thinking that they can buy their way into the crowd, rather than learning their way in.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.