I’ve been working on the college AT Vision, trying to hone it down. It’s an attempt to get beyond the technology and the hype.

But even with all the buzz removed, I still occassionally feel like the question of the AT plan is formulated in such a way that the answer can never be what we need it to be. Looking over some old posts of Artichoke (no stranger to writing policy herself) I found something that really resonated:

Beck made me realise how we have allowed ourselves to be compromised by the lure of edu_protectionism, how we we determinedly ignore the “integrated present” when we think about education.

All that froth over new communication structures and technologies in education, (and the “oh so casual” flinging of terms like 21st Century learners, digital immigrants/ digital natives, Web 2.0, social software, systemic and sustainable change into the conversation in staffrooms across New Zealand), means nothing if we continue with closed shop practice when it comes to future thinking about education.

There’s two things here. First, it’s to recognize that that if you situate the whole buzzword convention in the concentric fences of {student > teacher > class > course > discipline > school > college > world} you’ve done nothing of use, and probably done something quite harmful.

We know that already. That’s the reason the term edupunk spread through the web so quickly.

But it’s the second part of her formulation that impresses me today — the “protectionism” and the “closed shop” analogy. These fences are not accidental. They are tied into broader mechanisms of power, mechanisms which, among other things, provide me with paycheck every two weeks.

So what we want to talk about in a plan is how technology and a new orientation is providing people with the opportunity to critique, modify, fork, or ultimately discard social infrastructure. But of course the infrastructure is us.

So we talk instead about how this will empower them to be better employees, because that’s safe. We talk about productivity. And I hate to say it, but we talk about the Cognitive Surplus. But none of that gets us there, because we’re standing on the rug that needs to be switched out.

What’s the answer? I’m not sure it’s in the AT plan, but it’s related to it. I think we have to stop running away from these social dimensions, and tease out Artichoke’s insight. It’s true that the University is a famously cloistered place, but it’s also true that the majority of people that ended up here ended up here because they are committed to a concept of social good. And they believe what they share in their classes can change people’s lives for the better.

I think our conversations have to start with that, and Artichoke has provided a good root metaphor to begin thinking with here.

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