on the napsterization of education

Another post on how education is undergoing (or will very soon be forced to undergo) a napster-like disruption/transformation/eruption.

But napster didn’t disrupt music. It disrupted the previous business model for distributing recorded music content. Musicians still exist. People still write/play/perform/record/buy/download music. The workflow has changed. The people who control the pipelines have changed.

Digital technologies are disrupting the current business model(s) for distributing educational content. And that’s a great thing. $500 worth of required textbooks for a single course is just plain messed up. Academic journals charging researchers hundreds or thousands of dollars to gain access to research funded by public institutions, also messed up.

But these technologies aren’t disrupting education itself. That’s up to the teachers, students, and administrators. They’re the ones who need to figure out what to make of the transformative technologies and with having free (or nearly free) access to content and each other.

Falling back to calling it “napsterization” – as if that is a magic recipe for disruption – is just a lazy narrative. Yes. Things are changing. But it’s not going to be a relatively instant bit-shift from Old Education to New Education through the power of modern chemistry.

Education is not just about granting access to content. If it was, then we’d close every school and just let people go to the library. Education is about the activities we do with each other in our various roles, to build/connect/try/experiment/explore/create/etc… – these are things that build on content, but content itself is not sufficient for education. Music is different, because unless you’re a musician yourself, music is about consuming content (whether pre-recorded or listening to live performances).

Bassett, C. (2013). Science, delirium, lies?

The potential for thinking through new re–combinations, new ways to draw up code and language into a new media politics are suggestive. But I want finally to return to the question this article began with: more or less? This text has been framed by a belief that social media monopolies ought to be disrupted — and in the name of at least two of the things they are axiomatically understood to promote (social justice, solidarity as a form of community) and do not. It has been argued that this disruption might be attempted through a toolset — silence, disruption of language, and the exploitation of language’s capacity for polysemy (the metaphor and the lie) — that is not often considered as apt for such a task. My conclusion, and here I return to salute Ivan Illich, is that these tools can be deployed to produce other kinds of more convivial engagements — a better commons — than our apparently ‘social’ media enable. Above all, I have wished to take seriously the idea that communication density, and increasing communicational volume, does not — in and of itself — indicate more understanding, freedom, openness, or ‘good’. To make this case demands also taking seriously the idea of a media politics that begins with silence.

Bassett, C. (2013). Science, delirium, lies?. First Monday [Online]. 18(3).

martin weller on disrupting disruption

Disruptors are not concerned about your specific problem, they only have blanket solutions. They don’t worry about making something useful, only about sounding revolutionary. Disruption is about ego. You see disruption appeals to people because it’s revolutionary, elite, new, sexy. Just being useful or practical looks all dowdy besides glamorous disruption.

So, everything has to be disruptive, a game-changer, a revolution, an all-encompassing tsunami of change. It can’t just be useful in a particular context. That educause piece judges OERs a failure precisely because they are not disruptive. That tells you more about the author than it does about OERs – in their world only disruption matters. Take the OER based TESSA project. Useful? Undoutedly. Disruptive? Probably not. So, who cares about it, right? We should aim higher than getting well paid speaking gigs for middle-aged men with goatees who skateboard to work.

Martin Weller: Disrupting Disruption

So good.

Disruption for the sake of disruption is just chaos. Which may not be a bad thing, if it were somehow useful. But directed, purposeful, mindful change is more interesting, and likely more sustainable. Without this sense of purpose, all disruption does is blow up the establishment (which, again, may not be a bad thing) while leaving a vacuum in its place – fodder for crass commercialization and privatization of education, corporatization of curriculum, etc…

Disrupt, if things are ripe for disruption, but build something sustainable to replace what is taken apart. That’s the more interesting part of the activity. Disruption is just clearing the ground for construction. It’s a step, not the goal.

Update: Bonus video. While rereading Martin’s post, I remembered the I Met the Walrus video, where a 14 year old kid sneaks into John Lennon’s hotel and interviews him. Part of the interview is essentially about disruption vs. mindful change. How the ones that replace the establishment become the establishment, and how the infrastructure of the previous establishment is still useful.