These are trying times for higher education. Universities all over the world are rippling with disruption, and educators are faced with an ultimatum: go with the flow or fight against the tide? The Learning Collective series invites fellow university educators and leaders to envision the future of higher education as learning becomes a free-range activity that is bound only by the learner’s drive and imagination. Stuff One of my favorite comedy routines is George Carlin’s 1986 bit about “Stuff” (NSFW) in which he rants about people’s focus on material things — owning things, storing things, and managing things. Like any solid comedy routine, beneath the profanity and laughter there’s a heavy dose of reality that we recognize and acknowledge. Comedic, not academic; but Carlin’s points are as solid as an anthropologist reflecting on behavior and culture. We have an innate drive to collect things, often beyond reason or logic. [Mine.] But it’s more than just collecting — it’s curating. Step one is acquisition of said-stuff (books, music, clothes, apps, trophies, toys), and step two is organization and presentation of said-stuff. Our collections include intangibles as well such as relationships, vacations, stories, knowledge, skills, and abilities. [ Post. Tag. Mine.] Carlin was on to something, even in 1981, prior to the big-bang of the interwebs, social-networks, GoPro cameras, badges, MOOCs, among other advancements. Knowledge, media, and relationships are boundless in the digital space, allowing us to collect, catalog and share exponentially. Gerhard Fischer articulates this artfully in his exploration of socio-technical systems and cultures of participation at the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design (L3D). L3D largely examines learning (as opposed to teaching) and how it occurs en-masse outside the traditional teacher-to-student classroom. Kickin’ It Old School It’s an unspoken rule in higher education that we shall not speak of our work in commercial terms, i.e. terms like marketplace and customers are a no-no. Our work is academic and transcendent, after all! But I’ll throw caution to the wind and say that we do, indeed, need to make money to survive and sustain. Higher education has a business model, and we do strive to stay competitive in the marketplace. Institutions collect too — students, tuition, grants, buildings, reputation. [ Like. Cite. Post. Tag. Tweet. Mine. ] So what happens to the knowledge broker when its commodity becomes free and abundant? Now that access to expertise is no longer confined to classrooms and textbooks, how do we sell tickets to the show? Free-range learning and knowledge-communities are abundant in the digital collector’s space. Sans-publisher. Sans-classroom. In today’s marketplace, learners curate media independently; they enlist in learning communities; and, they develop personal learning networks (PLNs) for support and guidance. It is a curator’s utopia — a renaissance for knowledge collection, organization, and sharing. This shift disrupts the business model for institutions and publishers who have traditionally curated, packaged and sold knowledge within campus walls. Brick and mortar institutions are on the verge of losing relevance. [ Pin. Plus. Like. Cite. Post. Tag. Tweet. Mine. ] The market, then, is evolving as a buyer’s market wherein institutions are losing the upper hand as learner options grow more abundant. Institutions and faculty are facing an unprecedented degree of critique and scorecard analytics, and learners are increasingly questioning their return-on investment. Digital ethnographer and anthropologist, Michael Wesch, explores this trend at-length in his work, most notably in his article Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance. Reviewing Wesch’s work in concert with Fischer’s cultures-of-participation and building on the thoughts of danah boyd and Clay Shirky emerges a compelling vision for the future of education in which the purpose of the learning institution is being turned on its head. Call to Action Today’s learners can organize themselves into collective-bargaining-units known as Class Mobs to leverage their networked mass to influence institutions, as they do politicians, wall street, mass media, and governments. In a world of Twitter-revolutions and Kickstarter campaigns, it’s possible now for learners to take ownership of social media to negotiate quality, cost, and expectations in their post-secondary education. And so the curators become co-creators in their own education; they are makers. To label the education marketplace as a buyer’s market then is not as accurate as labeling it a maker’s market. A place where learners curate and create their own learning experiences from multiple sources and leverage the institution to validate their knowledge, skills, and abilities. [ Rally. Pin. Plus. Like. Cite. Post. Tag. Tweet. Mine. ] This scenario is speculative, but the momentum is quite real and mounting. It redefines higher education, and that is freaking people out. It’s a revolution in-progress; the outcomes are disruptive and not definitive. But many within the ivory tower have assumed a defensive position, and some have taken up the offense. Change. Loss of control. Disruption. Not on my watch! Meanwhile, others are excited by the potential of institutions to adapt to the maker’s market. What would higher education look like if it courses, experience, and competency credentials were pursued a la carte? Change. Loss of control. Disruption. It’s about time! Whichever way you lean, it is undeniable that change is upon us. As Carlin inferred in 1981, people have innate instincts that shape behavior beyond reason or logic; they collect, curate, and make. Academic sources are likewise articulating this truth as it relates to digital culture and education (see: Fischer, Wesch, Boyd, and Shirky). #MustRead! Given this context and the great momentum before us, it’s natural to explore these futures, emerging faculty roles, the collateral damage, and emerging business models for the institution of higher education. In the spirit of open participation, learning community and digital ethnography, I encourage any and all to join, follow, and contribute to this stream of digital inquiry about how educators and systems might evolve. [ Subscribe. Rally. Pin. Plus. Like. Cite. Post. Tag. Tweet. Mine. ] Brad Hinson is an educator, technologist, and proponent of disruptive innovation. His 19 year career is a blend of information and academic technology leadership within the K-20 spectrum; with a distinct focus on emerging technologies, emerging pedagogies, and faculty professional development. He is a teacher, a student, an administrator, and a learning community activist; working closely with colleagues via the New Media Consortium, EDUCAUSE, WCET and random social networks. Today he serves as the Director of Teaching, Learning and Technology at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education and Human Development (SEHD) where he provides instruction and scaffolding for digital literacy, online/blended program development, and learning innovations. His research interests focus on education, digital media, and society; he likes robots, storytelling, and play; and he ruminates on all of the above on the open interwebs. @bradhinson | +Brad Hinson | dinq.us | firstname.lastname@example.org Photo credits CC BY-NC 2.0 via Thomas Hawk & CC BY 2.0 via mavis Share0Share0Share0Share0Share1Share0 Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.