MMDU: The Missing Manual

MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly (MMDU) is a rambunctious series of discussions about the past, present, and future of higher education, focusing on topics rising directly from Cathy N. Davidson’s distributed #futureEd experiment and its various offspring.

There is no more pedagogical an act than conscientious objection. There is no better way to teach than to smile, sit down, and refuse to do things in ordinary ways. No better way to learn than to organize a revolt. Because learning is always a process of unlearning, of letting go of previously cherished notions and ideas, every teacher must be a revolutionary, and she must inspire in her students the willingness to dismantle.

HASTAC has as its motto “Difference is our operating system.” Difference is necessary to revolution and to change. It is only in the space of the exchange of difference, the dialogues of disagreement and discernment, that we can see the frayed edges of our reason and experience and redefine our understanding. Making friends is an act of radical political resistance. And being kind, remaining open, unbiased, and disregarding the at-the-ready hierarchies of higher education is an operation of embracing difference. It is also a nuanced, careful, and meaningful form of conscientious objection.

In “A User’s Guide to Forking Education,” Jesse argues that competition is one of the things we must break in order to rebuild education for the digital age. All of these things: “Backbiting. Intellectual elitism. Anti-intellectualism. Online learning should be more friendly, more collaborative, more open, and more accepting. We need to create pedagogies of care online and allow what we discover in these new spaces to influence what we do at brick-and-mortar institutions.” A consideration of difference informs hybridity, and digital pedagogies are always in dialogue with brick-and-mortar, chalkboard pedagogies. But there is hybridity also in the intersections between teachers and students, between the institution of education and all that is not that institution.

A truly radical operating system of difference is one that recognizes education has no meaning beyond its use in the world. Not as job training, but as outreach. Sean states in “Collaborative Peer Review: Gathering the Academy’s Orphans” that “so many of those trained to teach persist in doing their scholarly work inside the academy, lending their voices only to academic debates and publications. What is needed are rampant teachers, and a rampant education that permeates and infuses itself everywhere.” If education remains cloistered, only in conversation with itself, it will always be ivory, always be elite, no matter how diverse a population lives within its walls. In our recent CFP: “Pedagogical Alterity: Stories of Race, Gender, Disability, Sexuality”, we wrote, “the story of identity in a learning space can’t be told by one person […] but only by a cacophony of voices, a gathering together — of sounds, of ideas, of pedagogical intentions.”

How we relate to one another is how we teach; how we teach is how we relate. These two things are not as separate as our professionalism suggests. Teaching is no more a skill than hosting a good party, and no less a talent than taking the stage to entertain. To learn well we must, as Melville suggests, “disobey ourselves.” Beliefs about how well education has worked up until now — beliefs we use to propagate the future of education — must be let go and we must deeply and profoundly enter a space where difference is all.

This week, MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly will go where it has promised to go all along, and where our conversations up to now have inevitably been leading. We will talk about building a new operating system for education, one based on the hypothesis that there is no more pedagogical an act than conscientious objection. This will be our own peculiar node in what Cathy N. Davidson has been calling “building higher education from scratch.”

We will be collaborating with participants throughout the day in a Google Doc with the intention of creating a manual for the future of higher education. We begin with a question from two weeks ago: If we object to the increasing standardization of education, how and where do we build sites of resistance? And a call to co-create a guide — a how-to manual for saying “I would prefer not to…” in a grander and more collective way? As ever, Hybrid Pedagogy’s impulse is to turn the conversation at its apex from theorizing to action, from thinking to doing. The ephemeral space of the Twitter chat becomes where we rally and reflect. The Google Doc becomes the space where we make our ideas manifest.

So, join us in a Google Doc beginning at midnight Eastern tonight, Feb. 25. And enter the #moocmooc fray on Twitter Wednesday at 1:00PM Eastern. Check to see when to join us in your time zone. And, if you’re unable to participate this week, there’s one final MOOC MOOC chat scheduled next week! See our original announcement for info. about the 6-week discussion series, and don’t fret if this is the first chat you’re joining — here’s a recap. And feel free to get the discussion rolling in the comments below.

[Photo by notsogoodphotography]

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