Of Gnomes and Lifelong Learning: a #digped Discussion

Of what use is education? Of what use are the educational institutions we’ve erected in the 20th and 21st centuries?

On Friday, June 7 from 1:00 – 2:00pm Eastern (10:00 – 11:00am Pacific), Hybrid Pedagogy will host a Twitter discussion under the hashtag #digped to inspect how traditional education prepares us (or does not prepare us) for a life of learning. As Sean has argued, “The learner has changed, evolving before our eyes into the autodidact, and so our institutions and pedagogies must cooperate (or at least compensate) by becoming responsive, flexible, and decentered.” Embracing pedagogies that speak to lifelong learning may be a matter of looking more intently at our goals, looking back at our earliest learning experiences, and looking out to the communities that will foster us later.

The conversation curated and archived via Storify.

Our educational institutions have become credentialing authorities, more concerned with completion than with authentic learning. Rather than looking for the instrumental value of an education, we must not lose sight, as Robin recently argued, of the importance of humanistic inquiry involving strategies of building, curation, and non-consumptive reading.

“[D]igital humanities scholarship has caused us to examine more carefully how the discursive forms — including the channels of distribution — within our discipline perpetuate both a failing academic hierarchy and an out-of-control copyright regime. We should also be asking what our pedagogy, designed to teach students how to reproduce those discursive forms, is doing.”

Education is a path to agency — the social, political, and economic agency of the learner. Economic concerns should not take precedence over everything else, nor should we allow a focus on jobs and the economic bottom line to deplete the real value of our educational institutions as incubators of positive social and political change.

Over the past several months, Hybrid Pedagogy has begun to consider the social utility of the collaborativedigitally-enabledmaterialist pedagogy for which we advocate. For example, most would acknowledge being successful in a wide variety of careers requires effective collaboration. What we rarely consider, though, when talking about collaboration as pedagogy, is how the success of communities outside the workplace requires collaboration as well.

Recently, Robin took on the job of organizing the class project for the annual auction fundraiser at her daughter’s school. After tossing around ideas together at a parents’ meeting, the group decided to build a gnome village, complete with houses, quilted landscape, figurines, and furnishings. None had the skills required to complete the entire project individually; but through careful planning and coordination — virtual and face-to-face — the group built something beautiful. Successful communities — whether they are schools, neighborhoods, or political parties — always require active, collaborative participation from a majority of community members.

The conditions under which we collaborate in the classroom are very closely aligned with the conditions under which we collaborate in our families, communities, and organizations. As with class projects, community projects often have to compete for our time and resources in ways collaborations on the job do not. Further, they often operate without clear chains of command and accountability, relying instead on a personal sense of obligation and investment in the project’s end goals to motivate participation. When we teach collaboration in the classroom, then, we must remember we are teaching learners to collaborate in lifelong ways, not merely to navigate established hierarchies and authority at school or work.

An education that is attentive only to what students might need in the workplace cannot adequately prepare students for their lives outside of it. And this is where education must head next. We must create, lead, inspire, and empower lifelong learners, those who will take their educations into unanticipated areas of their lives.

This week’s #digped chat will focus on questions about how education prepares us for a life lived in community. Here are some questions in advance of the discussion:

  • How can the lessons we learned as children, and in early education, inform the way we teach and learn as adults?
  • Is collaboration merely a classroom exercise, or is it a meaningful lifelong learning tool?
  • Do our educations prepare us for a fuller life? If so, why do we focus as much as we do on specialization, accreditation, and credentialing? Do these support lifelong learning?
  • What are schools for? Should academic institutions nurture the lifelong learner, or is this not their purview?

Add thoughts and questions below in advance of the conversation and join us on June 7 at 1:00pm EST (10:00am PST). For those unable to attend this week, Hybrid Pedagogy’s #digped occurs on the first Friday of every month. Our next #digped conversation will occur on Friday, July 5, 2013, same time, same place. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments below or tweet to @hybridped.

[Photo by Bob Jagendorf]

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