CTLT Dialogues

The Blog of the Center for Teaching & Learning with Technology


Posted by Cathy Kelley on June 2, 2008

The Wired Campus Blog (produced by The Chronicle of Higher Education) had an interesting post today about a “new” concept that has been called “Edupunk.” Edupunk is a rebellion against one-size-fits-all  course management systems, and takes advantage of free Web 2.0 tools and other DIY approaches to education. The idea is to put students in the center of learning – which was the theme of this year’s TNT event. The analogy to punk music is that punk was also a do-it-yourself approach to music, opposed to big business, and represented a rebellion against the sterile pop sound of the late 70s and early 80s.  Edupunk is do-it-yourself, opposed to big business, and is a rebellion against the sterile environment of corporate course management systems.


Make sure to follow the links inside the article to get a full understanding of Edupunk.

I think that the case against the big learning management systems is somewhat over-stated; after all, these are just big containers and you can put into them whatever you like. While there are compartments for various kinds of materials, you can ignore them or use them your own way. And not everybody is cut out to be a DIY-er.

On the other hand, it is also true that learning management systems have among the worst user interfaces of any product I’ve used. They are also designed to be very teacher-driven; only the instructor can post or edit content, for example. While this is necessary for many kinds of material, there are times when it makes sense for students to contribute material and take a more active role in the educational process. We’ll never get away from the sage-on-the-stage / lecture/ pour-knowledge-into-kids-heads model until we move away from such strongly instructor-centric course models.

I have many more thoughts on this, but I’m curious to hear what the community thinks. If you read the blog, please comment – it’s getting to feel kind of lonely in here.


3 Responses to “Edupunk”

  1. Ken Ronkowitz said

    It’s possible that we won’t get away from the sage-on-the-stage / lecture/ pour-knowledge-into-kids-heads model in LMS until we move away from it in the classroom.

    Most LMS were built by programmers based on what they saw as the teaching model (lecture & teacher-centered), so one model perpetuates the other.

    Moodle was built by programming teachers so it’s less teacher-centered, but a teacher can still make it traditional if he wants to operate that way.

  2. Cathy Kelley said

    Interesting point, Ken – but I’m not sure that I agree entirely. While it is certainly true that the dominant teaching method is still “sage on the stage,” it is by no means the only way people teach. The LMS currently available do not support many teaching methods that have been popular for many, many years. For example, writing classes have used the workshop technique for decades if not longer. How can you run a successful workshop in Blackboard or WebCT? (I am less familiar with Moodle or Sakai.) While it can be done, it is effectively using a butter knife as a screwdriver – workable in a pinch, but not really the right tool for the job. Journaling, another time-honored technique, is also difficult in these environments.

    I am sure that there are many other examples from other disciplines. From my own teaching background, I can think of several ways to build out the functionality of the LMS – e.g. incorporating student data collection modules, and provide the capability to concatenate data collected by several lab groups. Another example would be to allow students to generate quiz questions and create a student-generated pool of questions that could be used for self-testing. Or functionality for students to generate polls w/in the LMS, and then have access to the data for analytic purposes.

    There are many, many ways that students affect the teaching and learning process in classrooms that can be incorporated into LMS, but those capabilities do not exist in current products. I have yet to really kick Moodle’s tires so none of this may apply in that case. But going back to the Edupunk concept, we’re talking about the big corporate LMS anyway. Moodle would represent … hmmm, maybe protest folk? Still in opposition to big biz, but perhaps less angry about it.

  3. I don’t think the secret is Moodle (or any LMS or package). Agreed – people teach in other formats. The studio classes at NJIT in architecture and engineering – lots of things in K-12 – and actually almost any version of a course online (very broad generalization warning!) is less teacher-centered (which doesn’t mean it is more student-centered)

    But your post inspired my own post at http://devel2.njit.edu/serendipity/index.php?/archives/1037-Do-It-Yourself-Education,-Edupunk-Style.html so that’s a good thing!

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