“I’m not saying…” A Postmodern & Metamodern Look at Education

On Tuesday, May 26, I spoke with Matt Crosslin and Whitney Kilgore about theoretical and philosophical lenses from which to view our practices in higher education.

This conversation began at #et4online conference in April, when I presented on research looking at the OER phenomenon from a postmodern lens.  Whitney, who is doing excellent scholarship and teaching in the world of online education, is working through a dissertation and wanted to explore philosophy and education that reaches beyond modernism.  As Matt often links his work and writing to metamodernism, this was an opportunity to engage a dialogue about theory, philosophy, dominant paradigms and manners in which to affect higher education.

The problem with a philosophy such as postmodernism is the shifting sand of its foundation:  postmodernists do stand for something but in doing so they have to point out the inefficiency and foibles of something else.  Also, postmodernism is careful to not make grandiose claims, so I often found myself making a comparison or a metaphor and immediately having to say, “I’m not saying…” in an effort not to connect the example beyond the utility of that example.

Matt and I engaged well and found many points of agreement in our camps.  It is not necessarily that postmodernism and metamodernism are at loggerheads; rather, metamodernism is an attempt to more accurately place a practical theory in lieu of hype. I understand this; postmodernism is in many cultures a buzzword rather than a philosophy, and metamodernism is a reaction.  There are examples of postmodern scholarship that would also be considered metamodern scholarship…these are not clear distinctions but rather areas or zones that overlap, and in some cases overlap heavily.

If you are looking for a brief introduction to both topics, Matt and I explore the concepts in the first 15 minutes. Between 15 and 45 we give examples and look at the state of higher education. The last 15 minutes is the space where we talk about possible futures for higher education.

I am grateful for the opportunity to explore this topic.  I hope more conversations about theory and philosophy as supplement to our respective lenses can emerge in the field; it is not vital to agree (and it is perhaps not ideal to agree), but it is helpful to understand where other people are coming from in their thinking and why they are reaching such conclusions.

___modernism(s): Lenses to View EdTech (A Google+ Hangout)

On Tuesday, May 26 at 5pm PST, I will be sitting down in a Google+ Hangout as part of “___modernism:  A discussion of philosophical lenses for higher education.”  Matt Crosslin of The University of Texas at Arlington’s LINK Research Lab will be discussing the lens of metamodernism, while I will be furthering my recent scholarship by talking about adopting a postmodern lens from which to view education.  Our moderator is Whitney Kilgore from iDesignEDU and PhD candidate at the University of North Texas.

Such conversations are exciting and show evidence of the EdTech field in engaging theory and philosophy as foundational to the topics and obstacles of our discipline and education’s function in society.  I may not agree with metamodernism, I may not agree with postmodernism, I may not agree with pragmatism, I may not agree with critical theory, but having that lens provides perspective to the purposes of models/technologies forming today.  I greatly appreciate that Matt Crosslin identifies his work as coming from a metamodernist lens; it creates a foundation for any conversations we have regarding the tools/instruments/measurements/analytics/models we use in our professional practices.  I have put a flag in the ground regarding postmodernism; it is a useful lens from which to view both the social landscape of EdTech as well as the practical.  It might be complicated to navigate theory and philosophy at the heart of topics in EdTech, but it is wrong to pretend or believe the EdTech field to be atheoretical/aphilosophical/ahistorical/apolitical/neutral.

The conversation will stream live and you are invited; this blog post will be updated with the link to the hangout.  If you are unable to attend, the recording will be available shortly thereafter.

Our Fascination With (Not) Fixing Education

Reading:  Why Technology Will Never Fix Education (Kentaro Toyama), Bernie Sanders’ Ambitious Plan to Eliminate College Tuition (Alice Ollstein)

Why does an article placing the failures of technology at the base of a unequal socioeconomic structure get a much greater deal of my Twitter feed’s attention than a political plan by a Presidential candidate offering free college education at any four-year institution?  And how does this have anything to do with the final episode of Mad Men and Coca Cola products?

Regarding the failures of technology article as seen in the Chronicle of Higher Education:  I appreciate where Dr. Toyama wants to go with his argument, but in creating his Law of Amplification he perpetuates on the education field many of the same harms of which he blames Silicon Valley.  The Law of Amplification wants to say that tech projects existing success, provides little to the mean and harms the disadvantaged.  It sounds plausible, and the author points out examples where he can tie his Law to existing structures.  Evidence as provided does not establish the Law as ironclad by any means, for I see the foundation of the law as problematic — a few examples such as MOOC inequity do not make the Law correct, but rather make the Law not incorrect in these cases. Continue reading Our Fascination With (Not) Fixing Education

A philosophical supplement to the OER movement: Thoughts on #et4online presentation

Reposted from edutechnicalities:

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to present on my OER/Edutainment/Postmodernism/Branded Digital Content research at the OLC Conference on Emerging Technologies (colloquially known as #et4online).  The presentation was an extension of my recent publication on OER as Online Edutainment Resources at Learning, Media & Technology; I look at scholarship as fluid and transitory, so this was an opportunity to illuminate and further the conversation.

I am overwhelmed by the response to the presentation.  Turnout to the talk was high, conversation on social media was lively, and the next morning there seems to be a good half-life to the session’s fallout (I included an edutainment clip where a man holds Uranium and refers to Uranium as a genie in a bottle whose purpose is to grant humanity 3 wishes).  This is especially promising because this specific topic has a history of rejection at other conferences — to that end, I want to again thank #et4online and the people behind the special issue of Learning, Media & Technology for taking a chance on a diffuse topic that does not fit the traditional models of conference presentations and journal scholarship. MORE.


The Faithful Hussar – to Bob Foshko

The advice shaped me more than just about any advice I have ever received, but for the life of me I cannot remember what exactly Bob Foshko said.  I should remember, right?  This was life-defining, career-changing advice, something I can draw a direct link to from the person I am today to the person I was then, and see how my direct line is a very different path from the one I thought I was on.  But I don’t remember.  Heck, I am having a difficult time even being able to paraphrase it.

I remember standing in the hallway on the 5th floor of the CMA building, the narrow corridor littered with posters advertising student screenings and subculture ballyhoo.  There was a tablet desk chair outside the office, the 1950s sort with no give and an Olympic-level degree of difficulty to enter and engage for sitting.  I was early but not too early, and as time tapped forward and the hollowness of the hallway was infrequently interrupted by opening doors and clacking heels, my sense of self inflated to fill the space.  Bob needed more time with others in the program, I ascertained.  The meeting was to look over my writing, the first sample for the M.A. program in conjunction with the James A. Michner Center and the Department of Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas, writing I knew we would celebrate as accomplishment and then receive marching orders to keep up the good work.  After all, Bob had called me six months prior, asking me if he could move my application from the MFA program to the MA program because as he put it I remembered it, my film & electronic media work made more sense married to the RTF department.  I wondered if we even needed to have the meeting at all. I had come to the University of Texas to do what I needed to do to write books and movies.  Bob Foshko knew this, he knew it was my aspiration, and he knew that the program was just one part of my Starmaker Plan.

When it was my turn, I remember being surprised at the size of the room — the office was quite small for a head of a program, filled to the brim with books and artifacts from his years as a writer and producer during Television’s Golden Age.  He offered me a seat on a rickety stepstool, which was held together with packing tape and had a sign affixed to the top, The Robert Foshko Chair in Screenwriting.  I took the standard chair, smiled, and he started the sequence of events that would change my life.

Your sample was fine.  We need to talk about your story idea, it is very weak.

Continue reading The Faithful Hussar – to Bob Foshko