A little corner that is forever edupunk

Last night I was part of a live internet radio show, run by Graham Attwell at Pontydysgu. The theme was edupunk, and the show featured Jim Groom and Mike Caulfield amongst others.

I made the point that edupunk is a sort of metaphor, and like all metaphors we only map certain parts across to the new domain – in this case I thought it was the DIY, have-a-go approach of punk, and some of the anarchic nature of it. What we wouldn’t want to map across was the slightly Stalinist approach that came with punk where people were either punk or not, and anything that was not was decreed rubbish.

And this made me think about some of the angst people have had about the term – it’s seen as an either/or. Are you an edupunk or not? As I stated a while ago, I don’t think I am, too much of what I do is just mundane or corporate or conservative in approach. But it struck me that it’s not about being an edupunk, but rather preserving some area of what you do where you can do edupunk kinda stuff – or eduWomble, or research, or play, or social networking, whatever you want to call it. Just as Google has Google Time when employees can experiment with stuff, so universities and educators need to have edupunk time – a period when you can explore stuff away from the mass of concerns that arise whenever you try and do anything with education: learning objectives, accessibility, workloads, technical expertise, cost implications, etc. All of these are important, but sometimes you need room to explore in an area that is free from having to meet a wide range of criteria at the outset.

So new management proposal – 10% edupunk time for all. Any takers?


  • Concetta

    I totally agree. In the corporate world if there was this much change happening then people would be allocating days to planning and coming to terms with integration. Managers and team leaders would also be allocated time and budget to ensure it’s success. So yeah, I think teachers and schools and districts and even students should all have a little bit of time out to think about all the things that you mention in your post.

  • Jon Mott

    Thanks for this post. You made my day. One of my responsibilities in my current position is to make sure that the large-scale, enterprise academic tools at our instituiton WORK. They have to be reliable, scalable, etc. I agree that there are potentially better, more flexible, more dynamic software models on the horizon, but there are tens of thousands of people using our existing systems virtually around the clock. It’s kind of important to keep them up and running.
    Because of this focus, I sometimes feel like an outcast in the education innovation (edupunk?) crowd. When conversing with such folks, I almost feel the need to apoligize for perpetuating “the establishment” by doing my job. However, I would argue (vociferously) that doing so is not an inherently bad thing. Like you, I share some affinity with the edupunk / innovator crowd in that I don’t think the status quo is “right” or “best” just because it exists. We need more time and space for innovation, experimentation, DIY, etc. But we have to figure out how to make a reasonably smooth transition from where we are to where we want (need!) to be.
    Your post is, I think, a call for balance. We can “keep the trains running” AND take time to innovate and experiment. One good reason for doing this is to keep people fresh and engaged. Another is that the day of monolithic, centralized systems will someday be anachronistic (at least in terms of today’s architectures and implementations). If academic technologists aren’t staying sharp and keeping up with new ideas and directions, who will be the catalysts (dare I say “managers”?) of change at our institutions?
    Thanks again. Keep fighting the good fight.

  • Ian Blackham

    Can’t lurk forever I suppose ….
    Just to support the argument – this isn’t just an IT world thing. I remember a similar philosophy was used in 3M (probably best known for Post-it notes) back in the eighties/nineties (very probably before that)- something like ‘15% time’.
    [Aside. Although this is somewhat off-beam as far as this blog goes, you might possibly find the following article of some interest detailing the tensions at work in an industrial environment: “At 3M, A Struggle Between Efficiency And Creativity”].

  • James

    While I’m starting to follow education and web technology quite closely (as that’s what the MA I’m embarking on is focused upon), I presently leverage the web mostly for post-secondary marketing ends.
    I think this notion applies equally as well in that end of things. Social media, online collaboration … call it what you will. It’s about developing dialogue and creating community and we should all be spending some time experimenting.

  • Christopher D. Sessums

    I’m sorry I missed this radio show.
    One side note, [rattling off at the keyboard really] most of our punk icons started as art students. Punk is more than DIY. It’s mainly a form of artistic expression, a reaction, if you will, to the world around us. Punk recognizes that absolute power corrupts absolutely. So enterprise punks can work well within a system, given that the system supports the voice and expressions of those actually doing the work (the grunts, the proles). Many large, successful enterprises do this, and punks fit in well. Actually, when I think about it, Steve Jobs is probably considered a punk within the enterprising world. I’ve read he is terribly demanding and difficult on his workforce, yet look where Apple stands today. While Jobs may recognize that absolute power corrupts absolutely, he’s going to push that power-envelope as far as it will go. Now that’s punk, baby!

  • Tad

    I just stumbled across this entry, today. Sorry for being so late to reply. But I have to say: this is one of the only things I’ve found ANYWHERE that really expresses an understanding that the notion of “edupunk” is just a metaphor– one that I tend to think is a pretty useful one, that can help us see some new potential, new directions, and infuse some new energy into digital pedagogy and scholarship.
    So many blog posts have been dedicated to “debunking” the notion– one that I get the impression Jim Groom first expressed as a lark with a half-smile on his face.
    This isn’t an ideology, it isn’t a movement, it isn’t some lockstep trend that you have to get on board with or get out of the way. It’s just a metaphor. A lens to looking at what digital instruction does, and can do.
    In all the resulting fallout, as “edupunk” fell through the echo chamber of blog hype, very few people– proponents or dissenters– really tried to actually *explore the metaphor*, take it for a test drive, to see what analogs we can find, what wisdom or folly there might be, there.
    Personally, I’d love to see a few more people take that next step, because I think the metaphor, while imperfect by its very nature, is a potentially valuable one.

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