If an LMS writes a press release in the woods, does anyone but the edupunk read it?

June 4, 2008

The growing footprint of the LMS into the ‘DIY’ space that is 2.0 is counter to the ideology behind edupunk, a term that surfaced in the past week or so, attributed to Jim Groom. I’m just getting up-to-speed on edupunk (it’s been morphing in my aggregator 10 days or so it’s like ANCIENT now) and thought I’d share my thoughts here because frankly, when I read Groom’s post about the same “vultures of capital” (LMS vendors) I’m writing about, I felt like a nasty old boil on the butt of an edupunk. (you ARE thanking me for the lack of a visual)

Why? In mid-May, I published a report: How LMSs are Incorporating Social Learning Technologies. In the report, I wrote about the idea of learning 2.0, how user-generated content changes things, how we can think differently about corporate training and introduced some of the technologies (wikis, blogs, social networks). I also summarized the developments of several LMS vendors in the area of social learning technologies. There has been a lot of interest in the report and in social media in corporate training in general where, like higher education, LMSs are part of the DNA.

So, as I’m reading all the edupunk posts, the question I seek an answer to is this: is the edupunk ideology saying that the use of social media in commercial learning management systems is an assault on the very philosophy of learning 2.0?

Ideologies shouldn’t be rigid should they? Rather they should be adapted and used in pragmatic ways don’t you think? If you’re a trainer embracing learning 2.0, who gives a rats ass where it lives. Any of us can come up with endless examples of innovative technologies that have been commercialized.

Anyway, here’s more stuff on edupunk. You probably know that the edublogosphere encompasses both higher ed and corporate learning. The edupunk term originated in the higher ed area so much of the criticism here is about Blackboard , the staple LMS of higher ed. But the conversation is the same in both worlds.

Some reading from the last 10ish days to bring you up to speed:

Jim Groom, The Glass Bees at bavatuesdays. Also Permapunk, Murder, Madness, Mayhem is so EDUPUNK

I don’t think our struggle is over the future of technology, it is over the struggle for the future of our culture that is assailed from all corners by the vultures of capital. Corporations are selling us back our ideas, innovations, and visions for an exorbitant price. I want them all back, and I want them now!

Mike Caulfield’s, Edupunk and A short explanation from a terminal smasher (or Blackboard as an access control company)

There’s a couple reasons why I find the term useful, but the most important is that it captures the cultural revulsion many of us feel with the appropriation of the Learning 2.0 movement by corporations such as Blackboard. Learning 2.0, like punk, is a DIY movement. Like punk it favors technical accessibility over grand design.

And to people like us, Learning 2.0, if it is to remain relevant, must not be relegated to the dustbin of “features” or “products”. It’s neither a product or a process, but a way of approaching things, of which products are only one of the results.

David Warlick, What’s this about Edupunk?

It seems to be a rejection of recent moves, among corporate contributors to the education community, to insert aspects of Web 2.0 applications into their products.

As we continue to promote the use of a more participatory information landscape for learning environments, I think that we should be explicitly promoting this DIY aspect — a sense that the information can be shaped and controlled by professional educators, and that sharing this control with students can be an appropriate, information-abundant, learning pedagogy.

I do not have any real objection to corporate embrace of these tools. We’re all trying to make a living.

What worries me, though, is school officials hearing the buzz, and thinking that they can buy their way into the crowd, rather than learning their way in.

D’Arcy Norman, on edupunk,

But, the key to edupunk is that it is not about technology.

It’s a movement away from what has become of the mainstream edtech community – a collection of commercial products produced by large companies…

It’s about individuals being able to craft their own tools, to plan their own agendas, and to determine their own destinies. It’s about individuals being able to participate, to collaborate, to contribute, without boundaries or barriers.

And it’s not new.

I’m not about to suggest that technology isn’t important or relevant to edupunk – of course it is. But only as an enabling piece of infrastructure. Technology can empower individuals, amplify actions, and connect communities. But without the edupunk philosophy underlying it all, it’s just a bunch of technology. Uninteresting and irrelevant.

Alane Levine The Stump Thunk the Punk Stunk

I’m all for celebrating and playing up the DIY spirit of things, always have been. Yet I’m a bit wary of the pointing and prodding of “this is EDUPUNK” and “she is so EDUPUNK” — to one extreme it might be seen as an air of exclusiveness…

Doug Belshaw, Are you an ‘Edupunk” I’m not.

an ‘Edupunk’ movement is not the answer. Why?

  1. It’s a group, not a network – i.e. 1.0 not 2.0 (OK, so I know you reject labels…)
  2. It harks back to a time when either I wasn’t born or was very, very young. I have no meaningful connection with the metaphor you’re trying to use.
  3. It makes any members of the movement sound vaguely violent.
  4. It seems to have the assumption behind it that we (either individually or collectively) have the answers, when actually we’re learners like everyone else.
  5. Most Web 2.0 apps are free, and I’m at liberty to pick and choose them at will and use them how I want.

Stephen Downes, Introducing Edupunk and The Obligatory Edupunk Post

It doesn’t really matter whether the term ‘edupunk’ has any staying power, what matters – to me – is the awareness of the idea that it at least, for the moment, signifies.

Ken Carroll

Am I the only one to find this Edupunk meme ridiculous?

Brian Lamb, Punks hate hippies

But reading the many posts, pro and con, that have so rapidly proliferated has me asking questions about how we practice this profession.

  • Are you troubled by how power and money are manifested in society, not to mention our classrooms and our educational institutions? Do you feel like the human race can continue as it is?
  • Do you think that learning is a basic human right function? Are practices that gratuitously withdraw learning into a circumscribed domain apart from the rest of the world inhumane and counter-productive?
  • Are you committed to practices that place as much power in the hands of individuals as possible, while making sharing and collaboration as easy as possible? How much of what we presently license out are we already able to do ourselves?

I don’t have an acid test for how those questions must be answered. But if you are engaging those issues honestly and directly, then I want to party with you. And I don’t care if its EduPunk or EduStringQuartet that defines the aesthetic.

Dennis Coxe, Edupunk, the new generational battlefield

Professional organizations looking to use Web 2.0 tools to enhance learning need to step back and be willing to relieve control to the learners. Provide them with the resources (videos, podcasts, computer-based learning, monthly seminars, and the tools to create their own content) and let them construct their own learning at their own pace and let them talk about it.

And finally, just to wrap it up with a bow, a URL was registered by James Farmer for Edublogs on May 29. It is not live yet I guess.

Following all the conversations, I’d call myself an edupunk. I’m beating the drum for a new model of learning and teaching. And I write about it, for a fee, for the people that buy LMSs. Deal. Unless you’re a volunteer or independently wealthy, you’ve got a money trail. It doesn’t mean you are a part of the problem.

Is the use of social media in commercial learning management systems an assault on the very philosophy of learning 2.0? Hell no.

One last thought…The Sex Pistols turned out to be a commercial phenomenon manipulated by their manager. I’m just saying. Also…in the movie Edupunk, I would like to be considered for the role of Nancy Spungen, despite my advanced age (which may actually help me in that role.)

  • http://in-the-middle-of-the-curve.blogspot.com/ Wendy

    So who gets to be Sid Vicious? :’)

  • http://in-the-middle-of-the-curve.blogspot.com Wendy

    So who gets to be Sid Vicious? :’)

  • http://www.downes.ca Stephen Downes

    Well, what parts of my ‘ideology’ do you think I should be, um, ‘pragmatic’ about? The part that opposes torture? The part that bans slavery? The prohibition against murder?

    And if the parts of society I am opposed happen to be those parts that are complicity in torture, slavery, and murder, do you feel I should just accommodate them?

  • http://www.downes.ca Stephen Downes

    Well, what parts of my ‘ideology’ do you think I should be, um, ‘pragmatic’ about? The part that opposes torture? The part that bans slavery? The prohibition against murder?

    And if the parts of society I am opposed happen to be those parts that are complicity in torture, slavery, and murder, do you feel I should just accommodate them?

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Stephen,
    I am not anti-ideology. I am not turning a blind to edupunk. I really don’t think ideology or pragmatism alone can bring change. My pragmatic approach to things is rooted in my experiences in corporate environments. Digging my toes in on an issue such as (the refusal to ‘accommodate’)social media add-ons in an LMS would have meant getting nothing DONE. Perhaps that makes my statements here too narrow. Too simple. Perhaps I fail to see a bigger picture. I will have to ponder and appreciate your comment.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Stephen,
    I am not anti-ideology. I am not turning a blind to edupunk. I really don’t think ideology or pragmatism alone can bring change. My pragmatic approach to things is rooted in my experiences in corporate environments. Digging my toes in on an issue such as (the refusal to ‘accommodate’)social media add-ons in an LMS would have meant getting nothing DONE. Perhaps that makes my statements here too narrow. Too simple. Perhaps I fail to see a bigger picture. I will have to ponder and appreciate your comment.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Gosh Wendy, I’d hate to name names. I mean, if I hadn’t volunteered to be Nancy and someone else suggested I should be, well…I’d probably be thinking about a 12-step program.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Gosh Wendy, I’d hate to name names. I mean, if I hadn’t volunteered to be Nancy and someone else suggested I should be, well…I’d probably be thinking about a 12-step program.

  • http://leisurelyhistorian.net/ Tad Suiter

    The Sex Pistols turned out to be a commercial phenomenon manipulated by their manager.

    Yeah, and the Clash turned out to be a pretty sincere bunch of guys with a progressive political agenda.

    And the Ramones were a goofy bunch of guys who just wanted to have fun and weren’t good-looking or talented enough to make it in mainstream pop.

    “Punk” means many, many things. Malcolm McLaren is just one small part of that.

  • http://leisurelyhistorian.net/ Tad Suiter

    The Sex Pistols turned out to be a commercial phenomenon manipulated by their manager.

    Yeah, and the Clash turned out to be a pretty sincere bunch of guys with a progressive political agenda.

    And the Ramones were a goofy bunch of guys who just wanted to have fun and weren’t good-looking or talented enough to make it in mainstream pop.

    “Punk” means many, many things. Malcolm McLaren is just one small part of that.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Tad- I loved the Clash. I remember going to CBGBs in the early 80s and saw some hardcore punk.

    There are many, many versions of the “edupunk” out there too. I think it’s important to see it on a continuum, just as we do punk.

    Thanks for your comment.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Tad- I loved the Clash. I remember going to CBGBs in the early 80s and saw some hardcore punk.

    There are many, many versions of the “edupunk” out there too. I think it’s important to see it on a continuum, just as we do punk.

    Thanks for your comment.

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  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/tomwerner Tom Werner

    Hi Janet, great post! I think a side-issue is that the cultures of corporate training and higher education are really different, and so the learning-technology issues for them are really different.

    I’ve just blogged about this at

    http://brandon-hall.com/tomwerner/?p=276

    Cheers, Tom

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/tomwerner Tom Werner

    Hi Janet, great post! I think a side-issue is that the cultures of corporate training and higher education are really different, and so the learning-technology issues for them are really different.

    I’ve just blogged about this at

    http://brandon-hall.com/tomwerner/?p=276

    Cheers, Tom

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com/ Dave Ferguson

    Janet, I appreciate your summary and your links.

    Though I’d say not all ideologies are pragmatic; “ideologue” rarely describes someone who’s open-minded about the opinions of others.

    I do like “EduStringQuartet;” it reminds me of the Unitarian Jihad manifesto.

    On a more serious level: if the software’s open source and the corporations conform to the terms of the open source license, huffing and puffing at them isn’t going to accomplish much.

    Avoiding them might — but I don’t think large organizations make this kind of decision all that rationally. My bias has been for a long time that an LMS is sold by and sold to senior levels in an organization, and doesn’t often involve the people who are directly trying to create better learning within the organization.

    (The fact that anyone ever bought the IBM / Lotus learning suite bears that out.)

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com Dave Ferguson

    Janet, I appreciate your summary and your links.

    Though I’d say not all ideologies are pragmatic; “ideologue” rarely describes someone who’s open-minded about the opinions of others.

    I do like “EduStringQuartet;” it reminds me of the Unitarian Jihad manifesto.

    On a more serious level: if the software’s open source and the corporations conform to the terms of the open source license, huffing and puffing at them isn’t going to accomplish much.

    Avoiding them might — but I don’t think large organizations make this kind of decision all that rationally. My bias has been for a long time that an LMS is sold by and sold to senior levels in an organization, and doesn’t often involve the people who are directly trying to create better learning within the organization.

    (The fact that anyone ever bought the IBM / Lotus learning suite bears that out.)

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  • http://www.edugeekjournal.com/ Matt Crosslin

    This post, and the ensuing comments, also shows how those of us that actually liked punk (back in the day when it really was punk) don’t totally go for the use of the term “EduPunk.” I mean, how many hundreds of punk songs out there are about how stupid school is?

    I’ve also noticed that some EduPunks really hate it when you question their conclusions. They love to question “the man,” but if you question them? Who are you! (this is just my experience with some comments I have posted on some blogs and comments on my own blog). They seem to rigidly and dogmatically hold on to their ideas as much as the ones they are railing against.

    This is not the case with all – but with some. Oh, and be careful if you ever point out that many of their ideas have been tried in the past (the original round of student-centered learning, Montessori schools, etc) with mixed results at best.

  • http://www.edugeekjournal.com Matt Crosslin

    This post, and the ensuing comments, also shows how those of us that actually liked punk (back in the day when it really was punk) don’t totally go for the use of the term “EduPunk.” I mean, how many hundreds of punk songs out there are about how stupid school is?

    I’ve also noticed that some EduPunks really hate it when you question their conclusions. They love to question “the man,” but if you question them? Who are you! (this is just my experience with some comments I have posted on some blogs and comments on my own blog). They seem to rigidly and dogmatically hold on to their ideas as much as the ones they are railing against.

    This is not the case with all – but with some. Oh, and be careful if you ever point out that many of their ideas have been tried in the past (the original round of student-centered learning, Montessori schools, etc) with mixed results at best.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Good observations Matt. Stick it to ‘the man,’ man (or dude…). I found that several people are quick to criticize the lack of discourse in the edublogosphere but then are incapable of healthy dialog. Of course, I’ve got three kids so I say ‘bring it.’

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Good observations Matt. Stick it to ‘the man,’ man (or dude…). I found that several people are quick to criticize the lack of discourse in the edublogosphere but then are incapable of healthy dialog. Of course, I’ve got three kids so I say ‘bring it.’

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