other: June 2008 Archives

What is (and is not) Edupunk

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I had a few words with Jim Groom over at Bavablog via the comments after following up on his Glass Bees post in which he coined the term Edupunk. We realised, via some of the more negative replies, that some points are not clear. That is, the ideas and theory of the Edupunk discussion have been around a while and are not controversial at all. Labelling it Punk has just thrown some distasteful associations at the conservative element among us.

While studying drama at university I was pleased to find out that my long list of complaints and criticisms of secondary education were not simply adolescent tantrums. They had been covered by groundbreaking educators such as Augusto Boal's theatre of the oppressed and in Paulo Freire's landmark work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Through student centred work in these models I found that I could learn drama in a non-competitive atmosphere gaining real skills and awareness that all seemed relevant to what I wanted to do.

How does this help us understand Edupunk? Let's start with some Paulo Freire. The following is from his analysis of our 'banking system' of education where students are filled up by the teacher and must reproduce for tests or in jobs - the goal is to order the students in a big ladder to see how they fit into society.

The reason d'etre of libertarian education lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.

This solution is not (nor can it be) found in the banking concept. On the contrary, banking education maintains and even stimulates the contradiction through the following attitudes and practices, which mirror oppressive society as a whole:

(a) the teacher teaches and the students are taught

(b) the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing

(c) the teacher thinks and the students are thought about

(d) the teacher talks and the students listen - meekly

(e) the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined

(f) the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply

(g) the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher

(h) the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it

(i) the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which he or she sets in opposition to the students freedom

(j) the teacher is the subject of the learning process while the pupils are mere objects

It is not suprising that the banking concept regards men as adaptable, managable beings. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend to simply adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.

Whew! A lot in there and that's just one page out of 180 in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. So ...

Edupunk seeks to see the world and transform it - not to learn its system.

Edupunk teachers have equal human relations with their students, they exchange experiences.

Edupunk classes are democratic communties, that is - the true meaning of anarchy; small self governing community untis who shape their own destinies through freedom.

Edupunk groups do not enforce discipline - they explore their relationships and dynamics.

Edupunk teachers value the ideas of their group and listen to it, together they form the path of the course.

Edupunk groups are not afraid to improvise and explore without a pre planned end goal or pay-off such as a test or a piece. They grow as humans throughout the process and do not need judgement.

Edupunk respects human dignity, not authority.

Edupunks are seeking to build lives not choose one.

Still got no idea where this is going? Try this amazing book - Games for Actors and Non-actors by Augusto Boal.

Back from Hong Kong

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hong kongI just got back from a hectic VISA run in Hong Kong. I got my VISA with relative ease and from the CTS branch right in the train station, however, people around me were getting knocked back or restricted to one week single entry.

The Hong Kong papers are reporting a 40% drop off in business and tourism in Beijing already as a direct result of the new policy. This more than cancels out the expected revenue from hosting the olympics in the first place, leaving it as what it is - a bunch of boring non-spectator sports used to rouse a bunch of patriots.

Also, the whole trip made me miss three QF games in Euro 2008 and the Demerit gig at Logo in Shanghai. What's more, I've a sneaking suspicion the immigration official entered me on my old VISA by accident (it's still got three days) as there's a large slash drawn through my new L visa - perhaps to show that its single entry has been used? I'll find out Tuesday when I go for my upgrade in Pudong.


banyan treesBanyan Trees on Nathan Road 

Cartoon Time

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This post is a response to xkcd number 435, a mainly excellent web comic.

Click for full size. Note: I'm British, 'state' means nation state.


response to xkcd 435

Ken Carroll vs edupunk

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Jim groomJust a few weeks ago, educator Jim Groom coined the term Edupunk in his blog post about the novel The Glass Bees. There's nothing new to understand here. Jim rightly took progressive community/student centred ideas about education and applied them to the recent boom of Web 2.0 products and technology. In doing so he has provoked a much needed storm of debate on the subject.

Leslie Brooks writes at BlogHer:

In short, edupunk is student-centered, resourceful, teacher- or community-created rather than corporate-sourced, and underwritten by a progressive political stance. Barbara Ganley's philosophy of teaching and digital expression is an elegant manifestation of edupunk. Nina Simon, with her imaginative ways of applying web 2.0 philosophies to museum exhibit design, offers both low- and high-tech edupunk visions.

I studied Drama at university and have since worked in writing, drama and language teaching. These ideas are nothing new to me and especially during my time here in Shanghai, I have found plenty of space to inject the Edupunk ethos into my work. However, I often slip into a dream world where I assume that all educators are progressive by nature.

Enter Ken Carroll.

When I was first at Shane head office in Jiang Ning Road back in 2001, Ken's school Kai En was just across the way. He made a success out of it and then launched Chinese Pod, a web 2.0 service for mp3 language lessons. It was a huge success and host Jenny Zhu is a genuine star here and abroad. Lately, Ken started a blog where he uses his position as a successful edu-business man to discuss learning 2.0.

In his latest posts Ken gets to grips with Edupunk, starting off with Edupunks Need to Grow Up. I wish it was a debate on the subject, but - unfortunately for Shanghai based educators like me - it is little more than a conservative man having a reactionary moment when meeting something 'leftie':

Am I the only one to find this Edupunk meme ridiculous? The adolescent ethos, music, etc, are matched only by the adolescent narcissism,  anger, wilful non-conformity,  sanctimony, and tirades against authority. Fine, except this is all coming from teachers

And, as usual, if you try to expand these moments into points or debate, it just goes worse from there:

No seven ages of man here. These guys look intellectually and emotionally indistinguishable from their students.

Ouch! Way to indirectly stick it to your own students. If any educator disagrees with student led learning, progressive, humanistic politics or community owned culture then debate Edupunk all you like, but can we leave the 'grow up' insults out of it? 


Kai's birthday

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kai's birthday twoToday was Kai's birthday. Kai Uwe Pel is my Kung Fu teacher and every year on his birthday we go to Paulaner Brahaus, a German brewery and restaurant. Kai is German, you see and it's his yearly treat.

We usually go to the Fen Yang Road branch near my house but this year we went out the 'Bin Jiang'. Bin Jiang Da Dao is the tourist riverfront strip on the Pudong side of the river. It has a riverside park, walking area and a selection of bars and restaurants with river views. I actually liked it. The Puxi side of the river where the older buildings are is packed with touts, vendors and assorted annoyances. The Pudong side was quite relaxing.

All the usual crowd were there and afterwards me and Phillipe, my couchsurfing guest, went back across by ferry.

    kai's birthday

Above: Diana, Vanessa, Mel, Helen, Kai, Cameron and Nathan.

Left: Bo, Kai, me, Phillipe and Helen. 

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This page is a archive of entries in the other category from June 2008.

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