MO ISIS  640/691


Duke University

Prof Cathy N. Davidson


(First day of class: Jan 15, 2014)

Public Draft

Comments Welcome

“Changing the Way We Teach and Learn

“Digital Literacy with a Maker Spirit”

“Learning to Make Better Lives”

“Diversity Isn’t Our Deficit.  It’s Our Operating System”

(Here’s how to leave a comment on a Google Doc:  Go to “insert” on the Toolbar and click on the drop down menu for “comments” and you can add ideas, suggestions, books, articles, and urls in the comment box that will open in the right hand margin.   For a brilliant demonstration, videos, and real life examples of how to work collaboratively in a Google Doc, go to PhD2Published)

Overview and rationale of the project:  “It’s Not a MOOC, It’s a Movement”

And a hilarious video about what it feels like to teach or be a student in a student-directed, peer-to-peer experimental class, by Prof Steven Berg, Schoolcraft College:

Winter 2014    (First class meeting of ISIS 640:  Jan 15, 2014)

Wednesdays, 3:20-7:00 pm (extended to 8 pm for MFA students)

Smith Warehouse Bay 4, C106, PhD Lab In Digital Knowledge

Office Hours Wed 2:00-3:00 pm  


Prof Cathy N. Davidson, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English; Co-Director, PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge, Duke University



“The History and Future of Higher Education” uses an activist, purposive account of history to help shape an agenda for learning innovation, in the classroom, in our institutions, in society, and in everyday life and work.  It also uses an activist, purposive pedagogy so that students read theory and history and immediately apply it to actions, to public communications, and to a larger agenda of educational understanding and reform.  In method, as well as in content, we will be changing from “teaching” to “learning,” and will be rethinking a model of education as a top-down, output-oriented, product-oriented knowledge-delivery system.  Instead, we will be thinking about engaged learning, where the boundaries between theory and practice are blurred, where individual ideas are communicated to the largest possible audience, and where academics (students and faculty) take back a centrality that, too often, is given to administrators, policy makers, and corporate investors.  What is higher education for?  What is its purpose in our society and in other societies?   Why would anyone want to be a teacher in 2014?  And what should a student today expect from higher education and take responsibility for?   These are big questions that we will read about, discuss, communicate, and implement.

In ISIS 640, we will be looking specifically at ways that the apparatus, structure, and metrics of higher education that we’ve inherited were designed to train the ideal worker for the Taylorist Industrial Age.  Many of the most familiar features of higher education were designed roughly between 1865 and 1925 (from class rankings to majors, professional schools, graduate school, IQ tests, and multiple choice tests, including as part of college entrance requirements).  Which of those methods and metrics are working for us now?  Which are legacies that no longer serve their purpose--or ours?  And how can we work, together, to share our most innovative ideas in order to change our own pedagogies and practices (on an individual level) and how can we mobilize to help transform our institutions too?  How can we think critically about ideas touted as “innovative” (such as MOOCs, flipping the class, and other “disruptions”) that may or may not be truly innovative? What alternative models can we think about together?

METHOD:  “See one. Do one. Teach one. Share one.” In this class you, as students, won’t just be learning about legacies and innovations; you will be leading and experimenting and constantly critiquing innovative new pedagogies so that you can improve upon them and incorporate them into your own methods for learning and for teaching.   The method of this course is also the content we will be discussing.  You will be commenting on pedagogy in your blogs, and you will be proposing your own ideas and soliciting feedback from others (at Duke, at the co-located courses, and from the MOOC participants).  The idea is to work together to improve how we learn and what we learn, how we teach and what we teach.  In some ways this is a “meta MOOC”:  we’ll see if a MOOC can be turned into an open-learning collaborative peer-grading extravaganza--international, diverse (there are no admission requirements for MOOCs), massive.   Let’s challenge ourselves to make it meaningful too!

Why?  Because current catch phrases such as “flipping the classroom” make it seem as if it is easy to teach with technology.  It is not.  It is important, it can be creative and useful, but “flipping” is extremely labor intensive and we've just barely touched the surface of the deep thinking, practice, methods, and ideas of teaching with, through, by, for, and about technology in a critical, creative, interactive, empowering, and significant way.

The first half of the class will operate in synchronization with the Coursera online course and with co-located courses or Google Hangout class sessions conducted by some of the most prominent thinkers about new media and the state of the U.S. university, at Stanford, UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley, New School, and Harvard.  After Spring break, the focus shifts to a student-directed final collaborative project of designing higher education from scratch,” addressing very fundamental questions in your design.  To think big and bold, we’ll be considering Nelson Mandela’s famous description of his twenty-seven years in Robben Island Prison as “The University of the Struggle.”   Some of you might design vocational/technical universities, some arts-focused, some better versions of existing community colleges, private or public research universities.  The point is to really think what a university is for. (Please review and add to these  template questions to get you started.)

Grades will be offered by a combination of contract grading (described below) and peer-to-peer assessment of the contribution to the success of the final project.

It’s not just a MOOC.  It’s a movement.




  1. MOOC and #FutureEd Community Wrangling:  1 week team commitment/
  2. Professional Blog for Chronicle of Higher Education:  500-1000 words, co-authored or individual; due at end of your MOOC week.
  3. Weekly Class Participation: Weekly required reading, class participation, written participatory experiments and exercises, commenting on #FutureEd posts, and Google hangouts.
  4. Collaborative Final Project: Designing Higher Education from Scratch This is a second (different) team project.
  5. Optional:  Collaborate with Stanford and UCSB on  a #FutureEd project.  
  6. Final Portfolio: Aggregate all your work for the term in one place



1. MOOC and #FutureEd Community Wrangling:

Students in the class will work in a team (2 or 3 students per team) responsible for one week of the Coursera MOOC as well as for guiding ISIS 640 class discussion for that week.  You will select a week, hold at least two office hours each, and organize and be responsible for some kind of participatory experience (Forum, Wiki, Timeline, etc).  You will work on building out appropriate collaborative resources on the wiki designed for that purpose, and devise a communications plan for sharing your innovative ideas with the largest possible community.  You will be adding bibliography and ideas relevant to the topic covered that week.

You will be partners in an experiment to help all of us in higher education understand what we can learn, together, from our interactions with massive numbers of online learners who enter the MOOC without prerequisites and with various objectives (i.e. no one is in the  MOOC to earn a degree).  What does motivate people to take MOOCs?   What does this “new” form of learning mean--and what does it mean for traditional forms of education?  What and how can we learn together from this experiment? Can we make MOOCs participatory? Students in ISIS 640 will serve as “community wranglers” helping to guide and shape community participation in a three-part wiki that HASTAC is building for this Initiative: a crowdsourced resources/bibliography on the history and future of higher education; another for pedagogical innovation; and a third for institutional reforms, designs, strategies and initiatives worldwide. Weekly teams of community wranglers will be responsible for monitoring activity on the wikis and helping community members with formatting and editing.

The whole #FutureEd initiative is designed to spark an activist movement on behalf of peer learning,  innovative pedagogy, and various kinds of engagement with content, methods, and assessment techniques. Blogging about this experience will be part of the weekly endeavors and the communication/engagement aspect of the course.  


NB:  there are official TAs for the Coursera MOOC; ISIS 640 students will in no way be responsible for “grading” and monitoring the certificate functions of the Coursera course.

2. Professional Blog for Chronicle of Higher Education:

Students in the class will be responsible for filing twelve blog posts (500-1000 words) to the Chronicle of Higher Education about your experience on the MOOC, in class, in partnership with Stanford and UCSB, focusing on the topic of your MOOC week, delivered the Sunday following your week of MOOC responsibilities.  Schedule/Calendar to follow.  You will post your drafts to Google Doc for edits from the team and from the whole class before submitting a final version to CHE.   Some of you will be co-authoring the CHE posts since we have promised to deliver perfectly edited, proofread posts.  The CHE blog is an incredible professional opportunity--and a responsibility.  Students will coordinate posting deadlines and article content and then reblog the posts on the class website.  You will focus on the content, experiences, and innovations you champion during your designated MOOC week and will deliver the CHE piece at the end of that week.

3. Weekly Class Participation:

Reading, participation, and writing assignments must be finished on time, before each class, as indicated on the schedule below.  For some assignments, we will be putting work up on RapGenius and the assignment will be to annotate (in text, image, or sound) and to use social media to encourage others, including in the MOOC, to annotate too.  You will also be “community wranglers” on the #FutureEd initiative throughout the course, pro-actively finding ways to communicate beyond our course.  Students will be responsible for commenting on at least one post in the HASTAC #FutureEd group each week to help move the community conversation forward.  

4. Collaborative Final Project (40% of total grade):

Topic:    Design a model of higher education from scratch

Team:  We will be combining two of the weekly teams to make the one final project team focusing on designing a model of higher education from scratch.   We will do some adjustments of the teams for skill, personality, collaborative success in order that the final project teams have the greatest chance of success.  Probably (this may change) you will work in three teams of 4-6.   Your members should exemplify “collaboration by difference,” for the different skills, ability, perspectives, design expertise, computational, assessment, and leadership qualities they can lend to the project.

Method:  Design a website for your university--or propose another public interface for your project. View this template of questions to get started.  In other words, instead of writing about an ideal university of the future, you will be thinking it through and then presenting it to the world in some material form.  You might also want blueprints, maquettes, or other ways of modeling your university. You will post drafts of your design to RapGenius for feedback from the Coursera students and the general public.

T-Shirt:  We have funds for you to design and make your university t-shirt.  (Materializing the representation of your ideals and mission is part of the “maker” learning method of the course.)  This is optional--but there is no better way to get out a message quickly, effectively, potentially virally.  Think Creative.  

Purpose:  Real world impact. How can designing a model of higher learning have an impact on those responsible for designing classes and institutions in the real world?  What does a model do?  What does it address?  How do you get it to the widest audience in order to have the greatest impact?   What is your communication strategy? What is your goal? How will you accomplish that goal?  Try it.  How did it work?  Evaluate/assess your success.

5. Optional Cross-School Partnership:  

Anyone who wishes is encouraged to find ways to interact with and build collaborative projects with students in the Stanford and UCSB courses.  If you wish, you may invite participation by partnering schools in your Designing Higher Education from Scratch project.  This is optional and the design of the collaboration is entirely up to you (and your responsibility too). NB: It is possible your real-world impact will be greater with partners.

6. Final Portfolio:

In lieu of a final research paper or final exam, each of you will create your own portfolio (in a Google doc, a Word Press blog, or wherever you wish) that brings together all you have done this semester: links to all your blog posts, your CHE blogs, work summary of your contribution to the MOOC, annotations, tweets, or anything else you have contributed this term.  The final portfolio

FINAL EXAM:   None.  




Final grades will be based on contract grading based on accomplishing the quantity of work you contract for, delivered at the highest possible standards of quality.   The standard of excellence on your class work is determined by obvious metrics (attendance, participation, communication, collaboration), standards of excellence discussed as a class and concretized in the community constitution that you will be working on together, and also by peer assessment of your contribution to the two team projects.  Distribution of grades is:  (a) 60% contract grade for your community wrangling, class participation, and CHE blog posts (as collected by you in your portfolio); and (b) 40% on success, as judged by peer-to-peer evaluation and peer-assessed contribution, of your University from Scratch.  

Contract Grade Requirements:  

4.0: Student completes (all assignments):

3.5: Student completes (all assignments except the MOOC wrangling):

3.0: Student completes (all assignments except the MOOC wrangling and CHE blogging):

2.5: Student completes (all assignments except the MOOC wrangling, CHE blogging and one week of class participation):

2.0: Student completes (all assignments except the MOOC wrangling, CHE blogging and two weeks of class participation):

Please Note:

Any student who fails to complete the University from Scratch team assignment (i.e. letting down your peers) or the Final Portfolio (of all your work for the term) will receive a failing grade for the course.

If any student commits to write a Chronicle of Higher Education blog and does not fulfill that commitment professionally and on time, there will be an automatic two full grade reduction.

Grading philosophy:  

We will discuss the philosophy behind contract grading in conjunction with Pasi Sahlberg’s Finnish Lessons and pp. 224-229 of Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies.  It is assumed that the writing and multimedia in the blogs, community wrangling, and designing higher education from scratch will be of graduate level (A grade) quality.  You all had to petition to be in the course and were selected because of what you can contribute to the group.   However, if you cannot contribute to everything, every week, please decide now and contract for a lesser amount of work. 

The standard will always be simple: the highest. There is no curve. And no class rank.  (Both forms of relativistic grading, as we will discover, are products of late 19th century Fordist ideas; they are not about intrinsic quality; i.e. I don’t care if my airplane is better than yours.  I want the best, safest airplane possible.)  The instructor and fellow classmates will give feedback if a blog or community participation or feedback falls below an acceptable standard of excellence.   The goal in the class is not to rank student performance or to give a certain percentage of 4.0 grades.  The goal (per Finnish Lessons) is to have every student achieve excellence, at whatever work load is contracted and planned from the outset.  



This course practices what it preaches in the sense that it is linked to a global movement on behalf of higher education and education reform. In The Future of Thinking, Davidson and Goldberg offered a new definition of “institutions” as “mobilizing networks,” in that, within even the most conservative institution, there are always small pockets and forces of change.  Learning how to leverage those and mobilize on behalf of change is part of the message and method of this course.  

Specifically, our course will pair with courses and/or with professors at a number of other institutions.  Built into our syllabus are onsite and online events with Professors Anne Balsamo (New School); Christopher Newfield (UC Santa Barbara); David Palumbo-Liu (Stanford), and Howard Rheingold (Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Rheingold U).  Please see the class schedule for the events and relevant readings.



NB: all books by Prof Davidson are available free as open access pdfs

(optional) Balsamo, Anne. Designing Culture:  The Technological Imagination at Work. Duke University Press. 2011. Print.

Damasceno, Cristiane, Omar Daouk, Cathy N. Davidson, Christina C. Davidson, Jade E. Davis, Patrick Thomas Morgan, Barry Peddycord III, Elizabeth A. Pitts, and Jennifer Stratton. Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies:  A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning. Print, HASTAC, RapGenius. 2013.

Davidson, Cathy N. and David Theo Goldberg. The Future of Thinking:  Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. MIT Press. 2009. Available online or in print.

Davidson, Cathy N. Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Penguin Books. 2011. Print. (Up to 50,000 students enrolled in the “History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education” Coursera course can download the pdf of this book for free, by arrangement with the publisher)

Newfield, Christopher. Unmaking the Public University:  The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class. Harvard University Press. 2011. Print.

Palumbo-Liu, David. The Deliverance of Others:  Reading Literature in a Global Age. Duke University Press. 2012. Print.

(optional) Rheingold, Howard. Net Smart. MIT Press. 2012. Available online or in print.

(optional) Sahlberg, Pasi. Finnish Lessons:  What the World Can Learn from Educational Change in Finland. Teachers College Press. 2011. Print.

(optional) Wilder, Craig Steven. Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. 2013. Print.



Please see the overview of class schedule.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014: First day of Class

We will also introduce the concept of this co-located class, principles for innovation (in the classroom and out, individually and institutionally).

We will work on distributing the Chronicle of Higher Education blog deadlines and also set up office hour schedules for the Coursera course and discuss responsibilities as “community managers” for the Coursera course.

We will have Coursera representatives join us to discuss the mechanics of running a MOOC.

We will also be setting up your accounts on the class Wordpress site,, so that you can all blog publicly.

Finally, we will focus on ways to maximize the collaboration with Stanford and UCSB graduate students.  The ideal is for all of you to leave this course with a network of other student leaders, thinkers, and educational activists.


Davidson, Cathy N. “How a Class Becomes a Community: Theory, Method, Examples”. Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies:  A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning. 2013. Print, HASTAC, RapGenius.

Forum: A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in a Digital Age”. 2013. Online.

Supplemental Reading:

Burnam-Fink, Michael. “MOOCs Need to Go Back to Their Roots.” Future Tense. 2013. Online.

Mazzolini, Margaret.  “When to jump in: The role of  the instructor in online discussion forums,”    [Very useful data for instructors to absorb, useful for online and onsite discussions]

Rosenberg, Tina. “Turning Education Upside Down”. The New York Times. 2013. Online.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. “10 Steps to Developing an Online Course.” Duke University. 2012. Online.

Westerfelt, Eric.  “The Online Education Revolution Drifts Off Course,” NPR, December 31, 2013.  Online.


(1) Draft the MOOC Community Constitution:

DUE DATE:  January 23, noon.  Must be posted to Coursera by January 27

Read the “21C Manifesto” on RapGenius including the text, visual, or audio annotations there and please add your own annotations as well.  Then, go to the Google doc version and transform this 21C Manifesto into a draft Community Constitution for the Coursera “History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education.”  

Here’s a video on how to use  RapGenius:

What is a virtual class?  What is a collaborative class?  What rules pertain, what do not?

"Describe your experiences in this exercise.   On our class Wordpress site, please indicate how you annotated the 21C Manifesto on RapGenius, and discuss the changes you made to transform the 21C Manifesto for a face-to-face Duke graduate course into a draft Community Constitution for an online course for thousands of students.  Note when you changed it.  Did anyone change your modifications?  If you didn't make any annotations or change the Google doc, why not?

Once the Coursera course opens, the students will be invited to modify it through the Coursera wiki tool in a way that extends to their experience as a class.  We’ll then be inviting annotations on Rapgenius from a worldwide community.  On the course Wordpress site, let us know if anyone modified your annotations.  How? Why?

(2) Prepare questions for Professor Christopher Newfield

Before next week’s Google Hangout, everyone in class should contribute at least one question for Professor Newfield to a Google doc and vote on favorite questions and we’ll rank order those for the Google Hangout.


REMINDER:  Draft of Community Constitution.  Due, January 23, noon.  Must be posted to Coursera by January 27.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Google Hangout featuring Professor Christopher Newfield, UCSB

Reading and discussion:  Unmaking the Public University 


Newfield, Christopher. Unmaking the Public University:  The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class. Harvard University Press. 2011. Print.


Before the Google Hangout, everyone in class should contribute at least one question for Professor Newfield to a Google doc and vote on favorite questions and we’ll rank order those for the Google Hangout.  

For next week (Jan 27), watch Week 1 of Coursera.  Help first MOOC group assemble the three wikis and get ready for the Forum.  Everyone should participate in the Forums in a modest way to help and get the hang of this scope (tens of thousands of students!)  

Supplementary reading:

Jeffrey J. Williams, “The Great Stratification,” Chronicle Review, December 2, 2013. Online.

Craig Watkins “Rethinking the Race Between Education and Technology Thesis,”  DML Central, December 2, 2013. Online.

In class project after Google Hang Out with Prof Newfield:

After the Google Hangout with UCSB and Stanford, we’ll begin with a “design sprint” exercise to start the semester off with the teams that will be working together on designing higher education from scratch project.  Objective:  For you to meet one another and form teams, guiding concepts for your final project.  (The project and even the constitutive groups may well change a lot during the term.)

Design Sprint (with lots of large post-it notes)  [Please see fuller description for February 19 below]

(1) What is your passion? The University of _____________

(2) What is the chief role/job description/function you will play at your university?

(3) What is a secondary area where you can be back up under someone else’s leadership?

(4) What key skills do you bring to this project? Some examples:  


REMINDER:  Draft of Community Constitution.  Due, January 23, noon.  Must be posted to Coursera by January 27.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Week 1 of the History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education Coursera MOOC begins on Monday, January 27, 2014.


Davidson, Cathy N. and David Theo Goldberg. The Future of Thinking:  Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. MIT Press. 2009. Available online or in print.

DML Research Hub. Connected Learning: Relevance, the 4th R. 2013. Online.

Supplementary Reading on “No Sympathy for the Trolls”:

Erard, Michael. “Four Ways to Improve the Culture of Commenting.” The New York Times. 2013. Online.

Wilder, Craig Steven. Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. 2013. Online.

Supplementary on MOOCs and For Profit University (a parody) and Ivory Tower:

Ivory Tower, 

YouTube Parody:   For Profit University:   


(1) Participate in Coursera “Week 1: Guiding Principles and Driving Concepts - Let’s Get Started”    Group 1 MOOC Wrangles and CHE Blogs.


Coursera week description:

This week introduces the idea of a purposive, activist history--learning how and why educational institutions were constructed in the past, for specific historical purposes and in specific contexts; and helps us understand the present and gives us some tools for beginning to shape a different future.  We will look at information revolutions from the cuneiform (the beginning of writing in Ancient Mesopotamia) to the World Wide Web.  Almost all of our current educational institutions--the apparatus, forms, and metrics--were created for the last Information Age, for Fordism and Tayloris, for the age of steam-powered presses, machine-made Paper, and machine-made ink. Pundits were alarmed back then, too, about distraction, shallowness, lack of values, attention, or the work ethic in the youth of the era--even about pedophiles preying on young girls giddy and defenseless from too much novel reading.   Looks at the “21st century literacies” we need now in an era where issues of privacy, publicity, security, access, cost, ethics, intellectual property, safety, credibility, collaboration, global consciousness, design, open learning, and ethics all need careful thinking and action.    

We will ask two recurring questions:  who’s behind the camera?  Education Is Social, Technology is Social.  Whose Labor Makes Our Learning Possible?   People, Institutions, Structures (Often Unacknowledged).  Who Are Our (Sometimes Hidden) Teachers?  How Do They Support Us?  How Do We Recognize Who They Are?  Which Are the Lessons That Last a Lifetime?  Why?

(2) Prepare questions for Professor Cathy Davidson

Before next week’s Google Hangout, everyone in class should contribute at least one question for Professor Davidson to a Google doc and vote on favorite questions and we’ll rank order those for the Google Hangout.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Google Hangout featuring Cathy Davidson, Duke  

Discussion :  Now You See It, focus on Preface, Introduction, and Chapter 3, iPod Experiment

Week 2 of the History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education Coursera MOOC begins on Monday, February 3, 2014.


Davidson, Cathy N. “Introduction” and “Chapter 3. Project Classroom Makeover.” Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Penguin Books. 2011. Print.

“Higher Education.” Wikipedia. Online.


(1) Participate in Coursera “Week 2: The iPod Experiment as Learning Model: Or, Learning vs. Education”   Group 2 MOOC Wrangles and CHE Blogs


Coursera week description:

Duke University’s iPod experiment became international news.   Why?  What happens when students are in charge?   What happens when education begins without knowing the answer (whether in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics--or STEM fields--or in the creative or performative arts, or in humanistic historical or critical thinking, curiosity and inductive logic should be inspiring learning).  The modern professional disciplinary form of education emphasizes, by contrast, content acquisition.   Why?  Survey of Western educational ideas from Socrates, to Descarte, Diderot, and Kant.  Looks at the Humboltian University (based on Friedrich Schleiemacher’s liberal ideas of importance: strict control & disciplines, from preservation of accepted knowledge to Advancement of New Knowledge) and French ideas of importance of certification, degrees, conformity of views, reputation, hierarchy of elite education. Looks at history of higher education in North America, from the University of Mexico (1551) to founding of first research university (Johns Hopkins University in 1876) to MOOCs. Keywords for the Industrial Age vs. Connected Age.  


Thursday, February 6, 2014:  Guest Lecture, Professor Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School of Media Studies, New School, NYC


Balsamo, Anne. Designing Culture:  The Technological Imagination at Work. Duke University Press. 2011. Print.

FemTechNet, Transforming Higher Education with Distributed Open Collaborative Courses (DOCCs): Feminist Pedagogies and Networked Learning. 2013. Online.

Key Points of FemTechNet White Paper (from blog by Thelma Young, October 9, 2013):  

  1. Effective pedagogy reflects feminist principles: "Feminists often describe their classroom as collaborative, engaged, and interdisciplinary." By exploring how to bring these values further into higher education it will value not just feminist courses, but all fields could replicate and explore.

  1. Several currently existing reforms efforts do little to change the status quo: "MOOC efforts often represent a step backwards, by promulgating a standardization of format rather than a focus on processes that support global access to learning and the reciprocity of teaching and learning." FemTechNet has thought a lot about various ways to not leave disenfranchised isolated students out of the learning process.

  1. Access to technology does not guarantee access to knowledge, and respecting the investment of labor is critical to facilitating real learning: "The celebration of MOOCs discounts the financial and affective costs that they in fact require." There are broad structural implications of relying on technology to create reform. It's important to also think of wider social issues as well as the examine the full costs of MOOCs.

  1. Technoscientific choices are not values neutral, and building infrastructure is not simply about choosing components among corporate, consumer products: "Although universities often make large investments in hardware, building the infrastructure that we need in higher education actually involves rethinking traditional notions of ownership of property."

  1. The FemTechNet DOCC is an innovative experiment from which many stakeholders will learn: The DOCC 2013 is an experiment created by scholars in a wide number of fields and we hope that through a variety of assessment measures, not just numeric ones, we can learn best practices that could serve many people.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

“What if fortitude, not SAT scores, were our entrance exam at the university of the future?”  

Week 3 of the History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education Coursera MOOC begins on Monday, February 10, 2014.


Duke Surprise Endings. 2012. (student-created online self-paced course)

Peddycord III, Barry and Elizabeth A. Pitts. “From Open Programming to Open Learning:  The Cathedral, the Bazaar, and the Open Classroom.” Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies:  A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning. Print, HASTAC, RapGenius. 2013.

Davidson, Cathy N.  “How We Measure,” Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Penguin Books. 2011. Print.

Sahlberg, Pasi. Finnish Lessons:  What the World Can Learn from Educational Change in Finland. Teachers College Press. 2011. Print.

Supplementary Readings:

Davidson, Cathy N. How to Moonwalk (And Why). 2013. Online.

“#Dazed93: The legacy of Linklater’s Dazed and Confused” Dazed Digital Magazine. 1993. Online.

de Lumier, Angier. How to Moonwalk Tutorial. 2006. Online.

Gellman, Barton. “Here’s how The Post covered the ‘grand social experiment’ of the Internet in 1988”. The Washington Post. 2013. Online.

Keller, Bill. “An Industry of Mediocrity,” New York Times,  October 27, 2013. Online.   (Here’s my response to this piece.  On your website, think about blogging your own.)  

Gellman, Barton. “Here’s how The Post covered the ‘grand social experiment’ of the Internet in 1988”. The Washington Post. 2013. Online.

“Education in Finland.” Wikipedia. Online.

“No bad schools only poorer neighbourhoods.” Yle Uutiset. 2013. Online.

Politizane. Wealth Inequality in America. 2012. Online.

“Who Pays Teachers Best for their Time?” Online.


Discussion of FemTechNet White Paper, DOCC, MOOCs, SPOC (Self-Paced Online Course), HASTAC Initiative (Massive Online and Face-to-Face Open Course).    Group 3 MOOC Wrangles and CHE Blogs

(1) Participate in Coursera “Week 3: Teaching Like It’s 1992”


Coursera week description:

The world changed on April 22, 1993, when a free World Wide Web browser called Mosaic 1.0, that made the Internet easy to use, was released by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, while, at the same time, policy changes allowed more school, home, and business connections to the network. The combination gave the general public the ability to publish anything to anyone else online--without the intervention or safety net of an editor or publisher.  That’s a tremendous responsibility and opportunity that ushered in our Information Age.  We should be training students to be productive participants in this era.  We’re not.  We’re still teaching like it’s 1992. “Uneven Development” - Marx’s counter to idea of Linear Progress (“trickle down”).  Since SATs in 1926, high school acts as college prep. Erosion of alternative models (vocations). Filter and funnel - social mobility and education.  Outside of the classroom, we no longer learn the same way we did in 1992, but we’re still teaching like it’s 1992 inside the classroom. Focus on assessment methods, peer-to-peer open learning, new tools for data analysis (and precautions).    We’ll also look at what the thirty-year downward trend in public educational funding has meant in the U.S. and how it is altered the demographics of education for public and private schools and worldwide.   We’ll look at how higher education in the U.S. now accelerates rather than diminishes income inequality.  We’ll also talk about the problems of a profession where over 70% of the faculty are now contingent or adjunct (non-permanent, no benefits, no security, sometimes below livable wage).  How do MOOCs fit into the picture?  Do they help?  Do they hurt?  Why do legislators want to believe MOOCs will solve a problem caused by a thirty-year and escalating defunding of public education?   And what is the difference between peer-to-peer open and participatory learning and MOOCs?


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Week 4 of the History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education Coursera MOOC begins on Monday, February 17, 2014.

Due date: Post the first draft of your basic, preliminary ideas for designing higher education from scratch on the Coursera forums.  For inspiration, read this article about Chicago artist/community builder/architect/activist/visionary/preservationist/business man Theaster Gates.  What if this (not Harvard or Duke) were the model to build upon and aspire to?


Davidson, Cathy N.  “The Epic Win.” Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Penguin Books. 2011. Print.

Damasceno, Cristiane Sommer. “Paying Attention to the Chocolate-Covered Broccoli:  How Video Games Can Change the Ways You Understand Teaching, Learning, and Knowledge.” Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning. Print, HASTAC, RapGenius. 2013.  

Davis, Jade. “The Medium of the 21st Century is Light; Or, How Earbuds Became Earlids.” Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning. Print, HASTAC, RapGenius. 2013.  

Stratton, Jennifer. “Everyday by Design:  What do 21st Century Digital Literacies Look Like?” Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning. Print, HASTAC, RapGenius. 2013.  

Berrett, Dan. “Harvard Mounts Campaign to Bolster Undergraduate Humanities.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2013. Online.

Butler, Judith. DLitt - McGill 2013 Honorary Doctorate Address. 2013. Online.

Wesch, Michael. A Vision of Students Today. 2007. Online.  

Davidson, Cathy N.  “A Core Curriculum to Create Engaged Entrepreneurs.” Fast Company. 2012. Online.

Wadewitz, Adrianne. What I Learned Being the Worst Student in the Class. 2013. Online.

Supplementary Reading on Digital Literacies:

Florida Center for Instructional Technology. “Research Tools.” The Internet: Ideas, Activities, and Resources. 2013. Online.  

The McGraw-Hill Companies. How to Judge the Reliability of Internet Information. 2001. Online.  

Sengupta, Somini. “Digital Tools to Curb Snooping.” The New York Times. 2013. Online.

Belshaw, Doug. “Transitioning into a new role at Mozilla.” Open Educational Thinkering. 2013. Online.

Weller, Martin. The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. 2011. Online.

Supplementary Reading on Liberal Arts and Engaged Global Citizenship:

"College, Reinvented." The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2012. Online.

Inspiring Education - Alberta’s Vision for Education. Online.  

“Is massive open online research the next frontier for education?” PhysOrg. 2013. Online.

“Could World Culture Forum Become a Davos for Arts and Culture?” Guardian. 2013.  Online.

Essential:  Natalie Cecire, “Humanities Scholarship is Incredibly Relevant--and that Makes People Sad.  Online.  


(1) Participate in Coursera “Week 4: 10 Ways to Change the Paradigm of Higher Education”   Group 4 MOOC Wrangles and CHE Blogs; First Draft Higher Ed from Scratch


Coursera week description:

Course now switches to look at innovation in higher education:  new principles, new methods, new metrics for redesigning an innovative form of learning that helps us all in the complexities of the world we actually inhabit outside of school, all the time (including by those excluded from participation in that world by reasons of cost, country, censorship, access, ability, or other reasons).   We’ll begin with three innovations on the level of curriculum

Curricular Change: 

1) Practice Digital Literacies

2) Find Creative Ways to Model Unlearning

3) Rethink Liberal Arts as a Start-Up Curriculum for a Resilient Global Citizens

(2) Post the first draft of your basic, preliminary ideas on Coursera: Designing Higher Education from Scratch This will be posted as a Forum on Coursera and you will be responsible for responding to suggestions made in this Forum.  

The mottos borrowed for ISIS 640 are:   “Changing the Way We Teach and Learn” (HASTAC’s motto);  “Difference is our Operating System” (another HASTAC motto); “Digital literacy with a maker spirit” and “Learning to make better lives.”   What is the motto that encapsulates and inspires the mission of your institution of higher learning?

How do you design learning from scratch?   Check out what’s happening at the Stanford D School, “Solving Problems for Real World, Using Design,” New York Times,  December 30, 2013.

Check out Quest University in British Columbia, Canada:

Please review the template questions to get you started.

(A) If you could design higher education, what would it look like?   Divide into project teams, work out the scope of your university for your team, name your university (i.e. Dewey U, Rad Community College, Humanities Vocational Tech, Engagement Professional School of Finance, Law, Technology, and Ethics etc). Each  team will be responsible for starting a Forum on Coursera for that particular institution of higher learning.  

Here are some considerations:  Who are your students, how do you select them and recruit them?  What are your expectations for them?  What constitutes “graduation” from your university?  Are there required courses?  Methods?  Attendance? Participation?  Outline your audience, your expectations, your requirements, your objectives, your technological affordances, your tuition and fees (if any---or your alternative mode of “payment” if you don’t want to charge), your languages, and anything else you think is important to higher education. What is the “better life” (see Amartya Sen’s quote above) for which your institution prepares its students?  How will you help them toward that better life?   Think about the ideal (realistic) administrative structure and your business model for sustaining your institution.  

(B) Please put up the prospectus for your institution in two places:  (1) put it up on our class blog or in a Google Doc that isn’t editable so you have a stable place from which to see how much others change the prospectus and (2) put it up in the Coursera Forum and invite the community to add to or edit the document (you can define how you want to do this and add that to your instructions.

(C) Moderate and contribute to the online international discussion that ensues.  

(D) Report back on the feedback and response and additions to your institutions.  Compare and contrast the original and the crowdsourced version.  


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Google Hangout featuring Professor David Palumbo-Liu, Stanford.  Reading and discussion: The Deliverance of Others:  Reading Literature in a Global Age, focus Preface, Intro, Chapter 3 (on Never Let Me Go); and Sommer, “Pre-Texts Project.”

Week 5 of the History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education Coursera MOOC begins on Monday, February 24, 2014.


Palumbo-Liu, David. “Preface,” “Introduction,” and “Chapter 3. Art: A Foreign Exchange.” The Deliverance of Others: Reading Literature in a Global Age. Duke University Press. 2012. Print.

Davidson, Christina C. “Open for Whom?: Designing for Inclusion, Navigating the Digital Divide.” Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning. Print, HASTAC, RapGenius. 2013.  

Davidson, Cathy N. “How We Measure.” Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Penguin Books. 2011. Print.

Grant, Sheryl.  Measuring What Matters:  Designing a New Credential and Assessment System from Scratch. Online.

Supplementary Reading on Encouraging Students to Lead:

Schwartz, Katrina. “5 Tools to Help Students Learn How to Learn.” KQED Mind/Shift. 2013. Online.

Phillips, Amanda. Gaming the System: Things I Learned by Asking Lit Majors to Design Their Own Digital Games. 2013. Online.

Supplementary Reading on Diversity:

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “If I Were a Black Kid...Advice for students in Baltimore Coutny and Cambridge, Massachusetts.” The Atlantic. 2013. Online.

Kroll, Andy. “Silicon Valley’s Awful Race and Gender Problem in 3 Mind-Blowing Charts.” Mother Jones. 2013. Online.

Bishop, Bill. “Are You Willing to Send Your Child to the Same School as the Children of Vegetable and Rice Sellers?” The Sinocism China Newsletter. 2011. Online.

Moten, Fred and Stefano Harney. “The University and the Undercommons: Seven Theses.” Project Muse. 2004. Online.

Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. ”Digital Alchemist Intensives”. Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind. 2013. Online.


(1) Participate in Coursera “Week 5: Innovations in Pedagogy and Assessment”  GROUP 5 MOOC WRANGLES AND CHE BLOGS


Coursera week description:

This focus is on pedagogy and assessment - because how you teach is what you teach, and what you count is what you value.  

4) Make! From Critical Thinking to Creative Contribution - Focuses on John Dewey and the idea of thinking, then doing, then thinking again.   What making adds to our activist toolkit, including a sense that an idea is not an end product but a process, and that iteration--publish first, edit later--helps you to be bold, to try new things, to experiment, change, and innovate.

5) Encourage Students to Lead. Our “texts” in this class are student-created: and Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies  

6) Make Diversity Your Operating System.  HASTAC's Motto:  "Difference is not our deficit; it's our operating system."  Introduces John Hope Franklin (1915-2009):  “My challenge was to weave into the study of American history enough of a presence of blacks so the story of the United States could be told accurately.”   How can learning and education be “accurate”?  

7) Assessment: Make Sure What We Value is What We Count.  

8) Demonstrate Mastery of Content by Performance, not Testing.  Introduces the work of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Initiative on behalf of “connected learning” and badges

(2) Continue working in project teams on the designing higher education from scratch including in possibly posting a revision of your original Feb 19 entry or continuing to respond to new Forum responses.  


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Google Hangout:  Part II featuring Professor David Palumbo-Liu, Stanford; and Doris Sommer, Harvard; Howard Rheingold, Stanford.  Reading and discussion: Sommer, “Pre-Texts Project”; Howard Rheingold, Net Smart

Week 6 of the History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education Coursera MOOC begins on Monday, March 3, 2014.


Morgan, Patrick Thomas. “Practicing Web Wisdom: Mindfully Incorporating Digital Literacies into the Classroom.” Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies:  A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning. Print, HASTAC, RapGenius. 2013.

Rheingold, Howard. Net Smart. MIT Press. 2012. Available online or in print.

Davidson, Cathy N. and David Theo Goldberg. “Chapter 5. Institutions as Mobilizing Networks: (Or, ‘I Hate the Institution--But I Love What It Did for Me.’” The Future of Thinking:  Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. MIT Press. 2009. Available online or in print.

Supplementary Reading for Funding Public Education:

Supplementary Reading for building a You-niversity:


(1) Participate in Coursera “Week 6: How to Make Institutional Change”  Group 6 MOOC Wrangles and CHE Blogs


Coursera week description:

This week we will discuss the different ways of making not just personal learning innovations but actual institutional change.

9) Make Alliances with Other Change Makers--offers lessons and examples of changes that can and are happening.  

10) Reinvest in Public Education:  discusses the devastating effects of the thirty-year downward trend in U.S. public funding for education and offers international perspective on what is happening elsewhere.

BONUS:  Just Do It! An interview with  with Dennis Quaintance, CEO of Proximity Hotel, Greensboro, North Carolina, who crowdsourced, along with eighty other workers, the nation's first Platinum LEED (sustainable) hotel.  They learned from others.  They experimented.  They committed themselves to do it.  They succeeded.  Moral of this story:  If eighty people in North Carolina could do this, why isn't everyone else?   It wasn't that hard.   So again, the question:  If we could do it, why isn't everyone else?

(2) Continue working in project teams on the Creating a University from Scratch including in possibly posting a revision of your original Feb 19 entry or continuing to respond to new Forum responses.  


Spring Break: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education Coursera MOOC ends Monday, March 10.

Christopher Newfield’s UCSB class ends Tuesday, March 11

Professor Howard Rheingold’s class ends Tuesday, March 13

David Palumbo-Liu’s Stanford class ends Wednesday, March 14


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Learning Design Workshop I   (The Un-Class)

Drawing from what we accomplished the first half of this course, continue to define your project of modeling a university from scratch.   You cannot do everything.  What will you focus on?  What is your project for the last half of the course?  How will you take what you have learned and communicate it so that it has maximum impact in the world?  What will you do to make it as effective a lesson as possible beyond the sphere of this course?  The goal of the course is not an “A” but actual impact in the world.

What is the public interface for your project?

 What’s your activist plan for ensuring it has the most real-world impact?

“Un-Class” (i.e. like an Un-conference).  Pitch ideas.  Create Teams.  Project Assignments, Job Descriptions, Roles.  

What innovation do you propose for higher education?  Who, what, where, why, how?  What tools?  What methods?  What partners?

“Un-Class” (i.e. like an Un-conference).  Pitch ideas.  Create Teams.  Project Assignments, Job Descriptions, Roles.  


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Learning Design Workshop II   (Project Pitch and Crit Session)

15 minute presentation of team project:   napkin sketch, maquette or power point presentation--argument, project objective, audience, communication plan.   Class “crit” session.  

Peer assessment of contribution #1: is everyone satisfied with level of contribution by each member of the group?  (“Badging” exercise, pp. 234-236, Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies)


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Learning Design Workshop III  (Revised Project Pitch and Plan to Launch Into the World)

Revised 15 minute presentation of team project:   napkin sketch, maquette or power point presentation--argument, project objective, audience, communication plan.  Class “crit” session.  

Assignment:   Put your project out into the world.   What assignment do you have for the class?  How will you call upon others in your networks (our class, our co-located classes, HASTAC initiative partners, Coursera participants) to further your objectives?  Mobilize your network!

Peer assessment of contribution #2: is everyone satisfied with level of contribution by each member of the group?  (“Badging” exercise, pp. 234-236, Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies)


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Learning Design Workshop IV   (Results?  What next?)

15 minute presentation:   Report on what happened with your project.  Reach, spread, analytics, impact, self-analysis.  

Peer assessment of contribution #3: is everyone satisfied with level of contribution by each member of the group?  (“Badging” exercise, pp. 234-236, Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies)


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Last day of class

Party Like It’s 2099!


Why Higher Education Demands a Paradigm Shift:

Access, Equity, Diversity


Cathy N. Davidson


Duke University


Paper presented before English Department, CUNY Graduate Center, on October 4, 2014.


An earlier, fifteen-minute version of this talk was given at the Modern Language Association’s Presidential Panel, “Avenues of Access,” in January 2013.


For a published version (not available on line), see, “Why Higher Education Demands a Paradigm Shift,” Public Culture, Volum 26, Number 1 (Winter 2014), pp. 3-13.  



Why Higher Education Demands a Paradigm Shift:

Access, Equity, Diversity


Cathy N. Davidson


Duke University







A few years ago I spent a day in a nondescript cinder block office space of the cement floor and fluorescent lighting variety.  The workspace included twenty or so people crammed into fifteen metal desks amid maybe a hundred desktop computers, laptops, and other devices.   It was in an anonymous warehouse section of San Francisco, located on an obscure side street beneath a noisy highway overpass.  There wasn’t even a name on the door. I pressed the doorbell.  Nothing.  I waited anxiously for a few minutes, then pressed again.  Finally someone buzzed me in.  I had arrived.  

Welcome to the Corporate Headquarters of Wikipedia, the modest, unassuming, anonymous, crowdsourced yet very human heart of the sixth most trafficked Internet site on the World Wide Web.

 I was there to interview Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s cofounder, CEO, principal publicist, and tireless open access evangelist.  I’d had dinner with him and friends once before at a technology and learning event, but, that day, my purpose was to find out the answer to, really, just one question:  “Did you know, Jimmy?”

I asked him:  Did you even suspect, in 2001, when you and Larry Sanger launched the first Wiki, latching onto a Hawaiian word to create a neologism that described this new concept of open, interactive, collaborative writing and editing, did you have any idea that, in one decade, you’d have the largest encyclopedia the world has known?  Did you know that 100,000 anonymous contributors would together create  23 million articles in 285 languages?

No cloister in history could compete with the accomplishment of this virtual Scriptorium.  Did you know, Jimmy?  Did you know you would be creating a knowledge site that would be visited by over 365 million readers worldwide and have 2.7 billion monthly page views in the U.S. alone?”  

                Did you know?

                Wales’s answer was characteristically modest:  “In 2001, we thought a couple hundred people would find Wikipedia an interesting experiment,” he said.        

That  “interesting experiment” is now, a decade later, the first place most of us go for information. And often it’s not just trivial facts but life-shaping information:  the place I might turn, for example, to inform myself quickly about a diagnosis of a catastrophic illness a family member is relating on the phone.

Wikipedia is more than a comprehensive convenience.   It is sometimes a good corrective to the parochialism of traditional, refereed peer-reviewed scholarship.  Six or seven years ago, when I was first began having my students contribute to Wikipedia as a substitute for the research paper, at a time when many educators were “banning” its use on college campuses, I came across the entry on  “calculus.”  The entry gave credit to Egyptian, Greek, Iranian, Chinese, and Indian formulations of fundamental calculus principles, equations, and methods that happened centuries before the famous Intellectual Property battles between Leibniz and Newton over who really “invented” calculus, over who was the “original genius.” I’d never heard of this supposed transcultural history so called one of our reference librarians for verification.  A few hours later she let me know that no reference work in the Duke library contained this information.  But she was tireless in working to confirm that the crowdsourced transnational content was accurate.  She did so by checking with her equivalent reference librarians at research universities in Egypt, Greece, Iran, China, and India.  Each of these librarians around the world knew about the Western history of “calculus.”  One of them knew something about her own country’s contribution.  Not a single one knew the whole international history of calculus crowdsourced as an entry on Wikipedia.  Piecemeal, each was able to confirm part of the puzzle that was sutured together in the Wikipedia entry.  My colleague in the library at Duke, after one week, pronounced the Wikipedia entry to be accurate.

In enacting such a scrupulous process of verification, this librarian authenticated more than an entry on “calculus.”  She certified a potential improvement in diversity, scope, and equity resulting as a direct consequence of opening access to participation by those not authorized a priori as the experts on knowledge formation.  Of course Wikipedia has mistakes and flaws; but she also showed how mistaken and flawed were the official accounts of knowledge, even by those authorized to be curators of their nation’s intellectual heritage.  For both of us, she provided a panoramic if periscopic new conception of knowledge production:  concealed yet authoritative, accurate yet previously unrecorded, expert yet unauthorized.  This new mode of knowledge production lets us see up and over the ledges of our the perspectives, our parochialism, and our prejudices.

The existence of Wikipedia is only made possible by the Internet’s architecture of open contribution--open on the level of code, network, and system. This is the “wealth of networks,” in Yochai Benkler’s famous term, that charts a new paradigm of social production with capacities even to transform the accepted rule of the marketplace (as witness the modest corporate headquarters inhabited by the sixth most trafficked site on the World Wide Web).  I would also argue, along with pioneers of the Software Studies movement such as Benjamin Bratton, Friedrich Kittler, Lev Manovich, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, that this wealth of networks has the potential to shift our humanistic paradigms of the arts, literature, multimedia expression, communication, and, for the purposes of this paper, education, too.

A second example from Wikipedia is useful  here.  The entry on the “Americas” provides not so much new information as a new tone.  The entry is an informative, straightforward, non-editorializing history of Asian immigrations to the New World between 40,000 BCE and 15,000 BCE, followed by a second wave of migration of Na-Dene speakers and then Inuits into the Neoarctic around 3500 BCE, a long and complex succession of immigrant acts, to echo Lisa Lowe, prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus millennia later.  The entry is not framed didactically as a defensive, revisionary, excoriating, or activist polemical “corrective” to some other canonical history.  Not at all.  It is evidentiary.  Encyclopedic.  And when my students go to Wikipedia for their information, they learn it as such.  The facts, m’am, just the facts.  My students have no idea they are canon-busting.

Last year, during a class on the history of the book, I asked my students to jot on an index card when, where, and by whom movable type was invented.  ( ASIDE: As participants in the Seminar learned an hour ago, the brilliant technology of machine-made paper—in the form of an index card—is one of my favorite classroom technologies). I gave students ninety seconds and said it was fine if they wanted to consult their devices.  Interestingly, all of them did.  When I then had them read their answers outloud, not a single person had written “Gutenberg” or the 1455 Gutenberg Bible.  Some wrote Song Dynasty printer Bi Sheng around 1040; others went with the first metal system for movable-type invented in Korea in 1234; others added the Jikji, published in 1377 and the oldest extant book printed with metal movable type.  What interested me in this exercise and was that, when I asked who knew that the “usual” answer would have been Gutenberg, every single student raised a hand.  They said they made it a habit to double check facts, since their textbooks were often out of date, out of touch with global research, or simply prejudiced.  Their kneejerk tendency to fact check strikes me as a positive in an age when much mainstream media is owned by a few highly political corporate interests who “gerrymander,” skew, or flat-out lie about what used to be called “reporting the “news.”

 “Let’s Google it!” marks an epistemological shift to which we have not paid enough attention.  I am personally highly skeptical of the “digital youth” hypothesis that makes of every child an Internet wizard.  That said, I am fascinated by the different forms of curiosity that come from growing up with abundant and random knowledge—for good or ill—only a click or swipe away.  And it pleases me that our youth have this form of intellectual excess as a counterweight to the reductive form of knowledge known as “teaching to the test” that passes for “standards” as part of our national educational policy of No Child Left Behind.  Americans impose this intellectual straight-jacket of standardized, multiple choice testing on our youth at an earlier age and more often than any other nation on the planet. Who invented movable type? A, B, C, or D?  Google offers up the counter-narrative of “all of the above—and more.”

I relate these anecdotes in the revolution in participatory knowledge in order to provoke a question: How can this open access avenue of knowledge-making inspire us, as academics, to rethink, in the most fundamental conceptual ways, what it is that we do and why we do it?

                In my brief time today, I would like to focus on three intertwined and definitional features of knowledge-sharing sites such Wikipedia that we can use to help rethink our educational paradigms.  In my discussion, I rely on the concept of “affordance” that media theorists such as Howard Rheingold have borrowed from 1970s cognitive psychologists James and Eleanor Gibson and from Donald Norman’s ideas, in the 1990s, about artificial intelligence and Human Computer Interaction (HCI).  An affordance is the characteristic of an object that allows an individual to do something with it. A door knob is an affordance lets you easily open a door . A handle on a coffee mug is an affordance that lets you pick up the cup without burning your hands.  The most important affordance of the Internet is that it allows anyone with Internet access to communicate instantaneously with anyone else in the world with access to an Internet connection.

So, Wikipedia’s three affordances:

First, openness of contribution:  the affordance of openness allows us to reconsider expertise.  Anyone, regardless of degree attained, can contribute to Wikipedia along side anyone else as long as they can verify their assertion.  Because of the affordance of openness, such things as credentials, certification, and degrees conferred by authorizing institutions are irrelevant to one’s ability to make a contribution.  That’s a shift those of us in the business of certifying and credentializing knowledge-acquisition should pay attention to.

Second, is the affordance known as folksonomy: that is, the assertive and deliberate absence of a formal, predetermined taxonomy that orders and regulates how knowledge should be categorized.  Wikipedia does not have a hierarchical ordering of its contents. There is no card catalog, no Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal system organizing the individual entries into fields and subfields.  Any topic with a body of published knowledge surrounding it can become an entry.   Proust, the 1972 Phillips VCR, pancreatic cancer, and the PvE (Player Versus Environment) of World of Warcraft all occupy the same searchable, virtual “shelf space” on Wikipedia.

The third affordance is voluntarism.  The lack of compensation, payment or an overt recognition or reputational system in crowdsourcing knowledge sites such as Wikipedia has become so important so fast that we take for granted how revolutionary it Voluntary contribution demarcates a profound shift that should make us rethink our ideas about educational requirements, learning’s carrots and sticks.  What is or is not needed to motivate intellectual activity and promote learning? In 2001 when Wikipedia began, the predominant explanation for human motivation was Rational Choice Theory, based on the idea that humans will only work to maximize their own individual benefit and to minimize their own costs.  The affordance of voluntarism shoots this profit-based theory to pieces.  If people are willing to go to great lengths to communicate their knowledge, for free, and are willing to edit and improve others’ knowledge, for free, are they being irrational?  Or do we need to rethink the affordance of capitalism that allows us to reduce the complexities of human affect and motivation to economics?   Isn’t it inspiring for us as educators to know that people want to communicate and exchange what they know with one another/  As educators, how can we leverage that propensity?  Notoriously, the scientists who invented the World Wide Web early on decided not to regulate pornography because they knew the appetite for porn would help the Internet to grow.  In none of the documents I’ve read from those early Internet geeks did anyone imagine that a voluntary encyclopedia might be a driver of massive global participation!

Open contribution, folksonomy, and voluntarism have transformed the ways we all live and learn outside of school.  I am not sure we’ve fully embraced—or even seen—how these principles might help us to think about what happens inside of school, kindergarten through to professional school.  It certainly seems to me that, if we took these principles seriously, if we claimed them as part of our marching orders for higher education for the 21st century, that we would have to put an end to all the endless handwringing about the “crisis in the humanities.”  Really?  Why are we in crisis in a time when people can’t stop making and communicating their opinions and ideas?  This should be our heyday.

My first department chair, the late Alan Hollingsworth at Michigan State University, used to joke that everyone knows that “education” is the 3 R’s of reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic—and English Departments have a claim on two out of the three.   In the Information Age, our claim is greater than ever.   We are in a whole new world of communication, of reading and writing, with new principles, opportunities, and also tremendous pitfalls.  We need to think about what affordances of higher education still work and which are irrelevant given the world we live in now.  We’re just beginning to do this.  And I hasten to add that it is not only the humanities that need to grasp the import of these changes for the parameters of their profession.  Ironically, many Computer Science departments, too, behave as if the Internet hasn’t been invented yet.

One way to redesign our requirements, responsibilities, and opportunities for the open architecture of the Web is by turning the important work of “critical thinking” into the transformative empowerment that comes with “creative contribution.”  John Dewey has never looked more relevant than in our demanding Do-It-Yourself (DIY) era.  Think it, then do it!  Similarly, the Web’s dicta of  “publish first, edit later” offers fantastically creative opportunities for pedagogy.  Iterative thinking is process oriented, invites feedback, nurtures collaboration, imagination, playfulness, experimentation, activism, and creativity:  See how it works, mull it with others, test it out.  Rethink it—then do it again, and better this time.  For now.  For English Departments, one interesting consequence of thinking through these paradigms is the way it realigns the creative and critical processes, those aspects of our departments that put a premium on content versus those that emphasize expressivity.   That line  between theory and creative expression, between critical thinking and literary practice, is far more blurry in iterative, maker praxis.

There is another reason why our digital world, today, needs English profs. Although the three affordances of open contribution, folksonomy, and voluntarism of the World Wide Web seem utopic, they have severe limits and downsides that we, as educators and as humanists, can address and help to improve.  “Access” is not just an attribute of technology; access is a socio-cultural attribute of privilege, visibility, power, confidence, and self-definition.  If you feel yourself excluded, you will not participate, no matter how open the architecture of the system that, seemingly, is designed for universal participation. An affordance allows an individual to do something more easily--but you do not use the handle if you don’t first believe you’re entitled to drink what’s in the cup.

  Education is necessary to ensure that potentiality of access in our era.  To reiterate my central thesis:  we have not yet transformed education for the diversity, access, and equity that the open architecture of the Web invites.  The result is, in fact, a replication in virtual, digital space of many of the inequalities of the material world.

Here is just one quite stunning example of the challenges offered by access: only an estimated nine to 13 percent of all contributors to Wikipedia are female.  In a world populated by female knowledge-workers, librarians and teachers, what does it mean when there’s only a 13 percent female contribution to the greatest encyclopedia the world has ever known?  What gender biases are being instantiated in this encyclopedia by its implicit bar to equal access?  How? Algorithm or culture?  As it turns out, the answer is “both.” And, in the end,  understanding how and why the answer is “both” is necessary to fixing the problem.  This semester, the FemTechNet consortium of feminist scholars in technology studies is conducting a Distributed Online Collaborative Course (or DOCC) to look at these issues, including mounting collaborative “storming Wikipedia” sessions designed to change such things as the algorithm that immediately puts the adjective “woman” in front of female novelists but not “man” in front of male; or the other algorithm that automatically poses questions about spouses and children only if the entry is about a woman, even if that woman happens to be a Nobel Prize winner.

Open access is not de facto open. Go to a meet-up of Linux or other open access programmers in Silicon Valley and you will be shocked at the lack of racial or gender diversity. Open contribution and equal participation must be taught and reinforced and practiced and institutionalized as part of our reformed educational praxis.

To take advantage of the three affordances I’ve outlined requires cultural confidence.  You contribute only if you believe you have something worth contributing.  Youth, as well as those no longer so young, need to learn how to be confident and yet also cautious contributors.  WE also need to be teaching the new skills of online, public self-curation.   For example, what is the best, wisest, safest way to behave given the new norms of public privacy online and the recent string of court cases that tell us that our email, our Tweets (including the deleted ones), our Facebook or Tumblr or Youtube or any other commercial entries, and in fact anything we send to the Cloud is fair game for commercial data mining, our universities, or the government?   Fourth Amendment anyone?  What does “unreasonable search and seizure” mean anyone?

We should be teaching to, for, and because the rules over everday life and work  changed irrevocably on April 22, 1993.  That was the fateful day when the computational scientists at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois decided to release the Mosaic 1.0 browser to the public.  From that day on, anyone with access to an Internet connection could have access to the World Wide Web, to the affordance of instant and potentially world-wide communication of any idea.  You can publish any manner of spontaneous foolishness without the judgment of an editor or publisher.  And once you do, it is not clear who has access to your immature or intemperate history.  There is no real boundary between public and private.  This was true before Anthony Wiener, Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, or the revelations about the NSA—and it is true now.  We have a big job to do. It is our privilege and responsibility as educators—especially in English Departments—to take to heart what those daunting possibilities mean for society, our students, and our profession.

What is the affordance of higher education in 2013?  What does it allow individuals to do more easily?  Nobel Prize-winning economist Amatrya Sen has said that we should view all education as “vocational,” in the sense that it is our job to help prepare our students for the vocation of leading successful, productive, socially engaged lives.   That entails many things but, among them, would rank helping our students learn how to communicate responsibly in a world where the most basic issues of privacy, security, intellectual property, credibility, authorship, authority, ethics, data mining, and sustainability-- what are sometimes called the 21st century digital literacies—are all being reconfigured moment by moment by moment.




Before we can think about how we might shift the paradigms of higher education to afford greater access, equity, and diversity for the world we live in now, it is useful to remember that the academic institutions we’ve inherited were designed quite methodically and deliberately for a very different  world.  Pundits like to say that education hasn’t changed in 2000 years. That’s true only in the most general and abstract sense.  In fact, almost all of the institutional apparatus that now governs our forms and norms of higher education were developed in the period from 1865 to 1925, the height of the Fordist Industrial Age.  They were developed explicitly to support the business needs and ideologies of capitalist production of that era of global industrial expansion.  Some of these—especially in the areas of scientific measurement of human capacities—are directly related to the late 19th and early 20th century eugenics movement.  That is the subject for a different talk, but I’ll simply put out there that I am not entirely certain that our current metrics for ensuring educational standards have moved us all that far from that deplorable racist past.

The founding of Johns Hopkins University in 1876, the first research university in the U.S., required wrangling the medieval, genteel, and pastoral traditions of the American university to the specialized, disciplinary needs for expertise demanded by industrialism.  It meant enlisting higher education to finalize the transformation of farmers into factory workers, shopkeepers into corporate managers.  Denis Diderot in the late 18th century began the process of modern specialization by breaking all knowledge into constituent categories and disciplines.  In Germany, in the early nineteenth century, the Humboldtian University charted the terrain of the modern specialized research institution.   In the U.S., those discipline-specific training features were “mechanized” into the apparatus of higher education with which we are all familiar today.

The late 19th century research university was structured to support and advance the last Information Age—the era of mechanical mass printing and the beginnings of broadcast, centralized, top down mass media—from telegraphy to radio, movies, and eventually television.  As I wrote about at the beginning of my career, in Revolution and the Word  and in Reading in America, when steam powered presses and machine-made paper and ink made print abundantly available to the masses for the first time in history, pundits called upon educators for help in curbing what they saw as print gone wild.  The called upon the Ichabod Cranes among us to standardize and normalize a canonical body of school house “primer” knowledge that was far more rote, restrained, confined, and hierarchical than the chaotic and heterogeneous world that early readers found in popular stories—sentimental or picaresque or gothic or political adventures feature characters like themselves.  Many of the institutions of higher education we now find familiar were designed for a temporality and a technocracy that is not our own.  

Few educators realize today how deeply Taylorized are the structures of the research university that we have inherited. I mean this literally.  Frederick Winslow Taylor’s theories of scientific labor management very quickly became what I call scientific learning management. Taylor didn’t just chart productivity in pig iron factories and write books that changed the face of American enterprise such as The Principles of Scientific Management (1911).  He was also the first distinguished professor at America’s first professional post-baccalaureate business school, the Tuck School of Management at Dartmouth College.  His ideas of scientific learning management spread throughout higher educational administration as good, modern management practices for charting intellectual productivity for the successful operation of the university and to train future leaders of an Industrial and specifically Western society.

Much of the groundwork for the administrative and bureaucratic philosophy that Taylor laid down at Tuck was already beomg set in motion by Charles William Eliot, Harvard’s longest serving president, who reigned from 1869 to 1909. Eliot’s modernization of Harvard and, in effect, of the American university has been written about many time,s including by his biographer Henry James (son of William and nephew of the namesake novelist).  What is not well known is how much Eliot was on a crusade to replace religious-based liberal arts curriculum of the elite private US university with something more rigid, rigorous, and scientific that could better prepare America’s best and brightest to compete in the global Industrial economy against the Europeans.   Scion of one of America’s first and most patrician and prosperous families—T.S. Eliot was a cousin—Charles Eliot watched in horror, like some Henry James ingénue, as his father lost everything in the Panic of 1857.  The lack of real financial expertise and the over-confidence of the American business man  was widely blamed for both the reckless over-expansion of the US economy and for the lemming like retreat from that economy that caused the world’s first global economic crisis.   Eliot’s reforms at Harvard, based partly on Taylorist principles, was an attempt to standardize, regulate, and arbitrate thinking and education—to train an industrial era mindset—to prevent further panics.

The humanistic mode of analytic thinking has been in decline in status ever since.  Perhaps even more than scholars such as Christopher Newfield, in Ivy and Industry:  Business and the Making of the American University,  I see the liberal arts and the humanistic mode of analysis as at least part of what the Taylorist management apparatus of the research university was designed to curtain and control.   Once liberal arts or general education becomes the “pass through” on the way to the goal of specialized, professional expertise, it morphs from eternal verity to remedial point of entry.  

I won’t name here all of the higher education reforms of the 1865-1925 period but even listing a few reminds us that the university we have now was designed for a specific historical moment and shaped by specific socio-economic requirements a different time.  Reforms introduced, large and small, include:  land grant universities. research universities. mandatory public secondary schooling.  U.S. Office of Education.   Majors. minors. divisions. certification. graduate school. collegiate law school. nursing school. graduate school of education. collegiate business school. degree requirements.  Grades. statistics. standard deviation. class rank.  spreadsheets. blueprints. punch clocks. IQ tests. multiple choice tests. learning disabilities.  Tenure. Item response college entrance exams.  The Scholastic Aptitude Test.  school rankings.

That’s only a partial list but it is a revealing one.

There is not time in this brief paper to tease out all the strands of our institutional origins, but I would summarize three basic components motivating the educational reforms of that Fordist era:  first, the determination of who has the most status and power to dispense knowledge; second, what canon of knowledge counts, and, third, how to quantify, certify, and credential the acquisition of that prescribed body of authorized knowledge.

These conditions are, of course, the inverse of the affordances of Wikipedia and other contemporary digital crowdsourced knowledge sites.  

If the university we have now is a monument to the Industrial Age and Taylorism, shouldn’t we begin to think about the kind and shape of the university we need for the world we live in now?   To return again to our question:  what are the affordances of higher education that will make it easier for our students, now, to lift the cup, as it were? 

In the Seminar an hour ago, I talked about how I’ve been deconstructing my classrooms and turning my teaching inside out by having students in charge of mounting the syllabus, peer grading, and turning the class content into public, open courseware.  It’s scary sometimes giving up that much control.  It’s a lot of work too.  But it is utterly thrilling.  Last semester my graduate seminar of eight students from Duke, University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State University petitioned me saying they wanted to write a book together in lieu of individual research papers. They have now written, designed, and published Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies:  A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning.   They published it on commentable form on and on Github (where the web-based hosting service for software development projects has been reappopriated for open learning remixing and mashup and forking).   They published it on Rap Genius, a hugely popular site where lyrics by JayZ or Lil Wayne can be annotated—with text, music, photos, or video--by anyone who signs in.  Junot Diaz put a chapter of his most recent novel on Rap Genius and is often on the site “conversing” with his worldwide annotators.  And this week Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies came out as a physical book on Amazon.   It’s not your mother’s model of graduate school, but I like it.

In the very brief time I’ve been here as a visitor to CUNY Graduate Center, I’ve heard about so many projects where students take the lead.  I’ve met so many people who are fearless in their ideas, methods, approaches.  Please do not disillusion me if I am reading this place wrong, but what I see here is an eagerness to be extraordinarily ambitious on behalf of students because—and this is becoming increasingly rare in the United States--education here is still the affordance it should be:  the affordance that makes it easier for students to achieve Amatrya Sen’s ideal of a productive, fulfilling, wise, and socially-responsible future.




And now the MOOCs.  Massive Online Open Courseware.  In the last eighteen months, it seems like all we hear about higher education is MOOCs.  The transformative interactive, public peer-to-peer learning online that many of us have been championing for the last decade has little to do with the MOOC hype or hysteria.  There has been a lot of blather about this new form of online education being the first true intervention into traditional education for a digital age—some pundits are insisting it's the first real educational reform since Socrates! MOOCs such as those sponsored by Stanford’s Coursera, Google’s Udacity, and MIT and Harvard’s EdX have been announcing their aim is to reach a billion learners with a revolutionary new form of education that is exactly like the classes now taught on campus at these distinguished universities.  Which is it?  Revolution or simulacrum of the elitist status quo?

MOOCs are being touted as the great disruptive force in higher education, to use Clay Cristensen’s term. I contend that MOOCs are having such an impact now because--structurally, epistemologically, and pedagogically—they actually disrupt the least about higher education.  Harvard and Stanford videotaping their most famous professors and delivering that form of talking heads/ Sage on the Stage education to the world’s masses is not a paradigm shift-- especially when those Sages are disproportionately tenured white male high status professors in traditional disciplines.  In fact, the gender numbers are significantly worse than Wikipedia’s and the gender and racial representation of the professors teaching these prestige MOOCs is worse than at the brick-and-mortar universities themselves.  Once again the “open” word makes us ask:  open to whom? By whom?  For whom?

There are other issues.  Typical MOOCs do not invite students to contribute their knowledge or find new ways for their participation to count in the manner of open learning or participatory knowledge sites.  Nor do MOOCs guard students against the dystopic possibilities of open access surveillance of the kind that Jared Lanier, Internet pioneer turned Jeremiah, warns us about:  a world where those in power—such as those who run commercial websites or those who support MOOCs--can exploit their access to our individual data.  Billions of learners?  Or billions of potential customers whose data can be mined and targeted for future advertising?  What is the end game?  Billions of programmers trained as an outsourced and expendable cheap global labor force to be manipulated by the new global One Percent?  Again, that’s not so revolutionary.

Still . . .        I have not given up on MOOCs as a potentially important educational experiment.  MOOCs are still beta, that is certain.   I remain hopeful that some combination of peer-to-peer learning and online personalized and customized learning and world-wide interactive learning can lead to new models of education that might help open access to higher learning, in a more inspiring and interactive way, to quite literally millions of people worldwide who are bared from traditional higher education due to expense, location, prerequisites, physical or cognitive disabilities, or workplace or family priorities.  But we are still far from anything like a viable way to deliver real education at massive scale.   Nor is it clear to me that MOOCs, even in their current and amateurish form, are even economically sustainable.  Certainly, in the present model, they do not threaten current higher education---except insofar as naïve or cynical legislators want to believe the hype that  MOOCs will “solve” the problem of the soaring costs of higher education.  The only thing that will solve the problem of rising tuitions at public universities is more funding.  Period.  Ronald Ehrenberg’s careful data analysis makes clear that, if funding hadn’t been reduced, the real rise in public higher education costs is only about .5% a year per FTE over the last decade—lower than the general rate of inflation.  MOOCs can’t reverse a thirty year downward trend-line in which the public abdicates responsibility for educating the next generation.   Furthermore, at present, the audience of MOOCs is not even close to that of the traditional or even non-traditional college population.  The much-ballyhoed 90% drop out rate from MOOCs is mostly a testament to the fact that, like those who make New Year’s resolutions, most  people who sign up for MOOCs typically overestimate the gratifications and underestimate the sacrifices.

But a New Year’s resolution is not a college education.  MOOCs do not solve the problem of flow into the system.  Currently, MOOCs are better at attracting venture capital than in returning dividends to their investors.  Currently neither professors who teach the MOOCs nor the companies running them are seeing anything like reasonable remuneration in the former case or profit in the second.  At present, it is a system where only the consumer not the producer is profiting.   Since our society is not exactly trending socialist these days, this is not a viable business model.

There are a few things you have to love about this MOOC hype. First, I love the way MOOCs have changed the conversation about the intrinsic value of higher education.  Remember back five or even three years ago, when half the media stories about higher ed insisted that a college degree was no longer worth anyone’s time, effort, or money?  Certainly the word on the street was that the humanities had no place in the 21st century world.  Who needs18th century novels or a history of the Muslim world?   Enter the MOOC.  Suddenly courses on those subjects are being enrolled in by millions, in numbers as great or greater than the skills courses that originally seemed the province of MOOCs.  Many of the top subscribed courses are on topics like world history or difficult poetry.  Al Filreis at Penn, an evangel on behalf of poetry, now has 20,000 students reading everyone from Dickinson to Howe, Ashbery, Silliman, and John Cage.  Almost over night, we’ve gone from higher education being superfluous to higher education being valuable enough to be exploited!

Being able to make the value of what we do inside our classrooms public is, to me, revolutionary and, well, fabulous.  Being able to join the millions and millions of others watching David Harvey’s lectures online is, frankly, amazing.  I’m intrigued enough by MOOCs that, starting in January of 2014, I’ll be teaching an activist “meta MOOC.”  I’m using the Coursera platform at Duke to launch “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education.”  The efficacy of MOOCs is one subject we’ll take up in this course.  We’re also hoping to engage the estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people taking the course around the world to crowd source a resource guide to global educational milestones—local and national—and educational innovations, local and international. No resource of this kind currently exists.  How can a MOOC be more like the best aspects of Wikipedia, with crowdsourced and participatory knowledge content from which everyone learns?  That’s the goal. Parallel to the MOOC, HASTAC will be coordinating some fifty different face-to-face courses, webinars, Google Hang Outs, seminars, and events worldwide to galvanize faculty and, especially, students and the general public to support and shape the Future of Education.  The African University Consortium will be joining us, as will Coimbra, the European Association, and HASTAC’s international conference will be sponsored this year by the Ministry of Education of Peru and the Organization of American States, which are also partners.   You can learn more about it on the handout and even more on the website url.   We are trying to return MOOCs to the connectivist roots of peer-to-peer creative, interactive, open community and networked learning. Connectivism draws from both neuroscience and computer network theory to postulate that real learning happens across humans and nonhumans in a network, where ideas aren’t just transmitted but actually exchanged—and, in the process, used, remixed, subtly or drastically reformed and transformed.  Connectivist learning re-structures ideas not as disciplines or silos but as connections and nodes.  It reconceives what happens in a classroom or on line not as delivering content but, in essence, delivering discontent:  that is, inspiring students not to memorize right answers but to always, ever, ask questions of any information they receive:  unlearning, as Vygotsy and futurist Alvin Toffler would say, and ever-learning again.

                 If we who are dedicated to the mission and principles of higher education are really thinking altruistically, not cynically or purely commercially, about educating billions of those who cannot afford an elite university education,  then we need to take back the MOOC, and take back the design of innovation from corporate interests who now claim we academics are incapable of coming up with new ideas.  Wrong.  Interactive, activist, world-changing conversations, onsite and online, can be a potential and better goal for MOOCs.  Our aim the current beta form of the MOOC should help, by its outlines, to help us distinguish what we believe and we seek from the very special worlds we create in classrooms.  We should educate the whole person.  Our goal should be to help train engaged, enlightened citizens who can make informed decisions and take collective action at the ballot box or in the streets about, say, gang rape in Delhi or assuaging hunger in Darfur or curtailing gun violence in elementary schools in Connecticut.  But here’s an important caveat.  Knowledge and power cannot be in one direction.  This requires a global rather than a Eurocentric canon and decentered perspective.   We do not want MOOC Sages falsely preserving the Eurocentric calculus of Leibnitz and Newton and Columbus.  To be consolidating and disseminating imperial knowledge even after it is being transformed by global crowdsourced and encyclopedic participation to my mind constitutes intellectual theft, not free education.  

To truly reimagine the university in view of new avenues of access, diversity, and equity, we need once again to reactivate and reconceive the liberal arts for our time.  That means integrating the newest technologies but also calling upon our traditions of historical, theoretical, socio-cultural, and multicultural inquiry to think through the risks and opportunities offered to us by the technologies that shape our world.  It makes no sense, given the open architectural affordances of the Internet, to separate technology from the human and social context of knowledge-making in the 21st century. It is time to rethink what we mean by “general education” and to reposition the humanities centrally, as what I’ve been calling a “start up curriculum for resilient global citizenship.”  That phrase borrows Guattari’s idea of resilience in Three Ecologies for an ecosystem where open participation feeds to and from worlds that are simultaneously both virtual and material. These principles should be infused through every aspect of a revitalized university, one where, for example, the life of the mind is the heart of the city—and vice versa.  In 2013, no one should be massively scaling an outmoded Industrial Age model of education.  We should all be meaningfully remodeling our institutions for the best possible version of the world we live in now.