In the space of a week, I've found/been lead to two different articles that describe my new title in the world of education. A new book is coming out, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, that chronicles the many different movements in higher education, empowering both students and those educators who have been left behind (visit her website, http://diyubook.com/). In another, related, article, EduPunks say, School Yourself!, the authors outline how students are increasingly taking ownership of their educations and not just allowing institutions of higher education dictate their learning path.
I'm of two minds about all this. First off, it's nice to know that I belong to larger community of frustrated educators and learners who are looking to do things differently. Where experience counts more than what courses you've officially taken (that's the Punk side). And where if you think you can do it better, than do it (the entrepreneur part). But really, what does all this mean? If students can really just go online and learn whatever they want or need, why would they pay for me to either tutor them or teach them a college readiness course?
From "Edupunks": [Former college instructor David] Hall imagines a system where the student is an active participant in their own education. In order for this system to work, though, students need to be engaged in their own education. He says students don't realize how important education is when they're going through it." It's important to note that this is coming from another former non-tenure-track instructor, who seem to be making a huge contribution to the DIY world of education. The truth is that students really don't know how to learn, I mean really learn. My idea isn't just that the class is about learning how to write a paper, but how to actually benefit from college, how to come out of college, not just with a piece of paper, but a real sense of having learned something.
Getting right down to it, I want to empower students to make the most of their experience at college or university. Yes, it's about reading, writing, and critical thinking. But what are you going to read, write and think critically about? I can help you get there. When I asked colleagues and friends who are also university instructors and professors, what is it you wish your students knew or had, they all answered (in one form or another), a will and a passion to learn. The apathy or disinterest they note in their students is more disheartening than any lack of basic writing skills.
How do you teach that? You don't. You inspire students to take control of their own educations and show them the power they have to shape their future. You show them how to read the map, how to maneuver the vast array of choices the university presents to them. Teach the basics, give them the tools, and just point them in the right direction. That's what I try to do.