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[milken] Things I’m thinking of saying on an education panel

I’m on a panel at the Milken conference today. Apparently, it’s like the West Coast Davos. All I know is that the conference stipulates that I have to be dressed in business attire. Not even “business casual.” Ok, I’ll put on my sports coat and tie, but they can’t make me wear clean underwear. Oh yeah, stickin’ it to The Man!

The panel is called “Blogs, Wikis, MMORPGs, and YASNS: Shaking Up Traditional Education.” I am in awe of my panel mates.

Because it’s an actual panel, not a sequence of PowerPoint decks, no one knows where the conversation will turn. But here are some of the things I might end up saying:

What are our students learning from the success of Wikipedia? We hope they’re learning that they can’t be passive recipients of knowledge. But they’re also learning that authority doesn’t come only through chains of credentials; that we can get on the same page about what we know; that knowing involves be willing to back away from your beliefs at times; that knowledge is a social product, or at least heavily socially contextualized; that the willingness to admit fallibility is a greater indicator of truth than speaking in a confident tone of voice; that knowledge lives in conversation, not in the heads of experts; that certain people who do not need to be named are just impossible.

Knowing has been primarily a way of seeing the simplicity behind the world’s apparent complexity. But now as a culture we’re busy complexifying everything we can. E.g., blogs take a simple idea and turn it over and over in their hands, poking at it, trying it this way and that, connecting it to that other thing over there.

I don’t know what will happen to the basic structure of education, the course, but topics have exploded. This makes it harder than ever for us to listen to educators tell us what’s important for us to know…but we need to listen.

Textbooks are and always have been boring and self-satisfied. The basic problem is structural: They exist between covers. I don’t know what to do about this, but someone will figure it out.

The endless decentralized distraction that is the Internet certainly raises questions about our ability to hold our culture together (and if that is even a good thing), but we should at the very least rejoice that we are learning what education has always tried to teach us: The world is endlessly interesting. [Tags: ]

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4 Responses to “[milken] Things I’m thinking of saying on an education panel”

  1. Talk about self-referential parody (the conference, not you, David). For a nominally global conference, the education track is certainly American-centric. And not a critically-themed session among the lot.

    But then again, I may be spoiled by sitting here at the largest graduate faculty of education in North America (if not the world), with centres like the Comparative, International Development Education Centre, the Social Economy Centre, and the Transformative Learning Centre – and that’s just in my department!

    Hope your panel’s a blast, but I wouldn’t expect to learn much about what’s going on outside of the American bubble.

  2. Ouch! Good point, Mark. We’d already noticed that we’re a bunch of white guys (except for Liz, of course) dressed in our best clothes…

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