... for tomorrow we DIY

My recent post on Edupunk 'Can Anybody Hear Me?' and my interpretation of it has provoked some debate I see. Recently, Frances Bell wrote a blog post entitled 'Learning to Love the Term Edupunk' where she raised concerns over the term and highlighted some issues over its use.

Frances posted a comment on my blog today, and I will take the opportunity here to respond to the two questions she posed:

Question 1: We have the advantage with Edupunk of being able to look at what happened to Punk - anyone done this comparison?

My answer: A retrospective would be a great idea. What happened to Punk was that firstly it energised a stagnating music industry when it was desperately needed. Punk rockers took a DIY approach by releasing their own recordings and printing their own fanzines, bypassing the established industry. Punk rock brought an edgy, controversial and ultimately innovative form of content and drive. It was anti-establishment, sure. But it brought its own structure. Eventually Punk music distilled into New Wave, and opened the door for other music genres including Ska, Heavy Reggae, and New Romantics to achieve popular status. Punk's influences can still be felt even today in the arts, and music has never quite been the same since - so it has accomplished its purpose. I propose that the same analogy will apply to the DIY Edupunk philosophy. It will, and in some cases, already is, transforming some aspects of education and challenging established practices. Open source, I would suggest, was an early example at what we now know as Edupunk - Linux and Moodle have made the corporate giants sit up and take notice. Edupunk will distill too, into less rampant forms of education, but it will do its job by challenging the established practices and subverting some of the corporate profiteering that is currently rife. Music and education - two inalienable human rights, I think.

Question 2: You say edupunk ... "brings the punk band (the teacher) closer to the audience (learner group)". If the learners are the audience, we're back where we started. Edupunk is where learners live edupunk too.

My answer: I can see why some people may have problems with the analogy of 'audience' and 'band'. We are not back where we started, and we need to acknowledge that there are distinct roles teachers and learners play. What I was really trying to get at as someone who actually played in a 'Punk' style rock band in the early 80s was that we, like many other 'new wave' rock bands broke tradition and invited the audience to join us on the stage, and in some cases, we didn't use a stage at all. We wanted to narrow the distance. We even went down into the audience to join them during our performances - remember 'body slamming'? 'Fans' contributed to our fanzine, and there was no 'them and us' syndrome, which was prevalent with much of the mainstream music industry of the period. We mashed up the roles we took, and this is patently something that is also happening when an Edupunk approach to learning is applied - with learners taking control of their own learning, creating shared spaces, forming their own groups, communities and networks to teach themselves. Although this is not exclusively Edupunk, the ethos plays a key role in its success. This approach is reminiscent of Illich's Deschooling thesis, where he called for the removal of 'funnels' which promoted transmission approaches to education in favour of 'webs' which enabled rhizomatic approaches to learning which were eminently more person-centred.

So some people have a problem with Edupunk as a term. It represents bricolage, anarchy and subversion and a challenge to the establishment. We have Jim Groom to thank for the term, I guess, but at the moment I can't think of another term that fits better or conjures up more appropriate analogies. What do you think?

Image source


Frances Bell said…
Your perspective as a punk band member illuminates discussions about change and innovation. I love the community development aspect of (some) Open Source software but let's look at the innovation models of much of the Web 2.0 (and even some OSS). Corporates do sit up and take notice! and then move in, buying it up,changing the model - why wouldn't they once they have bought it? What I am saying is that alongside experimenting and having fun, we can't assume that our 'free' access to media and web services we like actually reduces corporate exploitation or ensures fair reward to artists. One of the great things about user-generated content is that it puts those of us who may formerly have been consumers of media content into a position more comparable with artists.
I think we can be DIY and have fun but also need to be critical. Anyway, I said all this in my post at http://tinyurl.com/d8gze4
Anonymous said…
Nice post Steve. I gave a talk a week or so ago to a group of grad students about the EduPunk philosophy, and had very little push back on the name. When I talk to colleagues, though, they bristle immediately, to the point where I wonder at times of its usefulness for current practitioners. Additionally, as an historian, I often find the original battle is convincing people that tech>ppt. The terms technology and powerpoint are so intimately joined in teaching historians' minds that I feel like that's the hurtle I have to get over before I can preach the gospel of open source edtech.

And one small point of clarification-- ska predates punk, and was one of its genes of origination. 1960s Jamaican dance hall music fueled much of the skin/mod culture of 1969 when it was working class and not yet racist. That's why for The Clash, rudie can't fail!
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comments Parez. I appreciate the problems one can encounter when we try to become change agents in an institution. It's like walking in treacle. All I can say is - keep going and don't give up!

As for Ska, yep - I know it pre-dates punk, as does Reggae. What I said in the post was that Punk opened the door to help them to become mainstream in popular music. Bands like The Specials, The Selector, The Beat, UB40 and Madness all followed on the back of Punk, and their music was predominantly ska/reggae and all enjoyed chart success.
daniel said…
I was never a big fan of most punk music, but jast as a matter of taste & preference. It wasn't until I saw some documentary about the Ramones that I heas the explanation, "After hearing Paige, Hendrix, Clapton, etc. , you felt like you couldn't even pick up a guitar unless you were good enough. Hearning the Ramones let you know that you didn't have to be "good" to make good music." I like how this concept can tanslate to learning community. (Ironically, isn't the elearning community creating it's own rock stars that are critical of the less proficient?)
Anonymous said…
Hi Steve-- You know, I think one of the interesting aspects of musical subcultures is the extent to which they emerge and re-emerge as mashups, hybrids, adaptations that simultaneously seek out roots music to redeploy in a more current milieu of tech and politics.

I helped out a bit on a ska radio show in college in the early 1990s, and was almost exclusively drawn to roots ska, rocksteady, and early reggae, though with respect to the 2nd wave.

It seems, you know, as if the successive waves of musical reinvention are spurred by a distaste for commodification, a search for authenticity in earlier music, and its re-engagement. Punk certainly did this in the mid to late 1970s-- looking to the grinding, driving rock'n'roll of a Link Ray and the repetition and simplicity of roots ska, and more.

Maybe that's a bit of what edupunk is doing with pedagogy.
Janshs said…
I *wish* we could use the rhizomatic approach more in schools (my main place of work) - how can we encourage all teachers/students about this when we are constrained by examinations etc.? I really think that learning logs/journals for young students, teachers and teams of teachers might be one way forward - is that a DIY approach? Maybe ...

Popular Posts