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I wish that I could have sat and listened to Gardner Campbell talk this morning and then spend the rest of the day thinking and talking with him and with others at #opened12 about his keynote. Well, I suppose I sort of did that. I think we have all been walking around in a daze since this morning, wishing we had more time to spend on his provocations and less obligations to do the session-to-session thing that conferences demand.

I started to write this post, and then found myself spending the evening at a musical jam session with Campbell and others. So there's that. And that's actually a wonderful ending to a wonderful beginning of the day. Because jamming is sharing. Jamming is collaborative creation. Jamming is learning. Jamming is process. "Make art dammit," as DS106 commands us, with the emphasis, I think, on the “make” more than than the “art.” And at the end of the evening with the music ringing in my ears, Campbell's keynote makes perfect sense, and there's nothing much to say.

It’s process, not product after all. It’s not so much the what we learn but the how and the who with and the why we do so. As Campbell suggested in his keynote this morning, it’s not so much about “open” as an adjective to describe education; rather it’s “opening” as a verb to describe what we must do. What we want students, learners, all of us, to do.

Discover. Play. Build. Create.

Jam. (And that requires others -- a community, a network -- in turn.)

You can, of course, slip up and bleed out your eyeballs, as Campbell warned us as he began his talk with a nod to the recent 120,000 foot free-fall of Felix Baumgartner. At these great heights — literal, metaphorical — it does feel as though higher education (or education at any level or Austrian skydivers... whatever) might easily slip into a death spiral. It’s all on YouTube these days too, everyone watching as you break records or break your neck.

And it’s sponsored by Red Bull, or at least Baumgartner’s jump was. And that’s a piece that Campbell never really fleshed out in his talk today. I do like that we should focus on the yearning — yearning-to-learn and learning-to-learn — and I do agree that that’s a particularly fruitful way for us to (re)frame education — again as process and not product. But the product — or at least the corporate branding thereof — seems inescapable, particularly in a world where "exploration” might be something that we leave now to the corporations rather than governments. I’m thinking less about Red Bull here than I am about SpaceX, but who knows what the future of space travel looks like or how we brand it. 

And “how we brand it” seems to be precisely the thing that so many universities, so quick to jump on the MOOC bandwagon, want to protect. "How we brand it" seems to be at the heart of a rush of private dollars flowing into education corporations. It's all about the product, not the process.

And as Campbell repeated in his refrain today when he spoke of the ways in which these products describe themselves as "open education," “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”

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Audrey Watters


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