Monday, November 17, 2008

Whither Institutions of Learning?

We have discsussed literacies from many angles: what do these changes mean for institutions—libraries, museums, schools—especially given that historically, these institutions have understood themselves as places knowledge is made, archived, and/or transmitted? You can focus on one institution or read across all three. Unless you are the first poster, please connect what you say to earlier posts.


rory said...

Well for starters, Carl Raschke believes that digital technologies, the subsequent emergence of new digital literacies, and the change that both of those have had and will continue to have on our cultural and societal practices are making higher education obsolete as it is currently conceived. While I might neither perceive nor advocate the need for the type or extent of change that Raschke does, his point about change and—in a sense—adaptation is worth considering. I agree that the literacies engendered by new technology—however defined—challenge or at least complicate traditional ways of making and disseminating knowledge, and the academy is still considered the staple in both such areas. Thus, it seems plausible that the academy would need to not only notice the change outsides its walls but also devise a reactionary plan—and I think, for the most part, many universities have started to do just that. While the overhaul Raschke promotes might be too presumptuous for my taste, changes have already taken place and more are afoot. Take, for a rudimentary example, the computer-assisted classroom. Upon coming to FSU, I never really considered teaching in such a classroom. The reason: I did not know I could. I had not had such an experience as an undergraduate student, so the idea was simply foreign. As such, I conceived of my imaginary classroom in much different terms. I didn’t even think in terms of literacy.

This is all to say, perhaps, that our discourse community (rhetoric and composition) and more specifically the community of our class (digital media communication) greatly affects how we perceive current pedagogical praxis as well as how we will design our own courses as we head forward. Even so, I still think that discussing, analyzing, and attempting to hone such new digital literacies in a productive manner (however that may be defined) is still incredibly important.

As for our students, however, I am not so sure they see the need for change that we might. Going from traditional high school to the academy is in itself a major transition. And while their lives are most definitely permeated with technology—often times, I would suggest, to the point where they are unconscious of its presence—I think that they nonetheless pereceive the literacy practices they cultivate through digital technology on their own volition to be separate from what they do or should do in the academy. As such, I think the most important concept we broach as teachers as we head forward is bridging the gap between digital literacies and academic literacies—though again I do not think it will take the type of overhaul Raschke suggests.

Kara T. said...

Rory brings up an interesting point when he says “literacies engendered by new technology—however defined—challenge or at least complicate traditional ways of making and disseminating knowledge, and the academy is still considered the staple in both such areas.” And I agree that because of it seems that the academy would need to consider the change happening outside its walls. I think on some level it is considering this. Rory’s example of the computer classroom suggests that what is happening on the outside is also at least being considered inside the academy. I think too that libraries and museums are beginning to consider what these changes could mean for their institutions and how then they need to reconfigure how the knowledge is made within their walls. For example, during the Watson conference we had a chance to go to and explore the Muhammad Ali museum. This museum was designed with interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations in attempt to “reach beyond the physical walls to fulfill its mission.” Every step you take in this museum moves you into a different multimedia experience. The knowledge created here is social and interactive much like some of the digital classrooms can be. It also attempts to weave a specific culture into one that can expand and embody a wider cultural representation of people. This suggests that literacy is connected to culture and the people within the culture gain knowledge through the tools that are provided within the institutions. The learning is different though because it no longer represents the traditional means by which knowledge is made and/or transmitted. It suggests that learning now should be interactive and multimodal and that we need to be aware that a change is occurring and keep up with this change. If we do no keep up with the change, I think that perhaps our learning will become stagnant and literacy unchanging which I don’t think is a goal of making knowledge. Methods of making knowledge need to keep moving forward so that they keep up with the trends because it seems that the trends tell us something: what is new with how people learn. Not moving forward and not being willing to move forward might suggest that your own learning and knowledge-making ideals are not moving and perhaps you are no longer learning. Being open to change and moments of discomfort allows for new knowledge to be created and then transmitted into other places such as our students or other institutions. Knowledge evolves and because of this so does literacy which means how we define literacy changes. We need to keep up with it so that we are always knowledge-makers, knowledge-transmitters, and knowledge-gainers and not simply educators who gained knowledge once upon a time. Libraries, museums and schools should always be these three things because they are institutions of learning. Therefore, it is our job and those that work within them to be ready to step outside our comfort zone and evolve with literacy.

Natalie said...

“Someone” once said that if we do not evolve with and alongside new technologies that we risk making our selves, our pedagogies, and our studies anachronistic. This seems to be a large part of what Raschke (and rory above) haveargued. As things evolve in the cultural at large, the university, and its practices, need to evolve with it if it is to stay “useful.” After the semester we have all had, this seems like a given. Literacy and our material practices of literacy are evolving and we who teach literacy must acknowledge that. However, what interest me more is how this change and (r)evolution occurs. Above, Kara stated that “this suggests that literacy is connected to culture.” I cannot help but tie this to what we chatted about in class. Yes, many of us would like to shake up the university system and alter what it means to graduate or earn a degree. BUT, in order for any of that to happen, a multitude of other cultural forces must align first. I cannot just start a university and tell my students that they are working towards “competency and not a degree” and then send them out into a workforce which requires a concrete degree for employment. I will have created a university and institutional system which turns out educated, but unemployable, students. Also, I cannot create an online program or one like Raschke’s which requires students to be independently driven, engaged, and motivated if students are not accustomed to learning in such an environment. If a student has gone through a typical (relatively passive) high school setting and then enters my university, he/she will undoubtedly be ill equipped for success. I may have created a university based on wonderful pedagogical theory, but I have also created one where my students are disadvantaged because of their past educational experiences.

I think you get what I am saying here. So, my real question is where do we start? It seems impossible that all of the necessary cultural or social forces would align perfectly and change all at once, so what role do institutions have in “reacting to” and/or “spearheading" this change? It is clear that institutions must evolve with culture, but do they evolve first, last, or somewhere in the middle in comparison with other social forces? Would the lower levels of education have to change before or after the university changed? What about the sphere of employment practices; would it change before or after the university? How about the realms of professional activity in the university; should those changes occur before or after changes to our undergraduate and/or graduate pedagogies? Bottom line: how can these types of changes occur when the stars simply cannot align perfectly? What (must or should) come first? Or is such a “linear” question even valid? Perhaps it is more of a chicken and egg situation. What do you all think?

Gil said...

I understand evolution to be a slow and deliberate change away from a less-useful trait, towards a more useful one. And I look at the Digital (R)evolution in the same way. While I agree with our discussion direction in class, that it would be nice if we could overthrow the traditional boundaries of the 4-year degree which is essentially a "license to work", I believe that we are much less in a "revolution" than we would like to think.

In response to Natalie's questions toward the end of her post:
It seems that our cultural obsession for instant gratification has also spilled into our academic lives and has spawned our desire to quickly reverse the role of the University in our lifetime. While I believe that we are an important catalyst for this type of change, I agree with you in that my children will not be attending any of the Universities that we designed in class.

I believe that what this all boils down to is economics. I think that we can all agree with Raschke, that Universities must change with the Digital Age, or be made obsolete by it-- but I also think that as long as the University remains a tool for social and economic advancement, it will not wain in the face of a digital revolution.

I like to look at the model of a "new hire", in which it has been my experience that individuals holding online degrees are automatically labeled "lazy" while those who attended a four-year university in the flesh are regarded as true academics. There still appears to be too much apprehension in the upper-echelons of the hiring strata towards technological education.

In short, I believe that change is inevitable and necessary, but I don't think of it as a revolution at all, more like the evolutionary "dulling down" of teeth or the mysterious disappearance of ancient vital organs.

Jennifer O'Malley said...

In my opinion, I believe that libraries, museums, and schools will always exist as “places of knowledge” and “institutions of learning” regardless of the influence of time, change, and technology; however, I think they will need to adapt to new methods of learning and make available new spaces for knowledge-making in order to maintain their level of prominence. As Kara noted with her Muhammad Ali museum example, “The knowledge created here is social and interactive much like some of the digital classrooms can be.” The museum has adopted multi-modal technology exhibits in order to entice visitors and present knowledge and learning in a new, interactive arena.

This example reminds me of advice I received during Boot Camp. I can’t recall who told me this, but I know I’ve attempted to employ his/her underlying message: Your students will be accustomed to being entertained and captivated by modern technologies and multi-modal stimulants. A you result, you—as teacher—must compete with this. You have to be creative and engage them in a way that promotes their interest and participation similar to today’s digital environments.

In relation to this practice, I completely agree with Rory’s observation: “I think that they [students] nonetheless perceive the literacy practices they cultivate through digital technology on their own volition to be separate from what they do or should do in the academy.” Therefore, schools might have to abandon their traditional systemic approaches and embrace, or at least consider embracing, new methods, approaches, and spaces for learning. However, I agree with Natalie’s claim that even if we did create Raschke’s university vision, who’s going to attend? In competing with society’s dominant norms, a revolutionary university of this magnitude would undoubtedly disrupt the established academic traditions. People would question this new institution and since it represents change, ignore or refute its promising possibilities. As a result, its students would be left, as Natalie predicted, unemployed. Currently, I don’t feel the universities we created in class would gain immediate acceptance; however, as a result of time, change, and technology, I believe our society and culture will eventually (in time) adapt some of our innovative designs and ideas.

Liane said...

In reading the selection of chapters about libraries, or libr@ries and cybraries, it struck me that the historical context of the discussion about what place libraries might have in the future, or what space they might occupy within society, is nothing new. And as Raschke asserts the institution of higher learning is struggling with its identity in an uncertain future, which is also a tune we’ve heard before. Raschke’s argument, as Rory points out, is that higher education can’t continue to exist as a place of knowledge dissemination when the making of and access to knowledge is not limited to that place any longer. Natalie asks a question about shaking up the system as it currently exists, but points out that what might be an idyllic view of the value of education has no currency in the larger world. I think this is true, but I also don’t see it as an either-or situation, though it may look like that presently. We are living in, reading about and analyzing a time of great change in the history of our world, and being in it makes it more difficult to see. This is where history helps us.

As in any time of significant change, the new thing or the evolution of a thing is at first hard to fathom. Remember the internet was at one time an unbelievable concept for most of us, but there are many examples further back (which I won’t bring up, but there are). When change is so significant it is difficult to accept, and even as that change comes we react to it in similarly significant ways. Like trying to stand up to a big wave on the beach, we try to absorb the change into our existing way, whereas if we adapt to it (dive in or ride it out) we can better weather the change. Even if we know change is coming and that it will be good, it’s still disruptive and the new existence is hard to corral. At the beginning of this digital culture period, like any other significant period of change, the reaction to the digital “wave” knocked much of our existing understanding off its feet, but now we are integrating the change more smoothly into what existed before. Historically, this is how change works, so we’re right on track.

But I think Raschke is off track. His points are valid, or were valid in the middle of the wave, but not now, when we’ve begun to integrate the change more smoothly and we can see that the change won’t be as drastic as we once might have thought. Maybe we don’t need to “overhaul” the system as Natalie suggests, because, as she points out, it doesn’t fit with the larger perspective of society. The libraries piece echoes this, and Kara does as well: that libraries et al need to reconfigure how knowledge is made within their walls, but also outside them. One change that has been evident is that nothing exists in isolation the way it used to -- no institution of higher learning, or specific job market, or any type of knowledge-making community can ignore or refuse interaction with others, at least if they want to be part of the evolution.

As Gil points out the evolution happens slowly, and Randy Bass makes reference to the same notion when he talks about new media and pedagogy: “Knowledge-making depends on the creative straining of the story against the archive. That’s where meaning lives; that’s where learning comes from.” The creative straining comes from the forces of change against what we knew before, the archive, and this is simply us moving through history, or evolving. Bruce and Kapitzke tie in the story of Kapitzke’s great-grandfather to illustrate the significance of the historical in our understanding of the impact of new technology and how it can’t be divorced from economic, political and social interests. Kara makes this point as well, and as Gil says it’s all about money. Well, money and power, anyway. The bigger change is what digital media afford us as a society, in terms of access and more democratic power, as Bruce and Kapitzke point out was the same struggle her great-grandfather faced in learning to read -- access was made difficult by those in power because knowledge is freedom.

Absorbing such a significant change into our society is understandably wrought with issues and complexities that often are not apparent or fully conceivable at first. But the libraries piece has it right I think, in that libraries and books and the materiality of the pre-digital won’t disappear, they’ll be converged with the digital to exist as a greater whole. Some things might disappear--card catalogues for example are replaced with digital holdings--but the role of libraries and of higher education will retain some of the old to integrate with the new. The experience of the library is a good example of the difference that physical space along with digital can provide. The collaboration of all this complexity is good, albeit challenging, but it’s still happening, we’re still in it. Seeing it and understanding its impact and future path are not yet possible, but I think what we can see at this point is, based on historical patterns, that the change won’t be as drastic as once posited and that the settling of change will incur evolution rather than revolution. In the evolution we can harness the change to redefine space, knowledge, and power.

S. Andon said...

Everyone seems to be echoing Rory in saying that students are keen on separating their personal uses of technology with that of the academy, and I think I have an example to show how that might slowly be shifting.

During this year's PIE Conference, a professor from the economics department at FSU introduced us to the PRS - personal response system (aka clickers) - that he uses consistently in his large classroom lectures ( Capitalizing on an issue I've identified in some large lectures, that students are no longer prone to ringing cell phones in class but are using them for incessant text messaging, PRS involves each student possessing a phone-like texting device and each classroom containing a receiver to gather their input. Then, periodically throughout class, this professor would ask questions, displaying them through the classroom computer display. Within seconds, the responses of everyone in class would be on display.

While it's not a university in second life, I believe that the PRS begins to address students' need to constantly be connected - hopefully directing this need from text messaging to something class related. By no means is the system perfect, but it begins to broach that gap Rory mentioned.

Second, while the world is not yet ready for digital degrees, as research has shown that their credibility to employers is still far beneath brick-and-mortar university degrees, implementing new technologies on a step-by-step basis may be a far easier way to universities to evolve.

Thus, while the PRS may be one of these steps that is just beginning to be utilized by classroom professors, I feel that a tremendously under-utilized tool at this university is iTunes U ( I think it was just a couple years ago that Duke University began handing out iPods to incoming freshman as a way to incorporate new technology as part of the Duke Digital Initiative (

Therefore, it seems that universities can begin bridging the divide through devices that immerse students in the university experience. Instead of turning towards desktop computers and labs, perhaps the university needs to focus on how smaller devices like iPods, or cell phones, or even laptops, can contribute to the digitally-integrated experience.

Jill said...

Libraries, museums, and schools are commonly seen as places where knowledge is made. Although I tend to think that these institutions will continue to retain their status in this capacity, I also have to acknowledge the dichotomy that exists with whether these places are accessed. It’s a conflict between materiality and convenience. For example, on one hand we enjoy wondering around “in the stacks” of the library, opening older books, seeing the check-out stamps of old, and feeling the crisp feel of the pages as we turn them to our hearts’ content. However, on the other hand is the little voice inside our heads that tells us it would be much easier to find the information online and not have to grace the library with our presence. As access and points of entry are broadened in these institutions, I have to wonder if the physical institution itself will suffer or be enhanced.

It’s interesting to look at what we value in our society where the physical vs. digital is concerned. As Gil pointed out, online degrees do not have the reputation and credibility that physical institutions have, which is ironic considering our general acceptance of online material vs. the library, museum, etc. It’s as Natalie pointed out, in order for the institutions to change radically, many other aspects of culture must line up to facilitate and catalyze this change. It must be recognized that there are multiple literacies, which is a hard pill to swallow for the staunch academic literacy supporters. With the large amount of respect and credibility that academia has, I would agree with Rory that “…the academy would need to not only notice the change outside its walls but also devise a reactionary plan…” And perhaps the way to do that is what has been mentioned by several of my classmates: incorporating small changes gradually over time. If there is going to be “buy in” of viewing (and accepting) these radical changes (such as Raschke suggests), then it should be acknowledged and championed by the university first and maybe the other institutions will fall in line? I place the question mark there because I’m like Natalie, though, where I’m not sure where exactly this change should originate. In K-12, the goal is to prepare students for college, but if what we’re preparing them for is radically different, where is the congruency? And vice versa, if we change K-12 to reflect these digital revolution changes but have not yet done so in the university, where is the congruency? Is it even possible for simultaneous change? It’s mind boggling to grapple with.

Leigh said...

I think that ultimately, digital culture undermines the control these institutions have, but not necessarily their relevance. Instead of knowledge-making as a top-down process, I think the distribution of power to people outside institutions is changing the way knowledge is created and distributed. I wouldn’t go so far as to so bottom-up- at least not yet- but there is no doubt a change afoot. How will these institutions respond? Moving online is a good start, but there’s still a pronounced difference between virtual presence and physical presence, as Gil’s example of the prestige of an online degree vs. a “real” degree illustrates. There’s no denying that the virtual world is becoming more and more ‘tangible’- a respectable place to be, where legitimate and meaningful learning experiences happen. Kara’s right- these institutions just need to keep up with how people learn, but I don’t think their authority will be re-established unless they anticipate the new methods of learning. I thought Steve’s PRS example was really smart. As an undergraduate, I remember going to the bookstore with my roommate- she needed to buy the PRS clicker for her Bio class. I didn’t even know what it was for- and as an English major, used to smaller, discussion-based classes- I was quite surprised that people could learn through a remote control. But this is an example of the institutions keeping up with the trends- instead of texting your vote to American Idol, you can text your answer to the teacher. It’s a fascinating blend of traditional pedagogy and new media technologies. I think that institutional knowledge will need to begin looking to “unofficial” sources for information- what an exciting –and slightly scary- thought! Reconceptualizing the way we make knowledge seems like a tall order, but it’s already happening.

Kelly said...

"Literacy and our material practices of literacy are evolving and we who teach literacy must acknowledge that."

This is quoted from Natalie's post, and I agree that we must evolve with our students. To deny that what is going outside of the university does not affect the university itself is a dangerous claim to make. It's as dangerous as saying that reading and writing are the only acts that define literacy. There's so much more to it than that. Like Kara stated, it is cultural. And I think it's political, social, and economic as well.

I think we (teachers, some graduate students maybe)all see the need for the evolution of the university, as clearly pointed out in our last class discussion. Just look at the amounts of corporate sponsorship going on in the university--yes, it is primarily based on funding, but what are we using the funds for? Technology. Ways to make the university more networked.

I don't think everyone is okay with this, and I don't think the university will change without resistance. But, the change has started, for sure. Just look at how we conduct our classes now--very different as Rory points out. Look at how we are having class discussions tonight. It's changing from both ends, top and bottom. I just wonder where the happy medium is.

I do say though, that this talk is not the common theme in English departments. People outside of rhetoric and composition, or maybe even outside of this class, may not see these things. We have changed our cultural perspectives on these issues, and I wonder how much of it relates directly to what we discuss in class. What about those who never have to take such a class? How will they envision the university of the future, or do they even see a need for such evolution. Maybe...maybe not.

Kelly said...

I was just rereading Gil's comment, and I think he's right about the "new hire" idea he discusses. There still is a stigma associated with online learning. I was on the hiring committee at my last job, and one thing that we did not value was if a potential candidate only had online experience. Our rationale was that they do not truly understand the social dynamic of the class. Is this wrong? I'm not sure.

Tony said...

Well, I think Jill and Leigh (along with many others here) really key in on the role of “experience” in the learning process. Jill explores the play-and-pull in our individual lives between wanting to be in a physical library or somewhere else with our “digital library” on our computer. Part of the threat to brick-and-mortar institutions is the cost difference (the savings!) in online learning; but I think the Bruce and Kapitzke book makes a great case for the importance of the library, at least, as a place that is increasingly valued for the experiences rather than (for better or worse) the learning that takes place there. In part, I think libraries are becoming more like other cultural institutions. Have you heard students call Strozier “club Stroz”?

Rory, as many have noted, was the first here to point out that educational institutions are already adapting to new technologies. But this reality makes me wonder, following Randy Bass, how disciplines can/should use new technologies for their own ends. In particular, how will those of us in R/C and English studies use the internet and other technologies as part of our pedagogies, literacies, research, and service?

Also, like Rory, I hadn’t considered the degree to which digital technology would imbricate my own pedagogy; my English 101 course in 1997 was in a computer classroom in which we used Microsoft Word, but I could never have imagined an English course in which non-text-based programs (such as Nvu, Photoshop, Moviemaker, etc.) would be used (and taught by me!). In fact, I think transitioning into teaching with these multimedia programs is and will continue to be extremely challenging for many of us and our students; this shouldn’t slow us down, but keep us self-aware.

I also agree with Kara when she says that “learning now should be interactive and multimodal and that we need to be aware that a change is occurring and keep up with this change.” Change can come in many ways, can be productive or unproductive, but I think educational institutions will continually need to adapt to help students with creating and reading texts in multiple modalities.

I understand Natalie to be saying that while we would all like to revamp the university as we know it, our students are coming from a pre-college experience that has conditioned them with certain expectations of education. And in that sense, I agree with her that we need to be aware of what those expectations are--not to necessarily meet them all the time, but to know how to appeal to their desires while also teaching the things we believe to be important. In fact, much of what libraries seem to be doing with need-based and just-in-time services (even housing coffee shops) looks like a response to student expectations.

Matt touched on the idea of meeting student needs, too, with some great examples. If the proscenium classroom doesn’t work for our students (who have to always be “connected”) or even for ourselves (though sometimes I think we‘re more proscenium-like than we might think), Matt suggests we incorporate the things they’re already using (like Ipods and cell phones) into our pedagogy. At the same time, this can easily go too far if we favor technology of the staples of our trade--critical thinking, reflection, rhetoric, composition, genre, and so on and so forth. I don’t think Matt was suggesting we favor technology (I don’t think he would suggest that!), but based on my own teaching with technology I’ve learned it’s sort of an art I’ve not mastered yet to teach “rhetoric and composition” with technology.

Moving on, I’m intrigued by Gill’s statement, “I believe that we are much less in a "revolution" than we would like to think.” I think in a sense that agrees with the way I see things too, but at the same time I think the rise of the internet is as culturally significant as the rise of the printing press. That’s revolutionary, but I still have to agree with Gill that revolutionary change doesn’t happen quickly. I don’t know if Gutenburg was considered great in his own day, but we know he’s considered today as a having been a key player in the shift to print technology and the later mass production of books. I do think the digital age is revolutionary, but I also think that we can easily become over-zealous about the speed at which changes take place. Liane, in my reading of it, agrees with Gill in one important sense. Both say it’s not really a revolution, just an evolution. Liane points out that as long as we can adapt with digital technology, it won’t seem like something that’s taking us over or is revolutionizing our education. I agree. One thing I think that’s interesting right now is that there’s a wide range of “digital literacies” out there, even in educational institutions. When I went to the IWCA conference, my conversations made me more aware of the broad range of literacy people have with digital technologies.

Jennifer brought up the idea that teachers will have to compete with the technologies students are accustomed to viewing out-of-class as well as make use of those technologies in class. I think this is an important point, and one that requires us to be constantly re-tooling our own knowledge. One of the most important things I’ve learned in the last couple of years is that I need to experiment with digital technologies all the time, and that this experimentation does have some “transfer value” (to me at least) from one digital composing program to another.

Katie said...

Looking to the future of "Institutions of Learning," whether they be libraries, museums, or schools, we might want to keep in mind Randy Bass' observation about the "story of English" and how this story has produced all other stories. It seems that we are perhaps increasingly distancing ourselves from the centralized/univocal nature of this "story making" process. While in many ways r/c is a step outside of this "story," so are the glimmers of rebuttal against the "canon." These questions of "story" further gesture to issues of archiving. What is archived and who makes these choices? Digitalization casts this question in a new, distinctly (post)modern light. Timothy Luke addresses these questions in "The Politics and Philosophy of E-Text" when he writes: "Many 'born-digital" documents may never be all collected, archived, and used, but those that have been judged to have some significant cultural, aesthetic, historical, or social significance must be sought after by cybrarians" (203). I would, however, suggest that this statement is perhaps guilty of the backwards gaze of the "horseless carriage."

If the "cybrarian" is framed as an individual in a professional post, I see a failure to see much of what Raschke argues about the future of education. One of the main ideas that I took away from Raschke's book was the notion of a gradually displaced dynamic of insider and outsider. Thus, the notion of cybrarian gestures in a direction that I am not sure that we are headed.

Thinking about this in the context of our conversation here calls to mind Kuhn and the ad hoc adjustments of paradigm shifts. While I will not venture to discuss the changes to "institutions of learning" as a paradigm shift (which they may very well be), I think that much of what we are seeing are ad hoc adjustments that move in the direction that Rashke gestures. I am specifically responding to Rory's comment about our position as teachers bridging the gap between "digital literacies and academic literacies." Perhaps we are merely in an ad hoc stage in route to a time when digital literacies and academic literacies will be synonymous -- or rather that digital literacies will merely be part of the broader academic literacies -- or really, perhaps this is merely a forced division of literacies all together.

As our "institutions of learning" shift I think that these distinctions of inside and outside will become less prominent. For example, it is not surprising that many of us feel like Jenn when she says, "that libraries, museums, and schools will always exist as “places of knowledge.” After all, we are invested in the material location of the academy as many of us are preparing to, hopefully, enter these institutionalized spaces of learning as professionals. However, I think that while many of us have commented that the academy needs to be mindful about what happens outside of its walls, this division will, perhaps, increasingly dissolve in the time to come. While this is idealistic and improbable, it seems that in following with Bass' logic of the network ("expansive, dispersed, decentralized, undisciplined") that as the simultaneous shifts that are bound to happen in some capacity within "institutions of learning" occur alongside the contingent cultural forces that Natalie observes must change too, that this this inside/outside bifurcation may ultimately dissolve -- thus, coming uncomfortably close to the "overhauls" described by Raschke.

Leah Cassorla said...

While I understand that Raschke is arguing for extreme change, and doing so polemically, I have to say, I think the polemic call is necessary.

Rory says, "it seems plausible that the academy would need to not only notice the change outsides its walls but also devise a reactionary plan—and I think, for the most part, many universities have started to do just that."

But I think that Raschke's call and polemics are necessary precisely *because* the academy has a long and proud history of having long and proud history--*NOT,* that is of changing with the times. I think that what I keep coming to is that Raschke's argument is a complete overhaul and, well, institutions, by mere dint of being institutions work that way (Yes, I am foucauldian in that sense).

The online, on demand, on time university exists. I am related to several people with degrees from UofP, including advanced degrees, and a Univ. of Phoenix MBA didn't negatively affect my sister's applications to law school. It seems silly to think that the structures that have worked to create us will somehow disappear and be replaced. And the idea that it would happen only at the higher ed level is just as silly to me. I expect that things will change slowly, and little things will change, and in decades things will look different, as they seem to on nearly a daily basis.

That we would be wise to look past this process and change things in our own classroom practice right away is not in doubt for me, but I don't expect FSU to go from brick-&-mortar football team cum University into a click-&-mortar institute for knowledge-building. Much of what draws the educational and research endeavors here have more to do with the social lives of the folks who sit in our classes than some of us would prefer to believe.

So perhaps I'm doomy & gloomy, but I find deep irony in a polemic call for change in the institution from a man whose background is theology. Perhaps Vatican II would be a good answer to "whither the institution?"

kathiyancey said...

Treadmills in the library? Take a look-->

Matt D said...

As always, insightful and stirring thoughts from the colleagues. And even better, Leah ended right where I wanted to pick up.
It seems to be that we may very well take the Catholic church as a model for how institutions of knowledge change and do not change over time, with/against new technology. As Leah mentioned, institutions function conservatively by their very nature-- and, I would add, religious and educational institutions are probably the most stubborn (and, at one point, were inseparable). I think it's safe to say that both the university and the church, do quite a job of a) only changing when absolutely necessary and b) managing to hold on to as much of their own power as possible in doing so. Therefore, I don't quite buy Raschke's 'change or die' dictum-- I think it underestimates the facility and flexibility with which systems reproduce themselves. They may not function like Deleuze & Guattari's postmodern rhizomes, but they certainly seem to mimic the Hydra if you try to start slashing off heads.
A recent example occurred during my visit with friends from NCSU. I spent (much to my dismay) about 30 heated minutes attempting to explain to a former lit colleague turned HS teacher, that the 5 paragraph theme was a synthetic, ineffective way to teach writing. Her argument was that students needed basic knowledge of organization and structure, mine was then that the haiku or sonnet would provide that as well as anything. :o)
That being said, what became apparent to me was how well critiques of the system work outside the system (when she and I had the same comp theory course, for instance), but not from within. From within the system, there didn't seem to even be room to IMAGINE the possibility of another system. Dogmatism, which brings me back to the Vatican...
It also makes me think of the importance of K-12 education in the terms that Jill mentioned. Her question was, as I understood it, where does K-12 need to be congruent with post-secondary education? Where is it OK for them to differ? Without essentializing primary, secondary, and post-secondary education, I think this is a pertinent question for our "whither institutions of learning." It reminds us, as Natalie did, that our institutions overlap in complicated ways-- but that their individual goals often do not. It also reminds us that ripples in one institution may cause ripples in another...
Lastly, Kelly's mention of corporate sponsorship + KY's posting of the treadmill link remind me that, more than in the past, the university functions much more on a business model than anything else. As Gil pointed out, for better or worse (or, better, for better and worse), the dollar is our currency of power. To end as Leah did, then, I might ask whether, especially as our current system of finance seems face-to-face with a "change or die" situation, we would benefit from looking towards models of business (as institution) show us about the future of institutions of learning.

Tony said...

Another interesting link--a short narration by a cartoon character about "the effective writing center." This short online presentation is an example of how tutoring is being done online as well as how at least some writing centers use some business models in their work. Enjoy!

Tony said...
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emily said...

I think we’re all in agreeance that a change is occurring and that we have to accept the shift in order to retain relevance to our students. We’re prosaic. We’re antiquated. We’ve got to modernize or die, right? I don’t think anyone who has sat in our class for an entire semester and read the literature we have on the subject could disagree that technologies and their effects are rampant. The thing for me is, why is the change so difficult in knowledge-making spaces?

My interest is most located in museum culture. First, I find it interesting that you (Dr. Yancey) so easily lump museums in with libraries and universities. For me museums seem to be such different space with such different purposes. Museums exhibit knowledge. The walls (and sometimes the floors, ceilings, and hidden speakers) communicate someone’s ideas to audiences. While this “push” knowledge is not so different from universities or libraries, the pull aspects are so different because of how audiences reach the museum space.

Museums are stumbled upon, they are tourist destinations, they are bourgeois gathering places, they are lumped together in neighborhoods and districts, they are advertised and they charge admissions fees, reentry fees, audio tour fees, and even docent guide fees. Museums charge audiences for their knowledge. They are businesses.

So back to my question: when I think of the museum space, I think of two types of patrons (or audiences if you will). The first is the patron who eagerly seeks out a docent, who waits half an hour for the next guided tour, who desires an expert to make sense of the ideas presented. The second patron is the brave soul who blazes through the museum on his or her own, relying on his own knowledge or the knowledge he or she can make to serve as a guide. These two patrons will have entirely different museum experiences, but whose is better? I suppose the answer depends on the patron, but I cannot imagine a situation where a museum—a large, public museum—would cease offering guided tours or training docents. Museums offer patrons the CHOICE of making knowledge through an expert, or discovering knowledge on one’s own, and perhaps this is the model we should transfer to the university. Perhaps the solution isn’t one of accepting technology or not, but perhaps its one of how we make the knowledge accessible and giving students a choice.

Museums are rhetorical spaces that offer patrons the option of making knowledge or not. Patrons can choose to make sense of the ideas and concepts museums provide, or they can choose to not. The museum curator cannot control the learning each of his or her patrons will experiences, but he can still provide patrons with a space to do so if they choose. Perhaps we’re too concerned with inundating our students with every new technology when really that might fall into place once we provide students with a space to learn and access to the best, most informed, reliable knowledge we can.

Ruth Kistler said...

Like Rory, Kara, and Natalie, I have been thinking a lot this semester about how educational models can and should evolve to better reflect and support substantive learning in a digital age. Natalie points out that we “cannot just start a university and tell […] students that they are working towards “competency and not a degree” and then send them out into a workforce which requires a concrete degree for employment,” and wants to know “what [kinds of changes] (must or should) come first?” Like Jenn and Leah, I think the place where we can/should/must begin is in our own classrooms, first of all because that is the only aspect of the university culture over which we exercise some control and secondly because we have no choice – if we don’t revise our teaching methods to meet our digitally savvy students where they are at, then we will not succeed. Tony’s point about experimenting all the time is important, I think. The great teachers I’ve had (and that I strive to emulate) are the ones who embrace change and are not satisfied with doing things a certain way just because that’s the way it’s always been done. And I absolutely agree with Emily’s idea of adopting the museum model by offering students “the CHOICE of making knowledge through an expert, or discovering knowledge on [their] own.” Actually, I believe that is the very argument that Raschke was making. Although Jill’s concern about the congruency of K-12 education and what we offer in college has some validity, I think if we shift our approach in higher ed, then K-12 educators will (not without angst, mind you, but nevertheless) inevitably shift their approaches too, in order to better accomplish their goals related to preparing students for college. I know when I was a K-12 educator, I (and my administration) was always looking at what I was preparing my students for when making decisions about what I should have them do.

Of course, as Liane and Leigh argue, our teaching methods have already begun to evolve and the needed changes may not be as drastic as Raschke makes them seem. But, like Kelly, I’ve noticed that the university system in general still has a long way to go in order to truly embrace the possibilities and potentialities of the digital revolution. In rhetoric and composition classes I’ve seen some excellent evolutionary (if you will) educational models being employed, but in my literature courses, well, let’s just say that if aliens came to earth to find out what we were all about and took one of those classes as representation of our educational system, then they would have no idea that there had been any kind of digital revolution in our world. The university may be evolving, but in many ways the evolution there seems to be lagging so far behind that of the rest of the world that I see some justification for Raschke’s alarmist attitude. I’m sure, as Matt points out, there are issues of hegemonic power at play, and our cultural institutions are not going to just roll over and give up their control without resistance. Steve’s post highlights some of the many ways that the university could, but is not yet, taking advantage of the way people are learning and making things happen in the real world. Katie’s idea that “perhaps we are merely in an ad hoc stage” and that the changes we are seeing are indicative of an inevitable paradigm shift is encouraging, though. Perhaps the very fact that I have come to feel constrained by the disconnect between what institutions of higher learning are supposed to be doing and what they actually afford demonstrates that this paradigm shift is in the works. After all, I didn’t develop my ideas in a vacuum!