#IndieEdTech Keynote Reflections

I spent the past weekend at Davidson College at the IndieEdTech Data Jam hosted by the Digital Learning Research and Design (DLRD) initiative at their center for teaching and learning. After doing research in the Office of the CIO at BYU, a fellow graduate student and I were invited to be student representatives of our institution as we discussed indie ed-tech and worked through what a personal API can do for college students. This is part of a series of posts that reflect upon the gathering.

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Audrey Watters gave an insightful keynote entitled: ‘I Love My Label’: Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound (Student) in Ed-Tech. I would highly recommend reading her talk. It was refreshing, insightful, and Audrey is eloquent to a degree few of us can only dream. I had a few takeaways from her address that really resonated with me, and not just because Wilco is my everything.

  • “As someone who works outside of academia, without an institutional affiliation, I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is to be unable to access journal articles. I always get so irked when I hear technology evangelists proclaim “You can learn anything you want on the Internet.” No, you can’t. Huge swaths of knowledge, art, science remain inaccessible; and it’s a loss for scholarship, which need not and does not only happen among those with access to a university research library or with log-in credentials to its online portal.” This cut me. Even as someone with a university login, I have had difficulty accessing a number of relevant articles I would love to have had the opportunity to include in my research and learn from. Even more troubling, I feel trapped in the mouth of the academic publishing monster. I spend hours, weeks, months of my time trying to get publications together, classes focused on how to jump through publishing hoops, all to disseminate the knowledge I’m gaining with a small amount of people. What is the alternative? When I go up for semester review I have to have to answer for the publications I’ve submitted since I’ve last been reviewed. When I apply for my PhD program, I’m going to be vetted against those who have publications and I’ll need more. When I become faculty, tenure and job stability will be dependent on the publications I can produce, but who are they reaching? What is the point of scholarship if we aren’t disseminating knowledge to the public sphere? Indie Ed-Tech to me is about equity, about accessibility. It’s about working against the institutional culture that precludes those who want to learn from doing so by limiting their access to knowledge.
  • Technology isn’t an industry disruptor in education, it enable networks that we could never have dreamed up before. My romance with ed-tech began with my experiences that led me to see the capacity that technology has to create connected learning environments. We have that capacity to create distributed knowledge networks and indie ed-tech can enable these networks. Even within an intimate gathering of few individuals at Davidson, I was able to see my pre-existing learning networks clash and grow.
  • The LMS has pre-packaged the university for the internet and it will result in the pre-packaged student. Having recently spent a great deal of time pouring over LMS APIs and trying to work on a project that accepts the current reality of the LMS but moves beyonds the bounds of it, I testify alongside Audrey that we are battling the LMS beast. As a student, I should be able to share my work how I want it, where I want it, and that doing so beyond the boundaries of an LMS could mean disseminating what I have to say to more than just a critical professor who is going to pick apart my grammar and assign a meaningless grade that says nothing about what I learned, or what I have the capacity to teach others.
  • “If we don’t like the system of ed-tech, we should create one of our own. It is not beyond our reach to do so.” Maybe I’m an idealistic twenty-something who believes in our ability to change the world in which we live, but this just makes sense. The same way I’ve seen indie and punk music shape the lives of myself and others, I believe that indie ed-tech, whatever that means, can change the lives of students, faculty, and all learners.
  • For those who aren’t as into punk, indie, or metal, Audrey says “I don’t care if it’s punk, I don’t care what it is, as long as it’s not pre-formed knowledge. Hopefully we can move to technologies that are ethical and aren’t built on this extraction model.” I hope for the same thing and after gathering for the weekend with this unfathomably intelligent group of individuals, I believe that as a result of combined effort from those involved and all those who wish to be involved, indie ed-tech can become an attainable and sustainable model that drives the way we learn.

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