We were asked this week in my Higher Education in the Digital Age class to consider the question "What will the university of the future look like?" and to address the role technology will play in changing the relationship between producers and consumers in higher education. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to just considering what future universities will look like, however, as if we are only passive observers who are not part of the very society and the very historical processes that will determine what they are to become.
I've become a huge fan of Cathy Davidson
since first being exposed to her work in the readings for our class. In
a blog post only a few days back, Dr. Davidson asks the question, What If the Goal of Higher Education Was to Make World Changers? The title of a blog from the University of Texas's History program, "Designing History's Future", conveys the same idea, and as the post titled Duke21C’s Field Notes
illustrates, there is a sharing of ideas going on between Texas and
North Carolina. We should not consider the question of what future
universities will become without simulateously considering what they should become, and what role we can and should play in making them become what we want them to be.
readings and viewings this past week made it amply clear that big
changes are already underway in higher education, but these changes are
often contradictory and their futher development could lead to very
different futures. Frontline's, "College, Inc",
showed us a world of rapidly growing for profit colleges backed by
powerful Wall Street lobbyists able to setup rules that enable them to
get rich on Federally backed student loans and avoid the consequences
when the poor and working class recipients of these loans are unable to
pay them back. Continued hegemony by the neoliberal ideology behind this
explosive growth in for profit schools will in short order lay waste to
the very society on which it insatiably feeds (in the words of the late
environmentalist Edward Abbey, "Growth for the sake of growth is the
ideology of the cancer cell").
Steven Johnson's TED Talk, Where Do Good Ideas Come From?,
points us toward a very different and hopeful future. "An idea is a
network", he says, and to create an optimal environment for good ideas
we need to spend time "connecting" rather than "protecting" them. He
ends with the statement, "chance favors the connected mind." This was
definitely my favorite assigned "reading" of the week, and one I will think about
and re-watch again and again.
Returning to the work of Cathy Davidson, I've continued reading a chapter a week of Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies, the collaborative, creative commons licensed "text book" she and a class of graduate students put together during a semester course at Duke called 21st Century Literacies: Digital Knowledge, Digital Humanities. The book closely parallels the topics we are studying in class (coincidence? I think not, but rather the clear result of connected thinking ;-) It is a throughly enjoyable read. I'm inspired by the way it effectively puts into practice the approach that Steven Johnson is talking about, and points us toward a future in which we can work together to solve the deep challenges that confront us.