The last couple of weeks have not only been busy in terms of product development. But we also set out to spread the word about iversity around the globe and to learn about the (higher) education reform discussions and the needs of faculty and students outside of Germany. To this end we embarked on a global education tour that took us to several destinations in Europe and the United States.
First stop: TEDxLondon
The first stop on this tour was London. “TEDxLondon – The Education Revolution” on September 17 was arguably a must for an education start-up that set out to bring the digital revolution to campus. One idea that stuck with me was what Dougald Hine called “Academia in Exile.”
He argued that in recent decades a lot of people have become disenchanted with academia. People who potentially could have, under different circumstances would have and (from a societal point of view) arguably should have gone into academia, often decided to pursue careers in other fields. The 'Publish or perish' paradigm, the lack of innovative practices, the overall bureaucratisation, rampant overspecialisation and reductionism, a confusion of rigidity and rigour – all this led them to look for self-actualization elsewhere. This metaphor therefore captures a lot of what we are up against.
In the end he invited everyone to join – in person or online – an event that he described as "a weekend of conversations & encounters, exploring the past and the future of the university." Unfortunately, we didn't make it to this one, but luckily some of the results of this meeting have been documented at "The University Project".
Second stop: Amsterdam – Whose crazy idea was it anyway?
Two weeks later in Amsterdam, it was very interesting to see that John Moravec raised very similar concerns. They characterised the academic establishment and its understanding of knowledge (construction) as stale and out-dated. Moravec presented his ideas on 'invisible learning', sketching out the emergent educational paradigm of what he calls “Society 3.0”.
All of this sounded very much related to the work I had been involved with at the Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin over a year ago in an effort to spur curriculum reform.
What was fascinating to see was that Parag Khana, the foreign policy whiz kid, ventured into unfamiliar territory, mixing his standard presentation about the emergent multi-polar world with his personal perspective on issues of education. A terrain that he was quite evidently less familiar with, as he talked about higher education as essentially a means to securing a job. While this may indeed be the primary concern of many students, it seemed like his remarks were more a reflection of the current political debate in the United States, than a thoughtful analysis of the mission of higher education in general. To get an impression what all of this looked like (and to see me being cheeky pointing out that latter point to Mr. Khana), check out some pictures from the event.