Posted by: Serena | 1st Jun, 2008


So I guess it’s my turn to weigh in on this EDUPUNK thing. No, it’s not about the label. It’s not about the technology. So what is it about? Why is it hitting home for so many people, and hitting a nerve for many others? The most fascinating thing about Friday’s article on EDUPUNK in the Chronicle of Higher Education is not the story itself, but the contention in the readers’ comments. (Incidentally, Mike Caulfield has–in one sentence, no less–come up with a terrific response to the dissenting faction: “The movement is primarly creative, not destructive. It just looks like destruction to those who haven’t seen creativity in a while.” Read the rest of his post for his take on the Blackboard issue.)

Melanie McBride says “Well, by this definition I proudly proclaim myself an edu punk” and Jeff Drouin “couldn’t agree more with The Reverend Groom.” But Kevin Schoepp points out that “this isn’t the way most faculty want to go. The cookie cutter approach provided by Blackboard is exactly what the majority of faculty want.” And that’s just on one page of comments.

There’s even conflict on EDUPUNK’s days-old wikipedia page. (Should such a recently coined term have its own wikipedia article? Until earlier today, it was pending deletion, but the mention of EDUPUNK in the Chronicle seems to have bought it a temporary reprieve.)

Over at blogher, Leslie Madsen Brooks refers to earlier blog posts from Jim, D’arcy and Mike, providing a pretty good definition for EDUPUNK:

“Jim Groom recently coined the term “edupunk” to refer to a scrappy, DIY spirit in some sectors of educational technology.” … Edupunk, it seems, takes old-school Progressive educational tactics–hands-on learning that starts with the learner’s interests–and makes them relevant to today’s digital age, sometimes by forgoing digital technologies entirely.”

That’s all very helpful, but I think my favorite reaction is Jennifer‘s:

“I’ve got to make my EDUPUNK post, and it’s going to be short. I only have 2 things to say.

  1. It makes me smile and I suddenly feel 20 years younger.
  2. Don’t dissect the metaphor.”

It’s just perfect. So now that I understand the motivations, passions, and controversy behind EDUPUNK, how do I feel about it? Somehow, I inevitably become the default student voice (along with Shannon) in the edublogosphere. But wait! That’s not fair! I’m not representative of all students. That would be silly.

So I’m going to take this a step further and toss in the opinions of six other college students. My victims were students at three different institutions, with varying majors, class levels, and technological prowess:

Lauren (University of Mary Washington, senior, English)

Victor (Virginia Tech, senior, Biology)

Michael (Christopher Newport University, junior, Computer Science)

Alyssa (University of Mary Washington, senior, English)

Chris (University of Mary Washington, junior, Business)

Stephanie (University of Mary Washington, sophomore, English)

1) Have you ever been asked to keep a blog for a class?

Lauren: “Yes, I’ve blogged for two of Dr. Scanlon’s classes (Contemporary Poetry and Women in Modernism), one of Dr. Kennedy’s classes (medieval courtly love), and two for Dr. Dalla Torre (Italian 201 and 202). In fact, it was Professor Dalla Torre who gave me the idea to blog while I’m in Italy- to post on the Italian 202 blog. However, I have a lot to say so I started a brand new blog for the summer.”

Victor: “Nope. Neither here nor at George Mason.”

Michael: “I have not. (Keep in mind I’m a CompSci-CompEng major.)”

Alyssa: “Yes, for Dr. Campbell’s Intro to New Media Studies course.” (Her blog is here.)

Have any of your friends had to?

Victor: “I believe I’ve heard other people mention it.”

Michael: “I’m relatively certain that they’ve had to do forum posts, but not keep a blog.”

Do they like it?

Michael: “They liked it because it wasn’t that difficult, unfortunately.”

Chris: “It depends on the class. People who blog for classes they enjoy being in enjoy blogging, people who blog for classes they dont like as much feel like blogging is a chore.”

Could blogging, if the professor handles it right, get students more excited about classes they don’t like as much?

Chris: “That’s a possibility, but it has to be handled just right. A professor can try and come up with a way that THEY think is creative and interesting at the beginning of the semester, but if the students still see it as a chore, the professor should be willing to adapt what they consider to be their ideal plan.”

Do you think that traditional papers are inherently more difficult than online writing?

Michael: “For me, absolutely. I know that some people can get into a paper-writing mindset and just cruise toward an A. I am not some people. I cannot step into that state of mind and work. My online posts, however, are (to the best of my knowledge) grammatically correct and spelling error-free.”

Lauren: “I feel like it’s a lot easier to stay on track with traditional writing assignments, because they have deadlines. With a blog, you’re on your honor to post the right amount of times. My ideal class (modeled after Dr. Scanlon’s ‘Women in Modernism’) would have traditional assignments for most of the grade, and the blog as a participation grade. When you know the blog is just for expanding on class ideas and communicating with other people in the class, it’s more fun and there’s less pressure to post an epic each time.”

Stephanie: “I like traditional writing assignments because I like handing in hard copies, but I think I’d like blogging just as much.”

Alyssa: “For me, anyway, it’s more instantaneous than writing a paper (i.e., less formal and structured) and also more interactive, as you can read classmates’ blogs and they can read yours, but you rarely read each other’s papers. But at the same time, it gives you more room and time to collect and put together your thoughts than you get during class discussions, so you can explore things more deeply without necessarily having to write that formal paper on the topic. So I guess it sort of walks that line between traditional writing and interactive discussion.”

What do you think of UMW blogs?

Lauren: “I really like UMW blogs. I didn’t think twice about where to post my blog while I’m studying abroad- I went straight to This way, whenever I post, its easy for my friends at UMW to find my blog, and also for other students at UMW to read in case they’re thinking about studying abroad too.”

Alyssa: “They’re useful if actually utilized, but completely ridiculous if not. (We had to make them for ITAL201, and never used them, so it was just sort of annoying.) But for my English courses, they’re pretty interesting.”

Stephanie: “Shiny.”

How do you feel about blogging for a class?

Victor: “It would depend how much they asked me to do. I’d probably feel like it was tedious but would get into after I started as the ideas rolled out.”

Alyssa: “I think it’s good supplement if you actually tie the blogging and the class discussion together in some way. But again, I think it really depends on how it’s handled.”

Chris: “I enjoy reading original content every now and then, but I was against having to use a blog (nonUMW, though) for one of my classes. But I wasn’t really interested in that class anyway.

Well, how would you feel about blogging for a class that you were interested in?

Chris: “As long as I could actually think up the required content without having to really ‘overstretch my creative boundaries’, I would be fine with it.”

Did you have any problems using the blogs, or was it pretty straightforward?

Lauren: “I think the blog is pretty easy to use. I haven’t had any trouble: it’s very user friendly. My problem with it was the opposite- I wanted MORE options to do myself, like pick my own layout for the site. I settled with taking my own picture for the header.”

Even if it meant a little more work for you?

Lauren: “Yes! I mean, we’re students, we have the most experience with modern technology. But I’m not saying we should get rid of the user friendly format altogether- that should be available for people who are not comfortable using modern blog technology.”

What would be your ideal learning situation?

Chris: “One in which the going to class and actively paying attention to the lecture/powerpoint/activity is a key part of the class, supplemented by online or in text readings, and MAYBE a bit of blogging, depending on what class it’s for.”

How do you feel about using other online resources for class? (like Flickr, Twitter, YouTube,, etc.)

Lauren: “I’m very new to these! Well, I’ve been watching things on YouTube like Charlie the Unicorn and YuGiOh Abridged! for ages, but I never contributed. A few days ago, I opened my first Flickr account to more easily post to my UMW blog, and it was easy to use as well. I’m not on Twitter yet, but we’ll see!”

Victor: “I’ve only briefly used Flickr and Twitter. I know one professor who had mini lectures or would make announcements using videos and loaded them via Youtube. I’ve never heard of”

Alyssa: “It probably depends on the class and what they’re focusing on, but I think having a feed of relevant things tagged by classmates is really cool and interesting. It could potentially spark new directions to take, etc. Flickr and YouTube more or less only work if they’re used in a way that’s relevant to the course. And I’m honestly not sure how you’d use Twitter as an effective learning tool quite yet, but I’m sure there’s a way . . .”

Stephanie: “I think YouTube would be fun. I don’t understand the purpose of Twitter. I have it, though.”

Do you think that using these resources would help you learn, or just be confusing?

Stephanie: “I think it’d help me learn. I don’t see how it would be confusing if the professor gives instructions on how to use it. As long as we’re told how to use it, I think it would be easy to do.”

What kinds of classes do you think would benefit most from using online tools like blogs, twitter, flickr, youtube,, and others?

Chris: “English classes, history classes, art and art history classes, psych and sociology classes, and anything dealing with contemporary issues or the sharing of great amounts of personal input (without the waste of paper or email inbox space).”

How do you feel about Blackboard?

Lauren: “I think it’s helpful, but not so reliable. Some things contradict each other on blackboard and I end up calling other people to confirm what the homework actually is!”

Victor: “I’m fine with it. I don’t love it or hate it but it works so I’m content.”

Alyssa: “I honestly have never used it for much beyond looking at my syllabi to check on assignments, etc. (I have a tendency to misplace my printed copies.) I’ve never really had a professor or teacher use it for much beyond posting syllabi and assignments, and sometimes (but not often) grades.”

Chris: “I like the concept, but the execution is flawed. I like that there is a digital dropbox to hand in papers and store documents, I like that professors can post useful or required things, I like that it allows for quick quizzes to be done… but I dislike the inconsistency which some professors use require its use or fail to put things on there that should be on there. It HAD potential, but I think that the times killed it by making things that could be more efficiently used.”

Stephanie: “It’s all right, you know, just for grades and stuff. But there aren’t a lot of other options. And it doesn’t have pretty colors.”

Is there anything else that you wish you could do that Blackboard doesn’t?

Lauren: “I haven’t actually considered that! I mean Blackboard does a lot of things that are useful, like having a discussion board, that most of my classes don’t implement. Maybe the answer is that I think we ought to be using Blackboard to the fullest, instead of halfheartedly, to take advantage of what it does.”

Chris: “I’d like some sort of feed or notification system so that when professors post required information you know it gets posted. Some professors expect you to check Blackboard all the time, so when something gets posted and you don’t notice it, it can really hurt.”

Alyssa: “Honestly, something about Blackboard has always seemed a bit cumbersome and unappealing, so I wouldn’t really want it for anything more.”

Is there anything you’d want to say to professors who are worrying about how best to connect with students in this net-centric age?

Chris: “I’d say that they don’t need to be completely internet savvy for everything, but the time has come for them to have to learn how to work the tools available to them to better connect with their students. This may require a bit of outside research and use of tools not provided by the school, but the results should prove effective.”

Victor: “Encourage students to be involved rather than forcing things on them. Like commenting on each others blogs and helping each other out, but saying what they do and don’t like/agree with. The teacher and the student need to work together to get the most out of it.”

Alyssa: “Don’t worry, and don’t be afraid to ask your students for ideas. And the internet is not that scary or complicated. Really.”

The other day, Jim Groom (on his blog) coined the term “EDUPUNK”. It refers to using emerging technologies and free internet resources for education and pioneering the use of these (innovating along the way, etc.) with a special emphasis on a DIY kind of ethic and a rejection of more limited commercialized educational tools like Blackboard, etc. (Professors deciding to scrap Blackboard and use class blogs, forums, Flickr, YouTube, for example.)

So, as a student who is affected by these kinds of decisions, what do you think of EDUPUNK?

Lauren: “I think its great! I mean, there are no identical institutions of learning, classes, and certainly no identical students! We all learn differently and it’s great that now we have so many different and customizable ways to learn and share our learning.”

Victor: “I think it’s an interesting prospect that teachers should take into account to change things up in the classroom and–if used properly–could help get students more involved in something they’re familiar with.”

Michael: “I think it’s on-the-whole a good initiative. It’ll be uncomfortable at first, especially with the older professors. The more tech-comfy professors in my department have already attempted use of Moodle and other similar programs. If it’s going to work, it’ll require less reliance on the current commercial systems and switching to the new open-source systems. I saw it this past semester; my computer science professor tried to parallel use of our current commercial system and an open source system, but the students primarily used the old system for reasons of ease of login, familiarity, etc. On the other side, the professor didn’t do his best to keep up both systems, and at the sign of more students using the old system, let the old system reign. Use of YouTube has been accepted by my public speaking professor. And at my [university] job, for example, we use GoogleDocs for maintenance of information on individual client systems and even to keep one another posted on what we’re up to in the working day. So far, it beats the pants off of the old paper system.”

Chris: “I pretty much agree with it. I feel like if there is a better way of doing something, you should forget the school system and use what works best. For example, the school email is… less than good, so gmail wins out. If blackboard is failing the purposes of a class, I fully support finding the best alternative. Plus, if a class uses a system that students are already a part of and are fluent in, then they will be more likely to use it and enjoy using it.”

Stephanie: “Shiny. I think it’s great. I mean, I’m sure it’s better than Blackboard and stuff. Anything’s better than Blackboard.”

Alyssa: “I think it’s a really cool–What’s the word I want? Theory? Concept? Practice? Thing we should do? I’m a fan of the DIY idea behind it and I think it offers a lot more freedom to customize for each class’s needs, something that Blackboard doesn’t really do on its own.”

And what do you think of the name itself?

Lauren: “I like it. It reminds me of steampunk, the term for an internet developed method of writing, crafting, living that evokes Victorian sci-fi. And man do I love steampunk.”

Victor: “It’s catchy.”

Stephanie: “I think it’s funny. And I think your porcupine is funny.”

Chris: “I like it, except for how it’s all in caps. It makes it seem like an acronym. If it were EDUpunk, or EduPunk, or something like that, it seems like it would flow better to me … Is it an apt label? Well, it’s a created name, and a created name can be as apt as you want it to be, but it SOUNDS like what it represents.”

Alyssa: “Oh, Jim Groom. You have invented a catchy new word.”

Michael: “Honestly, it conjures up very unprofessional ideas. The “EDU” part sounds fine (it’s in the URLs for every university, so that matters not). It’s the punk part that gets me. I don’t know what to think, honestly. What I feel is a mix of familiarity and uncertainty. Familiarity comes from the use of a word mash-up, and uncertainty comes from the odd combination of words.”

Too edgy?

Michael: “Perhaps, yes. It may also be the case that edgy is what is needed to shake up the current ways.”


I want a return to an all PaperAndPen classroom. Use a typewriter if you need to move your fingers.

The responsibility should be on the student to learn the material rather on the professor to fit the material into a pleasing mold. This is college. It shouldn’t matter what format information is presented in as long as students are able to present proof of proficiency in the subject at the end of the semester. Further, they should be able to do so in a professional manner, one which this new educational style does little, in my opinion, to promote.

Great post Serena, thats doing some investigative work!

Now I want to respond to Christian’s comment. I use my laptop in class because it helps me learn. Yes, some (ok many) students use it as a distraction, but that shouldn’t mean we should stop using them. I look up articles and help answer questions during class time, it has definitely helped class discussions.
I agree that the responsibility should be on the student and professors shouldn’t have to entertain, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow the format we have been doing for the past 200 years. Schools are the way they are now because of an industrial model they were built upon and perhaps things need to change.
I’m not sure exactly what educational style you are referring to, but I want to respond briefly to what you might be saying. These new educational tools are not about the technology, but about the community they build and in addition thinking about content creatively. I believe learning how to work with others and being able to think outside the box are important professional skill to have, if I am not mistaken.

Great post, Serena. As Stephanie might say, it was very ‘shiny’. I wish Tom from Houston and David from Seattle would read it- they would have a better sense of what this is about, and why it can be important. Neo-Rev hits on something when she notes that these new educational tools are not about the tech- we should not be using them just b/c they are shiny (though that usually gets my attention, at least initially. . .), but b/c they can take us through new processes.

On Meet the Press this morning, the pundits were talking about the new book from Bush’s former press sec’y, and wondered why it was so different from the original book proposal. Todd Purdum from Vanity Fair hit it on the head- your thoughts change when you start writing them down. The act of writing is not about archiving completed thoughts, but about developing and testing those ideas through their expression on paper (or on the blog screen). The same goes for other tech. Writing will help you develop an idea- so will making a video mashup, and as they are different processes, they likely lead to different ideas. We need this tech b/c it allows for a diversity of processes, and by extension, a diversity of ideas (as long as we are not all doing it the same).

Hi, I’m the Melanie you quote above. I just wanted to add that in addition to my proclamation of support for the idea, I also said a few other things in that comment that further defined where I stood.

The “edupunk” idea is really a repurposing of a lot of other ideas that have been around for a while. Namely, constructivism. An approach that fits for me coming into teaching as a creative professional and coming from a non traditional background. Additionally, as a social justice oriented urban educator I’m interested in any approaches that make the classroom a more dynamic and equitable learning space.

I also objected to Blackboard and other one size fits all software approaches because they are proprietary solutions and reflect more about the needs of developers and administration – rather than students.

As for other issues you bring up in the post – about using blogs etc, this takes the post out of the original context – which is the issue of open source approaches – and into the realm of the “creepy treehouse.” This term applies to the context of coercion that students do not have the choice to opt out of. I recommend doing a quick google to get more context (it could take up my whole comment).

My courses are college level professional training courses that are specifically about web production so use of tools isn’t optional. It’s the very purpose. However, I know that many other kinds of courses are blending in social and particpatory media into their curriculum as well – as cool as that is, I DO think instructors who decide to start using social tech ought to spend some time first analysing the ethics around their use. Specifically providing contexts for dissent, critical analysis of tools, collective discussion of proposed projects and some options for anonymity and opting out in this context of power and surveillance – and teaching IS a context of power and surveillance.

For example, I’ve spent some time discussing Twitter — I’m teaching a web PR course right now and Twitter is an emerging brand monitoring/relationship tool right now so students have to learn about how it works. My policy is this: They can follow my course feed as well as my own feed but I do not follow them back (to read their updates). That feels like spying. Whereas in my case, I publish as a semi-public figure (I still work in the industry so I also make my living on the web). I said they could use anonymous handles, create private accounts (friend only view) and that Twitter accounts were OPTIONAL.

As for blogs, that’s a core part of the course so there’s not a lot of negotiation there except on handles. These are course blogs just for assignments and course related content so that’s what they’re doing. I’ve said that if they want to produce a totally private/personal blog they’re welcome to do so but do so separately from the course blog. The purpose of the course blog is to learn how to write professionally for the web, take responsibility for our words and create content that is productive and professional.


I did not, of course, mean to suggest that the one sentence I quoted was the essence of your comment. I did read the entire comment, but chose that sentence to illustrate basic opposing views on the issue. I assume that readers will take it as such, just as I assume that, as I linked back to the article itself, the curious ones will go there and read the comments I refer to in their entirety.

I do not claim to know everything about EDUPUNK, nor do I believe it’s possible to encapsulate an idea that is–at the most fundamental level–about open perspectives and freedom of thought. Before writing this post, I read everything that has been blogged over the past week. I have also engaged in multiple discussions with other students, faculty, and (especially) Jim Groom.

By asking students questions about Blackboard, class blogs, forums, and other online tools being used in the classroom, I am not suggesting that EDUPUNK is defined by these. But I do think that it’s valuable to find out where students stand on these kinds of efforts to engage them. I think the overwhelmingly negative responses to Blackboard are not just about Blackboard. They reveal a deeper desire for creativity and challenge in the classroom that even the students themselves might not be aware of. Here at UMW, class blogs are becoming more and more prevalent. I don’t think blogging should be left out of the open source education discussion, especially when there is so much potential to draw upon multiple resources within a single blog post. Blogs are not just places for students to write things down. They’re a place for research, inspiration, communication, and discovery.

Your course structure seems well thought-out, especially in terms of allowing students some degree of personal privacy while balancing it with the responsibility of public academic blogging. Do you give the students specific writing assignments, or simply let them explore course-related content and thought? Have you gotten any student reactions to your system? (I’m thrilled, by the way, that you’re using Twitter in the classroom. I think there’s just as much potential for communication and mutual inspiration through Twitter as there is in blogging.)

Hope that helps you understand where I’m coming from. Like all of us, I’m still exploring this thing and, if it means what I think it means, the exploration won’t ever end.

Wow, Melanie,

That is quite an awesome series of beliefs and statements!

Do you blog your ideas and work?


I linked to Melanie’s website in the post, but here it is again:

[…] it, too), and she provides a great summary of the whole movement. My favorite post so far, however, comes from Serena, who went so far as to interview some students to see what they think about the whole thing. […]

Hi Serena,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment and response. I appreciate it. I agree that thoughtful readers will follow the link back though and, possibly, read comments. But we’re talking about thoughtful readers – and many people simply don’t have the time to be thoughtful. Most of us – for fairly legitimate reasons of time – skim. So I just wanted to add a little more context given my sense that few people would go actually bother to read my comment (and why should they?).

In answer to your question about my courses.

My courses are *production* based web courses that are part of post graduate college industry programs. I teach students how to use social and participatory media. The object of the course is to have a facility with the tools and the ability to articulate their purpose and value in their industry.

I have linked my name to a post I wrote about using social media in my classroom. This use was experimental and not built into an assignment.

I do create assignments and assessments for the blog posts, social media bookmarks and analysis of social and participatory media sites throughout the course but have not made the use of social networking sites mandatory but I think there are enough instructors – David Parry, Howard Rheingold and Mike Wesch, in particular – who have set ethical and productive examples for use that we could all adapt.

For me and many of my students, we need to spend a lot of time talking about the issues around the use of social and participatory media rather than blinding adopting or, worse, forcing adoption. There are great many issues concealed in the use of social media that many of us have failed to even consider or address.

Privacy, surveillance, permanence, ownership of data, user controls and, even, ideology are some of the issues we ought to be talking about in our classrooms – in addition to using or exploring these tools for viable learning outcomes.

Back to the edu punk thing … I think this is merely progressive pedagogy (and, indeed, critical pedagogy – constructivism and collaborative learning) rebranded. I don’t mind this rebranding and think it’s cool but let’s not forget about the people who started this revolution – people like Paolo Freire. Here in Canada, our teacher training involves a lot of self reflexivity and praxis. This is built into our teacher training programs. You cannot, for example, apply to OISE without writing a statement about your experience and commitments to social justice. I’m not sure how things work in the states, but you will not get a job teaching in Toronto without establishing evidence of these commitments.

To me, the punk movement was very libertarian and anarchist. It did not follow a particular ideological focus – or, indeed, any shared commitment to social justice. To me, these ideas are entirely meaningless if they do not advance equitable practices in pedagogy.

Progressive pedagogy must go beyond “cool” and “interesting” to serve – first and foremost – the needs of the learner. Great teaching is a blend of various instructional approaches from transmission and transaction to transformative.

Clay Christensen, who invented the term “disruptive technology” in his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, has applied his ideas of disruptive innovation to education in his latest book, Disrupting Class. The idea of disrupting the established processes and tools of our educational system seems to me to resonate with the Edupunk approach.
(Wikipedia page on him:, on disruptive technology:; his site:, and his new book’s site: