Failure, Part of the Creative Process: Anya Kamenetz Twinterview

Failure, Part of the Creative Process: Anya Kamenetz Twinterview

On Friday, March 8, Pete Rorabaugh interviewed Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Change in Higher Education (2010). Kamenetz’s writing investigates systemic problems associated with funding, institutional inflexibility, and explores homegrown alternatives. DIY U was one of the first books published in the U.S. to discuss the incipient cMOOC community and also touches on the work of Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington. In the wake of a year’s worth of media-MOOC-craziness, Pete asked about Kamenetz’s reflections since the publication of DIY U, specifically related to innovations within and alternatives to the structure of higher education.



Failure: Part of the Creative Process

A Twinterview with Anya Kamenetz

Storified by Pete Rorabaugh· Mon, Mar 18 2013 21:18:31

On Friday, March 8, I interviewed Anya Kamentez, author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Change in Higher Education (2010). Kamenetz’s writing investigates systemic problems associated with funding, institutional inflexibility, and explores homegrown alternatives. DIY U was one of the first books published in the U.S. to discuss the incipient cMOOC community and also touches on the work of Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington. In the wake of a year’s worth of media-MOOC-craziness, I asked about Kamenetz’s reflections since the publication of DIY U, specifically related to innovations within and alternatives to the structure of higher education. 

Kamenetz is a contributing writer for Fast Company and freelances with the Hechinger Report, the Village Voice and the American Prospect, among others. She is working on a third book on the past, present, and future of testing in schools.
@anya1anya It’s been a three years since DIY U was published, but you’ve continued your research. How has the landscape changed? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
@allistelling how landscape has changed: more concern about student debt, more acceptance of the online futureAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya And which predictions, assumptions, and guesses you were making in the book have proven true? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
@allistelling predictions that have come true: MOOCs. partial Unbundling of accreditation.Anya Kamenetz
We discussed the cost of a traditional college degree, an issue Kamenetz researched thoroughly for her first book, Generation Debt: How Our Future Was Sold Out for Student Loans, Bad Debts, NoBenefits, and Tax Cuts for Rich Geezers — And How To Fight Back. I asked if any universities legitimately address questions of cost and debt.
@allistelling yes but they’re in the minority. SNHU, WGUAnya Kamenetz
@allistelling U of PacificAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Are colleges/unis just too big to help balance the equation, or is it that the discussion has not become loud enough? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
@allistelling #AnyaHP massive inertia. they see it coming, but almost every college thinks they’re immune.Anya Kamenetz
@allistelling how else landscape has changed: I think more awareness that "Traditional student" no longer typicalAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Agreed. The def. of "traditional student" is good for PR departments, but we can’t assume it’s real anymore. #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
And then, as one might have predicted, the topic of MOOCs came up. Kamenetz contextualized the dilemma they might generate for bloated institutions.
Look at the MOOCs. 50+ colleges want to produce them. Where are the consumers? @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Possible for MOOCs in that sense to become like blogs. Lots of promise/opportunity, too many blogs, too much competition. #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
A few colleges can charge anything they want, but the # is much lower than now #AnyaHP @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Much lower than now, explain? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
I think competition is good for MOOCs, but like blogs need readers, MOOCs need participants. @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Right. And a similar (though more complex) attention to audience, I think. #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
I often cite i think it’s thelin, at the end of 1800s, 700+ colleges folded @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Do you think that’s a possibility, that that could happen now given regulation, oversite, trustees? Real threat? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
If students have better and/or cheaper alternatives, then high-price, midtier institutions can, will, and should go @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya @allistelling I am baffled that people spend big bucks to go to schools I’ve never heard of.David Ryan
. @CaptDavidRyan @allistelling tuition and healthcare are the biggest outliers, for lots of similar reasons. See #diyu chapter 3 for moreAnya Kamenetz
Whether that’s 10, 15, or 20% of institutions, I don’t know @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
One important path for MOOCs to transform edu is e.g. the San Jose State/Udacity partnership @allistelling #AnyaHP.Anya Kamenetz
Lately, I have been curious about how the potential for DIY learning — digital or otherwise — might affect the options for students graduating from a traditional K-12 system. Is DIY education viable for students who’ve come to expect an external system? If so, how might that, in turn, affect public schools?
Well, about half of US high school grads are not ready for college work, forget about online @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
But I believe a customizable, low-cost, blended path through learning–> career is best for underserved students @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Statistic or source on that number? I’ve heard it before, but would like to burrow deeper (later). #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
so it looks like the 50% only true for 2-year colleges. 1 in 5 entering 4-year colleges need remediation @allistelling thx for fact-check!Anya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Yeah, I always get nervous about sweeping stats like "50%," but sometimes they are right. #chronicallyskeptical #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
Here’s a good one on remediation @allistelling #AnyaHP http://www.completecollege.org/docs/CCA-Remediation-final.pdfAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya But if we imagine education as a differently packaged bundle of methods/inquiries, does the idea of "readiness" change? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
Yes, it’s definitely more complex. It’s not about a finish line by 18. it’s about mastery @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
After a brief exchange about the anxieties that live behind universities’ stress over “retention,” Kamentez included some suggestions for a more robust way to define student success.
but seriously, @allistelling what is needed is comprehensive picture of students’ path learning–>career. Universal recordsAnya Kamenetz
.@allistelling we need data that tracks students through the system. Obvs privacy/security is an issue. Ideally students own/controlAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Sorry to keep leaning. Do you mean building a portfolio/profile for students that doc’s learning outside the institution? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
Yes @allistelling http://pathbrite.com is one, @degreed is anotherAnya Kamenetz
and Mozilla’s Open Badge Infrastructure. Many are looking at this #AnyaHP @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya @degreed I like this idea, resources new to me. Related to Gatto’s ideas about apprenticeship-ed. Familiar with those? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
Yes Gatto is great. @allistelling I think there is a government data bank role here too though. We need to know this info collectivelyAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Define govt data bank role, please :) Are getting ready to "occupy" this conversation? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
For more on open shareable data http://www.hhs.gov/digitalstrategy/open-data/introducing-blue-button-plus.html @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
Here’s a data service gov’t provides to students: http://www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds_SA/ @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
What if it also had yr academic info, easily downloadable by you? @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya I like this idea very much. #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
@anya1anya Your attention to this concern, sim to threads that are very important in @audreywatters’s work on data ownership online. #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
@anya1anya To collect the pieces, these are alternatives (or augments) to what we think of a "transcript" in trad. edu, right? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
Portfolios encompass transcripts, among much else (photo,video,documentation of work performed, personal statements) @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Yep. A picture of authentic learning. Something that exciting to build, plan for, imagine. #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
For the last segment of the interview, we discussed Kamenetz’s research on her next book, which will explore the history and paradox between testing and failure .
@anya1anya In a recent post you chew over two concepts of the "fail"; "failure" has also been much discussed in ed circles lately #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
Schools and Failure " DIY UThere’s a lot of ways to describe the education debate, and it just occurred to me that one of them is to examine the different understan…
@anya1anya If it’s imp to give children and/or students opp. for productive failure, how should that change teaching, policy? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
Yes @allistelling . Quote from @dreambox CEO: "In the gaming world, when you don’t get the right outcome, you don’t feel like a failure…Anya Kamenetz
@allistelling "you say how do I adjust,” http://digital.hechingerreport.org/Anya Kamenetz
I think it means less time and emphasis on summative tests @allistelling #AnyaHP more on play and experimentationAnya Kamenetz
More time on design thinking and failure as part of creative process @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
Maybe institutions could also be more transparent about their own attempts&failures @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
I remember as a student being infuriated by school bureaucracy’s inability to admit error/lose face @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
transparency is an important part of credibility for kids @allistelling #anyahpAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Also the root behind our presentation at Duke last fall, iterations of #TvsZ, and #MOOCMOOC http://www.fhi.duke.edu/events/hybrid-pedagogy #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
to stack up a few buzzwords, i think the resilient institutions of the future are more agile @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Something to learn here: value of facing failure on indiv level and hesitancy of institutions to do it … #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
@anya1anya Is it law suit anxieity? Flexibility? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
the brittleness of a centuries-old framework creaking into the 21st? @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Indeed. Though moving into that space without succumbing to techno-utopianism is important. #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
Just keep doing stuff that works for people and is interesting. don’t need to utopianize it. @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
And we shared one final exchange. Because re-thinking/re-designing faculty development and teacher training is a focus of ours on Hybrid Pedagogy, I asked Kamenetz what she’s learned about pedagogical preparation.
I’ve learned students and teachers are THE #1 and #2 source of impt. innovation in edu. @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
But they’re not supported in experimentation. Doing it inspite of, in their spare time, not b/c of requirements @allistelling #anyahpAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya Is there a way to support that kind of experimentation more, in concrete ways? Examples? #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
I think PD shd consist of giving teachers&students more time &incentives to share best practices/ideas @allistellingAnya Kamenetz
Collaboratives like @HASTAC connected learning Google+, LearningCreativeLearning @medialab, @iskme @allistelling #AnyaHPAnya Kamenetz
@anya1anya @HASTAC @medialab @iskme These, also, are great resources to us @HybridPed. Also @dmlresearchhub and @thatcamp #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
@anya1anya Wd love to carry this conv. more (esp. in the direction of alternatives to trad. models) but I want to respect your time! #AnyaHPPete Rorabaugh
@allistelling great. let’s talk soon. have a good weekend!Anya Kamenetz
Links to Kamenetz’s two books:
Generation Debt by Anya Kamenetz – Powell's BooksFeb 1, 2010 … Generation Debt by Anya Kamenetz: In this thoroughly researched and rousing manifesto, Anya Kamenetz chronicles and que…
DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz – Powell’s BooksDIY U by Anya Kamenetz: The price of college tuition has increased more than any other major good or service for the last twenty years. N…
Other sources mentioned:
SNHU (SNHU) on TwitterThe latest from SNHU (@SNHU). Over 80 years of making high-quality, not-for- profit education affordable for all. Manchester, NH.
Western Governors U. (wgu) on TwitterThe latest from Western Governors U. (@wgu). Online. Accelerated. Affordable. Accredited. Western Governors University on Twitter. Salt…
UOPacific (UOPacific) on TwitterUniversity of the Pacific. … Students are lugging luggage across the Pacific campus. … Photos of Coach Bob Thomason's final reg…
California to Give Web Courses a Big Trial – NYTimes.comJan 15, 2013 … Sebastian Thrun, chief of Udacity, at San Jose State University. Udacity, which offers online classes, will offer low-…
Mozilla Open Badges – MozillaWikiMozilla's Open Badges is working to make it easy for anyone to issue, earn and display badges across the web—through a shared infra…

About the Author

Pete Rorabaugh

Pete Rorabaugh (@allistelling) is Assistant Professor of English, Southern Polytechnic State Univ in @ETCMA_SPSU. Critical pedagogue, Americanist, father, and co-founder of Hybrid Pedagogy.