Here’s what you want to know
Not what they think you should know
Not more than a decade ago, higher education
and learning were fairly stable. Universities
delivered stacks of knowledge. Lecturers fitted
into the structure largely impervious to outside
forces. Then the web and concomitant forces,
politics, societal reforms, the economy changed
in ways some unknown.
In 2006, I was invited to speak at a
conference in San Antonio, Journalism and the
Public. Restoring the Trust. I mean really, talk
about proto fake news. Yes, ‘trust’ was an issue a
decade ago and before then, and before then,
going all the way to the source of recognisable
journalism, when Daniel Defoe in the 17th century
decided he didn’t trust hearsay so would attend public
lashing events himself and interview by-standers.
If we knew as much about how memory worked
then, Defoe might have had reason to still doubt
but that’s a post for another day.
Some of the most respected speakers, generally
recognised for their contributions to journalism
then and today were present: Jay Rosen, Phil
Meyer, Charles Lewis, Dori Maynard, Craig
Newmark, Alice A. Tait, Peggy Kuhr, and Leonard Witt
— the organiser.
Dan Gillmor, was one of the speakers. His book
Wemedia had become a global sensation and I
was keen to interview him as a videojournalist.
Why was this challenge to the status of journalism’s
unitary professional narrative happening I asked
in a video Professor Witt would place on their site as
The Wake Up Call conference video. (thank you, I said
quietly back then…) Gillmor’s answer was that,
‘because it can’.
The tools, and what professor Brian Winston, an
eminent thinker and writer refers to as the supervening
necessity — conditions which allow tech to take hold
— have created the new status quo. Professional
journalists could no longer de facto hold the moral
and professional higher ground. Anyone, or at least
a wider pool than what self-appointed scions
designated, could, we were learning, become journalists,
a citizen journalist and the rest.
So to the question in education revisiting the old
model first. Profs and teachers will attest to the
rigorous hard fought course to gain tenure, become
established in their field. However in the new
ecosystem of universities, “it’s changing because it can”,
has not been lost on administrators vying for student
numbers. Modern challenges, such as the the impact
of the web, have meant skills and knowledge as
transacting commodities are no longer generally the
preserve of universities (or Apprenticeships if you
want to go down that road).
You don’t need to be a parent to figure this out,
oh no! but as you grow and your children do, how
could obsolescence manifest itself? I know the analogy
with education has pitfalls, but its framing allows me
to think diffusively.
Trust, wisdom, empathy, understanding, knowledge,
experience, respect (both ways). And soft and hard skills in
these have currency for interacting and sharing with cohorts.
But here’s the rub that brings Gillmor’s test together
with something my former Vice Chancellor Geoffrey
Copland said to me in this interview. In this quantum
environment, there will be so much knowledge, you can’t
be expected to know it all, that you the professor/ lecturer
become a curator of knowledge.
A decade ago if you were learning media or
journalism, the modules from one university to
another were more or less the same. Today that’s
far from being the case. To be a journalism
knowledge broker in a university requires an
expansive understanding of the plenitude of
individual media and genres. The mind can
boggle: data, video, podcast, apps, social media,
magazine, photography, web building, then
there’s law, politics.. a smörgåsbord of inventiveness
within each discipline, capped if you will by the
latest in VR, AR and the skills the World Economic
Forum says you need.
Finally, time to come up for air! Exhausting
eh! And that’s what we do know and some.
AI’s peering through with the Internet of
Things. Now you can breath.
What are you to do?
There are several arguments, which you
probably can put forward, but I’m choosing
to talk about this, so forgive if you will.
In The Checklist Manifesto Atul Gawande
deconstructs the art of problem solving by
recognising what they are.
- Simple problems, like tying your shoelace.
- Complicated problems, like sending a rocket
to space. The bigger problem is broken down
into a series of simpler steps. The reason why
command centres have so many people.
- Complex problems — raising a child.
In raising a child you can’t replicate how you
dealt with one child’s problem onto the next.
It requires unique thinking and problem solving.
Teaching in the old model, particularly with
large numbers of students morphed into how you
solve complicated problem. I’m not talking specifically
about strategies deployed by individual lecturers
at a micro level, but at the macro where a university
fixes its modules.
This. Is. What. You. Will. Be. Learning.
In the uber age of education, problem-solving is
largely a complex one and acknowledging that in the
way knowledge flows remodel environments,
discourse, and invite varying philosophies is the
emperor noticing Cersei, too — OMG — is naked.
A classic example. You’re about to learn
journalism, yet few courses, will, I wager
engage in a deep debate about how your
emotions and memories impact the
journalism and ideologies you’ll entertain.
The course will talk to you about objectivity
and impartiality, but fail to recognise your
inherent biases and likes, and that fundamentally
where you’re from, how you grew up, who
you associate with will have a fundamental
impact on you as a storyteller. Diversity, not
as just as skin tone, but thought, class, sex,
and other protected characteristics matter.
And no tech learning skills can solve that.
My grandmother is German, my parents of modest
means are Ghanaian. I grew up in Ghana. I
graduated in the UK as an Applied Chemist, then
wanted to write, film, code, podcast — become a
a journalist. The tech skills came easy, the poly
section of ones and zeros — Charlie Brown’s
blanket. But how I perceive the world is through me.
So I strive to understand everyone else.
This new approach has cohorts emptying
themselves of ideas and their passions. Privacy
discombobulated and reworked to a new paradigm.
This approach has cohorts building on top
of the transaction of their ideas, things they
want to do — almost as if their building
their own curriculum, something Copland
talks about in his video. This approach
is not over reliant on skills, that can be
delivered online, or by uberites, but deeper
social engagements challenging cohorts in
deeper critical thinking. This approach
appears scary because aside from the
foundational elements laid out, there can
be multiple directions which need curating.
And it requires the lecturer who, whilst
acknowledges his constituents know
more than him or her, know what they possess
is a surfeit of approaches, ideas, insights
into making the learning enjoyable, wide
ranging, and deep.
Welcome to the LAB!