And so my final year of school begins. Soon, I’ll wear a strange, pointy cap and receive a piece of paper summing up four years, 32 credits, a line or two Shakespeare and that one Spanish class I nearly got kicked out of. I’ll forward an electronic document flush with capital letters between A and C to an “Apply Here” button. I’ll resurrect my LinkedIn and cross my fingers. Boxes checked. Time served.
Of course, that’s hardly what actually mattered – as any nostalgic senior will tell you.
I just finished a summer dedicated to student voices in higher education. We called it EdSurge Independent. We gathered 7 students from 3 countries and every institutional category: the community college, liberal arts college, large research institution and radical experiment. From NYU to Minerva, Sao Paulo to Manchester, we sat on a video call every week and talked about the future of education.
As we argued about adaptive learning technologies or interviewed Senior Advisors in the Department of Education, we wrote essays asking, “?” “?” “?” (with links).
We read each others work and talked some more. What started as a reflection on the future of ed tech became the model for the best experience I’ve had of ed tech.
A Personal Geneology of EdSurge Independent
EdSurge Independent came at the right time and right place for me. Two years ago, my second-year spring, I went to a student-run, student-organized conference and presented on Mina Loy. She’s a poet. I applied because a professor of mine forwarded me a single email with the subject line: “Call for Proposals.” I loved it. A year later, after a little more research, I went to the Modernist Studies Association conference in Boston, full of be-spectacled profs with their tweed and pretension. I didn’t see a single undergraduate. I hated it.
After the Boston conference, I decided to put on a conference of my own called UNRH (Undergraduate Network for Research in the Humanities), by students and for students. We pulled together over 30 students from the US and Canada, presenting on our work together. I loved it.
The life-changing, radical act of teaching happened in the moment that my professor thought, “Andrew might like this undergraduate conference.” I wasn’t qualified or prepared, but did it because another person offered faith in my direction. Another person offered me a space to be curious without risk.
Because I invited my now-EdSurge-boss to facilitate a workshop at UNRH, she invited me to apply to the EdSurge internship. Here I am today.
EdSurge Independent, as drawn from the minds of the Higher Ed team at EdSurge, aspired to be a place where students could be curious with minimal risk. This summer proved it was possible. All we needed were a series of people in our network who said, “Dear student, you might be interested in this” and suddenly we had a mutually empowering virtual community.
Empowerment Begins When We Look Each Other In the Eye
I’d be loathe to praise the video conference call as the great ed tech innovation of our time, but a collection of video calls created a small community of dissimilar students.
Our differences drove the conversation. It’s simple to talk in the abstract about badges and blockchains, software and scale, Moocs and their manifest destiny. But it’s hard to discuss the ethics of online learning when one of our own can’t get wifi on her trip to Eastern Europe.
Though I learned a great deal about adaptive learning, I learned more about interpersonal interaction, pedagogy, privilege and instructional design. We learned because we had a space that asked us to be curious together.
Our self-assembled seminar now has inside jokes and latent debates. Two of our community will meet up in Berlin in the fall. I’ll see a new friend this week. She’s in San Francisco for a month or so.
Which Is To Say
We’re going into our second iteration of EdSurge Independent. We’ll be running a cohort of fellows over the course of the fall. We’ll meet twice a month, invite speakers and reflect on innovation in higher education. If you’re not a student, please forward this along to one. If you are a student, take a moment, look over the publication, and explore our “Join” page. We’d love to have you.
This EdSurge-organized space isn’t an attempt to offer educational alternatives to you, but rather an experiment in pursuing our curiosity together. What is the future of teaching and learning? If students aren’t a part of that conversation, then the future will be written for us and without us. And that’s not the future I want for my kids (cause that’s the step after senior year right? gulp).