Enlightened; freed from ignorance. A feeling of tranquility. A feeling that Siddhartha Gautama reached once realizing that in order to reach enlightenment you must not seek enlightenment. A feeling that I have now reached. A feeling I reached once realizing that in order to understand the broader themes behind #vtclis12 I must not seek the broader themes behind #vtclis12. I had to let the themes come to me rather than force them to me. I guess I could say hindsight really is 20/20.
As I listened to Dr. Campbell speak on the first days of class, I was astounded by the #vtclis12 colloquia. I did not understand the significance of #vtclis12. I decided to approach the #vtclis12 colloquia like any other colloquia. Unknowingly, I was forcing enlightenment. I quickly learned that this was not something that I could force. As I read over the syllabus, I came across a list of tasks. I immediately felt the need to complete the list of tasks. I was unaware that this was not the appropriate mindset for #vtclis12. Under the appropriate mindset, I would be able to see that the syllabus did not contain tasks but it did contain opportunities. These included the opportunities to grow, expand, and learn. Opportunities I may only experience once in my educational career. At the time, this philosophy was foreign to me. With time, this has definitely changed. As I listened to Dr. Campbell speak on the last days of class, I felt like a third party observer. Looking in on our class, I could see that #vtclis12 was more than a course. It was a way of life. There was no right and there was no wrong. There was simply a chance to better oneself.
The completion of my final project was the last step before my the realization of my enlightenment. The articles within the new media reader decided to pack up and move from one condominium within my mind to another condominium within my mind. Their original place of residence was crammed with abstruse, confusing, and puzzling ideas. On the opposite end of the spectrum, their new place of residence was overflowing with comprehensible, straightforward, and unambiguous ideas. These articles have now nestled themselves into the most comfortable region within my intellect. A region of understanding. This place prides itself on its conviction that the society in which we live must be challenged and not be accepted. This challenge is the only means of social change. The change that I hope to see is from institutionalization to deinstitutionalization. I would like our society to be characterized by freedom rather than oppression. Of course, our civilization does not embrace this challenge and it does not welcome this change. Unlike the conventional members of our society, Illich, Morningstar, and Farmer have decided to embrace this challenge and welcome this change. They have done this through their controversial writings entitled “Deschooling Society” and “The Lessons on Lucasfilm’s Habitat.” Through these, Illich, Morningstar, and Farmer have expressed their progressive theories. These theories have given me the confidence to express my own opinions in #vtclis12.
The congruence of my ideals with Illich’s ideals is why I decided to do my final project on Illich’s “Deschooling Society.” It was the first article of the year that I felt an true connection to. I had always found our society’s educational structure to be dysfunctional. Though I felt this way, I could not help but play to its power. Throughout elementary school, middle school, high school, and even into college, grades have been of extreme importance to me. Some would say of too much importance to me. I was taught that unless I received an A in a course, I had not mastered a course. The anxiety that the educational structure imposed on me as a student was loathsome. It squashed any and all of my potential creativity. Illich took the words right from my mouth when he proclaimed that “schools were designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret; that secrets can be known only in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets.” This disappointment in humanity was not the only disappointment in humanity that Illich and I shared. Our dissatisfaction ranged from a disapproval in humanity’s political structure, to its economic structure, and finally to its educational structure. All of these structures share a common theme of centralization. This centralization has come about through years and years of the gradual shift of power from the people to the institution. Most of us were unaware of this gradual shift. Thankfully, it is not to late to reverse this gradual shift. If we attempt to deinstitutionalize one structure, it may lead to the deinstitutionalizing of the other structures. Illich affirms, “that the institutionalization of education is considered to institutionalize society and that ideas to de-institutionalizing education may be a starting point to de-institutionalized society.” This same proposition is brought to attention in Morningstar and Farmer’s “The Lessons Of Lucasfilm’s Habitat.” Morningstar and Farmer boldly proclaim, “detailed central planning is impossible. Don’t even try.” Though they are approaching the situation from a different perspective, their perspective still sheds light on Illich’s statement. They are asserting that with the vast number of citizens within our society, we must be cautious of generalization. This generalization takes from in institutionalization. Each citizen’s diverse goals, interests, motivations, and types of behavior are neglected when a society becomes institutionalized.
I decided to explore Illich’s “Learning Webs” in reference to “Deschooling Society” for my final project due to the rationale that diverse goals, interests, motivations, and types of behaviors can be nurtured when a society becomes deinstitutionalized. These learning webs are the most practical mechanism for fostering a student’s learning. Learning webs possess four networks that allow a student to learn what they want, where they want, and when they want. For my project, I analyzed three contemporary learning webs including Academic Earth, Khan Academy, and Course Networking. I analyzed them in terms of the four networks presented in Illich’s “Deschooling Society.” These networks included reference services to educational objects, skill exchanges, peer-matching, and reference services to educators-at-large. Each contemporary learning web possessed some unique strengths as well as some unique weaknesses. I found that Course Networking had the highest score followed by Khan Academy and then followed by Academic Earth. Completing this scoring system provided me with a new level of cognition regarding learning webs. Getting involved with learning webs was completely different than reading about learning webs. Suddenly, I reached an epiphany. I caught myself THINKING about what Illich was THINKING about when he defined his four networks. What exactly was he thinking?
This is when the deviations of my ideals from Illich’s ideals became evident. I found that though Course Networking received the highest score, I did not believed that it was the ”best” contemporary “Learning Web.” I found that Khan Academy was the “best” contemporary “Learning Web.” It incorporated more content and more educational resources than Course Networking. When logging into Course Networking I felt a sense of confusion. I wasn’t sure what the purpose was. I wasn’t sure what I was suppose to do next. I attempted to peruse the educational resources but didn’t understand what I was doing. I joined a conexus but couldn’t figure out who my peers were and I couldn’t figure out who my instructor was. However, when logging onto Khan Academy I felt the complete opposite. Once creating an account the next steps were human nature. What I got out of Khan Academy was a direct function of what I put into Khan Academy. I do think it’s important to share that I am a bit Khan Academy bias. Its immense amount of publicity is hard for me to ignore. It is easy to find information regarding the site and its easy to see the future of the site. A future that is optimistic. Academic Earth and Course Networking have not been around long enough to reach this stage in its development. I am hoping that with time the Academic Earth and Course Networking can evolve into aggressive competitors of Khan Academy. These thoughts as well as other thoughts allowed me to reflect on my final project. In addition, as I caught myself thinking about these thoughts I became aware of my enlightenment. I had not only analyzed the contemporary learning webs but also challenged Illich’s ideals. All without any intention of doing so. The continual thinking about thinking led me to a state of content. I realized that there was no right or wrong anymore. There was purely a preference. A preference that applied too more than just contemporary “Learning Webs.” It applied to life.