Collective Effervescence

Our homework from the previous week was to name and describe education’s current revolution. It felt like an exercise in reduction at a time when educational technology has already reduced so many disciplines down to whatever cornmeal can be processed by a computer. I didn’t participate. That said, we reviewed some of my classmates’ responses that were funny, cathartic, and interesting in different cases:

  • #hacking. Breaking up, unbundling, and getting access to supposedly secure aspects of higher education.
  • Credential sprawl. The proliferation of credentials will complicate the credentialing bodies and what professions will look like.
  • Dashboard-ification of schooling.
  • The open network. Open access. Open source. More transparency in the schools and their results.
  • Professionalism. The application of business principles to education. A focus on education being about the professional direction it might take you. Data and analytics and technology brought to education. Broadening the definition of who is a professional.
  • Decentralization.
  • Survival of the fittest. Increasing competition at the level of providers of education. Universities. Online providers. Professors competing for star status. Competition for jobs from students around the world.
  • Education bubble. Overspeculation. Lots of resources pushed on untested products that don’t solve immediate needs.
  • Massive Online Opportunity for Cash. 67,000 people are sitting in a virtual room. It doesn’t take a genius to think that $1.99 will turn you an enormous profit.

Our conversation then circled this question:

Co-presence is no longer a necessary precondition for learning. You can learn from someone without being in the same room as her. Given the massive expense of co-presence (buildings, opportunity cost, time, etc.) what is co-presence good for? How should it be used?

This is an enormous question we should consider more often in our ed schools. The flipped classroom teachers, to their credit, have been considering it for a long time, though I think they’ve come to the wrong conclusions.

Mitchell Stevens referred to Durkheim who described a concept called “collective effervescence,” which is probably worth my future study.

Collective effervescence is why we attend football games live rather than watching from the comfort of our barcaloungers.

The preconditions of collective effervescence are coordinated action, physical co-presence, and collective identity. Stevens demonstrated this by having us sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in a round. The implications for the classrooms of the future are unclear to me.

I think this week’s homework assignment is excellent and needs a little more thought before I commit some words to a post:

Choose one of the National Research Council’s three categories of 21st-century competencies (cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal). Take that category, and consider it in light of learning environments that do or don’t allow for physical co-presence. What opportunities do learners get to practice these competencies? What opportunities do educators have to evaluate them, formally or informally?

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