Cathy Davidson - Changing Higher Education to Change the World

College was designed to prepare students for a 20th-century workplace and it's not catching up fast enough to the realities of the modern world. How can we overhaul the entire system?

About The Speaker(s)

Cathy Davidson teaches at Duke University, where she co-directs the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge and holds two distinguished chairs: Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies. She is a co-founder of the global learning network HASTAC, which administers the annual $2 million HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions, and was recently appointed by President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities. Cathy is a frequent speaker and consultant on institutional change at universities, corporations, and non-profits around the world. In July 2012, she was named the first educator on the six-person Board of Directors of the Mozilla Foundation.

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Questions Asked/Key Comments Made

  • (04:51) The more we can bring down the walls--and that's intellectual walls, disciplinary walls, physical walls, and even digital walls (in terms of digital divide between the university and the world)--the better the world will be, and the better education will be.
  • (12:40) Most important in teaching and transforming higher education is making connections. We're very good at forcing students to take a lot of different courses in the United States; we're terrible at actually helping them understand what the connection is between their calculus class, and their information science class.
  • (15:00) The best and brightest have been trained to--through No Child Left Behind--how to guess the one best answer from four possible choices. And that's a disaster in the creative thinking, connected workplace.
  • (18:34) I think fun is a really, really important part of learning that we try to pretend doesn't exist. I think introducing fun should be a high priority for all of us who are seriously interested in changing education to change the world.
  • (22:25) How do you see 'resilience' as part of this imperative for changing the way we're learning?
  • (28:15) Higher education really needs to get out of that low-level [skill] business, give that to technologies [that make possible] the distribution of information, and focus on the high-quality assessment of--and the development of--those higher-order skills.
  • (31:34) The MOOC model is very scalable because it's about open content and pushing content down pipes. How do you scale that more embodied, meaningful, social...higher-level kinds of learning environments?
  • (37:46) If we're actually going to be successful in transforming K-12 learning (and extending it outside regular institutions), we'd better be paying attention to higher education.
  • (39:40) For those who are building edtech tools for connected learning, where should we look for colleagues and support? Where are the lighthouses and bridgebuilders?
  • (45:23) How do we prepare students for a more interactive, interdisciplinary, and 'knowledgebuilding' style of learning? How do we support an ecosystem that encourages this kind of learning?

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Resources/URLs Mentioned

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Cathy’s 8 Learning Principles for a Connected Age

  1. Embrace Connection, Not Technology
  2. Rethink liberal arts as a start-up curriculum for resilient global citizen
  3. Breach the silos
  4. Champion 21st century literacy: numeracy, reading, writing, WEBMAKING
  5. Make sure that what you value is what you count
  6. Don’t just flip the classroom...make it do cartwheels!
  7. Find creative ways to model un-learning.
  8. Take Institutional Change Personally

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List of Hangout Participants

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Photo courtesy of and Everett Collection/Shutterstock