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De Lange VIII: The Future of Learning

February 27, 2012 by Cathy Davidson

De Lange Conference

The Future of the Research University in a Global Age

February 27-28, 2012

Session II, moderated by Paula Sanders, Vice Provost, Academic Affairs; Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies; Professor of History, Rice University

Speaker: Cathy Davidson, Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Duke University; Co-Founder, HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Sciences and Technology Advanced Collaboratory)

Abstract

Although we think we know what "school" and "work are, we really only know the institutions created by industrial era for the last great "Information Age" when steam-powered presses, machine-made paper and ink made books inexpensive and available to the middle- and working class for the first time in human history. The research university, like the assembly line and the firm, is a product of the 19th century's ideals of timeliness, attention to task, specialization, hierarchy, standardization (as distinct from high standards), uniform metrics, outcomes, and individual accountability. By contrast, the Information Age brought into full fruition in April of 1993, by the commercialization of the Mosaic 1.0 browser, offers possibilities for workflow, multitasking, collaboration, peer-to-peer evaluation, customization, remixing, interaction, and high standards as judged by merits, not test scores. Our lives, our modes of learning, and our workplaces have changed dramatically. Our institutions lag behind. We are doing a good job training students for the 20th century. This talk asks and suggests some answers to the urgent question of how we, together, can transform our institutions of higher learning for the 21st century?

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