Rebooting University

When in Paris … don’t do as the Parisians do. That’s one of the things I learned at this weekend’s Nightscience / Teaching through Research workshop at the Institute for Innovation of Teaching through Research at University Rene Descartes in Paris. While most of France (and Google’s home page) celebrated the storming of the Bastille on France’s national holiday, we sat in a lecture hall and plotted storming the academy.

Hosted by Francois Taddei, a fellow Ashoka fellow, and his main co-conspirator Ariel Lindner – we spent three days sharing experiences, making connections, and planning the roadmap for the institute’s many initiatives. It was great.

Francois and Ariel are infusing science education with openness and peer-learning in a way that I have not seen at other institutions before.

This is good for P2PU, because we want more friends inside the institutions. There is much we can learn from the way traditional institutions are trying to evolve, and there are lessons we can bring to their efforts, because experimentation is easier in a place like P2PU. If something doesn’t work, we just reboot, and try again. Many traditional institutions can’t afford to reboot. Students pay fees. They have expectations. The cost of experimentation is lower on the web.

Concrete next steps include a citizen science course offered by Francois Grey (who referred to himself as “the other Francois” during the weekend) at New York University, hosted on P2PU, and connecting CRI in Paris, NYU, and Tshingua University in Bejing. I am also hoping to build links between our ideas for working with the MIT Media Lab and what Francois and Ariel are doing in Paris. I think there is a lot of potential for shared experimentation and collaboration.

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