A Manifesto?

In a meeting a few weeks ago, a colleague recommended that I read The Manifesto for Teaching Online. Authored by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, the Manifesto is the third iteration of the group’s efforts at articulating their shared values and their political and philosophical perspectives on online learning. The group’s first Manifesto was published in 2011 and the second was released in 2016. Despite working in online learning, I somehow missed the earlier versions.

I ordered the book while I was still in the meeting. With a few clicks, the book was on its way and it arrived at my doorstep last week. The Manifesto has been staring at me from a corner of my desk for the last few days and I’ve purposely been avoiding its gaze. It’s the end of the semester and I still have a ton of grading to do. And I need to prep a winter class that starts in a few days.  I can’t be distracted from the work at hand. Besides, I agreed to read the book with a few colleagues over the winter break.

And then a little voice inside my head called out. “Maybe you could take a quick glance… That wouldn’t be TOO distracting. And besides,  you could still read the book more fully and deeply with your makeshift reading group in a week or two…”

So, I read the introduction. And immediately, I’m put on notice that this isn’t going to be a book about instructional design or about the best practices for setting up an online course template. Quoting Bruno Latour, the authors set the stage for the book;

“[A manifesto makes] explicit (that is, manifest) a subtle but radical transformation in the definition of what it means to progress, that is, to process forward and meet new prospects. Not as a war cry for an avant-garde to move even further and faster ahead, but rather as a warning, a call to attention, so as to stop going further in the same way as before toward the future.” (Latour, 2010, p. 473)

And it’s clear that this manifesto is designed to challenge those of us working in online education to question our practices, to reexamine our terminology, to assess our use of technology and to consider our place in the larger social, political and educational world.

While I stopped at the end of the introduction (I promise, valued reading group colleagues…), I’m certain that it’s going to be a wild ride that is going to cause my head to hurt.

And now, I have to get back to grading….

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