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Doing It Yourself

What does it mean to be an edupunk?

"An edupunk is someone who doesn't want to play by the old college rules. Maybe you have interests that don't fit the academic mold. Maybe you're in a remote location. Maybe you have a family, a job, or other responsibilities and you can't take on life as a full-time student. Maybe you love new technology and new ways of learning. Or maybe you're just a rebel!"

Either way, there's tremendous value in pursuing an education or career on your own. 

This challenge is based on the advice and wisdom laid out in Anya Kamenetz' book: The Edupunk's Guide to a DIY Credential.

Watch this interview with Anya to learn more about her evolution towards writing the Edupunk's Guide.

Task Discussion

  • nzeribe said:

    This is awfully inspiring. Actually, it's got a touch of revolution about it, even if it's a quiet one. It's not easy but I like that a little band of us can come together and support each other. I wrote a lil' blog post about it here.

    on Nov. 9, 2012, 6:54 a.m.
  • Dave Rothacker said:

    This is all very experimental and prototypish but I am going to try and document my (and our crew's) learning experience at P2PU at this site of mine.  

    I began to develop the site's concept a long time ago and have launched a handful of iterations...all of which I've taken down over the years. Because I will have visitors who are familiar with the site's history, I am choosing to continue on with certain themes and characters. I am trying to make it user-friendly with new readers (or passengers if you will).

    on March 28, 2012, 11:44 a.m.

    Dave Rothacker said:

    I am completing this task today with a review of Anya's, The Edupunks' Guide to a DIY Credential.

    I love the point that Leah brings up below about documentation and appreciate Anya weighing in on the two aspects to accreditation/documentation as she sees it. And also to Alison for hooking us up with Anya's TED talk. Thank you ladies!

    on April 3, 2012, 8:43 a.m. in reply to Dave Rothacker
  • Anya Kamenetz said:

    I've been lurking for a while--came back from maternity leave a couple of weeks ago--and just wanted to say how thrilled I am that y'all are finding this useful fodder for discussion. I'm here if you ever have any questions!

    Please take a look at the "resources" section on if you want an annotated list of open learning resources of all kinds. I'm doing my best to keep it updated as well if you have any suggestions.

    I think that Leah's "documentation" idea is very important and maybe clarifies what I meant to say by "accreditation." There's really 2 aspects to accreditation/documentation as I see it. One is the generic interchangeable value of a degree/certificate/license/badge that "proves" you have learned certain knowledge or skills. Everyone who has the same degree, presumably has an equivalent level of skills/knowledge.

    The second is the more subtle, way of qualifying yourself to a community. You want to be known as an individual who has a certain life narrative, certain personal qualities and relationships. It's the differnce between "I have a BA in English" and "I was in the debate society at Skidmore with your brother-in-law, and he says I'm a smart guy". We often rely much more strongly on this kind of qualification than on the generic kind when actually making judgements about others and I think it's really hard to talk about the value of an education without it. I think that the right kind of documentation/storytelling when done in public on a network like this one, can help people to qualify themselves in this way.

    Anyway, that's just what I've been thinking about lately.

    on March 27, 2012, 11:49 a.m.

    Anonym said:


    Hi all, and a special hello to you Anya!

    I'm so happy to have found this group. Anya your work is amazing, and is sooo relevant right now.

    One thought that popped into my head when I found this group was the idea of being "punk" coupled with the "DIY" aspect being intertwined with your decade long research; ultimately what lead to this P2PU group being created.

    I come from a sensibility of having to make do with limited resources, an artistic and creative lifestyle, and an appreciation for different counter cultures. Taking the terms punk and DIY makes me a bit uneasy coming from someone who already has a more privileged background such as yourself... but at the same time BECAUSE you having had access to higher education (as I have as well!), SEEING the importance of taking direct responsibility to better one's life and career isn't just for the "have nots" anymore, well you remind me of how ish really got real for us all in these touch economic times!

    In the end I feel completely empowered in knowing that I can change the direction of my professional life when and how I want to, from rolling up my sleeves and taking the reigns. I look forward to completing DIY U and sharing this resource with others.

    Thanks so much!

    on July 12, 2012, 5:08 a.m. in reply to Anya Kamenetz
  • Anum said:

    An "edupunk" in my opinion, is anyone who takes their learning into their own hands. They reach out towards knowledge, and question everything. We are a product of a society that simply follows a formula (go through varying degrees of school, get into higher education, find a job) but it is all very passive - we basically let other people decide what we should learn and how we should learn. The consequence of this is obvious. We become complacement in our growth - this is not only limiting to our mind, but our employability, our relationship with our communities, etc. An "edupunk" challenges that status quo, and embraces learning wholeheartedly; because they realize that to do otherwise would be doing a disservice to themselves and society.

    on March 27, 2012, 12:09 a.m.

    Dave Rothacker said:

    Right on Anum! I just jumped on the computer this morning after reading a story about a guy who, along with another guy, created their school yearbook. He and the other guy had "edited and written thousands of words, had practiced biography and history, had learned about type, zinc and half-tone cuts, proofreading, and the ways of printers." He mentioned that the experience was worth any two college courses. 

    I'm thinking this guy, this edupunk, turned out to be quite a service to society. His name was Carl Sandburg. And his self-directed project occured in 1901. 

    I've only reached page sixty of an eight hundred page biography of Sandburg, but I've already discovered that he did indeed have an edupunk mindset. 

    on March 27, 2012, 8:17 a.m. in reply to Anum
  • Dave Rothacker said:

    What does it mean to be an edupunk?

    A few clicks into a little background check on the term edupunk and wow, I was smack dab in the middle of a hailstorm. Real smart educational technologists are taking exception with Anya's use of the word, along with her methodology. Apparently a gentleman coined the term in 2008 to define professors who avoided using mainstream teaching tools. I will not go into details nor provide links. It would be an utter waste of your time. Read Anya's guide, watch these videos and forge your own description from the fire of your own mind.

    Here's mine: An edupunk is someone who says to the Man:

    I appreciate your work over the last couple of centuries. Your institutions and legacies are a wealth of knowledge. Thank you. But the world has changed. We are now a connected planet with evolving tools. I can no longer ride in your educational vehicle, I must drive my own.

    I think the term edupunk is kinda edgy, kinda cool. But I'm not hung up on it. I'm more concerned with, what I believe to be is the underlying mindset: Passion to learn on our own terms and passion to apply that learning to make a difference in the world.

    I have a sneaky suspicion that some of you delved into that edupunk controversy I spoke about above. Please allow me to leave you with this. One of these gurus had his niece read a copy of Anya's guide. She was oblivious to all of the hoopla. Here's what the guru's brother said after his daughter read it. "You know, I think it actually helped her."

    on March 25, 2012, 10:30 a.m.
  • cw said:

    Thank you for posting the video! I really do like the edupunk concept. To me, the term edpunk means to be able to learn and pursue whatever subject that is of interest whether it is to earn a credential or to just learn a new skill that interests me with fellow like minded learners. 

    I agree that the "old" method of learning is in need of a re-model. I remember reading a book by Anya Kamenetz called, "Generation Debt" which also explains the cost and consequence of the increasing costs of education.


    on March 15, 2012, 12:03 a.m.
  • Corbin Tarrant said:

    Thanks for the great resources Leah and Alison! I am truly inspired by the open learning movement and am ready to jump in head first!

    on Feb. 20, 2012, 8:16 p.m.
  • AJC said:

    Here's an extended talk from Anya. Worth watching!

    on Feb. 1, 2012, 1:43 a.m.

    Carolina Villarraga said:

    Thank you, it's a very interesting video!

    on Feb. 1, 2012, 2:56 p.m. in reply to AJC

    Leah MacVie said:

    I've been following Anya for a few years. She is spot on with this movement and is helping to propel it forward. 

    Technology is helping people get an education in so many ways. Most importantly, it breaks down barriers: socioeconomic, location, personal networks, and access to knowledge. The creators of the 'master plan of education' could never have predicted the downfall: every employer -including McDonald's- wanting a degree, the rising costs of textbooks and tuition, and the mobile market. 

    I currently work at a great college and am constantly impressed by the faculty I work with. They are remarkabe. However, I do see them struggling- trying to prepare young people for jobs that don't even exist yet. I can see where "just in time learning" like that found here on P2PU can be a better solution. 
    I agree with Anya's three prong approach: content, socialization, accreditation. But I'd also like to add one more term on there: documentation. Anya touches on it, but it really needs to be part of the system. There is no accreditation (or visible growth) without documentation.
    Also, I'd like to comment on digital textbooks- even renting digital textbooks is still very expensive. I can tell you first hand that some teachers don't think twice about the cost because they've been using that brand for years. Everyday I consider coming up with a 1 sheet manual for implementing open textbooks and resources in a class...
    This is a truly exciting time we are in. The time has come and gone for reform. We need a movement. 
    on Feb. 3, 2012, 5:16 p.m. in reply to AJC

    LBCarfagna said:

    Thanks for your thoughts Leah!  I'm interested in hearing more about how you see documentation fitting in as a new approach.  Also, if you ever do come up with that 1 sheet manual for implementing open textbooks and resources, feel free to share it on here in the discussion.  Everyone could benefit from knowing more about that.  I know that just did a recent promotion to get a free e-textbook, but you are right that renting can be really expensive.  Do you mind throwing out a few suggestions for other learners on this platform?

    on Feb. 6, 2012, 7:44 p.m. in reply to Leah MacVie

    Leah MacVie said:

    You bet, LB. 

    When I refer to documentation, I really mean tracking and making something out of the learning. #1 taking notes about your journey and #2 a final project of some sort. The note taking could take many different forms:

    • Video blogging on YouTube,

    • Blogging on your personal blog,

    • Facebook posts,

    • Photo blogging through Flickr or Picasa,

    • Sharing on LinkedIn, or 

    • Tracking your learnings through a Twitter hashtag. 


    A project might be something like:

    • Writing a non-fiction mini-book,

    • Writing a fictional short story, or

    • Developing an e-course to teach others. 

    I would love to develop a 1 page doc on utlilizing open resources in the classroom/learning. I still have a lot more to learn about the topic- but there is never a better time than now. Thanks for the encouragement- I'll add it to my list. 

    Also, about the digital textbooks, this is a tricky topic. Obviously publishers want to make money and so the cost of textbooks will always be sky high. Even with the Kno (still, a very expensive product with expensive resources , students and faculty are locked into one device and one resource. When I work with faculty, I like to remind them that textbooks generally come from one voice, one perspective. Don't we want multiple perspectives on a topic in order to encourage students to think critically? Also, as Cable Green shared at last year's SLOAN-C, isn't it more economical and efficient to have multiple experts working on textbooks that are vetted and reviewed by teachers across the country? Is there any better way to spend our tax dollars than open resources? I highly encourage you watch the presentation-you'll really enjoy it LB! It is amazing. I learned so much. 

    Cable Green/Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons: "The Obviousness of Open Policy"

    I would also add that we are entering an age of BYOD or Bring your Own Device. We won't be able to control it, and we can spend our time doing far better things. For example, develop an ebook in multiple file formats (Kindle, PDF, blog, etc).  Deliver content in multiple ways: video, audio, text, games. Finally, come up with an open and dynamic learning management system that successfully integrates the social and informal aspects of learning while still maintaining privacy.

    Sorry to ramble, but I'm very passionate about these topics!

    on Feb. 6, 2012, 10:13 p.m. in reply to LBCarfagna

    AJC said:

    So many great ideas bundled into this short convo!

    Our hope for this challenge "Build a Personal Learning Plan" is to do just what you said - help people get into the good habit of documentation. That way they have a rich, if unconventional, portfolio to show when seeking some sort of recognition.

    on Feb. 7, 2012, 12:12 p.m. in reply to Leah MacVie

    Xavier said:

    Oh wow Leah! I enjoy your words!

    I will have to review your comments again cheeky.

    I am from Spain and need to improve my english level before sharing my thoughts as clearer as you has done!

    on Feb. 7, 2012, 6:29 p.m. in reply to Leah MacVie

    Leah MacVie said:

    Gracias Xavier. Hablo espanol un poco. I can help translate if you need it. My husband and I were actually planning on traveling to Spain this Spring, but many of the U.S. travel sources are making it seem a bit unsafe, so we have postponed it till next Spring. We were planning on visiting the North Western half- Galecia, Asturias, etc.I cannot wait to go!

    You may want to consider using this P2PU course to help you improve your English. There are so many FREE resources on the Web. I've been catching back up on Spanish each week and I've been blogging about my  learnings at I find this documentation is really keeping me on track and on a regular learning schedule. You may find a few of the resources helpful since a lot of them also have English equivalents. Hope to speak with you soon!

    on Feb. 11, 2012, 12:24 p.m. in reply to Xavier

    Leah MacVie said:

    I can't wait to get to it Alison. I'm trying to do a bit everyweek- but I really look forward to it!

    Thanks so much for the support. 

    on Feb. 11, 2012, 12:25 p.m. in reply to AJC

    Xavier said:

    Hola Leah!

    I thank your proposal! Really I started using p2pu looking for a great challenge, I'm enrolled on a course preparing for aply to FCE next month... buff, well see!

    These days I've been done other things so I have to center on this space again!

    We will have the opportunity to speak again!

    on Feb. 13, 2012, 8:34 a.m. in reply to Leah MacVie

    Dave Rothacker said:

    Hi Leah, 

    The cyber-universe continues to shrink as I keep bumping into you out here. I found P2PU via Lisa Nielsen and was more than pleasantly surprised to see Anya Kamenetz involved in this challenge, which I embarked upon today. I took a second to get her book on Kindle and will dive in soon. (I read DIY U last year).

    Your comment here on documentation sparked an idea which, although I still have yet to vet out, could make this first challenge a lot of fun for me.

    This morning ironically enough, I found myself at the crossroads of confusion and more confusion. I am trying to build a coherent viewpoint on youth career development. I get so far and then I get side tracked by issues like home / unschooling, DIY U and an endless sea of blogs. Perhaps this challenge will help me out...

    on March 22, 2012, 12:15 p.m. in reply to Leah MacVie

    Leah MacVie said:

    Well hello Dave! Welcome to my first compeleted challenge on P2PU. I absolutely love this community and I am now waist deep in all the fun stuff going on around this virtual space. 

    I know a few people in the youth career development area in my hometown- underpriviledged, dropouts, and gifted. One thing we have to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all model for everyone. When it comes to youth career development, their strengths and career choice can help to indicate a good learning solution for them. Some of these kids will NEED degrees, others, like gifted game developers, might want to explore other options for credit. However, DIY is a great option for exploring sub-interests that we may not necessarily want to get a degree in, but we want to explore on our own time. 

    Thanks for checking in and have fun in this challenge!

    on March 24, 2012, 10:30 p.m. in reply to Dave Rothacker