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From Consuming to Producing
April 28, 2010 - 9:30pm

The thing that sticks with me from my Ph.D. program was being told that the difference between an undergraduate and a graduate student is that grad students produce new knowledge, while undergrads consume. Or maybe it was that professors produce new knowledge, and grad students should move from consumers to producers. Whatever. It made so much sense at the time. Now I realize how wrong this advice is. Nowadays, with the diffusion of social media, blogging, and Web 2.0 tools - everyone can (and should) be producers.

Our fundamental mistake was to believe (because we were told) that only a few people are good enough to create, and the job of the rest of us is to take what is on offer.


You are smart enough to create, to produce. Because it is only when we create something will it be our own. Only when we create (or teach) will we understand. The benefits of producing, creating, and making always come back to the creator. If someone wants to consume what you create then that is wonderful, but should not be your motivation to produce.

We need to bring this insight to both teaching and our professional lives.

On the teaching front, we understand that learning needs to be active rather than passive. This means we need to work with our faculty colleagues to design courses around active learning and collaboration. This also means that we need to figure out how to get our students' work out into the world, through open blogs and other methods, so they learn to be producers and participate in the larger conversation.

In our professional lives we have numerous opportunities to create. People often ask me how I find the time to blog each day. Basically, I try to channel as much of my consumption of professional materials (around learning and technology), into production. So I limit what I intake each day into what could be possibly useful to blog about that night. This "editing" of my consumption diet insures that I stay focussed on what I need to know, and that I'll synthesize and retain the main things that I read, watched, or participated in that day.

I'm not arguing that we all need to blog. The Web 2.0 world provides plenty of opportunities to create by participating in the conversation. Join discussions around blog posts by commenting. Tweet what you are reading about (Twitter is a great tool for quickly turning consumption into production). Write quick reviews of professional books you are reading for Amazon. Post links to articles and thoughts on Facebook.

Ideally, we will figure out how to get our students to engage with our curriculum on public, Web 2.0 tools so that they can start learning how to be producers and creators. Thoughts?

By the way, I don't claim any originality to these thoughts. I've been influenced by:

--Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters, by Scott Rosenberg

--Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, by Chris Anderson

--Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World, by Tyler Cowen

--Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

--Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin

Any recommendations to support or argue with my assertions?


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