Culture Mapping Education
Culture Mapping Education
We want to visualize higher education curriculum so educators and students can identify cultural patterns and plan sustainable futures.
We want to visualize higher education curriculum so educators and students can identify cultural patterns and plan sustainable futures. Read more
About this project
Culture Mapping Education
We want to visualize the syllabi of higher education curriculum in order to map and make better sense of syllabus data. We believe education is stuck in a loop that pushes away engagement and organic learning. In order to plan out the future of education, we need a progressive lens to structure and analyze the language we are using in our course descriptions. The present language originated from an imposed ideology established long ago and demonstrates that courses continue to live in discrete silos.
The sequestering of courses needs to evolve. Administrators and educators want to do more. There is plenty of initiative. But the modern version of doing more, means throwing more classes and more online learning at the problem. These “solutions” sum up no different than adding another app. They are replicable, effortless, accessible and the return on investment is quick. Yet, there is no retention in app thinking.
Yes, we have the ability to acquire endless learning but it’s useless if we don’t know why we are learning it. Theory classes thrive in theory. They never land. Technique classes focus on perfecting technique — but to what end? We think we know where we are, but we are sorely mistaken. Instead of bombarding students with new classes, it is critical to look at what we have already. There is a collective intelligence that can be gleaned from studying curriculum. Specifically, the dog-eared course catalog.
We believe we can use our Culture Mapping to empower the identification and development of a dynamic, impact-driven university curriculum. Culture Mapping will provide universities with an analytics toolkit to analyze the language of their syllabi, sort and classify the language from syllabi, and generate a visualization of what a school’s syllabus looks like at this moment in time.
We first introduced our idea of Culture Mapping in 2001. To date, it is a patent-pending semiotic matrix that breaks culture-based meaning out across four quadrants based on X and Y axes related to expression across self expression and society. When a syllabus is mapped according to the matrix, classes fall across four quadrants: theory, technique, outreach and reporting. These quadrants become education archetypes. Ideally, students should have access to classes across all four education archetypes.
Our goal is to enable universities to build bridges across the four archetypes of learning in order to transform curriculum. Once a syllabus is mapped, educators can begin to vision correlations, synergies and patterns. Educators will be able to see how to expand enduring opportunities for theory courses, expand expression of living data, expand community opportunities, expand opportunities for technique and data gathering and connect traditional theory to modern technique and provocative intervention.
We tested the matrix by using Open Culture’s list of 1000 free online classes. This is a respected list by Open Culture editor Dan Colman, a Stanford professor. Mapping Open Culture's list demonstrated that the courses available online are sorely lacking in the outreach quadrant.
When using a list that applies to online, it seems pretty obvious that this would happen: Online learning demonstrates a vast gap in building a sustainable education curriculum. Nonetheless, the courses that do show up in the outreach quadrant are incredibly engaging. It is not that they do not exist.
We believe the imbalance represents the state of most curriculum. We need to transcend this. Students require a breadth of educational experiences to pull from. They need to understand how to structure the choices they make. When a student’s education lacks balance, it is either because they are not reading it in the syllabus, the breadth is not available or because the student does not know how to attain it.
Using the matrix, universities can see how their curriculum language maps and understand their strengths and weaknesses. Students can use the matrix to see where their choices sit. Research consistently shows students, no matter what age, want hands-on interconnectivity. When they have that they perform better and gain a more sustainable education.
Potential students can use mapping as an evaluation tool for understanding the culture of the programs they are considering. Instructors can leverage mapping to develop syllabus, find courses for inspiration, synergies and collaboration to expand the potential of their own courses. Administration can see how curriculum maps, identify strengths and weaknesses, and effectively improve curriculum planning when developing new course and tracks of learning.
If formative assessment is key to determining real school accountability for a student learning in the US, it necessitates the need for a curriculum rich on the right side of the matrix where the expressive learning archetypes live. If we start now, and work toward a curriculum for both students and educators to participate in and have ownership of, we’ll move the needle for education.
Mapping instills that needed qualitative measure for evaluation. There have even been White House talks of connecting federal student aid to outcomes in effort to drive better, more affordable education. Mapping maintains essence.
Ultimately, culture mapping supports forward-thinking endeavors. It enables transparency by sharing and making data public. It supports layers of participants from student to educator to community. It fosters collaboration by allowing users to look to each other and be inspired.
Like-minded thinking has been critical to us from the commencement of Culture Mapping. For this data visualization project, we are partnering with Cousins Sears, the studio of creative technologists, Jonathan Cousins and James Nick Sears.
Our mutual goal is to utilize open source and eventually leverage machine learning. We began to consider this endeavor prompted by years of discussions with our own students, and the near-future prospect of considering university choices within our own families.
Risks and challenges
The main challenge is gaining acceptance from the academic community. The second challenge is collecting course catalogs and syllabi, and getting them into workable form to feed into the Culture Map. To overcome acceptance issues we are networking within the academic community. To overcome standardizing syllabus data sheets is simply a staffing issue. If we have more syllabi than we can handle, then we have been successful in overcoming acceptance and can begin to bring on more personnel.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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