Saturday, 1 October 2011

Convergence of digital, networked and open - the digital scholarship of Teaching

Notes and comments from reading Martin Weller's Chapter 8 (A Pedagogy of Abundance - The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice, Bloomsbury Academic).
This is the most exciting area as far as K-12 schools are concerned. In this chapter Weller considers how the music industry is facing the transition from an economics of scarcity (talent is scarce, difficult to locate, content is a physical thing and is manufactured to demand) to an economics of abundance.
In his Flickr example he shows how embracing the abundance model can work - by say, a Freemium model where basic services are free but those that add considerable value are charged.
Anderson's "long tail" concept is also an abundance response where you may give away 99% but sell the premium 1% on - and I think that this also applies to the content since relatively scarce non-mass market content can be available to be used. Previously the scarcity model made such content unavailable (uneconomic).
Scarcity responses, writes Weller, seek to re-establish scarcity in a digital context (DRM, for example).
Moving on to education, Weller considers how this sector may change as a result of abundance. With its resources and control, he gives the modern university as a solution to the economics of scarcity. He states that while expertise is still scarce, the access to content is changing rapidly. He quotes Siemens (2008):
"...learning theories, such as constructivism, social constructivism, and more recently, connectivism, form the theoretical shift from instructor or institution controlled teaching to one of greater control by the learner".
I like the terms "supply-push" and "demand-pull" that he uses to describe the change to abundance economics in learning (I almost wrote "teaching" here, but it is telling that this is not the term to use in demand-pull).
Weller lists his "pedagogy of abundance" based of nine assumptions:
  1. Content is free
  2. Content is abundant
  3. Content is varied
  4. Sharing is easy
  5. Social based
  6. Connections are "light"
  7. Organisation is cheap
  8. Based on  a generative system (many innovative developments)
  9. User generated content.
He then lists five possible pedagogies:
  1. Resource-based learning ("an integrated set of strategies to promote student centred learning in a mass education context, through a combination of specially designed learning resources and interactive media and technologies" - clearly an area where schools are working; Weller suggest though that this is often grounded in a scarcity approach)
  2. Problem-based learning (encounter the problem first in the learning process, students work in small collaborative groups towards a solution, but often there is no definitive answer)
  3. Constructivism (individual learners construct their own knowledge - strong emphasis on group, discursive and reflective components, emphasis on individuals to develop own interpretations, educator more of a facilitator)
  4. Communities of practice (perhaps open source community approaches, peer production)
  5. Connectivism (proposed by George Siemens [2005], and based upon eight principles; I would add at the experimental stage with this MOOC being an example of this approach).
Are existing theories sufficient in the age of abundance? Is an individual's attention NOT abundant? Is his/her time limited for these approaches?
Whatever the answer, "we are witnessing a fundamental shift in education".


connectiv said...

I am a student of music, and I do have a question on abundance of knowledge. Written knowledge is abundant I agree, but knowing how to do something is not. I need a good teacher to learn music, for I do need feedback and comments on my performance. Reading a book or reading a website is easy and that kind of knowledge is more and more abundant. But becoming a skilled professional needs more than knowledge from written sources.

George said...

Good point about activities which require skill developed over time - I would also include sports in this.
I do know of a long distance runner whose coach is half way across the world and he sends weekly reports from his watch (which seems to record everything) and also his log (including diet) and the coach sends back the programme of the following week.
However, this is not about abundant knowledge, which I think is your point - your music teacher's expertise is not abundant in world terms.