Home » MOOCs (massive open on-line courses) » #H817 Open Education » Activity 17: The role of abundance

Activity 17: The role of abundance

Image by Joi Ito

The Open Learning week started with us reading Martin Weller’s A pedagogy of abundance

We were asked to do the following;

In the conclusion two questions are posed: ‘The issue for educators is twofold I would suggest: firstly how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do we best equip learners to make use of it?’
Post a comment to contribute an answer to one of these questions, drawing on your own context and experience. For example, you might suggest that we could best equip learners to make use of abundant content by developing their critical analysis skills.

I like the whole debate of abundance and although I am in the middle of it, MOOC addict that I am, I have never really thought about education and abundance. To me abundance relates to crops, grazing, store cupboards, actually anything food related but not education. But when you think about it, it’s obvious that it is abundant. Think about it. In the 19th century only the rich (mainly boys) were educated and the only way you could access knowledge and resources was by attending school, having a governess or living in a household big enough for a library. In other words, you were rich. This slowly changed over the decades as we saw the emergence of education for all, cheaper books and libraries. However, the things associated with education (the resources, expertise and knowledge) were still scarce. You had to go to the library or attend school, college or university to access these resources. Educators were put on the same level as lawyers and doctors, trained experts who spent years learning their trade (they still are but I feel they have became more accessible).

And now we have the digital devices and tools that allow us access to so much more. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you are so long you have internet access, a computer (smart phone, tablet etc) and a basic level of IT. Obviously this still excludes large groups if the population who don’t have this, but nonetheless you stand a better chance now compared to the 19th century. You can access online degrees, MOOCs, OERs, online books, talks, programmes and the experts themselves. A lot of this costs nothing (apart from the obvious costs of broadband and your own time). In his paper Martin Weller talks about “Freemium”

Freemium as the opposite of the traditional free sample: instead of giving away 1% of your product to sell 99%, you give away 99% of your product to sell 1%. The reason this makes sense is that for digital products, where the marginal cost is close to zero, the 99% cost you little and allow you to reach a huge market. So the 1% you convert, is 1% of a big number.

This is perfect for people like me who can’t afford to buy everything I want as I can access it and the providers make money from those who can and are are prepared to pay for a premium service.

I have been desperate to take courses but don’t have the time and money to go to college. With MOOCs I can basically learn anything I like. To complement this I have access to another level of “education”, namely social media and OERs. Since doing MOOCs I have had to create a Pearltrees in order to manage all the things I need/want to read and watch as part of what I call my second education (as opposed to the formal one I undertook at “proper” institutions).

Pearltrees means I can save things posted and sent to me via social media communities, plus the things I have found online, to an online “tree” for reading at a later date. I am constantly trying to catch up with the things I want to read. Don’t get me wrong I am not complaining. I love the fact that there is so much out there and that I can share this with my peers and PLN (personal learning network). It feels like I am helping to educate myself and others and that they are helping to educate themselves and me.

Whilst having all this information to hand is a boon we need to learn how to manage it just like you would any tool. Just because its abundant and free doesn’t mean we have to like or use it all. We can still be discerning. Free doesn’t mean good, or even that it’s relevant to you. We don’t have to be grateful either as it doesn’t do anyone any favours. I think this is one of the most important lessons we can learn and teach other. Once we have understood this we will start to appraise free resources in the same way we would if we were paying for it. However, you’re not asking if it is worth your hard earned cash but if it is worth your precious time. Limited time + abundance of resources = time spent on resources not suitable, relevant or of good quality.

Personally I have learnt this through experience and as my confidence as increased. When I first started I assumed everyone knew better than me and anything they wrote had to be read. I felt guilty if I didn’t read someone’s blog or G+ post. If I started reading something but didn’t like it or it wasn’t relevant I persevered as I felt bad when someone had taken the time to write it.

But this led to frustration when I realised I had lost half an hour reading something that turned out to be irrelevant to what I was doing. So I started be discerning. Disregarding the irrelevant and giving my full attention to what was useful and helpful to what I was doing. That’s not to say the things I disregard aren’t useful, they could be to someone. Another good thing about using digital tools and communities, you will always find something you need.

Being a teacher in this day and age must be amazing in terms of resources. They have the whole world at their fingertips in terms of resources and their peers. But like learners they have to learn how to manage the resources and not let the resources manage them.

Oh and another useful skill for learners……. Skim reading!

Weller, Martin (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249 pp. 223–236.


  1. Dave Barr says:

    Nice work, Nat. You’ve covered not only the facts but some of the emotions of the pedagogy of abundance. The emotional impact on students has to be just as important as the cognitive impact – both go into decisions on how to be a discerning consumer of knowledge.

  2. Niall Beag says:

    “Being a teacher in this day and age must be amazing in terms of resources. They have the whole world at their fingertips in terms of resources and their peers. But like learners they have to learn how to manage the resources and not let the resources manage them. ”

    Not in the English teaching world. When I first taught English, in 2006, there was plenty of stuff on the net, and you could build something of a course from it without too much bother. Now everybody’s in on the game, sharing every little thing, and there is too much.

    It is now genuinely quicker to write everything yourself than to try to use OERs in the English language classroom. There’s a lot that the “open education” crowd could learn from the TEFL experience…

    • Nat Nelson says:

      You can have too much of a good thing is seems. I know what you mean as I sometimes feel overwhelmed but it’s probably better than not enough? I suppose the beauty if it is that you can take it or leave it. If you need something you can dip in and if it’s too much or of poor quality, dip out of it again!

  3. ingermariec says:

    Hi Nat
    I very much enjoyed reading your blog post. You helped me put things into perspective by describing how abundance has not always been the order of the day but that educational resources were once very scarce. True but perhaps difficult to imagine today. The abundance of content has already had much effect on formal education. Mostly a negative effect, I’m afraid. At my university, plagiarism has become a big issue because it’s so easy for students to find anc copy/paste content without giving the proper reference. So resources are used on plagiarism dectors and time is spent discussing the best means of control where instead resources should be used for improving and developing new, up to date teaching, learning and assessment activities. So yes, a pedagogy of abundance is relevant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: