Both meanings are intended – abundance brings challenges and the challenges are abundant. The solution may be in recognising that now, more than ever, education needs to be about learning to learn.Images – mine, MS ClipArt or Creative Commons from Flickr + snaps of web pages
Our education systems have worked pretty well in the past – at least for some of us. We have managed to adapt to the changes but change is increasingly rapid and the future is unpredictable. In the past people were able to assume that the future would be reasonably similar to the present and the past. That is no longer a fair assumption and education needs to prepare for that.
This comes from a Stephen Heppell video in which he makes the point that technology allows us to live at the edge of possibilities where things are unpredictable and we need to be prepared for surprise. That preparation is a major role of education and thus of teachers.Similar theme to some that have been around for a long time – I touch the future, I teach
We can easily imagine that education, teaching the young, emerged as a response to the need to pass on what one generation had learned to the next. At first that would have been informal and is not unique to humans. As things evolved and there was much more knowledge to pass on, much of it was held by a limited number of people with the relevant experience and there were limited means to pass it on. Hence there was a need for formal education systems, initially perhaps by apprenticeships but later by group instruction.
In the modern world there is vastly more information available and many more methods for distributing it. When I was a student and in my years as a teacher in schools, or even in my first years teaching at university, information on a topic was often difficult to find. It was most often in books and we were mostly limited to what books were in the local library. Books and other printed material were not easily searched to find specific items of information. The information problem was largely one of access. Now things are different. Information is much more quickly and easily distributed online. There is more of it and it is searchable. The problem is no longer about access abut about selection.
It’s important that we graduate students who are well prepared for the circumstances in which they will find themselves. A bucket and spade for digging in the sand may not be the best tools in a deluge. Flexibility is important. Graduates need to be prepared to deal with new challenges and to be able to use tools in different ways. A bucket can hold water as well as sand.
Historically we have thought about information like an object that we can treat like a stock of material stored away for access when required. Originally information was stored in people’s heads but was later recorded on tablets, scrolls, books that could be stored on shelves or in libraries. More recently we have been able to store information in computers and on CD-ROMs or similar devices.Now the rate of generation and change of information is so fast that it makes less sense to think of it as being a static stock of material. It is more sensible to think of it as a flow from which we can extract what we need at any moment but should not imagine that it will be the same next time we look.
Traditional teaching was mostly transmissive. Information was scarce so it made sense for teachers who had access to important information to pass it on to learners who did not. Schooling was about preparing learners for life and work. Much of the learning was just-in-case.
Transmission as the central approach to education made sense when information was limited and changed slowly. What was known about any discipline was limited and it changed only slowly. It was fair to assume that what was known by one generation would be needed by the next generation and those that followed. If there was new information then it was likely to be only a small addition to what was already there.
In oral cultures information was held in the minds of the older generation. That placed a natural restriction on access.Even when information was recorded in written form the number of copies was restricted, relatively few people could access the copies in the locations where they were held and only a minority of the population could read.In those circumstances it was necessary for those with access to information to take responsibility for passing it on.
Given the limited amount of information available and the relatively slow rate of change it seemed reasonable to expect that education could provide learners with all the knowledge that might be needed to prepare them for life. It was possible to teach things just-in-case they might be needed later or with reasonable expectation that what would be needed could be predicted.
Since the personal computer appeared in the late 1970s there have been at least 4 waves of technological change that have affected the way that we share information and connect with other people.
The graphical user interface (GUI) and laser printers made it possible to produce good quality printed resources with relatively modest resources. What used to require expensive equipment and skilled typesetters became possible for amateurs. Depending on the design skills of the users the results were not always beautiful but they could be. It was possible for individuals and groups to produce and publish books themselves thus expanding the possibilities for distributing information. Printed material still needed to be physically distributed and access depended upon a copy being in the necessary place.
With the World Wide Web a single copy of a document could be placed on a server and made immediately available anywhere on the Internet. That permitted much more rapid distribution than for printed materials. Printed copies could be made where they were required but there was potential to reduce costs of distribution by not printing at all, printing only what was required and removing the cost of transport. Preparation of materials and distribution on the server required some technical skills and that limited who was able to publish.
Web 2.0 opened up the possibility of the read-write web by making available simple tools in the web browser that could be used by anybody who could type to produce and publish material on the WWW. There were still some limitations on access because of the need for a computer connected to the Internet but the technical requirements were minimal and a user with an account on a publishing service could access it from any computer on the Internet.
In the past few years mobile Internet has developed. Most cell phones are now capable of accessing the Internet with a data plan and smartphones with larger screens and more capable browsers are beginning to dominate the cell phone market. It is now possible to access and publish to the WWW from almost anywhere provided that the phone has a data plan or can access a WiFi network. Freedom to access information and make new information available to other users is almost unrestricted technically. Questions about moral and legal restrictions remain to be answered. Just because we can publish or access something does not mean that we should.
As the volume of information has increased and the ways in which we access and manage it have changed our understanding of knowledge has evolved.
Originally information and knowledge resided in people but with the invention of writing it became possible to record information outside the human mind in the form of an object – a scroll, a book, or something else. Information objects can be stored, shared, owned and sold like other forms of property. Access can be limited, simply because the number of copies and their locations are limited. There is a need for systems for creating copies and/or converting transmitting the information in various ways. Learning can be thought about as information transfer.
Before print knowledge was necessarily held in the mind of some person. In some senses constructivism is a return to that understanding of knowledge as personal and likely different from the knowledge of others. We build our knowledge from our experience, including what we can learn from others, and negotiate shared meaning where it is important that our knowledge links up with that of others.
Connectivism holds that knowledge exists in the network. Some of it may be held in and by people and some of it may be held in other ways. A classic example is that no single person can build and fly an airplane across the ocean and yet it happens every day. The necessary knowledge is in the network of people who work together to accomplish something that noe of them could do alone.What is important about connected knowledge is that it can be accessed as needed. Our capacity to form new connections and thus access new knowledge is more important than what we know at any time.
If the way that information is accessed and managed has changed in the world then what we do in education needs to reflect that. We need to consider information as a constantly changing flow and consider how we connect to that flow.In a world of constant change we need to be thinking about how to prepare for dealing with change and the surprises that we encounter rather than preparing for a future that is essentially the same as our present or past.
Ournew reality is that information is not scarce. Information is abundant. Our challenge is not one of accessing information but of dealing with the abundance that we have, selecting what is appropriate and using it effectively.
The total amount of information available to humanity is increasing exponentially. We generate more new information every year than was available for the first many centuries of human existence.Some of the information has lasting value but some of it becomes obsolete quickly. On some estimates most of what a graduate knows at graduation might be obsolete within a few years.
Unlike material objects, information is not diminished by sharing. If I pass information to another person that does not mean that I no longer have it. There is no necessary loss to me by sharing information. In fact, if the sharing is reciprocated both parties might gain information in the exchange.
Economics has traditionally been about balancing limited resources against apparently unlimited wants. Economy is about scarcity. If information is not scarce, what is? Perhaps what is scarce is our attention which can deal with only a single source of input at a time.
If it is attention that is scarce then perhaps we don’t have an information economy but an attention economy.
Thomas Friedman talked about the flattening of the world that has allowed people in emerging economies to supply services and goods to a global economy. We see it in software development, supply chains for manufacture, and location of call centres. Friedman identified 10 flatteners several of which are related to information and the way we access it.
A recent study from the Pew Internet Project has taken up similar themes to those identified by Friedman and pointed to the accelerating rate of change. Rainie identified 3 digital revolutions – Internet connection (dialup and broadband), social networking, and mobile connectivity. The figures are for the USA but similar trends are evident around the world. Rainie argues that these trends are producing a new kind of learner. These are the learners that we are dealing with now or in the very near future in higher education.
Michalski argues that where scarcity gave us the consumer economy abundance is suggesting a possible shift to a relationship economy with the relative characteristics shown in the table.
Lectures developed as an efficient way to transfer information from the knowledgeable lecturer to the learners. Wireless Internet access means that the lecturer is no longer the single source of information about the topic. It would be possible for learners with Internet devices to be accessing more, and possibly better, information than is being provided by a lecturer.
Humans have always been learners throughout life but in more stable times that was less obvious because things changed slowly. In a time of rapid change there is an increasing need for people to continue learning through their working lives and beyond.
Some estimates suggest that as little as 20% of our learning occurs in formal classes. Most learning occurs outside of classes and some of it is unintentional, occurring as we go about daily life. Higher education needs to recognise that even while students are with us much of their learning will be outside of classes and that we need to prepare them to continue learning informally as they enter the workforce.
It is certainly possible for individuals to engage in learning privately from books and other sources but a large part of learning is inevitably social. The cycle depicted in this diagram is suggested for social learning in business but similar processes occur in other contexts.
An important idea that has been talked about more in recent years is that of the Personal Learning Network (PLN) which is all of the sources, influences and supports that a person taps into for lifelong learning. It is important to build our own PLNs and to develop the capacity of students to develop their PLNs during their time in higher education and beyond. The PLN will use a variety of technologies but will also include social networks that are built in the real world rather than online.
Over the past couple of decades there has been much said about how educational practice has shifted away from the ‘sage on the stage’ model in which teachers transmitted information to learners toward a ‘guide on the side’ model that is more consistent with a constructivist approach in which learners build their own knowledge. Quinn has proposed that the sage, meaning somebody who both knows the field and how to support a learner, can work at the side in a connectivist model.
If we need to move from pedagogies of scarcity to pedagogies of abundance a good first step would be to recognise the pedagogies that we already use that might work with abundance. Weller suggests some examples.The following examples are drawn from some courses that I have worked with that I think use some pedagogies that are appropriate to abundance.
Scarcity of information presented problems for learning and teaching. Locating and accessing relevant information and making it available to learners led to the development of particular approaches such as the lecture and textbook as solutions to problems.Abundance of information presents some different problems. Access is no longer the problem that it was but selecting and processing information from what is available requires different solutions.There are some other problems that may arise with abundance.
With so much information available it can be tempting for learners to simply copy from one or more of the many sources they can access. Internet plagiarism has been a growing problem for several years and there are various solutions proposed including detection systems but some sources suggest education may be more appropriate and effective. I am not advocating any particular solution but simply noting it is a potential challenge to be watched.
Skills for collaboration need to be effectively taught. It is not sufficient to assume that they will develop through the experience of being required to work collaboratively without specific intervention. Space within an already crowded curriculum will need to be found and there will likely be a need to remove existing curriculum elements to make room.
In the 21st century connected knowledge and collaboration are the everyday reality of workers in many occupations and much learning and work is supported by personal learning networks. Once we accept that it may not make much sense to think about assessing learners in isolation from their networks. Authentic assessment that provides a valid indication of what learners can really do may need to be done with connection to networks.
Images – mine, MS ClipArt or Creative Commons from Flickr + snaps of web pages
Challenges in abundance: Higher education & learning to learn
Challenges inabundance:Higher education &learning to learnPeter AlbionDigital Learning Research NetworkFaculty of Education, USQ
Traditionaleducationbrought us thisfar but the wayforward isunclear. Photo: Thomas Hawk CC (by)(nc)(sa)
“What teachers do with learning in the next ten years will determine the future of the world” (Stephen Heppell, 2011) - YouTube
Educationdeveloped totransferinformationto the young. Photo: Thiophene_Guy CC (by)(nc)(sa)
Now information is abundant and changing. Photo: mikebaird CC (by)
We mustpreparegraduates towork withabundantinformation. Photo: Svante Adermark CC (by) (nc)
Information is not frozen. It flows. Milford Sound Road, New Zealand, Dec 2007
Traditional education transmittedinformation from teacher to learner. Microsoft ClipArt
Information changed slowly. Moiry Glacier, Switzerland, Jul 2006
Access was often restricted. Photo: rosefirerising CC (by) (nc) (nd)
Learnerswerepreparedfor life. Microsoft ClipArt
Four technological waves havechanged information ecology. Photo: Kanakas Paradise Life CC (by) (nc)
Desktop publishing enabled anybodyto publish in print. Photo: Marcin Wichary CC (by)
The World Wide Web made a singledocument available globally. Microsoft ClipArt
Web 2.0 enabled easy publicationon the Web. Go2Web20
Understanding of knowledge hasevolved as information has expanded. Photo: patriziasoliani CC (by) (nc)
Objectivist knowledge exists independently – itcan be owned and transmitted. Photo: Thomas Hawk CC (by) (nc)
Constructivist knowledge exists in the learner– it is built from personal experience. Microsoft ClipArt
Connectivist knowledge exists in the network– learning is making connections. Microsoft ClipArt
Education should reflect the real world. Milford Sound Road, New Zealand, Dec 2007
The world isswimming ininformation. Annecy, France, Jul 2006
Totalinformation isgrowingexponentially.Some is quicklymade obsolete. Knight, P. T. (1997). The Half-Life of Knowledge and Structural Reform of the Education Sector for the Global Knowledge-Based Economy. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from http://www.knight-moore.com/pubs/halflife.html
Attention flows toward information.… if you have any particular piece of informationon the Net, you can share it easily with anyoneelse who might want it. It is not in any wayscarce, and therefore it is not an informationeconomy towards which we are moving … Thereis something else that moves through the Net,flowing in the opposite direction frominformation, namely attention. Goldhaber, M. H. (1997). The Attention Economy and the Net. First Monday, 2(4). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/519/440
Is the information economy reallyan attention economy? Photo: Steve McFarland CC (by) (nc)
The World is Flat (Friedman, 2006) Image: Eva the weaver CC (by) (nc) (sa)
Three digital revolutions ➙ new kind of learner Lee Rainie, Pew Internet Project, 2011
New learners are:• More self directed• Better equipped for new information sources• More reliant on feedback & response• More inclined to collaboration• More open to cross-disciplinary work• More oriented to people as producers Lee Rainie, Pew Internet Project, 2011
Abundance ➙ a relationship economyWorldview Consumer economy Relationship economyUnderlying assumption Scarcity AbundanceGoal Ownership MembershipYou prize Proprietary secrets Openness, transparencyTo build Barriers Links and relationshipsTo get Involuntary lock-in Voluntary loyaltySell to Target markets Natural audiencesSell via Consumer marketing Social dynamicsAwareness through Branding, advertising Personal advocacyTrust? Buy it Earn itPeople are Untrustworthy More trustworthy than we think Jerry Michalski, The REXpedition, 2011
Lectures were never like this. Photo: Ngo Quang Minh CC (by)(nc)
• Learning is acquiringOur tradition informationhas been • Information is scarce and hard to findpedagogies of • Trust authority for good informationscarcity. • Authorised information is beyond discussion • Obey the authority, and • Follow along Martin Weller, A Pedagogy of Abundance, 2010
Learner • User-generated contentexperience of • Power of the crowdinformation in • Data accessthe world is • Architecture of participationone of • Network effectsabundance. • Openness Martin Weller, A Pedagogy of Abundance, 2010
• Content is freePedagogies • Content is abundantof abundance • • Content is varied Sharing is easyshould • Learning is social • Connections are ‘light’recognize • Organisation is cheapthat: • • Systems are generative Users generate content Martin Weller, A Pedagogy of Abundance, 2010
Education should prepare lifelong learners. Photo: jcfrog CC (by)
Most learning occurs outside classes. Jane Hart, Learning in the social workplace, 2011
Learning is social by nature. Frederic Domon, Socialearning, 2011
Personal learning networks supportlifelong learning. David Warlick, Learning & leading with technology, 2009
The sage can work at the side. Clark Quinn, Learnlets, 2011
• Resource-based learningSome (RBL)established • Problem-based learning (PBL)pedagogies • Challenge-based learningrecognize (CBL) • Constructivismabundance. • Communities of practice • Connectivism Martin Weller, A Pedagogy of Abundance, 2010
Technology pedagogy and curriculum – EDP4130• Required undergraduate course• Final year teacher preparation• Major assessment is class project – Develop curriculum resource available to all – Requires collaboration, access to sources, publication• Challenging but valuable for students – Authentic, collaborative task – Characteristics of PBL
Emerging environments for learning – EDU8111• Graduate elective course• Concept is for students to construct course – Select and explore relevant topic – Publish in class wiki, open to all – Remains as foundation for next cohort• First task uses social bookmarking to gather resources• Uses freely available content• Students generate content by adding value
Contemporary issues conference – EDU8719• Postgraduate course, required for some students• Designed as an academic conference• Students – Submit and peer review paper proposals – Prepare and review full papers – Record a short presentation – Engage in discussion of papers• Some student-generated content is publishable• Develops skills for professional interaction
Abundance presents new challengesfor learning and teaching. Photo: Graeme Newcomb CC (by)
Easy access toinformationmakes misusepossible. Microsoft ClipArt
Connectedworkingrequirescollaborationskills. Microsoft ClipArt
Collaborative learning makesdisconnected assessment problematic. Microsoft Clipart
Educationdeveloped totransferinformationto the young. Photo: Thiophene_Guy CC (by)(nc)(sa)
Now information is abundant and changing. Photo: mikebaird CC (by)
We need topreparegraduates towork withabundantinformation. Photo: Svante Adermark CC (by) (nc)
Challenges inabundance:Higher education &learning to learnPeter AlbionDigital Learning Research NetworkFaculty of Education, USQPeter.Albion@usq.edu.au