It has been said that previous economic models were based on scarcity. In a physical world one has to deal with the basic principle that once you give something away you no longer have it. Resources are finite. Making them, sharing them, moving them, storing them – it all eats up resource. But in a digital world these considerations disappear, or drop to near zero (there is still a cost in storing say, but nowhere near as much as a physical item if we compared a digital book with a real one for example). We thus need a new form of economics that accommodates this – an economy of abundance.
As an aside, this is why the attempts by Lily Allen and Peter Mandelson to control filesharing are fundamentally wrong – they are still grounded in the assumption of scarcity.
It strikes me that a similar argument could be made for pedagogy. We have developed pedagogies of scarcity – when resources were difficult to access and locate. These could be content in the form of books or articles (thus we carefully select these for the students), or in the form of an individual (thus we create the lecture system where people can get access to them in a physical space). But even more than this we know that collaboration is time consuming so we develop pedagogy around structuring this difficult task.
But in a digital world many of these assumptions again disappear. We have access to all the content we need and we can be part of an individual’s network without that taking extra time from them – if I start reading someone’s blog it doesn’t cost them anything for me to be added to the readership. And sharing has become a much simpler action, almost a by-product of just existing online. And while sharing is not the same as collaboration, it is also more than just working alone.
So what is the pedagogy of abundance? Resource based learning and Problem based learning are reasonable contenders since one could argue they set about providing a framework for interpreting and working with content. George Siemens connectivism is probably the main contender as it puts the emphasis on connections in the network. I also heard Rosemary Luckin talk recently about participatory science and the model they have developed at London Knowledge Labs. This again is a contender because it places the individual at the centre of a network of resources, environment and tools, with a set of filters inbetween.
But I still feel that we haven’t really developed a pedagogy that has some of the following basic assumptions:
- Content is free and abundant
- Sharing is frictionless
- Social interaction is key
- Complexity resides in the network
- Complexity arises because people don’t explicitly collaborate
- The filter is significant
So, I’d be interested to hear if you think there are other contenders for a pedagogy of abundance and also other characteristics it should embody.