Scarcity in an Age of Abundance

Fruits and vegetables – Carol Moshier on Flickr Some rights reserved.

This week has been characterized by an abundance of great teaching by the likes of Alec Couros (@courosa), Dean Shareski (@shareski), and Sue Waters (@suewaters). The Twitter feed has been rolling along and there has been an endless supply of blog posts to choose from. As part of the #ETMOOC community, there is no reason to expect scarcity, is there?

Let me share a story with you. It has been said that there was a travelling preacher who often began his talks with the following story, known as the “Allegory of the Long Spoons“:

“I once ascended to the firmaments. I first went to see Hell and the sight was horrifying. Row after row of tables were laden with platters of sumptuous food, yet the people seated around the tables were pale and emaciated, moaning in hunger. As I came closer, I understood their predicament.
“Every person held a full spoon, but both arms were splinted with wooden slats so he could not bend either elbow to bring the food to his mouth. It broke my heart to hear the tortured groans of these poor people as they held their food so near but could not consume it.
“Next I went to visit Heaven. I was surprised to see the same setting I had witnessed in Hell – row after row of long tables laden with food. But in contrast to Hell, the people here in Heaven were sitting contentedly talking with each other, obviously sated from their sumptuous meal.
“As I came closer, I was amazed to discover that here, too, each person had his arms splinted on wooden slats that prevented him from bending his elbows.” How, then, did they manage to eat?

Point #1: Those who ate did so by feeding each other. They saw there was plenty of food available and took the opportunity to use what they had been given (the long spoons in this allegory) to help nourish each other.  Those two things need to go together. In #ETMOOC, haven’t we felt the challenge and opportunity to feed and nourish each other’s growth and learning? The message is that learning isn’t just about us. We really do need each other. We must connect to information and others, and then construct knowledge individually and with each other as we share/partner in learning. Haven’t we seen the impact on our own learning and those around us this week through making CONNECTIONS?

Point #2: As I was listening to Alec Couros present “Introduction to Connected Learning“, the word scarcity came up. Kind of a funny word to come up in the middle of #ETMOOC, where participants are struggling to handle the abundance of information and connections available to them, don’t you think? So how does scarcity fit in here?

Alec discussed the transformations that have taken place for us to move from scarcity to abundance in information. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it and our connectedness.  It took me back two years when I first started introducing the concept of Web 2.0 to educators in my county at a Web 2.0 Bootcamp, a partnership between CTAP and my county office of education.

A focus point was the concept that an abundance of information was available to educators and their students because of the social media revolution (presentation). A new pedagogy was evolving that included opening up this stream of information to students and students and helping them learn how to make connections with others to impact the learning process. How were we going to respond to these dynamic changes? For them, it was an eye-opening, foreign paradigm. Two and a half years later, I’m still asking the question, “How many of our students and teachers live in scarcity in spite of the abundance of information around them? Why?”

As I look at the culture of learning in our schools, it feels like not only is there scarcity in CONNECTIONS between students and teachers, but in the information available to students while at school (and I’m not just talking web filters). Why is that? Is it because many educators live in scarcity and don’t know how to leverage the world of information to create abundance in learning? Or are they not willing to open up the gates to the “food” available to students and to let them be part of that process of feeding themselves?  Maybe it’s because we are so stuck in the paradigm of testing and standards that students are put in the position of scarcity to meet arbitrary performance goals for them, regardless if it’s relevant to them or not. Certainly test scores haven’t relied on interpersonal connections or the wealth of information online to this point. No easy answers here. Just tough questions.

Alec Couros pointed out that Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown (@jseelybrown) talk about “a new culture of learning” in their book by the same title and how the environment and process of learning must change because the world we live in.  I would like to write more about that another time. I continue to see the need for a paradigm shift where students and educators learn to harvest plenty of food for all and nourish each other. Let’s throw off the bonds of scarcity and live in abundance.


About Sisqitman

I am an Instructional Technology Specialist for Van ISD in Van, TX. My vision is to help equip, encourage, and support teachers, students, and admin. in their use of technology in teaching and learning.
This entry was posted in Connected Learning, etmooc, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Scarcity in an Age of Abundance

  1. veronica says:

    I couldn´t do it to the sessions about blogging leaded by @suewaters seems it worked for you. Congratulatiions! I think this post is very intresting and I agree with you in many points. I´ve specialy thought about how much the “paradigm of testing and standards” is affecting education. The education system as a whole and full complexity, should change. Is this a change that teachers can promote from within the structure? That I do not know.

    Thank you for the links, I´m gonna read them now! VP

  2. Sisqitman says:

    Hi Veronica. The education system is complex, but I’d like to believe that in spite of the old paradigm of testing and standards that has been thrust upon us, that we can work to find ways of helping students and teachers learn how to be connected learners. As far as systemic changes, that is a more difficult climb. It feels like teachers have a voice in their classroom and on the web, but whether or not the bureaucracy takes note of that is another thing. I think that’s where many of us feel a sense of discouragement. I’m so glad we have each other in spite of it to give our best to students.

  3. Karen Young says:

    Loved the allegory and enjoyed reading this very much. Your second to last paragraph spoke very powerfully to me. The actual purpose of teaching has been lost in the mists of assessment, because the goal was no longer the journey but the destination. Perhaps as we free ourselves from the tyranny of assessment and standardization we will enjoy again the abundance of new ideas and approaches.

  4. Sue Waters says:

    Glad all our tips are helping.

    I honestly think it is the educators aren’t aware there are these opportunities to transform learning; majority just aren’t aware of online tools or how you could be using them.

    I’m not sure if you are aware but Australia has had a massive National digital education revolution program. Every high school student, from year 9 to year 12, in every school, regardless of type of school, has been provided with a device. Choice of device is pretty much decided by school and some schools, like my son’s school decided to give devices to younger grades, Year 7 to 10.

    Technically there is no longer any excuses for these students. Yet majority of the teachers aren’t; they’re just using them for the old ways. Word Processing, ebooks, Google 😦

  5. sjdunlop55 says:

    Your comment about the scarcity of connections is profound. Sometimes I think people spend all their time thinking about what they can say and write about on Twitter or their blogs without doing any listening. Thanks.

  6. folynick says:

    Hi Glenn! As usual, your thoughts are insightful and provocative. You raise some excellent points, especially about standardized testing. However, in order for further connectedness and the use of abundant information/resources, I wonder if perhaps a change of attitude first needs to occur with school boards and governments. For example, due to existing privacy laws, certain school districts still don’t support the use of the cloud, and teachers are often left unsupported in their desire to pursue exciting avenues open to them. Thankfully, many others choose to charge ahead, despite the confusion. Thanks again for the stream of wonderful information you are providing to the #ETMOOC-ers! It’s always great to have others help to filter the information.

  7. Pingback: Synchronous Sessions, Asynchronously: Blending Meetings, Learning, and Digital Literacy « Building Creative Bridges

  8. Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo
    News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed
    in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Cheers

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