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.