My first reflection on Erik Duval’s blog posting “Learning in a time of abundance” focused on situating the claim of ‘a time of abundance’ against the background of the state of permanent non-abundance and scarcity that large numbers of people (the majority?) experience.
In my first response the main focus was therefore to point to the lack of impact that the abundance of information and knowledge sharing has on the major crises humanity faces.
Let me now turn to another aspect of ‘learning in a time/age of abundance’.
If we accept that many students and educators have access to more information, resources, expertise and tools for analyses than ever before in the history of humankind, why does it not make a dent in the injustices and equalities the majority of humankind faces? Is it because our notion of ‘learning in a time/age of abundance’ is actually based on curricula and pedagogies of/for the privileged and that we cannot and do not want to question and interrupt the normative discourses of our time?
During George Siemens’ recent visit to the University of South Africa, he defined literacy as (I hope I remember and quote him correctly…) “The ability to engage with and participate in the dominant discourses of the current age”. If you cannot participate in and engage with the dominant and normative discourses of the current age you are illiterate.
I would like to take the definition further by proposing that literacy in the 21st century should be defined as follows: “A person is literate when s/he can take part in, critique, deconstruct, interrupt and shape the dominant discourses and narratives in his or her local and in global contexts”.
If all the abundance we currently have does not result in us questioning, deconstructing, critically engaging with the dominant discourses and meta-narratives of the time – then all the abundance actually means very little except to perpetuate the current injustices, systems of thinking, world-views, epistemologies and ontologies of those who have access, those who own, and most probably those who are in power.
Much of the discourse about ‘learning an age/time of abundance’ actually resembles ‘learning in an age of affluenza’ – the more we have, the more unhappy we are, and the more we want more – resulting in a never-ending cycle which reminds me of the Greek myth of the Danaids – who killed husbands on their wedding nights and who were sentenced to carry water in hole-filled jars for eternity.
Is learning in a time/age of abundance carrying water in hole-filled jars, never quenching our thirst?
So while Dave Cormier and George Siemens (and many others) have written extensively on how the digital and connected age has changed the roles of educators, learners, curricula, and pedagogy – my contribution is rather to ask the somewhat uncomfortable question: What difference does this abundance make in the big questions humanity face?And when will the abundance make a difference?
Or is every tweet and blog and connection just increasing the number of holes in our water jars leaving us, and those around us, with an ever increasing thirst for more?
In order for us to counter ‘learning in a time/age of abundance’ as affluenza, we need to rethink the purpose of knowing more and having more connections than every before…
Or do I miss something?