Abundance and Obligation

I would have liked to learn more about Learning in Times of Abundance, but haven’t been able to keep up with that tyrannical weekly schedule of the Change11 MOOC. I was able to take in only a bit of information that week and plan to revisit the topic at the end of the month. I did get enough information to realize that the abundance issue is quite relevant to language learning, as English Language learners can absolutely immerse themselves in content these days. I also really enjoyed listening to Erik Duval speak. He comes across not as someone with an agenda or a particular view to promote, but rather with the moral backing of someone who is simply listening to and describing the situation.

So, speaking of morals, there is that whole issue of the Tyranny of Obligation that Jenny Mackness brought up. I strongly agree with her post and would recommend anyone interested in the subject, or anyone who considers lurkers to be unfortunately unapologetic, to read it for a very valid and important viewpoint. I did want to make a couple of supplemental points, however.

One of the points Jenny keeps making is that she is not saying that sharing is bad. This position doesn’t claim that, and to argue that sharing should be considered an ethical obligation because it is good and useful, misses the point. It would be almost impossible to understand what such an obligation means. Should I have to tell everyone I know about what I learned from reading Jenny’s post? Or, as Dean mentions in his comment, if ‘share’ is meant in the broadest term possible…is the imperative meant for hermit educators? I don’t think either was intended by the video, however it doesn’t distinctly draw any line for the limits of obligated sharing. For it to be an obligation it needs such a defined line.

The line is drawn by the limits of our technology, and this isn’t a good thing. This declaration of obligation is, to me, an example of what it means to be infatuated by technology. It is when we let technology and media decide for us things like ethics and best practices, that we are at the mercy of our media; when we are under our technology, being controlled by it rather than above it, commanding it. Social Media and communication technology allow for increased sharing, that doesn’t make it something we ought to do. No doubt that sharing is good, let me state that again…that’s a great message in Dean Shareski’s video. It goes too far, tough. A better way to explain this is to suggest that effective educator practices and sound course design can maximize the benefits of sharing in situations that call for it, which is probably a high degree in a lot of situations. The placement of that line needs to be left up to the learner and educator them self.

I would hope that this type of movement doesn’t become full-blown. Not because sharing is bad, but because an ethical obligation like this tied to an educational theory or an approach, would weigh it down as an ideology.

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4 thoughts on “Abundance and Obligation

  1. ‘Infatuated by technology’ – I love that. It conjures up so many associated thoughts and ideas related to this topic.

    And ‘maximising the benefits of sharing’ is also a great way to look at it – but I’m completely with you in letting learners make their own decisions – they will anyhow, whether we want them to or not. We can’t make people learn.

    I learned this early on in my teaching career, when a 5 year old child simply refused to do any work on any subject in school – for an entire year – and I could have stood on my head and it wouldn’t have made any difference. He just sat and would not talk or lift up a pencil. He is now in the theatre – so despite a worrying year for me and his parents it all turned out OK in the end. I suspect that he is still someone who makes his own decisions and school was simply the wrong place for him 🙂

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    • Thanks for the comment and example, Jenny. It’s a fine line….even if it were an obligation, there’s not much you could do in a situation like that. Ideas about sharing are best supported by design, I think…rather than direct command. Reminds me of some of the kids I teach though.

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  2. You make some good points. Certainly the idea of obligation is slightly hyperbolic but only to an extent. I do agree that learners should be in control of what and when they share.
    As adult learners or educators I think there’s a difference standard. Are we not obligated to be model learners? If you agree to that statement, I think it seems logical that sharing would be part of learning. And in today’s world where geography is not a limitation to sharing and learning, I see it as an obligation. Again, you decide the how and when but I still argue you are obligated to share. The sharing online portion isn’t any different to me that sharing face to face. The barriers to sharing are no longer time and skill. I suppose if there’s any caveat to my creed is that if you have access and can use technology at all, you need to share your learning online.

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    • Thanks for the comment, Dean. I appreciate your time and I can understand your meaning a bit better with the hyperbolic slant to it. I’m not sure all people will immediately interpret that side of it, though. I also think you’d be hard-pressed to find any sort of communication exchange that doesn’t include sharing in some form: in a face-to-face conversation participants share time, share an exchange, share feedback, etc. So, this still leaves the question of where do you draw the line? And, where are you implying it? If nowhere, then It’s like saying that because we are alive, we are obligated to breathe. Yeah, kind of…but that’s a confusing use of the word obligation.

      I live in a community where people routinely walk into my house if I don’t keep my front door locked. For me, this is way too extreme…but, for some people in the community, it’s normal. I really don’t think this makes me anti-sharing, but it does illustrate the types of problems that can arise when a blanket ethical obligation isn’t qualified by some sort of line, limits or explicit description. People find their own lines (via technology or other places) and start to impose them on others.

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