Wag the Dog - Block 2, Activity 17

Martin Weller’s paper (2011) claims that previously education was based on a model of having scarce resources, which required us to have to gather those resources in one place and have people come to access those resources. So in this instance: experts; libraries and laboratories are all aggregated into a university and students access them at the university. If a single book is borrowed, or loaned, then for the duration of that book being used, it is not available to anyone else. If an expert is having a conversation with a single student, then that expert is not available until the conversation finishes.

However, with resources being made available digitally, the ‘cost’ of having many copies is negligible. If someone accesses an article in an online journal, that article can still be seen by thousands of others, who can still access it online as the digital copy remains available for all to access. Dialogue and discussion still ties up an expert but now many people can access the discussion and they don’t even have to be there ‘live’ to witness the discussion, because it can happen in an asynchronous manner.

Thus Weller argues that today’s educational resources are now in abundance. So much so that actually there are different demands made on a student, namely how to filter out the abundance and take what is relevant.

The two questions that Weller poses are:

  1. How can educators utlise this 'abundance' effectively?
  2. How do we teach students to effectively use this abundance?

I have to say that I’m not sure that these are efficient questions to ask. I think the premise is correct (previously resources were scarce but now they are more abundant), but these questions seem a bit pedantic (in my opinion). 

I feel too that since we like referencing ‘the long tail’ in H817, this feels like another instance where the ‘tail is wagging the dog’. It’s a pertinent observation but does that mean that we should use this as a basis for changing our pedagogies and curriculums?

I would argue that the basis for our educational goals must remain at a higher level of order and then we ask if these questions are pertinent to those higher goals. To be more specific. Say I choose (and I probably do) that my overall educational goal is to be able to be an effective lifelong learner. Everything that I do is to enable me to be a lifelong learner. Today (unlike yesteryear) the educational resources are readily and almost at no cost, available to me – which means I do not have to worry about access to educational resources. Today I might have to focus on how to ferret out the appropriate educational resources, and apply them to myself properly. Tomorrow I might not even have to do that because some smart future tech AI machinery might do that for me. My main aim though is to continue to ‘engage’ with the relevant resources that enable me to learn.

I am skipping a bit here but it seems to me that the overall philosophy that helps me to remain as a life long learner is to continue on the Lave and Wenger’s Communities of Practice (1991) where it is not about whom I know (‘connectivism’) but rather ‘that I engage with communities of practice’. The ‘abundance’ of educational resources just helps me to do that.

So I guess the questions can be answered once we have a supra overarching aim such as the one that I’ve chosen. Other aims are of course possible.

Gosh I sound like I’m dodging the task here, but I think to explicate this properly will be a masters thesis (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).


Weller, Martin (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249 pp. 223–236.

Lave J & Wenger E (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.  -Will Durant