Activity 17: The scourge of abundance

In activity 17, we were asked to consider the role of abundant content in education, more specifically how educators can “best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice” or how educators “best equip learners to make use of it?” We’re advised to draw on our own context and experience in our comment.

The discussion of abundant content and education is very welcome. In my context, higher education, the internet and the access it grants to abundant content is seen very much as a scourge rather than an opportunity to improve teaching, learning and assessment and bring higher education into the digital age.



At our university all written, campus-based exams are being digitized and this has caused a lot of concern with faculty and administration who fear that students will copy/paste answers and essays from somewhere on the internet without giving the proper references. Plagiarism is not only a concern in relation to exams but also in relation to the coursework students need to do. So resources are used on plagiarism detectors and time is spent discussing the best means to control that students are not engaging in any illegal communication or actions during exams, where instead resources should be used for  improving and developing new, up to date teaching, learning and assessment activities. So yes, a pedagogy of abundance is relevant and called for in order to try to cope with and realize the potential of abundant content rather than implementing control measures.

I’m not advocating the abandonment of academic skills, but I’m suggesting an upgrade of these skills to fit the digital age and reality. In practice this could be done by extending the list of academic skills (critical reading, critical thinking, writing skills etc.) with:

Remix skills – the ability to identify, evaluate and select relevant content on the web and remix this into new works that respect any copyright and licensing of the content used.

When teachers pose assignments to students, points should then be awarded for good remix skills.

Another skill that needs to be emphasized is source critique. It’s not at all a new academic skill. However, source critique seems to have been left behind, as the internet was swamped with content. The connection between source critique, the internet and abundant content is quite important. Educators can help students learn this by creating assignments that focus on source critique. I found an assignment, college level, that requires students to engage in source critique. In this assignment, students had to find three different sources to be used for a paper. Source guidelines in the assignment specify that

  • “only one source may be published before 2005
  • only one source may be a book
  • print out your online resources or copy them so that you may quote from them accurately and reference the author, publisher, date published (for online sources also note the date you print out information).”

(Putnam undated).

I think this approach is very refreshing in that it acknowledges the abundance of content and also emphasizes more recent content and content other than the book format. Also this very explicit way of working with source critique helps students see the importance and hopefully also the value.

Let’s help students get the most of the abundant content rather than block their access and ban usage.

Putnam, D. (undated). Source Critique.


11 thoughts on “Activity 17: The scourge of abundance

  1. I like your suggestions of source critique and remix skills, absolutely essential now. It’s pointless trying to restrict students using the content that is out there now. I suppose another requirement is to help instructors to teach these skills.

  2. Hi Sukaina
    You’re absolutely right. And it may not be an easy task to train instructors to teach remix skills. They need to work with remix skills themselves so that they become confident remixers and see the value of this skill. An interesting topic to pursue. I feel inspired to put up a course for our teachers: OER, remix skills and CC 😉

      • Yes, indeed. Not only do we study open education, we also get acquainted and confident with new tools and teaching/learning activities. This is a great combination that makes one see the overall potential and the specific possibilities. So I’m starting to feel quite up to date on online learning, but only now realize that I wasn’t entirely up to beat before 🙂

  3. Inger-Marie, I like your focus on educating how to use resources properly rather than the negative hype of fear and the avoidance of plagiarism. I suspect that your focus on making the teachers more confident is the way to go.

    • Hi Annie
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, confidence is definitely a keyword. Perhaps because many teachers are not that very experienced users of e-learning or it tools. It doesn’t seem to be age that determines the level of confidence, rather it’s attitude and approach. I can see that some teachers hardly dare touch the keyboard, whereas others, inclduing myself, just click around until they find what they are looking for. Is there a term to describe this? Clickatude ?? Clickapproach??

  4. Hi Inger-Marie
    Fun your click terms. It remembers me of a lesson about designing the user interface for a web application, learners defined two types of users, the mouse-clickers and the mouse-movers 🙂
    Your suggestions on how to use resources are so helpful. Especially remix skills, this is a fundamental skill when programming. In my webpublishing course i let students look for sample code they think it could be useful and let them implement the code into an own work. Your idea in setting a source guideline is great, have to think how i can apply this into my course.

  5. Hi Inger-Marie, well it was a fun way to introduce to the topic.
    the mouse-clickers don’t have time, they need information quickly
    the mouse-movers have time, they use the tool more explorative
    For example, when surfing on the internet, you can be both, depending on what you are doing. Sometimes i just look around, then i am more a mouse-mover, and when i need specific information then i am a mouse-clicker.
    That’s the challenge to design for different types of users, like in teaching.

  6. Thanks for developing on the concepts of mouse-clickers and mouse-movers, Cinzia. I can see how the two terms can help describe behaviour on the web and perhaps also level of patience. Mouse-clickers are probably quite impatient going quickly from one link to the next to get the wanted information, whereas mouse-movers have a more leisurely pace 🙂

  7. Pingback: I am an open learner :-) | Inger-Marie C's Blog

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