When I was reading this book I felt as if I was reading it from three different perspectives. The first was the student about to start a distance learning course who was looking for a study guide. The second was the music enthusiast who had worked in a recording studio, a record shop and regularly composed music, (Here’s a link to my latest album). And yes, I’m still attached to the idea of the album. The third was the English teacher looking for ways to enhance the world of English language teaching.

This is the first of two blogs on ‘The Digital Scholar’ by Martin Weller. The first will focus on the pedagogy of abundance. (This struck a chord with the musician in me;) The second will draw out practical advice for blogs. (Blogging is part of the first module in the MA in digital technologies for language teaching).

A lesson from the music industry

‘The Digital Scholar’ (Weller, M. Bloomsbury Plc 2011) looks at the effect digital technologies are having specifically on higher education. However, Weller suggests that there are valuable lessons to be learnt from recent upheavals in other sectors, such as the music, film and publishing industries. He argues that the failure of the music industry to adapt to change was partly due to an outdated business model based on ‘scarcity (i.e., Music and talent was only available from limited sources and difficult to copy and share). With the advent of mp3 files and peer2peer networks we were thrust into an ‘economy of abundance’, which the music industry failed to capitalise on initially, (Weller, M. 2011). Weller suggests that a similar change is now happening in education, and universities and educational providers will need to adopt a ‘pedagogy of abundance’ if they intend to remain relevant in today’s digital age.

Pedagogy of abundance

Weller outlines the underlying features that a pedagogy of abundance will need to take into consideration.

  • content is free
  • content is abundant
  • content is not only in the form of text
  • sharing content is easy
  • learning is social
  • connections between individuals are weak
  • organisation is cheap
  • generative system based on unpredictability and freedom
  • user generated content

(Weller, M. 2011).

The book looks to existing pedagogy such as resource based (RBL), problem based learning (PBL), Constructivism, Communities of practice and Connectivism which might align to this these features.


Another concept that I found very interesting was granularity and the distinction between form and function. Again Weller uses changes in the music industry to get his point across mentioning the preference for individual tracks over albums. His suggestion is that the physical form music was sold in (i.e. the record or CD) was just a convenient and temporary package. This meant that artists were obliged to bundle ten songs together. However, we didn’t need the physical CD, just the music, and maybe only one or two tracks. Weller makes further examples with Newspapers and articles, books and ideas. Without being held back by physical form, intellectual content can be unpacked into its basic units. Weller refers to this phenomenon as ‘granularity’ where blogs and short videos are used to spread ideas rather than books and films, (Weller, M. 2011). Is the same true for education?

Do we need schools and universities or just knowledge?

And does this affect language learning to the same degree as other more content based subjects?


‘The Digital Scholar’ (Weller, M. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2011)