Sharing as accountability

This was the title of a talk given by Dean Shareski to ETMOOC last week.  Dean is always entertaining to listen to and for me there is no doubting his sincerity and passion for his belief in sharing as accountability.

But Dean and I don’t really see eye to eye about sharing as accountability, as testified by the discussion generated by this blog post more than a year ago.

From his talk to ETMOOC, I don’t think either of us have shifted our positions that much, although in this talk he did not explicitly mention sharing as a moral imperative  and he did ask participants what the dangers of sharing might be.

Dangers of Sharing

However, at one point, he still said ‘You should feel guilty if you are not sharing anything’. Is there a hint of taking the moral high ground there? To be fair I think these comments are usually made (but not always) in the context of teaching. As David Wiley has evidently said, it is pretty impossible to teach without sharing.

But do we have a common understanding of what we mean by sharing?

  • sharing as a reciprocal relationship involving mutuality and interdependence?
  • sharing of thoughts and feelings in social communication?
  • sharing as altruistic giving and distribution?

Interesting is a summary of Peter Corning’s book ‘Nature’s Magic: Synergy In Evolution And the Fate of Humankind’, where Corning writes:

Work by Gintis, Bowes, Fehr and  Gächter indicate that strong reciprocity among humans is egoistic, not altruistic or cooperative, and depends on aggressive punishment of cheaters.

So maybe sharing is not all it is cracked up to be?

I should stress that I am not anti-sharing. More that I think it important to take an informed and balanced approach to the practice of sharing, such as found in the discussions around cooperation and collaboration, for example by


All this is on my mind because of the work I am doing on Howard Rheingold’s Towards a Literacy of Cooperation course and my thinking about how sharing, cooperation and collaboration inform each other. I will be surprised if I come out this course without having undergone a shift in my understanding, so maybe the next time I see/listen to Dean talk it will be through a different lens.

5 thoughts on “Sharing as accountability

  1. ambrouk January 28, 2013 / 10:26 pm

    I am about to say a very niaive sounding thing, but it comes out of over a decade of supporting the sharing of teaching materials:

    As soon as a discussion about good practices, useful practices, effective practices turns into a “you should all X”, I get uncomfortable.

    Frankly I wonder if people get a kick out of taking the moral highground. It’s easy to get a buzz preaching at people.

    I recognise that you’re not just talking here about open educational resources. But this might resonate …
    I have been hugely involved with OER and it fascinates me that *some* of the people so very busy “sharing” their own stuff and telling everyone about how important sharing is, RARELY USE ANYONE ELSE’S STUFF. Or if they do they don’t adequately (or even consciously) attribute it. It’s the people who are re-using resources who are making this whole ecosystem work, and they do that without glory.

    A room full of people preaching the moral highground is not a very pleasant room to be in, and too often for my tastes, that’s what a discussion about “sharing” feels like.

  2. jennymackness January 30, 2013 / 5:07 pm

    Hi Amber – thanks for your comment and for highlighting for me a perspective that I hadn’t thought of. I like this:

    It’s the people who are re-using resources who are making this whole ecosystem work, and they do that without glory.

    Very thought-provoking. Thanks!

  3. Dean Shareski (@shareski) February 8, 2013 / 8:38 pm

    Hey Jenny,

    As always thanks for the pushback.

    First, most of my message is to begin the conversation that we now have so many more ways to learn from each other that we need to take better advantage. My moral high ground comes from the premise that no one learns in pure isolation. Reading a book is, in my mind a form of social learning and we benefit from that form of sharing. As educators we are called to teach and if we agree, (perhaps we don’t) that to teach is to share then it seems we’d seek out ways to share. I want to be clear that the definition and nuances of sharing as you point out, might be muddled. I’m not sold on any specific notion of sharing simply that we all should be obligated to give back. The how and where can be up to the individual but when it comes to online, we have to stop seeing that as some special or weird space but rather more ubiquitous as other physical spaces.

    I hope to offer a new perspective and opportunity and I argue the in general this would make education better. Certainly there can be problems but I’m happy to embrace all the definitions of sharing you suggest and probably more. What I’m trying to absolve is the teachers who think of themselves as self sufficient islands who see sharing as a handout for those too lazy to do the hard work. I’m also trying to encourage folks who feel they have little to offer a sense of how valuable they really are.

    But once again thanks for the healthy discourse.

  4. jennymackness February 9, 2013 / 6:16 pm

    Hi Dean – thanks for your comment. Just to say that there is nothing you have written here that I disagree with, which might surprise you 🙂 I agree that no one learns in pure isolation. Learning is social even when alone. And obviously we can’t be teachers without sharing in one way or another. And if we believe that sharing is important for learning, then we need to share that and explain why – but ultimately learners need to make their own decisions. So as Stephen Downes has said – demonstrating and modelling is what teachers need to do, which is probably more effective than ‘telling’, or ‘lecturing’?

  5. Dean Shareski (@shareski) February 11, 2013 / 4:50 am

    Yes Jenny I agree. I really don’t like telling people what they should or shouldn’t do as professionals. I generally trust them to make the right decisions. But I’d suggest many people lack the full understanding of the impact of technology and the web as a platform for new learning and so my goal is to provoke them to take their good intentions and beliefs and see them manifested and amplified in these new spaces. At times I likely come across as lecturing but I’m much more interested in modeling, which I do but when you’re given a microphone and an audience, it certainly can look like I’m telling.

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