Self-designed centralization

Yesterday I was discussing the idea of a learning stories repository with a colleague. It would be a place where faculty tell stories about teaching and learning, where all the stuff of those stories, assignments, student products, assessments, etc. could be available. Not a new concept, in fact MERLOT is one of the largest and oldest digital repositories. It’s missing the stories; I’m not sure there’s much in the way of student work products, but it’s got the other stuff.
In Centralizing decentralization George gets at the one of the underlying and still to be understood issues around these kinds of repositories, and in general the notion of centralization.
He’s absolutely correct about our need to centralize to reduce cognitive load. I think though that centralization can be self-defined and designed. The folks I know who live with technology more integrated into their lives do just that. Like me, they’re sceptical of vendors and well meaning builders wanting to create the tool/environment that centralizes too much. I centralize my social software with toolbar links on the two computers I use, both of which are laptops, so I’m rarely online via another machine. I centralize documents in google.docs, Blackboard centralizes courses I’m taking or working on. Moodle has too. Spotlight centralizes my hard-drive, Itunes centralizes my music collection.
I buy groceries in 3-4 different stores, all of which are within walking distance from where I live. The decision to live centrally was intentional, just as our institution’s decision to support and encourage the use of Blackboard for course delivery.
That said, my life as a whole is anything but centralized. I have family, friends, connections and interests across continents and domains. Each “node” itself could be considered a centralizing element.

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One thought on “Self-designed centralization

  1. MERLOT is working on including some stories, thanks to a FIPSE grant for a project called ELIXR that is just getting underway.

    Some years ago I wrote a report on the use of stories for faculty development:
    http://www.tltgroup.org/ProFacDev/video-uses-for-profacdev.html
    A group of us spent a day watching videos and looking at web sites. We concluded, among other things, that we had seen two types of materials, both of which could be classed as stories:
    a) stories intended to help the user visualize a way of teaching and become interested in trying it
    b) stories intended to give the user, interested in a particular way of teaching, the vicarious experience of getting into trouble so that the reader (usually in a seminar with others) could learn how to identify and analyze that type of problem, and figure out how to deal with it (e.g., how to turn it into a teachable moment).

    These kinds of stories, especially “b”, are very important for educational uses of technology, but I’ve seen almost none in use. The University of Victoria in Canada has, I believe, developed a DVD of type “b” stories arising from educational uses of technology. The DVD is intended for use in faculty development. Has anyone seen and used it? Seen and used any other faculty development materials designed for this purpose?

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