Didactics of Microlearning

I find informal publishing in blogs and online articles more rewarding than traditional publishing processes. The feedback on what I write informally is more immediate and, as a result, plays a greater role in the subsequent formation of ideas. Writing a journal article, book, or book chapter, is concerned with presenting what one knows. Writing in informal spaces (such as a blog) is concerned with inviting others to join in an exploration of understanding a phenomenon not yet fully known. I know that simplifies things, but it largely expresses my frustration with the formality of traditional publishing (plus it can take 12-24 months to get a book chapter or journal article published and even longer for a book, which means that at the point of publication, the world may be a very different place than at the point of writing).
However, I have increasingly encountered comments from masters students who require information from the traditional pipeline of journals and books (I addressed this in my post on privileged peer review). While the original article on connectivsm was self-published on my elearnspace site, it was peer reviewed and also published in International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning (Stephen Downes, an editor with the journal, put forward the request to formally publish). Stephen also explored the epistemological concepts of connectivism in his article (presented to ITForum – a most respectable peer-review avenue) on Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge. To say connectivism is without a peer review base is simply wrong.
The requests from students and some educators for a more traditional peer review channel for exploring connectivism and related principles, emphasized the need for not exclusively relying on informal publication. As a result, over the last year in particular, I’ve focused more on journal articles and book chapters for publishing. Most recently, I contributed a chapter (Connectivism: Creating a Learning Ecology in Distributed Environments) to Theo Hug’s book Didactics of Microlearning (why can’t they make it easy to buy the book?? It’s an obscure process and requires fluency in German). Part of the intent is to enlarge the scope of conversation on changes occurring to learning, technologies, and relationships of power in democratic information creation and exchange. It matters little what theory or view of learning we eventually settle on to describe these changes. What matters most, at this stage, is that we are having a conversation that explores the depth and breadth of change. And that is why I find the growing numbers of academic bloggers encouraging. We are seeing a blurring of formal and informal. Which requires bloggers to be prepared to publish more substantial works (yes, in journals) and academics to engage in the conversational flow happening online.
A great example of this formal-informal influence is found in the opening chapter of Didactics of Microlearning (Outline of a Microlearning Agenda) where Theo Hug and Norm Friesen interact extensively with Stephen Downes’ work. Blogging, as evidenced here and in increasing numbers of publications (journals and books), appears to has formed its own identity. In many cases, a blog post is a suitable reference. The change in what determines value in contrast to a journal is significant. In a blog, the source of authority comes from the voice of the author as determined over many months/years of posting and sharing ideas with the larger community. In a journal, authority comes from the reputation of the journal and the value of the peer review process. I would not rate one approach to authority determination above the other. I think they can both co-exist, developing and extending the other.

One Response to “Didactics of Microlearning”

  1. Calliope says:

    What sort of authority structures do you see coming into play as the more traditional walls between traditional and online academia coming down? The increasing popularity of academic blogs parallels the increasing use and acceptance of online degrees, despite considerable hazards for both in ensuring authenticity and quality. We continue to judge new media and learning technologies by the same standards. While I believe the standards must remain stringent as always, will we need new accrediting bodies? New barometers of respectability for blogs? Who gets to decide?