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02 JULY 2010

Microlearning: learning from microcontent

"We understand microlearning primarily as learning from microcontent – from "small pieces, loosely joined" (Weinberger, 2002).

Microlearning as a term reflects the emerging reality of the everincreasing fragmentation of both information sources and information units used for learning, especially in fast–moving areas which see rapid development and a constantly high degree of change.

While in the past a single authoritative work (or even a single authoritative teacher) may have been all that was necessary to sufficiently acquaint oneself with a given topic of interest, this is increasingly untrue, especially as the necessity to (quickly) learn (a lot) extends into almost everyone's work life.

Books, magazine articles, a multitude of web resources (like online books, tutorials, encyclopedias, forum and weblog postings, emails and comprehensive teaching material collections as produced by MIT's OpenCourseWare project or the Connexions effort hosted at Rice University) form essential ingredients of the source mix of almost any non–institutionalized learning effort – and, increasingly, of many institutionalized efforts as well.

Fragmentation of sources has both positive and negative aspects. From a producer's standpoint, information fragments are much easier to create than larger works. Furthermore, disaggregated content – theoretically – can be re–aggregated to optimally suit an individual learner's preferences (instead of the needs of an idealized common denominator). The other side of the coin is that a significant fraction of the consolidation and organization effort is shifted towards the learner.

It will increasingly be the task of microlearning management systems to assist the learner (or group of learners) to consolidate information gleaned from such disparate sources into a coherent whole. We see personal knowledge mapping as enabled by combined wiki/weblog software as a first step in that direction."

(Christian Langreiter, Andreas Bolka, 2005)

Weinberger, D.: 2002, Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Perseus Books.

[2] Langreiter, C. and A. Bolka (2005). Snips & Spaces: Managing Microlearning. Microlearning Conference. Innsbruck, Austria.



2005authoritative workauthorshipcoherenceConnexions Consortium • consolidation • contentcontextdigital education • disaggregation • disparate sources • encyclopaediafragmentationinformation • information fragments • information in contextinstructionintegration • knowledge chunks • learnerlearninglifelong learning • magazine articles • microcontentmicrolearningmicrolearning management systemMIT • online books • online tutorialsOpen Educational Resources (OER) • OpenCourseWare project • orderingorganisationpaedagogypedagogypersonal knowledge mapping • re-aggregation • Rice Universitysnippet • sources • teachingteaching materialstraining • web resources • weblogwholewiki


Simon Perkins
12 FEBRUARY 2010

The University of the Third Age (U3A)

"The University of the Third Age (U3A) is a highly successful adult education movement providing opportunities for older adults to enjoy a range of activities associated with well–being in later life. Two substantially different approaches, the original French approach, and the British approach which evolved a few years later, have become the dominant U3A models adopted by different countries. Within many countries communications between the individual U3A groups is limited; between countries there is even less communication. Thus, very little, that is readily accessible, has been written about U3A developments internationally. This article provides an overview of U3A in many countries. Data were obtained by contacting colleagues in a number of countries for up–to–date information about U3As in their region.

U3A underwent a substantial change when it reached Cambridge in 1981. Rather than relying on university good will the founders of the British model adopted an approach in which there was to be no distinction between the teachers and the taught (Laslett, 1989). Members would be the teachers as well as the learners and, where possible, members should engage in research activities. The "self–help" ideal was based on the knowledge that experts of every kind retire, thus, there should be no need for older learners to have to rely on paid or unpaid Second Age teachers. Laslett provides a substantial rationale for this approach. The self–help approach has been highly successful in Britain as well as in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Some of the strengths of the approach include: minimal membership fees; accessible classes run in community halls, libraries, private homes, schools, and so forth; flexible timetables and negotiable curriculum and teaching styles; wide course variety ranging from the highly academic to arts, crafts and physical activity; no academic constraints such as entrance requirements or examinations; and, the opportunity to mix with alert like–minded people who enjoy doing new things. Each U3A is independent and is run by a democratically elected management committee of members."

1). Wokingham U3A Open Day, UK
2). Peter Laslett (1989). A fresh map of life. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.



19731981accessibility • adult education • andragogyAotearoa New ZealandArgentinaAustraliaAustriaBelgiumBoliviaBrazil • British approach • CanadaChilecivic engagementColombiacommunitycurriculum • Dominican Republic • Ecuador • empowermentflexibilityFrance • French approach • GermanyinstructioninteractionIrelandItalyJapanknowledgelearnerslearninglifelong learninglike-mindedmembershipMexicoNetherlandsNorth America • older learners • paedagogyParaguayparticipationpedagogyPeoples Republic of China • Peter Laslett • PolandQuebec • Republic of Chile • retirement • Scandanavia • schools • self-help • Spain • substantially • Switzerlandteaching • teaching styles • Toulouse University • training • U3A • U3A groups • UKuniversity • University of the Third Age • Uruguay • USA • Venezuela


Simon Perkins
02 OCTOBER 2009

Evidence Net: promoting evidence-informed practice in learning and teaching in Higher Education

"The aim of EvidenceNet is to promote evidence–informed practice in learning and teaching in Higher Education. Through EvidenceNet activity we aim to:

* raise awareness of the evidence base around learning and teaching issues,
* enhance and improve people's understanding of the nature of evidence and its implications for student learning,
* encourage people to contribute appropriately to that evidence base."
(Higher Education Academy, UK)


collecte-learningelearning • Evidence Net • EvidenceNet • HE sector • HEAHigher Education Academylearningnetworkpaedagogy • pedagogic theme • pedagogyresource • resource repository • searchteachingtrainingUK


Simon Perkins
19 AUGUST 2009

The Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment

"DIWE, a suite of collaborative tools designed to run on a local area network, helps students develop their skills in writing and critical thinking. The software includes six primary features:

Prewriting is a key stage of the writing process, but writers often lack effective invention strategies. Invent leads writers through a step–by–step process to help them explore their writing topics. In addition to the built–in prewriting prompts, instructors can create new prompts that best fit their curriculum, pedagogy, and students' needs.

Writers want to write, not process words. Write, a streamlined word processor with simple formatting and spell checking, allows writers to compose and revise standard academic essays without the distractions of complicated menus and options. It also includes a unique Concordance feature that can help guide revision.

Peer review is critical to revision, but peer reviewers sometimes struggle to generate effective feedback. Respond displays a writer's draft and guides a reviewer through a series of feedback prompts. The prompts build on leading–edge composition theory and practice, and instructors can create their own prompts as well.

Computer–mediated communication helps students collaborate at any stage of the learning and writing processes. Mail, an electronic bulletin board, enables students to post and read both public messages (for all the class) and private messages (for a single recipient).

Real–time computer–mediated communication has emerged as one of the most effective ways to encourage all students to write and participate more. InterChange is used for prewriting, discussions of course content and readings, and peer review workshops.

Correctly documenting sources is essential to effective academic writing, but many students find it a tedious process. BiblioCite greatly simplifies the task by providing simple forms where the students enter their bibliographic information; the program then generates properly formatted MLA Works Cited and APA References pages."
(The Daedalus Group, Inc. 2009)



1988 • APA • BiblioCite • bibliographic informationcitationcollaborative toolscritical thinking • Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment • DIWE • InterChange • invent • mail • MLA Works Cited • paedagogypedagogypeer review • respond • revisionteachingUniversity of Texas • write • writing


Simon Perkins
19 AUGUST 2009

Google Docs: the networked computer classroom?

"The networked computer classroom has always held out the promise of improved collaboration and peer review of documents. The foundational work in this area was based on social constructionist theory ( e.g., Barker & Kemp 1990; Cooper & Selfe 1990; Hawisher & Selfe 1991): scholars saw networked writing as a concrete application of social constructionism, which emphasized collaborative writing, and consequently produced collaborative tools (such as the Daedalus Interactive Writing Environment and the enCore MOO). More recently, content management systems and wikis have joined the list of ways to collaborate. All allow participants to review, co–edit, and comment on a single text in a single space.

However, these technologies have tended to fill relatively narrow niches, due in part to the learning curve for using them (most people don't want to learn special markup) and the need for specialized hardware and software to run them (most people don't have dedicated servers to run a CMS). Not surprisingly, most documents –– in university settings and in business collaborations –– are still created in Microsoft Word or another word processor, and emailed from collaborator to collaborator (a practice known as "ping–ponging"). This solution is a variation of the timeworn solution of handing drafts from person to person. And it has the same drawback: it's impossible for multiple people to work simultaneously on the same draft without versioning problems. Nevertheless, people limp along with this solution because it has a shallow learning curve and leverages existing services.
In August 2006, Google launched Google Apps for Your Domain, a suite of tools that includes email, calendar, and website design software (Google Mail, Calendar, and Page Creator), and is aggressively marketing the suite to the education market and small businesses. In essence, these organizations can outsource a chunk of their information technology to Google, and Google brands these services for each organization. This service is particularly valuable to the education and small business markets since these relatively small organizations frequently devote considerable IT resources to electronic collaboration and publication, and they have trouble holding on to people with deep IT expertise.
Eventually the product relaunched as Google Docs, integrated with Google's spreadsheet offering
Google Docs Features The headline news about Google Docs is that the application supports easy parallel collaboration. Once you've logged in, you see a list of the most recent documents (word processor files and spreadsheets) and the collaborators who have been working on them. You can choose to share your own documents with collaborators at a variety of permissions levels –– and they can similarly choose to share theirs with you. "
(Clay Spinuzzi, University of Texas at Austin)

Barker, T. and Kemp, F. (1990). Network theory: A postmodern pedagogy for the writing classroom. In Handa, C., editor, Computers and Community: Teaching Composition in the Twenty–First Century, pages 1–27. Boynton/Cook Publishers, New York.

Cooper, M. and Selfe, C. L. (1990). Computer conferences and learning: Authority, resistance, and internally persuasive discourse. College English, 52:847–869.

Hawisher, G. E. and Selfe, C. L. (1991). The rhetoric of technology and the electronic writing class. College Composition and Communication, 42:55–65.



authoringauthorshipclassroomCMScollaboration • collaborative writing • Daedalus Interactive Writing Environment • DIWEeducation • electronic literacy • enCore MOO • Google AppsGoogle DocsGoogle Inc • Google Spreadsheets • interactionlearningMicrosoft WordMOOpaedagogyparticipatory learningpedagogypeer review • ping-ponging • scriptible • versioning • wikiWritely (Upstartle)writing


Simon Perkins

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