I’m still in the midst of a lot of travel, so I had planned on following a path similar to my last posting on the Digital Curator, etc. and pointing to interesting things that other bloggers are doing. As it happens, though, that post and number of others out there are beginning to form into a nice “thought cloud” across the blogosphere that I would write about regardless of my travel schedule.
Over at The Bamboo Project, Michele Martin has woven together Steve Rubel, Tony Karrer, thoughts from some of my recent posts, and of course, her own great thinking to ask whether we should view Instructional Designers and Trainers as Digital Curators? As Michele puts it:
…it’s crystallizing for me how much of a need there is in the professional development and learning sphere for digital curation and re-purposing. It’s less and less about the content (which is increasingly becoming free) and more and more about having the skills to sift through the information and put it into digestible, technology-enabled nuggets that really work for people.
I agree, but at the same time, I wonder how concerned we should be that a lot of the free content out there (and for that matter, a lot of the paid content) is being created together by people with no formal instructional design training and/or experience and that self-appointed curators may or may not have the ability to weave together content effectively. Does it matter?
Well, elsewhere in the blogosphere a vibrant debate is under way about the role of instructional design and Who Gets to be Called an Instructional Designer. Karl Kapp, for one, believes We Need a Degree in Instructional Design.
I’ve argued before in Does ID Matter? that I feel there is an increasing perception that maybe it doesn’t—at least not to the non-instructional designers who are often making the decisions about whether, when, and how instructional content gets developed. A degree could potentially help that situation—and I do think it needs help—but I wonder if we don’t need to burst out of the traditional instructional design box altogether and describe a new role. (And while we’re at it, tear apart the old professional development box as well.)
I don’t know exactly what to call this new role. The “curator” analogy certainly helps, but I would hope for this curator to have the following qualities (in no particular order):
- Highly refined skills for locating relevant content
- A demonstrated ability to judge the quality of content and its suitability for meeting learning goals and objectives. (This implies a certain level of subject matter knowledge, but I am not sure it necessarily requires the curator to be an expert, as Rubel suggests.)
- The ability to categorize, organize, and connect content in effective and meaningful ways
- The ability to augment and re-purpose content or author original content, as needed, to draw connections and fill gaps
- An understanding of the social Web and how communication and learning happen in and across networks, including factors like diversity and influence
- An ability to build trust and relationships within a community of learning and help learners develop personal learning and knowledge management skills
- Hands-on, practical knowledge of major technologies of the social Web and rapid authoring tools
- An ability to do all of the above with an eye towards achieving the strategic goals of the organization, the network, the loose coalition, the individual learner, or whatever the appropriate beneficiary (ies) of the learning experience is
- An ability to effectively evaluate learning experiences and demonstrate effectiveness or ineffectiveness
(That’s my “off the top of my head” list. What would you add or argue with?)
A lot of these qualities, I realize, fall within the realm of traditional instructional design, but quite a few—at least in my mind and in my experience—go beyond. More importantly, I think that the need for these qualities applies broadly across the social Web. It goes well beyond traditional “professional development” and even spills over into other disciplines entirely. A person possessing these qualities is someone I would hire not simply to create training and education experiences but rather to be a leader in coordinating and facilitating my organization’s learning interactions across the Web.
Perhaps this person should have a degree or some other set of credentials, but I suspect in many cases she won’t and it won’t matter. The proof will be in the pudding, as they say. Instructional designers could stamp their current roles with a degree, and maybe even stretch the walls of the professional development box a bit along the way. But I think the traditional instructional design role has the potential to evolve into whatever we ultimately call this version of the digital curator. And what a role that could be!
What do you think, is “curator” the right title for this role? Is this potentially an evolution of instructional design, or just something else entirely?
Related Items and Updates from the Blogosphere
Conversation Agent also picks up on the digital curator concept in asking Do We Need Editors in New Media? (February 17, 2008)