Recently, in writing about ePortfolios, I used the phrase Authentically Centralized to describe an educational system where learners have high learner control over their own structure or design. The concept underlying Authentically Centralized comes from the fact that neither of the terms centralized or decentralized adequately conveys the perspective of the learner in open, complex education.
When someone engages in a learning process though an ePortfolio, blog or though some other capsule that affords high control over their environment, they become the center of their own unique learning environment that is construed around them. Other participants in the same course do the same, they remain at the center of their environment which they have high control over. There are many ‘centers’ and even a shared ‘center’ (given the fact that there’s a ‘course’ or event of some type in which all learners are a part of). There’s no removal or negation of ‘centers’ as the term decentrailzation suggests, and likely there is no one dominant structure that umbrellas all activity, as would be the case with a high degree of centralization. Learners undergo neither extreme of centralization or decentralization – what happens is somewhere in between.
Why Authentic? The importance here in on emphasizing that centralization does happen, it does exist in autonomous, self-directed learning – and it’s personal, under individual control. It is embedded in individual perspective. Unlike Decentralized, Authentically Centralized retains a focus on the need to be and to develop skills to be purposeful in arranging the personal environment…and that this arrangement itself carries meaning.
We can’t neglect all centers simply because we don’t like dominant centers.
I prefer the term Authentic because there’s more to education now than formal, transmissive lecturing and/or informal everyday learning by one’s self – there’s everything in between, and I imagine some type of balance between the two is what instructional designers and teachers strive for, depending on the situation. Authentic reflects actual existence. And indeed, a great analogy of this is Time. Time is not central, there’s no big clock somewhere on Jupiter that dictates what the correct Time is throughout existence. On the other hand, Time does exist. It exists different for each human…for each perspective.
Whether it is more accurate to use Decentralized or to use Authentically Centralized depends on your focus – if you’re looking at community learning then Decentralized is more accurate; if you’re concerned about individuals, then Authentically Centralized might be better.