Once upon a time I thought that computers would be the ones to organize
information, assemble it into instruction and present it in a
customized format to a learner. It is a cool dream. Years ago, while
I was still in that mode, I took a learning objects course from David
Wiley. It was one of the last courses of my masters. Now I am in the
PhD program. I hang out with people that care about learning, openness and free ideas.
My views of reuse have changed. My undergrad in Electrical Engineering
gave me a desire to build things efficiently. My experiences have made
me realize that that ideal works fine for chips and stuff. When you
reach the human level you have to chill out a bit and begin to accept
the fuzziness of life. Learning happens. It happens all the time
every day all around the world. Sometimes it happens with formal
instructors, but I think that most of the time it happens as people
engage one another in dialog and as they work with one another. That
is the beauty of the current generation of web applications. They
don’t control you. They don’t hold your hand and tell you what to do
or where to go. Instead they enable you. They enable social logistics
that would otherwise be impossible. I think that more learning than we
can yet imagine will occur in this informal setting. Best of all, it
will be free. At least it should be.
Going back to a previous post
I talked about learning objects being more like raw materials than
easily reusable items. For years programmers have sought the holy
grail of reusable software objects. Problem is, no matter how hard we
try, the objects are never quite reusable. You always have to modify
something. Usually you search on the net and find something close to
what you need to solve your problem. Then you hack on it until it
meets your exact need. My wife is a teacher. Guess what. They do the
same thing. They find a material that will help them teach. They
might get it from a lesson book, another teacher, an old worksheet, the
Internet or make it up. They cut it apart and paste it back together
(using actual tape or glue) make copies and use it to teach.
Learning objects need to work the same way. For them to be useful you
have to be able to get in and hack on them. Break them down extract
the parts you need and reuse that. No matter how granular you think
your object is someone will find a new context in which it wasn’t
granular enough. I know someone will argue that an image is granular,
but I have seen my wife cut those up. I have found images with a color
I liked and just used that so unless your objects are single pixels
don’t ever bet on them being the perfect level of granular.
I digress. I always do. Get used to it. If you don’t
like it you can read someone else’s blather. Back to the main
I have changed. Instead of the Utopian view of computers building
perfect, customized, efficient instruction I know believe that the more
natural, dare I say evolutionary approach is working better. Every day
millions individuals contribute useful information into the ether know
as the Internet. They don’t do it with clear learning objectives in
mind. Instead they do it because they want to. Every day millions of
people read the stuff on the Internet and they learn then the remix and
reuse the stuff and produce other stuff that helps other people learn.
Wow. They don’t always have clear objectives in mind, but with a
little effort the knowledge gained improves their lives.
Welcome to learning objects 2.0. The ones that actually work.