Primedia and Iterative Formation: part 3

f r a c t a l s   a n d   i t e r a t i v e  f o r m a t i o n

But first let's talk about fractals for a minute. The neat things about fractals is the way they are put together. They are self-similar, meaning they look pretty similar regardless of the level of detail at which you examine them. In fact, what you find is that a big fractal is made up of lots of little fractals, and the little fractals are made up of even smaller fractals, and they're made up of even smaller ones, ad infinitum. People are just beginning to discover the true descriptive power of the fractal metaphor. The fractal metaphor, or more exactly, the mathematics behind fractals, is currently being used to describe:
  • Regional distribution of pulmonary blood flow
  • Pulmonary alveolar structure
  • Mammographic parenchymal pattern as a risk for breast cancer
  • Regional myocardial blood flow heterogeneity
  • Surfaces of proteins
  • Distribution of arthropod body lengths
  • Advanced data compression algorithms
  • Ways in which music can be composed
  • Methods for building virtual reality environments
  • etc. etc. etc.
Impressed? You should be.

p r i m e d i a ,   f r a c t a l s ,   a n d
i t e r a t i v e   l e a r n i n g   e n v i r o n m e n t   f o r m a t i o n

Now on to those economies of scale I was talking about. When instructional designers create large, impressive faculty projects involving singing and dancing multimedia, they always either create or acquire primedia in order to build the things, although they may not see any value in the primedia itself.

When these primedial objects are archived in their primedial form, something wonderful happens: the door to repurposability opens just a crack. When those archives are indexed using a standards-compliant metadata system, the door opens just a bit more. When universal accessibility to the objects and the index is granted, the door is all but thrown off its hinges. Imagine if faculty had on-demand access to each others' resources and teaching aids, instead of every person in the department reinventing the wheel every time they needed an overhead! And the faculty members don't have to cut up and reassemble their colleagues' work in order to use it in their own special way: the primedial objects themselves are archived -- all they have to do is assemble them. Which brings us to another point: there is still one major piece of the puzzle missing.

"Primedial objects can be combined and re-combined in order to form infintiely rich, complex, and flexible learning environments."

Faculty need an interface through which they can not only access the index of objects and the actual objects themselves, but through which they can also organize and sort the objects they want to use and preserve their configuration so that they can use it in the classroom tomorrow. This kind of interface is the end goal of NIB. But of course, we want it to do more than just that!

If the implications of the fractal metaphor are attended to during not only the production of instructional content ("non-executable primedia"), but in the creation of software ("executable primedia") as well, entire digital learning environments could be built through the iterative formation process. Software and services -- in addition to instructional content -- could be combined

to form increasingly complex and rich learning environments. And, as a side effect, the learning environments would be completely standards compliant, extensible, and upgradable. In fact, primedial objects could be replaced or upgraded without the rest of the environment ever knowing it happenned.

c o n c l u s i o n

This stuff is rad.

This concludes this edition of "iterative formation of learning environments based on self-similar primedial objects for dummies." It's 2:00 a.m. Go back to my home.