Learning Objects – Misapplied?

Steve Carson, who does a lot of great instructional technology writing on a blog deceptively titled OpenFiction, finishes a recent post on producer culture with this great quote:

In other words, learning objects may ultimately be a consumer culture approach misapplied to a producer culture environment.

I guess it is a matter of one’s pedagogy and philosophy of learning object design and reuse. Steve suggests, “Even the idea of learners as consumers of learning objects (even if they “custom-tailor” their learning experience) may be misguided.” He’s much kinder in his statement of it than I would be. In the vast majority of domains I would say that the idea of learners as consumers is outright stupidity. I won’t repeat or rederive Freire’s critque of “banking education” here, but the notion of “learners as consumers” seems to be the same idea expressed in modern lingo.

If we don’t conceptualize learning objects as edit-able primitives designed for learners to use in the construction of new artifacts, what are we doing? Steve repeats the popular notion that he learns more by teaching than by learning. Guess why? Because teaching is a construction process in which a person adapts parts of many existing components to create a new artifact (whether they create a tangible expression of the artifact or not). Learning is generally, as Steve says, consuming. So guess why we always learn more when we teach? And guess how we should think about learning objects?

2 thoughts on “Learning Objects – Misapplied?”

  1. In an earlier post on the same, Steve uses this rationale for addressing the idea of the current ‘consumer role’ of e-learners;

    “….learning objects as they have been conceived, position users as consumers of knowledge–i.e. they go and find the learning object that fits their learning need, interact with it, and come away with some specified chunk of knowledge acquired”

    If the reader will allow for a degree of idealism here, I think to fully qualify such a sentiment involves attending to the fact that LOs, as they exist, are also just a toolbox of entities to usefully describe remote information packages, just like RSS. That they now support a ‘consumer model’ of education falls partially on the shoulders on the designers and makers of the first generations of e-learning tools. Perhaps this is were some of the damage, attestible to concepts such as ‘banking education’, can be said to occur. That is, the translation of LO schema into working tools has been somewhat devoid of trully innovative design, and, except for the odd case, has really only echoed (and indeed lagged behind) early design metaphors from the web itself, and the educational experiences and expectations of those same software designers and developers.

    Current implementations of LO’s, such as CanCore, do little to imply such a consumer model of education, and in reality I’d imagine that rapidly maturing metadata models such as these would be the envy of the likes of games designers, and of course have already been leveraged by blog engine designers/developers to build widely adoptable and usable producer tools (WP, MT, etc). I’d go as far as to say, given current general technical fluency levels, current technology and current software design restrictions, LO specs such as CanCore are pretty close to spot on relatively speaking.

    I’d fear that as user interaction modes change to reflect a broader set of user expectations for control, numerous ‘agile’ data models and sub-sets will arise without enough attention being paid to the thorny issue of core learner/educator software design requirements, especially for those attempting a more progressive pedagogical approach. That while the foundations might need a little tweaking, the construction crew cannot build a classroom without windows and expect the learners to engage with the world outside.

    Of course, access to useful LO learner/producer tools does little for the argument that learners rearranging preproduced meta-media such as learning objects, is only at best a distant relative of Freirean type emancipatory education online, and in fact without the ability to 1) destroy and fully reconcieve an instance of said information as a unique knowledge artifact, and 2) access and incorporate outside knowledge (i.e. Freire’s World, along with the Word), we are only putting window dressing on the educators control over information and the construction of new knowledge in the e-classroom.

  2. I fear that so-called LO’s are a solution looking for a problem.

    The biggest hurdle to real learning is student self-discipline. No amount of technology will help a student without a desire to learn. The tickle that technology gives to the process drives the student to continue to think of learning as entertainment.

    That won’t help anything.

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