Learning objects as Chia Pets

There have been so many learning objects metaphors that have flown around…. It’s been no secret that I hate the LEGO metaphor, and the seed crystal metaphor I proposed in 1999 hasn’t gone anywhere. So here are a few thoughts about a new metaphor.

It occured to me again a few months ago that the higher the Bloom-level type of learning you’re trying to facilitate, the more you need to rely on human-to-human interaction as an instructional strategy. Of course, the focus of our OSOSS / MMLOE &c. work has been to try to understand how learning objects and people talking to each can co-exist peacefully to help facilitate higher-level learning. So…

I’ve always thought that Chia Pets were extremely goofy. However, when utilized effectively (see slashdot for some examples) learning objects really function like Chia Pet pottery. The pottery is important, and without it nothing happens, but that’s not where the focus or the fun is. The fun of a Chia Pet is in the hair that grows on top of the Chia Pet, just like the fun in higher Bloom-level learning is in the interaction with other people that grows on top of exposure to good content. And like the Chia Pet, when the interaction around a piece of content dies out and ends, we lose interest in the content – just like we would throw away a balding Chia Pet whose grass has seen greener days.

If any of this is remotely true, then embedding learning objects in environments that will support social interaction will be important in their long-term use for faciltiating higher levels of learning. Let’s see where this idea goes…

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