It was David Wiley’s paper “Learning objects: difficulties and opportunities” that got me thinking about how weblogs might be able to provide the contextual “wrapper” around learning objects- .e.g. people implementing LOS would use tools like MT’s TrackBack to discover properly marked objects, and then describe how they might be (or are) used in an educational context in a blog.

The TrackBack mechanism (see beginners guide too) could then provide a means for objects to keep a record of where they ahve been “blogged” about.

It took very little effort to install the MT StandAlone Trackback system on this same server that we run MT, and then to modify the scripts that output our MLX items (see one) so that each item in our collection would have a unique Trackback ID. This would allow bloggers to “discover” and set up blog entries automatically to our MLX items.

So at this point we have blogs that can subscribe to our MLX feeds (and others) and now we have a way for objects to record which blogs had “pinged”

This was about 2 days after I ever heard the term “TrackBack”, and I am pretty much a hack programmer…

A LO/TB story
Lora, a Geology instructor blogs about Learning Objects in her field. She finds a Correlation Meter shockwave application on the Maricopa learning eXchange MLX, and uses the TB features of her MT bookmarklet to post in her weblog how she would use it .

Meanwhile, across campus (cue the hokey BatMane music;-), Boris, an instructor in the Humanities that is trying to integrate learning objects (see his weblog), is also poking around the MLX, and by sheer coincidence, sees the very sameCorrelation Meter as a useful way to have his students better understand research journals. He too uses the autodiscivery feature of the MT bookmarklet and documents his idea.

Since we have implemented TrackBack on the MLX, not only are we coding each item for autodiscovery as Lora and Boris have done, but we can now also add to each MLX item a link to see who has been writing about that item:

http://realgar.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/cgi-bin/tb.cgi?__mode=list&tb_id=278

This is very simplistic as an example, but as a reminder:

(1) Autodiscovery makes it easier for bloggers to locate/find objects of interest, and transfer information to the blog editing tools
(2) Doing so generates a ping that can be recorded for each Learning Object.
(3) Now each learning object has a link to other places where people have built entirely different contexts around learning objects, hopefully even linking to where it is actually put into use.

Finally, this took more time to write about than it did to implement!

The post "BackTrack to TrackBack" was originally pushed out of the bottom of a purple jar of Play-Doh at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2003/04/backtrack-to/) on April 19, 2003.

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