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Learning Objects: Focused Now? Blurry?

What follows, or rambles are some thoughts on today’s NLII Focus Session (October 10, 2003) at Ohio State. I should say now that the best part of these events are getting to meet colleagues face to face, and without a doubt the attendance of 60 were all people I respect and value their varied work in this weird arena.

However, bottom line, I am not sure I have anything more in focus on learning objects.Frankly I thik it is a mistake to focus on them. They are not as important as the learning activities we can create from them.

Maybe it was a mistake to buy for the plane ride a copy of James Bishop’s “Epitaph for a Desert Anarchist” a review of the life and works of my favorite acidic writer, Edward Abbey. In addition, I did miss the last 2 hours to catch a plane so I could be at a wedding tomorrow in Mammoth Lakes.


Got to catch up over beers the night before the focusing with Brian Lamb, and enjoyed meeting during the session Evan Straub, from Ohio State, who shows her work at blog.IT “confessions of an instructional technologist”.

So here is a gripe on the day’s format- we travel from all over the country for about 8 hours of “focus” time, and there is still way too much singular upfront presentation (powerpoint, powerpoint, power…..) and reading of stuff that can be done electronically outside of face to face time.

And I could barely contain myself at the mention the learning object “virtual online community of practice”, which at best has a cute acronym LOVCOP. That is about all. This has been essentially a non-community of not much practice and essentially dormant for months. It is not the people there, as there is a good group of experts included on the list. There were some good teleconference sessions last spring, but I saw absolutely zero community action or practice happening in LOVCOP. And to be honest, a bet a lot has to to with that horrible Worktools system, a fine web tool for 1997 maybe, but everything about the way it works compels me not to use it (getting emails of new items you have to log in to read and then finding out that it is just a link to an outside web site, the inane toggling needed to wade through discussion boards). Yechhh. Someone stick a fork in worktools.

The day’s agenda was ambitious, packed, and I know a whole pile of work goes into pulling these things together.

There were active, small-group discussions on things such as the “learning objects ontology” which is an interesting approach, but one that I still try and say, “okay, we have this big map, what does it mean?”

Quite enjoyable was the energy and honesty of the presentation from Macromedia’s Ellen Wagner. She raised the pending new object thing, Digital Object Idenitifer, something I never heard of and kept getting confused with connotations of being arrested for DUI. This ended up splintering into some heated lunch debates between a group of people passionate about various catalogging schemes.

Ellen also helpfully reminded that it is very early in the learning objects age, and there is much growth, adolescence to go through.

Overall, I keep seeming a lot of focus on the objects. I do not find learning objects themselves interesting at all (and what people seem to be calling them are pieces of media tossed into a web page, powerpoint, or flash thingie)– I am much more interested in the things we create, do with them— eventualy, ideally, the objects, the tags, should all be transparent, not objects of focus.

But if people still want to argue standards, and tags, and such, I guess that is fine. I will just sit that one out.

There were attempts to get to what LOs mean for “deeper learning” (which is good), although one group I was in ironically agreed that some good, basic shallow learning is not all that bad.

By lunch time I did not feel all that focused, but was hungry, and easier feeling to address.

Bu ouch! At lunch, I was chatting with Larry Johnson, chief of the New Media Consortium, which is running an online conference on learning objects next week (October must be national learning object month). Anyhow, as Larry sitting down with his food, he was starting to tell me a story about Stephen Downes and unfortunately, accidently placed the leg of his chair on his laptop, producing a rather unsightly, unsuable effect on his Dell machine. Now I would not imply that Stephen Downes broke Larry’s laptop, but that was the context.

After lunch was the “Learning Objects Lounge”, a poster-session type time with various projects demoing in small groups. I was set up to show my video interviews with our Maricopa faculty Learning Objects: Believe it or Not!– sadly I made the mistake of not bringing computer speakers so with all the chatter in the hallyway, no one could here the sound in my DVD. But hey, I can play their parts, and all of the clips are available online.

There was a decent session by Mary Marlino on DLESE, the earth sciences repository, pretty much showing it was a resource with a lot of buy-in from the people that use it.

So I did miss the last pieces, when all of the “work products” were being assembled, so I will retain a small microdose of optimism of some sort of clear direction emerging.

At least it was fun, the people intriguing… and the objects? I need new glasses because the focus ain’t there yet. Or maybe it is just a smudge on my lens.

Anyhow, I am hoping to get some perspective from hiking aming the mighty Sierra Nevada peaks.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


Learning Objects: Believe It or Not!

Here is a sneaky dog’s first peek at Learning Objects: Believe It or Not!, the gist of what I am presenting 1:00 PM Friday as part of the “Learning Objects Lounge” at the EDUCAUSE/NLII Focus Session on Learning Objects.

Please do not alert the lawyers for the Ripley’s enterprise. It was an irresistable metaphor.

Actually the format is a DVD (see a screen shot of the menu). The purpose here is to provide some real-life stories via video (not previous Maricopa Learning eXchange.

What I did was first to ask around my system a lot and try to identify these faculty, and then beg them to sit in front of my video camera for 15 minutes to talk about their MLX experience. A weekend of quick video editing, a bit of software wrangling (some cussing was heard), and voilá… a DVD was born.

What I found was that our faculty are using content from the MLX, they are de-contructing items to smaller pieces, adding one new ideas to published ones, picking up ideas other different disciplines than their own, creaing items big and small, caring about the context of their creations, and mostly, being energized about finding this as a resource. Re-use is happening. These are of tremendous value to our adjunct faculty. But each has one poignant phrase about re-use, granularity, context, value, and more.

And these are just a handful I could corner on short notice!

Be kind to our video servers- the clips were hastily compressed (sorry, all are done for broadband connections) and it is a humble server hosting the video.

More tomorrow on the reaction.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.