David Wiley just wrote an excellent post about the “death” of learning objects. He’s right on the mark, emphasizing the learning part of the buzzword, while us geeks who were attempting to implement some of the early LO-based software got so woefully distracted by the object and reuse angles. He’s also much more articlate than I am, so give his article a read, then come back here. I’ll wait. Go ahead.
OK. You’ve read his post. Good, eh? Now, I just wanted to add some thoughts from the perspective of a “learning objects” software developer (I was rather involved with the development of CAREO, which has apparently been championed as one of the early Learning Object Management Systems).
I was as guilty as anyone, if not moreso. CAREO was intended to provide a central clearinghouse of these magically reusable bits of buzzword compliant digital goodness. I was sucked into the hype, along with an entire generation of implementors. We had an entire nationally funded project (EduSource) with the goal of working out the plumbing problems to get these wondrous Learning Objects flowing. As geeks, that’s all it was – a plumbing problem. All we had to do was hook a few things together, attach an input or thirteen, throw a switch, and revel in the magical incredibleness that would Just Happen Because We Built It.
And, of course, outside of carefully scripted demos, nothing really happened. EduSource sort of dissolved. CAREO continued to operate, sortof, but without any financial or institutional support. There are still some users of the system, but it’s basically running as a snapshot. A postcard from 2002.
Was CAREO a failure, then? I’d argue an emphatic “absolutely not, bucko!” because it served (and continues to serve) a crucial role. Before CAREO, there wasn’t a solid, concrete example that we could all point to and say “there’s learning objects!” We didn’t have a testbed, a sandbox, a lab. Through CAREO, and an entire generation of “learning object management” software, we learned a heck of a lot about the concept. We were right sometimes (metadata should be as transparent as possible, people to want to share stuff…) and we were wrong sometimes (the UI as a thin veneer over the database, overemphasis on metadata specifications and interoperability…). But we learned.
Also, I get the feeling that the Learning Objects Movement was just a few years ahead of itself. Now, social software is oozing out of the woodwork. Tagging and folksonomies are pushing metadata into every corner of the networks. Mashups via “Web 2.0” web-application-API layers are amplifying and exposing network effects to connect and layer sources of information that were previously relegated into locked silos.
Personally, I learned a very valuable lesson that can best be distilled into Ward Cunningham’s description of the original wiki software:
The simplest online database that could possibly work.
– Ward Cunningham
I used to have a version of that written in big block letters across the top of my whiteboard.
It’s something that was essentially ignored by all of us Early Learning Object Implementors. We wound up with insanely complicated data schemas (have you ever looked at the full IMS/IEEE LOM?) and attempted to find elegant ways to store the XML directly in databases (before XML-in-databases was in vogue). We came up with these funky national networks of unique and distinct flavours of webservices, so we could share our overly complex data. We invented new, innovative and cool ways of connecting these systems.
But, we completely lost sight of the simple fact that the reuse that is important. and actually much more difficult, is the pedagogical use of content and not a futile pursuit of technical interoperability. I suggest that learning objects are not dead. Far from it. New ideas like implementations of the semantic web, and structured blogging, and social software for creating and sharing resources – they all combine to breathe new and fresh breath into the concept of the learning object. But, with the ability to place the emphasis on learning rather than object.
I’ve got a nagging feeling that the whole buzz over ePortfolios is following a familiar path. Which is why I’m choosing to ignore the buzz on that topic and play with some of my own ideas.
Whew. OK. That’s off my chest. Albatross released. Monkey off of back. Thanks to David for the cognitive nudge required.
7 thoughts on “Learning Objects: RIP or 1.0?”
Daly Update — December 10, 2006
Here’s our take on news that matters for Monday, January 9. Today’s theme is discovery and here are a some links to headlines about technology that is changing the way we live and learn.
Gaming –According to a Forrester report, video games marke…
Good on ya D’Arcy!
Learning Objects: Rip
David Wiley just wrote an excellent post about the â€œdeathâ€ of learning objects. Heâ€™s right on the mark, emphasizing the learning part of the buzzword, while us geeks who were attempting to implement some of the early LO-based software got…
Hm, I would rather say LO’s are 100% dead. If there ever was something like Learning Objects 1.0 then it was more of a “Vaporware” which promised to deliver but never did. If someone wants to bring up the 2.0 of LO’s, well I wish him all the best.
The concept of LO is by nature a concept with a huge defect in understanding. Just replace “Object” with “Thing” and you will easily recognize that a “Learning Thing” is all and nothing at the same time. I would say it is clearly nothing, because in science you have to be specific otherwise things get complicated! If you cannot name it you cannot criticize it (that’s perhaps why this zombie never was successfully killed until now). LO’s contributed nothing but a huge cloud of dangerous and expensive fog to the E-Learning community.
All technically challenged persons loved it because they saw “Object” and just thought, well how cool, I am thinking in “objects” already this must be an easy going. LO’s were a huge disservice to the E-Learning from my point of view. It’s all about humans and their social processes stupid. It is not about “canning some learning” for later reuse. You just cannot store learning like an instant meal. It is a complex process (which is by definition a product which unfolds over time) which cannot be put in a can.
LO’s are a dead end, though a very fascinating one. It’s like a siren bogging your ears, eyes and mind which was very successful, capturing the attention of technical geeks out there. The definition of LO’s is from my point of view one of the worst definitions I have ever seen.
A mathematician would get so upset with this definition he would rather jump out of the window then beeing forced to work with it.
just my 2 provocative cents.
Right on Helge!
I remember back a couple of years ago, when I was fooling around with Flash for educational resource development. I was just a young chum, amazed by all the money flying around for this line of work, bewildered by what the big guns were conferencing about. They talked about sharable learning objects, I pretended to understand, I wasted hours and hours reading papers, listening to talks, trying to understand.. I felt stupid for just not quite getting it. But I took the ideas and applied them as best I could to what I was doing – which was struggling to keep up with developments in Flash and action script! 🙁
Then I came to realise that if I couldn’t get it – someone who was just a little more knowledgable than the average teacher out there, then what was the realistic chance of this object theory getting any real traction? Then I started looking for others questioning the mainstream, and found sanity at last! The emporer was indeed wearing no clothes!
Around about the same time as I realised this, I was discovering free and open source software. Amazed at the free alternatives to the 3 million dollar LMSes we were using, I started asking more questions.. the emporer was paying a lot of public money on these no clothes!
Then I discovered blogging et al. The rest was smooth sailing from then on. Teachers are taking to blogging more than we could have ever dreamed of with LMSes, and Flash, etc.
Thank god we have finally gotten past that dot com era in education. Now we can return to what the Internet has always been about.. open, free sharing of what eva!
I’m not sure the concept of “learning objects” are a dead end, as much as a forced nighttime march through an unmarked minefield. It’s really easy to take a wrong step.
We’ve seen many groups gather ’round the Learning Object watering hole, spouting rhetoric in order to secure a portion of a funding pie.
Even if the concept is reduced to a set of content production guidelines, it’s still useful – perhaps moreso in than limited manner, without the danger of Reusability At All Costs, and Metadata Is King ruling their ugly heads…
I think I just won some kind of lamest-blog-comment-ever award, with all of the mixed incomplete metaphors in this one 🙂
Comments are closed.