I was fortunate to instigate a workshop last week as part of the BC Educational Technology Users Group spring workshops in Merritt, B.C. The workshop was on “Practical Tips for Reusability and Interoperability.” In keeping with themes I laid out earlier on this weblog, I began the session with a formal execution of the term “learning object” which you can see at the link above (feel free to reuse this – maybe if it’s played enough times the term will finally die off). (more…)
As I go on to explain, it’s not the concepts the term was supposed to foster that I object to so much as the term itself, as it has left many an instructor panicked and struggling to understand what it means, as if it were something radically different from the learning content they are already producing. (Though I do actually disagree with Alan that LOs are simply links and all we need is referatories, but that’s likely another post.)
The goal of the workshop was to brainstorm with practitioners in the field some tips on facilitating reuse and interoperability that were in fact practical in terms of their current models of content production and reuse. The fact that I’ve seen more documents endorsing Content Packaging or XML-based authoring approaches than I have actual implementations of these approaches has led me to believe there to be a fair disconnect between the theory and actual practice, and this was a very small first foray into agreeing on some practical guidelines we can implement here in B.C.
As a way to help people consider re-use, I offered up this very small grid on the ‘Contexts of Reuse.’ We then looked at 10 or so actual examples of learning content and brainstormed some of the problems to reusing these, and some possible solutions. We ran out of time before we got a chance to finish the final exercise, which was to go through the list of proposed solutions and sort out the practical from the difficult or impractical, though I did have a stab at it myself beforehand, and was gratified with the extent to which it matched up with the instructor’s actual expectations.
This was the first time I had run such a workshop and I was really pleased with how it turned out. There were 15 or so folks in the room and nearly everyone was participating in the discussion and brainstorming. Another part of the experiment you may have noticed was the use of a wiki for the presentation – not only did I build any of the material for the presentation within the wiki, but was actually using it in real time as a way to document the brainstorming and resulting practical tips. The feedback so far was that they really enjoyed this interactive aspect and that for the most part the technology was an aid, not a distraction (though my boat-anchor of a laptop did it’s best to subvert this!) Brian was kind enough to let me use the UBC wiki for this presentation; part of the reason for doing it in a wiki was the hope that it would become a ‘living’ document; the reality is that it needs some housekeeping before it can serve as a structure to capture actual practical tips for a wider audience, and it may well not be on this server, but it feels like the theory has been borne out in practice. For me this was a pretty big experiment (I am not an instructional developer or designer by trade, and so feel pretty uncomfortable in those waters) but I’d like to think it was reasonably successful and hope to either do another such session soon or garden the wiki outputs to where they can be useful as a scaffold for further unmediated brainstorming and documentation of more practical tips. – SWL