A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed.
I have been distracted from the “One tap of the hoof blog stuff” by the need to languidly loll in the summer_scapes of an Auckland emptied of people. Auckland abandoned is my most favourite Auckland. As the holiday home on the Kaipara, mother-in-law in Te Puke, and friends at Paraparaumu pull Aucklanders away I can feel the city slide into indolence.
In adopting a leisurely, unhurried, dreamy persona, the "arse-end of December" Auckland encourages you to loll with friends, to laugh and drink wine, to observe the forgotten garden, to read poetry, to walk the dog up volcanic cones at dusk, to throw hot chilli prawns on the bar-b-cue, to play with your blog templates, to watch old movies, and to rediscover what matters most.
Mister Ed: [impatiently] Let's Go Wilbur!
Wilbur Post: Go? You're on the bottom!
Mister Ed: Sorry! I forgot!
You cannot earjack a conversation between card-carrying members of the MoE digerati “A-list” at the moment without picking up terms like Learning Management Systems and Digital Learning Object.
These terms are tossed like Brassica sprouts into the (e) conversations of the digerati with a facility and confidence that belies the fact that these resources and design environments are contentious, as yet not well defined, and often do not support contemporary understandings of meaningful learning environments.
(For a clear headed analysis of this refer Learning Designs and Learning Objects: Where Pedagogy Meets Technology. Oliver, R., Wirski, R., Wait, L., and K.Blanksby., In Towards Sustainable and Scalable Educational Innovations Informed by the Learning Sciences. C.-K. Looi et al. (EDs.) IOS press 2005-12-28)
When I question the digerati it seems that learning management systems are all about managing content for consumption, and digital learning objects all about creating the content for consumption.
When you are thinking about rote learning facts, rules, and/or following simple algorithms or procedures it is easy to understand how DLO’s and LMS might work together. But it is not so easy when you believe that meaningful learning is something different from the traditional view that “learning is listening, teaching is telling, knowledge is an object and to be educated is to know valuable content” [Harpaz, Y. (2005) Teaching and Learning in a Community of Thinking. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision.Winter 2005 Volume 20 Number 2 pp 136 – 157.]
Perhaps it is in the various representations, and misrepresentations of learning, within these conversations about LMS and DLO's that underlie the bewilderment, amongst the educators I work with, over what a digital learning object looks like.
My most favourite "what a DLO looks like" definition came at the Hands Across the Water ict_pd cluster conference in April 2004, when the Project Leader for ICT at the MoE struggled with and then abandoned a tautology that saw her describing DLO’s to the teachers in the audience as “objects for learning that are digital … that is digital objects that you can learn from …. learning objects that are digital ….digital learning objects” – I laughed at the time but 18 months down the track I am little better off.
Most available definitions of DLO’s are so inclusive, as to be of little value to anyone trying to figure out why we need another term for (e) “resources”. Te Pātaka Matihiko Our Digital Storehouse and Merlot are similarly bewildering in that they accommodate so many differing representations of digital information surfaces that it is hard to determine what the criteria for inclusion might be.
In truth it becomes a more interesting Gedankenexperiment to imagine a digital information surface that COULD NOT be represented as a digital learning object.
The dilemma of identifying what is and what isn't a DLO reminds me of David Sedaris's foray into the avant-guarde, conceptual, performance-art groupy game.
"Other group members stored their bodily fluids in baby-food jars or wrote cryptic messages on packaged skirt steaks. Their artworks were known as 'pieces,' a phrase I enthusiastically embraced. 'Nice piece,' I'd say. In my eagerness to please, I accidentally complimented chipped baseboards and sacks of laundry waiting to be taken to the cleaners.Anything might be a piece if you looked at it long enough." (David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day)
If we are committed to creating TransTasman repositories of digital content for learning, and housing these within LMS, then I guess we have to make the best of it. I quite like Oliver et al's (2005) suggestion of developing learning objects and housing them in learning designs with an ability to track learning and support discovery, reuse and interoperability.
“True learning objects, as defined by SCORM conformance, contain many more features and properties than these resources as a consequence of their ability to track learning and support discovery, reuse and interoperability.” Oliver et al 2005
I know I a pushing it here but I still reckon we may well have missed the obvious with all this creating of digital learning objects - When you look at issues of reuse, interoperability, repackaging, grain size, disaggregation etc etc we already have something that does this quite well - a system of characters and symbols that represent sounds and things that can be easily reused by students and educators to learn with, that can be easily encoded into binary - I give you the alphabet.
a, b c, d, e, f, etc can be used by the learner in more ways than we can imagine, in ways that can create for example a curmudgeonly blog post title ...
Mr Ed the talking horse on those Digital Learning Objects, which in turn becomes
01001101 01110010 00100000 01000101 01100100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110100 01100001 01101100 01101011 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101000 01101111 01110010 01110011 01100101 00100000 01101111 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101111 01110011 01100101 00100000 01000100 01101001 01100111 01101001 01110100 01100001 01101100 00100000 01001100 01100101 01100001 01110010 01101110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01001111 01100010 01101010 01100101 01100011 01110100 01110011