Tuesday, 10 January 2006

RIP-ping on Learning Objects

via OLDaily

I have urged people to stop the debate and get real. I don't know why I am on this again. Perhaps my interest is still alive. Perhaps it is from David Wiley which I cannot afford to miss.

Those familiar with my work will notice that David's argument is almost the same as mine. You don't expect I have something to add, don't you? WRONG! Read on.

Just a bit of history to fill you in why I developed the thinking I have today. I started my journey into modular, reusable construction of learning resources with the concept of "virtual apparatus framework". The first proposed specification dated back to 25th August, 1997. At that time, I recognised that there will always be technical requirements for educators to compose an interactive and engaging webpage. I found Paul Fritz's Director based components extremely interesting, but he was primarily only interested in Director-based development. One of his tool is a graphing tool which can both display different types of curvea and recognise the curve drawn by a student using Bezier curve fitting techniques. Comparison to standard answers can be done by noting the starting point, the end point, the starting gradient, any (and location if any) characteristics etc. He also has another component which can interact with his graphing tool by sending commands between different components. At the time, I was independently working on similar concepts based on Live-connect, Java-applet and javascripts on webpages. I saw the value of a common standard approach to integrate all these together, hence the "virtual apparatus framework" proposal. Unfortunately, for political reasons, we did not further any work.

Back to the present. David wrote about "localisation" in his post. I suppose by localisation, he did not mean translating an English webpage to a Chinese webpage. If I have read him correctly, localisation means modifying the learning resource (or whatever you want to call it) to fit the learning context at hand. He cited resources in format such as "Flash files, Java applets, Photoshop images with many layers, and the like". To me, localisation means the ability of *any* educator to take a digital learning resource and makes the necessary changes herself. Is that a big ask? Yes, it is. Frankly, with my technical skills (I wrote Fablusi all by myself) and daily work related to learning technology, I am not confident to say that I can do that. The creation of Paul's graphing tool is not just programming skills in Director. It also involves good understanding of mathematics and digital graphics.

So, what is the next possible scenario?

What about creating a webpage with all these wonderful resources embedded within? Yes, that's much closer to the expected skill set of educators.

I realised that creating "content" is the easy part. The demanding skill is in creation of interesting interactions either among the students or between student and content. I believe it is still true today. One of the contributing factors to the success of blog in education is the easy of creation and use!

To me, in the term "learning object", we should emphasis on the "object-oriented programming" characteristics of object. These objects should have well defined "behaviour" and can be easily controlled by external parameters or commands. In addition to the graphing tool, what about an image viewer which will show different layers controlled by the students or the teacher while within the context of the learning at hand? Easy to create, yes. Can anyone just rip out one in an hour? I don't think so. I believe a lot of teacher will find this object very useful!

The ultimate ideal is all these wonderful "learning objects", when embedded in a webpage will behave co-operatively. That's the "virtual apparatus framework" dream.

*Fritze, P. & Ip, P. (1998). Learning Engines - a functional object model for developing learning resources for the Web. In T Ottman & I Tomek (Eds.), Proceedings of ED_MEDIA & ED-TELECOM 98 Conference. (pp. 342-7). Frieburg: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Kennedy, D. & Fritze, P. (1998). An interactive graphing tool for Web-based courses. In T Ottman & I Tomek (Eds.), Proceedings of ED_MEDIA & ED-TELECOM 98 Conference. (pp.703-8). Frieburg: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Ip, A. & Fritze, P. (1998). Supporting component-based courseware development using Virtual Apparatus Framework script. In T Ottman & I Tomek (Eds.), Proceedings of ED_MEDIA & ED-TELECOM 98 Conference. (pp. 597-602). Frieburg: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

No comments: