Lego by Ralf Roletschek

Learning Objects

The “learning objects” approach to creating educational materials is reminiscent of the flip books for pre-school children in which they can mix up heads and bodies for different people or animals to create their own chimeras.  It doesn’t matter if the platform is digital or not — the truth is that teachers have always been making mashups to suit their own students’ needs.

The news that a major educational publisher is once again attempting to create standardized learning objects thus comes as no surprise, nor does the partnership with a technology giant’s proprietary platform (McGraw-Hill-Microsoft).  The biggest change here is the linking of data to the object, thus theoretically enabling personalized instruction to be analytically driven.  David Wiley‘s reaction is that what gets lost in this world of remixes is the context in which the object appears — which gets ironed out into uninformative blandness:

The Reusability Paradox typically leads designers of learning objects to attempt to “strike a balance” between effectiveness and reusability. This generally results in materials that are neither particularly effective NOR particularly reusable across contexts.

He believes the way out is to create open license objects that are platform-independent and not subject to copyright restrictions.  D’Arcy Norman for the most part agrees, with special caveats for closed file formats such as Flash or obscure proprietary (but documented and “open”) metadata and content packaging formats that also make things difficult to share and reuse.

So why post about learning objects here?  Because WorldView was designed to take some of these arguments into account.  First, WorldView’s materials are written in chapters, with specific audiences in mind, whether high school or middle school.  All the ancillary materials associated with that chapter can be thought of as boxes or sidebars in a traditional print textbook.

Screen Capture from American History I, filter view "chapters"
Chapters filter view in American History I

But because our products are software, not print, we can also gather each object — chapter overview or ancillary — into a separate filter that can be used independently to meet learning objectives.  Whether you want to create your own mashup of materials, or use the study questions to assess student learning, or have students practice a particular type of skill such as image analysis, you can use the Resources filter view (just click on the resources icon) to find things easily.

American History I Resources, fliter view "resources"
American History I resources viewed by filter.

These materials can all be regarded as enrichment — students can choose what they find most interesting (and interest is known to foster learning and achievement).  Some provide more structure than others, but all can be used as a springboard to further exploration and learning.

It’s not open copyright (because researching, writing, and coding are not free).  However, it is firmly fixed in a particular context (which is as close as clicking the chapters icon), it is browser-based making you independent of a particular device or application, and data tracking is available through the Progress Report mechanism.  As a teacher, there are multiple reports you can run on a class-wide basis, as well as the ability to monitor individual performance.

BulbgraphOnOffProject the multiple choice questions and have your class use clickers to answer. Then use the mini-lesson answer to kick off discussion.

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Dr. Annelies Kamran is V.P. for Content and Product Development at WorldView Software, Inc.

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