Opened – Week 11

I’m very sorry to be so late but I’m too busy with my students. The approach based on blogging we are using in the Open Education course and that I’m trying to apply in my courses is great but with so many students it may be difficult sometimes. By the way, it is curious to play simultaneously the student’s and the teacher’s role. I like it very much! I also like to mix posts related to both roles in this blog. Unfortunately, posts for my students are in italian, of course.

Even if it is late and I had to read classmates posts too fast, I’m posting anyway because this course is really important for me.

At the faculty of medicine in Florence, we have an experience of seven years in applying computer and internet-based technologies for a computer literacy course. The experience is relevant because it is involving about 700 students per year in more than 20 curricula. The results are good. The use of new technologies allows us to make many interesting learning experiments and the student appreciate very much the new methods: 90% declare that they would like to see these method applied in other teachings.

However, these results have nothing to do with the use of Learning Objects.

The crucial elements were

1) to let the student be more active by means of appropriate activities,

2) to propose activities, tools and environments with which students are already familiar in their life,

3) to be prompt to transform students ideas in new learning experiences,

4) to be prompt in answering their questions,

5) to improve the organization of the courses.

I would say that the didactic material, text and so on, played a secondary role with respect to the points mentioned above.

When preparing the course, I tried to find courseware to reuse but all the attempts failed and, almost always, I finished composing the material myself. Sometimes, I took relatively small pieces of information in Wikipedia or some other places.

In the beginning I even did not know what Learning Objects were. Later on, I heard of Learning Objects by people involved in the management of refreshing courses in enterprises. Soon I realized that the Learning Objects model did not fit well in my teaching practice. I felt quite uncomfortable with all the terminology around Learning Objects and even e-learning.

Reading Wiley’s chapter, The Learning Object Literature, relieved me a great deal! Learning Objects literature is too much technical, too much related to computer science instead of to fields where the learner is the main object of interest.

The question if open educational resources “fix” many of the problems experienced by those who work with learning objects is an interesting one. I do not know if, actually, the idea of open educational resources may solve the problems related to learning objects but I believe the two ideas are pretty in contrast.

Learning Objects involve control and hierarchy. These concepts are quite the opposite of open source, to which the open educational resources thinking is inspired, as far as I understand. In open source you can build something from existing software modules, by changing them and putting them together but you can also grab and reuse small pieces of code taken from many different modules. The open source programmer sees the open source software available in the public domain as a kind of continuum.

There is no doubt that the most similar thing in the field of educational resource is what we have in Wikipedia. Actually, as a former software programmer, I tend to see Wikipedia as the main source of possible chunks of didactic material.

However, the analogy between open educational resources and open source has to be taken with care. The context of open source is much more simple: to see if a piece of software works, you run it with test cases and you correct and test it again until all bugs are found. Of course, this process may be not so simple as we can describe it but the context of educational resources is hugely more complicated. How you can assess that a resource is better then another one? How can you assess that a resource is bug-free? Is this last question actually a meaningful one? Questions of such kind are even more difficult to answer because of the inherently localized nature of educational resources: a resource which is good in a certain context may be completely inadequate in another one.

So, what makes difficult a kind of natural selection of educational resources analogous to that we see in the field of open source, is the absence of a strong and immediate feedback on the quality of the resources. I believe that there may be only one kind of effective feedback: the feedback given by a massive use of the resources and, probably, this kind of massive use may take place only in context similar to Wikipedia.

In any case, I believe also that, significant progresses in the field of education are much more related to the behaviour of teachers and to learning practices instead of to the technicalities of learning objects.

8 thoughts on “Opened – Week 11

  1. Andreas Formiconi says:

    @ silvana

    🙂

    the problem is that when driving fast all the time there is no way to think and … the direction may be wrong …

    let’s spare some time to walk all together …

    😀

  2. robmba says:

    We may have to compare some notes, since I’m involved with computer literacy as well.

    Your experience in that class sounds great. So you need to listen to students, integrate their ideas, allow them to be active, and provide immediate feedback. That sounds wonderful, no matter where your content comes from.

    You point out an important difference between software development and teaching, where the comparison of open source software to OER development does not exactly match, with software QA testing following a bit of a different model than evaluating learning materials. I’ve written about how they’re similar, but as you bring up, they are not always similar.

  3. Catia Harriman says:

    Hello from Athens, Georgia!
    It might be really difficult to keep up with all the blogging that you do, but it was very nice that you posted your comment anyway! I feel that you put much thought to what you say.
    Well, as for judging the value of a resource I would say that it depends on the context. I think that no resource is better than other per se, but it depends on the fact of being suitable for the learner in a particular situation.
    I faced the same situation that you did when I first learned about LOs. I worked in Brazil for a Federal University, in a unit responsible for e-learning solutions. I learned about LOs by interacting with the technical staff (computer science folks) and I soon learned that reusing LOs in our daily practice would not be possible. We had to make our own in order to put them in context.
    Ciao (“tchau” as we write in Brazil),
    Catia

  4. Silvana says:

    Well Andreas,

    I like walking, too!
    However most of the times I need to drive…and even very fast.

    My personal battle against technicalities in learning has started almost 8 years ago, when I decided to set up virtual classes in FunTeaching.

    Anyway I don’t want to loose the pleasure of walking in the long run.

  5. emanuela zibordi says:

    Hallo Andreas, I agree with the first part of your last sentence:

    “In any case, I believe also that, significant progresses in the field of education are much more related to the behaviour of teachers and to learning practices instead of to the technicalities of learning objects.”

    but I think that LOs can help sometimes teaching and learning process. I think also, after reading the documents and posts about the last topic, that there is much confusion in the didactical field, on the two terms (LO and OER). Is the same thing to compare cars and travels or houses and families. They belong to the same topic but are completely different in their mean. (I see OER as concept, LO is a technical tool)

    So I agree with Antonio:

    “I want to put stress on this point: LOs are for me only a “technical way” for producing, and delivering educational content. ONE way, not the only one! We don’t need to be pro or against LOs: they simply exist, we can produce, use and ..reuse them or not, as well as many other type of resources.”

    The metaphor could be: a travel (OER) could need a car, but a train or a bike too. (LO or another resource)

  6. Anto says:

    Andreas, I do not completely agree with you about “control and hierarchy seen in opposition to open resources.
    In the case of LOs, “control” may simply mean “technical specifications”. Also in the Open Source software there are several examples of standardization but open sofware remains… open!
    I want to put stress on this point: LOs are for me only a “technical way” for producing, and delivering educational content. ONE way, not the only one! We don’t need to be pro or against LOs: they simply exist, we can produce, use and ..reuse them or not, as well as many other type of resources.
    So, is Wikipedia a LO? NO, in my view it isn’t as a book or an e-book aren’t as well.
    Is LO paradigm not sufficient to include any learning/teaching activity? YES, of course, but ..who cares?

  7. Elisa - ITALY says:

    Never mind if you are a bit late, I have read your post and I’ll insert two interesting points of yours in my commentary for week 12 anyway. :-)))

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