Old Hat

I was thinking the other day about how I could best explain what the difference is between digital learning object and an asset. First, as many people already do, I would drop the prefix digital as it distracts from the important principals that are involved.

When I used to work as a geography teacher in a humanities department colleagues and myself would spend many hours producing programmes of study, lesson plans, and devising learning activities, etc. Although I didn’t know it then, in some circles this kind of activity is known as instructional design.

However, two activities I remember involved a set of photographs (the assets) of cities in more and less economically developed countries that were kept in a brown paper envelope (a repository). The task of small groups of students was to throw the pictures on a table in front of them and then devise categories into which the pictures could be placed and then using ClarisWorks create a database (it really was easy in ClarisWorks) of the classification and descriptions of the photographs. Of course, some chose factors like the height of the buildings, the materials they were made of, etc.

In a second work booklet the same set of photographs were used again but this time to consider the possible impact of an earthquake on the different places……….

Generally we would run lessons in a carousel of activities and to manage this organisationally we would produce work booklets (learning objects) to glue the asset and processes (sequences) together with a specific intended learning outcome in mind. These booklets were shared (reused) by many classes with different teachers across year groups. Of course all of the booklets were word processed and stored on floppy disks in a disk box with sticky labels that identified key information (meta-data) about them so that they could be easily found and developed (repurposed) by any teacher in response to our evaluation process. To make this possible all of the teachers had to adhere to a set of pedagogical beliefs, software packages, and format for schemes of work, etc. (Standards).

So unbeknownst to us at the time (1993) and for several years before teachers all over the world were getting down making their own reusable and repurposed learning objects, adding metadata to make retrieval easy from repositories, and adhering to common standards so that all of this could work. Least, that’s what it seems like to me……

2 thoughts on “Old Hat

  1. Shirley

    This reminds me of the day I sorted out the stationary cupboard in my Maths classroom – a large dusty old box was full of unused old wooden recorders. I sent them off to a bemused music department. The recorders were assets (though not to my classes) but I don’t think they were the kind you mean here. I don’t think we had many assets for Maths, as the pupils would have walked off with them, not to mention anything else that wasn’t nailed down.

  2. Stephen Powell

    That raises an interesting issues about IP Shirley. Although many assets are re-usable and can potentially be re-purposed is this always right? This is a particularly difficult issue with culturally sensitive assets that could be used in an inappropriate way. And who owns the IP of the re-purposed assets or learning object? Creative commons licences deal with this to some extent, but it is a very complex field that I do not fully understand.


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