Sunday, June 10, 2007

Education Needs to Embrace Miscellany?

I am about half-way through David Weinberger's new book, Everything is Miscellaneous (2007). In this book Weinberger suggests that order can emerge out of the miscellaneous disorder of the web.

In short, he suggests that when people are not restricted to the order of the physical realm or even the order of simple physical forms of metadata systems (e.g., the Dewey decimal system or the index in the back of a book), then people can create many new orders (he calls them "third orders") that reflect a particular individual.

These ideas have many implications. I have been thinking about the problems of learning objects and the sharing of teaching materials in general. Most of us expected that as teaching materials were converted from classroom lectures and textbooks to online modes, then there would be much more sharing and construction of courses from web-based teaching materials. Well, mostly this hasn't happened. There are probably lots of reasons, but I have begun to think that we have never gotten the model right for sharing teaching materials. If you look at most of the stuff that we share in repositories like Merlot, you find that we share whole courses, or lectures or web-based laboratory exercises. These are all nice, but they aren't easily adapted to another course or another teaching activity. In short, we don't have a third-order system for sharing teaching stuff. We haven't invented the Amazon or Wikipedia for teaching and learning. Maybe the model is out there, but it is not readily apparent.

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