In David Weinberger's new book, Everything is Miscellaneous (2007) I have been struck by one particular example that I think we should heed as elearning educators. On page 112 he gives an example of the BBC's efforts to make their content available digitally. Weinberger writes,
" The BBC system standardizes over three hundred different attributes that may apply to recorded material, including subject, producers, language, length, type of media, even whether it has won any awards."
I am thinking that if radio and television requires 300 attributes to capture all the dimensions of this work, how many attributes do we need for learning materials. I am thinking that we have underestimated the extent of metadata that we need to add to text, images, etc. in order to make this material easily usable by other teachers. We have not understood the conceptual work that we need to do to make learning materials easily modular for use by others.
Weinberger also reports that Tom Coates and Matt Webb also have given much thought to how find programming, navigate it and use it. They ended up with a decision that the "the most useful object-- the one that accords best with how the audience thinks about programming-- was an episode, ..." Here is another lesson for elearning designers. Have we figured out the right "unit of teaching" or "unit of learning" for our audience? Is this different for teachers than students? It seems to me that rather than work on "microlearning" or "learning objects" we might be better off trying to figure out the "most useful object" for our audience.