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Before we leave content behind (Irwin Devries, Norm Friesen)

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Robert Farrow
16 October 2012

At first glance, the meaning of the term "content" could not be more obvious. It is the stuff we share, study, watch, create and mashup on the Web. However, a closer look at content as substance, as educational, as opposed to form, and even --deposed or enthroned on the Web-- as king, raises many more questions. What is the ³educational² nature of content and how does it relate to its (re)usability?  How does form (e.g. learning designs, management systems) relate to content? And what makes it valuable or valueless? This presentation
will both raise and explore these questions, in the form of a dialogue between the two presenters -one that will gradually expand to include the audience as well. This dialogue will tap in to ideas of curriculum as an overall structure that both enables and limits the coherence of educational ³contents,² contexts and purposes. It will also look at the issue of specificity and irreplaceability that is implied in the notion of content as substance and
materiality -as something that is actually specific to a place and time, rather than ubiquitous  and (theoretically) endlessly adaptable. Our point, in short, will be to show that content is something to understand more fully before we leave it behind.

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Robert Farrow
9:03pm 16 October 2012

Contents tends to be marched through, to be seen as a fixed artefact (textbook, video etc) which is complete and not meant to be adapted.  Is this condusive to learning and teaching?  Devries encourages us to think in terms of transmission: this makes sense of this idea of fixed content.  This is a powerful (and familiar) metaphor which structures and reinforces teaching habits.  But it also encourages rote learning and memorization.

Inert content is often unengaging and locked up in proprietary formats, owned by certain entities rather than shared openly.  It is property which is typicaly propegated by the publishing industry.  

OER and associated emerging pedagogies are raising new questions about the nature and role of content.  But as Wiley (2000) notes with his 'Reusability Paradox', the potential for reuse is typically in an inverse relationship with pedagogical value.

Robert Farrow
9:05pm 16 October 2012

Plato/Aristotle on the form/content distinction - this question goes back to the orgins of Western thought.  We tend to think of form as general and content as specific (e.g. the human form as opposed to a particular person).  Content is a category.

Robert Farrow
9:08pm 16 October 2012

Educational content is typically discussed in terms of forms.  

Robert Farrow
9:15pm 16 October 2012

A hypertext version of Euclid's Elements is presented as an example of how the type of interaction with an educational text can be shaped by the form of presentation.  There is an underlying pedagogy based on deductive/inductive method which can benefit from reorganisation.

Authorship:  this text is attributed to Euclid, but probably had multiple authors...

Robert Farrow
9:25pm 16 October 2012 (Edited 9:28pm 16 October 2012)

Mindmap of Massive Open Educational Workspace - this is a pattern we see in lots of different contexts.  We are also presented with an MITx course and a module from an environmental sustainability course.  Also: a diagram of cell anatomy with the different parts labelled, and the dynamics of celluar processes.

These are different examples of familiar ways that information is presented.  Organisation is typically emphasized: it operates according to particular subject matter and pedagogical emphasis.  It often progresses from basic to advanced, simple to complex so that it engages the reader at their current level.  Educational value is a matter of appropriate contextualization.


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