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Saturday, 2 May 2015

Content - a deposed king

Choosing my regular blog for this response to #rhizo15 week 3. Dave's post raised questions around  content in learning. I have several different angles to bring to this. 

Firstly a discovery I made shortly after I started to work in an HE teaching context. I discovered that my colleagues teaching language undergraduates consider themselves to be content experts. This is distinct from those of us who are language teachers on Institution-wide language programmes teaching undregrads of subjects other than language (maths, politics etc). This really confused me. Surely they, like I and my colleagues were teaching language - just with a slightly different focus. I was certainly unaware of this distinction when I was an undergraduate studying French. I was clear I was learning the language whilst using sociological or literary sources. I completely accept that they are more up to date on the detail of social trends or literary criticism according to their research focus, whereas we focus on approaches to learning and metacognition - skills acquisition. 

Secondly, the saying when commercialisation of web first came about was content is king. Marketting was all about creating interest in your brand, finding interesting content to integrate in your website that would attract visitors. Companies paid big money to buy from content producers and associate it with their brand. This was "click bait". This was described by Steve Wheeler on his blog post ...context is king

Steve always has a knack for getting to the root of the issue. This post  was the pointer to making content open - he says "In education, if all learners receive is content, content, content, then they will be... well, discontent."  If content matters in education, what matters most I believe is that it is open. Open educational resources can lead to all sorts of unexpected (and usually positive) things. Those who find it can repurpose, remix, share and build new learning, contributing to the constant evolution of their Community of Practice. Creatve Commons licensing will be crucial to this. The rhizome in action...

Finally for the reason for me that content is the deposed king and context rules, again I am returning to another post from Steve. As educators we can find content, we can select and curate the best of that content but what really matters is the context we provide for learning. This is where great teaching happens. Get that wrong and essentially learners are finding their own way (or not, you may have lost them). 

I am grateful to Steve that he is an Open Educational practitioner, all his posts are available CC BY or CC BY SA. If you are an educator and that means nothing to you take a look at Education Creative Commons You need to know. Don't let content to be bought and sold, learning, like the web must be available to all. 

"Content is people" says Dave. Content in the contexts above is just stuff - a document, a book, a video, a "learning object". Used by managers as this is something they can measure. Does a course have content? Yup, 3 book chapters, 12 videos and a set of quizes. Lets not assume that access to content = great learning experience. That is clearly style over substance. The interactions we have - the context - is clearly more important.