Learning Technologies that Are Not Meant for Learning: A Critical Discussion of Learning Objects

Jan Nolin


So-called “learning technologies” often build on traditions that presuppose ideas of learning that are quite contrary to modern educational ideas. The example discussed here is the notion of “learning objects”. These are built on ideals of structuring and reusing educational content according to the object-oriented tradition within computer science. It is argued that this tradition, together with the established practices of producing instructional materials within Instructional design, have developed a series of top-down standardisation projects that are out of tune with modern pedagogy. It is also maintained that these projects have failed to connect with the opportunities created through social tagging. Furthermore, the key technology of XML, so crucial for advanced web applications, can be seen as constituted by a number of ideological layers. It is argued that part of the failure of learning objects lies in the reproduction of key ideological layers, rather than adapting XML to the actual needs of professional practice, in this case teaching/learning.


education; ideology; learning objects; social tagging; XML (Extensible Markup Language)

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