More on Transparency vs. Reuse

Leigh Blackall replies to my previous post using the example of working with MediaWiki (which is a boon to reuse, but requires training and formatting time — which, in turn, sucks some of the uptake out of transparency efforts). It’s a great example of something just at the edges — like Leigh, I think my instinct would be to push ahead with MediaWiki use — but also to realize that we’re getting considerably less info out than if we let faculty simple post the native forms they already use into an unorganized repository of PDF, Word, and Excel sheets.

It’s always a struggle to find the right balance, but on the scale of designing for reuse, MediaWiki production seems a small reuse tax to pay.

His comments though made me think a little more on the issue, particularly about the relation of this issue to the objects vs. source code debates of the 90s and early 00s. And about what this division means when it gets away from that middle area Leigh is working in.

Transparency (show your code) does promote a certain type of reuse — but it is generally I think reuse of professionals of the same caliber. And this is where the OO vs. scripting language comparison comes in useful — the idea of scripting languages is sort of a single tier — scripters reuse what they learn looking at scripters.

The whole OO idea, when expressed as a business model, was that there are different tiers of user/creators — that the way-smart people make the objects and the less smart (and less paid) people script them together, and this maximizes efficiency.

The everybody is a scripter (which I see as a sort of craft model), and the specialized production OO model (which i see as a manufacturing model) come from two really fundamentally different world views — they intersect in this small place, but at the edges they start to tug at each other.

Once again, I think we need both — the Python Library is a thing of beauty, and allows me to do crazy things with code that I could never do on my own. On the other hand, so much of what I’ve produced of use has come from hacking at spaghetti code copied and pasted from somewhere.

I think there are analogues in open education, even in a single implementation. I might grab the best lecture on Aeration from TU Delft and drop it unedited into my curriculum. I might follow that by reviewing the reading list for that course, and pulling one or two readings I have missed into my own curriculum. But I think even is this case, they are two slightly different activities — in one instance I am essentially a consumer, and in another I’m a co-producer.

I’m flitting around a bit on what this idea means, and how it maps onto things, so either bear with me or speak up in the comments and help me nail it down.

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One Comment on “More on Transparency vs. Reuse”

  1. Hi Mike, I’m not sure that scripting and object oriented programming was ever a good analogy with educational resources. It probably was back in the day when specialists we called “instructional designers” used to produce CD shelfware, that later became complex flash animations and scorm packed quizzes and stuff. But the teachers kept using their word, ppt and xl sheets, loading them up as PDFs to the LMS seemed to be as advanced as they could get, and rightly so..

    The reusability was always a paradox both technically and in the nature of the practice of teaching.

    But then comes along Creative Commons and wildly easy and free ways of publishing all sorts of stuff online. Online video was now incredibly easy and free! texts and slide shows, easy and free. Forums, chat and telephony, easy and free.. technically, all we need for transparency AND reusability is a browser with a flash player and java in some instances – the servers do the rest! Legally all we need for reusability is a copyright license and people do the rest.

    So I’m more inclined these days to forgo the MediaWiki preference and just go for transparency with the right copyrights. With the right copyrights, if the content is worth while others will come along and move it into more reusable formats. More advanced digital authors perhaps realise that using open formats from the outset affords a lot of efficiencies later, so I’ll support teachers in what ever their format preference is to start with.. encouraging them toward open formats as much as possible.


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