Re-usable Learning Content Objects or Re-usable Learning Experience Objects?

Michael Feldstein, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Oct 04, 2004
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Where else would someone glibly cite Chomsky's Syntactic Structures except in our field? Glib or not, it is not surprising to see Chomsky used as the base of a response, because much of what I write is in direct response to Chomsky and his ilk (Zenon Pylyshyn, Jerry Fodor, etc). Feldstein is responding to my question, "where was it written that language must be composed of building blocks strung together?" He finds the source for this question in my paper Design Standards and Re-usability (though I must say Learning Objects in a Wider Context frames the idea more effectively). Even so, he effectively finds the source of the tension: "I believe that the rules for re-using experience patterns and the rules for re-using content are respectively analogous to the rules of syntax and semantics." I would say they are analagous in use, but they are not isomorphic - there is nothing, say, in the placement of an image on a web page, or the playing of an audio clip with some video, that corresponds to the rules outlines in Chomsky. That's not to say that the new rules are not generative - but they're generative in the way that a fractal or a network structure is generative, like a tree or a river, not in the way a language-based grammar is generative. Feldstein offers a good, insightful criticism, well worth reading.
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