On the horizon for educators is a new resource just now beginning to take shape in some states. If you have not yet heard about “content repositories” or “Learning Object Repositories,” consider this E-hint your first introduction to a new kind of digital library. A Learning Object Repository is an idea birthed, in part, from the use of various software designed for online learning, each of which is referred to as a “Learning Content Management System,” or LCMS for short. In the creation of online courses, many learning materials are created and stored for present and future use. They are readily accessible with Internet access, and content is usually created, selected, and shared based on its lack of copyright restrictions. Such material is either “copyright free” or perhaps labeled with some level of “Creative Commons” license. Further, carefully created digital learning materials (PDFs, videos, images, charts and graphs, even software or apps, and so forth) can be aligned to the Common Core State Standards and classified by a number of searchable keywords.
In a rudimentary fashion, Wikipedia is similar to a content repository. Many contributors have added to a large body of freely available information accessible by anyone with Internet access. Now, imagine educators likewise coming together to create curriculum-enhancing resources that are fully aligned and leveled so that teachers can find the exact resources needed for a particular learning outcome. Students that are performing more quickly and beyond grade or course level expectations can be quickly challenged if such resources are readily available to teachers in real-time learning situations.
States working to create learning repositories include Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Florida’s project is called The Orange Grove. It is immediately searchable or you may simply browse their collection. Illinois is in the process of developing “ISLE” or Illinois Shared Learning Environment. Their stated goal is to “empower educators and learners with integrated data and tools to personalize learning and drive success pre-K through career.” You can read more about the North Carolina Learning Object Repository. Finally, the Kentucky Learning Depot has an excellent video explaining how their repository is designed to work.
What does this mean for you as an educator? For the time being, it may simply mean another few sites to add to your toolbox when searching for free learning resources for you or your colleagues to use in your classrooms. However, if your state is in the process of creating a content repository, you may want to consider becoming an important “contributor,” in which you help other teachers with contributions of valuable standards-aligned content that you create, or perhaps have already created.
A new initiative by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seeks to do with learning repositories what Melvil Dewey did with his decimal system to help us find and classify books. The goal is to create a method to categorize and tag learning tools in a systematic and consistent fashion. This initiative is called “LRMI” for Learning Resource Metadata Initiative. One day soon, we may see a concise guide to help us find the digital learning materials we need much more quickly and efficiently than a simple Google search, which is often not helpful at all.
Not surprisingly, universities are already ahead of the game with the creation of digital repositories. One particularly interesting site is Repository 66. Here you can see and access many higher education digital repositories worldwide, including one from the University of Kansas and the University of Nebraska. Many of these, however, are abstract-only databases, so accessing primary sources from these sites may be somewhat problematic for the public at large. Another problem one can face when searching these sources is finding material that has been scanned for documentary or historical purposes and may well be outdated. These are all reasons why states and schools should be interested in contributing to their own, well-designed and planned repositories. P-12 schools have needs unique to the growth and development of young learners.