My four year old daughter has lost Flynn Rider. Some of you are probably not sure who (or what) that is. Some of you likely don't care…after all, four year olds lose stuff all the time. But after searching through the 3 toy boxes, half a dozen shelf baskets, and under every bed, the little doll seems to have just disappeared. (Why is my dog sitting over in the corner seemingly smirking?)
But let me put it into another context. Professor X has lost their lecture on homoscedasticity. Professor Y can't find that great video from the BBC which describes how eye contact is unconsciously appealing sexually. Professor Z can't remember where that test is that she built around comprehension strategies in elementary school kids. They have checked every folder on their computers, every file in their cabinets, and every website they can think of, but the content seems to have just disappeared.
Ah, now do I have your attention? As a professor for 17 years, I know how hard it is to manage content. One term you find a great new way to teach students about groupthink, then you don't teach small group again for 3 semesters. Now, it's time to pull that exercise out and you can't find it! UGH! Or what about the amazing PowerPoint slide you created showing how to use 3 points in an arc to discover the radius of a circle that are nowhere to be found?! You know you created them. You know you used them! But now you have 135 PowerPoint files to go through, each containing 25-50 slides, hoping you can figure out which of them holds that single, amazing slide.
For a long time, educators…heck, PEOPLE have wanted better ways to manage our content. From the Dewey Decimal system to file cabinet accessories to the ERIC database, people have always wanted a better way to store and (ultimately) retrieve their stuff.
And now, with the amazing evolution of technology, better ways finally exist. They may have snuck up on some. A super clever way to bring metadata to the masses may have been a big milestone (thank you www.delicious.com). Federated searches using various types of strings becoming commonplace may have been the backbone (thank you www.google.com). But the point is, our content can be amazingly easy to find, distribute, push, pull, and otherwise use than ever before. All thanks to digital repositories.
Today, I can tag my content in ways that are meaningful to me or to my organization. I can search through that content by iteration, usage, keyword, description, and much more. Then, I can simply push or pull it from any location to any other location, even sharing it with other professors along the way. We can collaborate on work together or I can simply create a 'read-only' version for my colleagues to use. I can truly find anything, anytime, from anywhere and use it.
In other words, Flynn Rider hiding in the bottom of my daughter's toy box wouldn't be a problem to find anymore! If only metadata and taxonomies worked for four year old toy containment…and if only my dog didn't like to eat plastic…
Good luck and good teaching.