A fool with a tool…..

… is still a fool.

If you read blog posts of me before (like this one), you know I am very sceptical about using tools. Of course there are some very creative and innovative ones, and I personally like to play around. But then I often feel like they ask faculty and students to adapt to them (the tools) instead of seamlessly integrating into their (faculty and students) work flow. And this is the beginning of the end. Moreover, as I wrote in the post linked above, many of them disappear as quickly as they appeared.

I am very convinced that the essential point when creating fun /interactive /innovative /engaging /collaborative /younameit (online) lessons is concentration on the content and the design, not the environment or tools. 

The first questions should simply be „What shall my students learn?“. Is it some formal learning like basic physics? Is it a pure list of terms? Is it solving of some problem-based tasks? Is it applying what they learned before by adding their own tasks?

Of course the next question is „How shall they learn this“? By reading some text and studying some graphics? By self-generating content? By group work? By searching for online sources? By interviewing seniors? By discussing within a group of peers?

And then the time comes to first think about the „How to deliver this to the students“. And I strongly recommend to keep it simple! Use what you have– the Wiki in your LMS for example offers tons of possibilities, like generating a collection of case studies written by the students, gather additional resources found by the students, accumulate Q&As, curating a (self-made) video collection. Assignments include peer-reviews, group-compiled glossaries or text-based exams. And workshop modules provide space for group-written texts as peer-assignements. So be creative how to use the many options you already have in your LMS or other internal instrument like (micro)blogs or chat or document repository.

And if you still have this brilliant innovative idea you are not able to implement with what you have- there are more and more plugins for LMS that integrate third-party services. Just be careful that the service will not have shut down next year ;-).

Picture taken from http://www.schrockguide.net/uploads/3/9/2/2/392267/5395036_orig.png

Using WordPress as a learning management system

Last week I had another serendipitous event letting me learn something new. I stumbled upon a job offer, had a glimpse on the company’s website, and saw that they use WordPress as an LMS (learning management system). So here I am, working with WordPress for years now, and never thought about using it to present content for learning like articles, presentations and videos, do tests and quizzes, display learning paths and personal learning progresses. Of course I immediately had to check out what LMS plugins are available for WordPress and what value they have compared to a stand-alone LMS like Moodle.

Continue reading „Using WordPress as a learning management system“

Just a scoop: Mobile Microlearning- a natural venue for spaced learning

One of my favourite sources is the Learning Solutions Magazine. It covers a wide range of topics with an emphasis on EdTech- educational technology- and learning theories. Here an article that combines both: Mobile Microlearning- a natural venue for spaced learning.

  1. Microlearning: Microlearning is learning in small pieces. We may all remember when we had to learn a vocabulary of a foreign language. What was suggested to us was learning a little chunk every day (and repeat what we learned before).
  2. Spaced learning: Spaced learning means intensive learning with breaks. Example given: An intense lecture – break – a second lecture that picks up information from the previous one and puts it into context – break – a third lecture applying the information already given to a particular problem.

It’s no rocket science to see the neat combination the two learning methods offer. Offering several pieces of microlearning units, building up on each other by including content taught in earlier units, is not only providing flexibility for the student, but in fact lets him unknowingly apply instructional concepts known to enhance learning and reduce forgetting.

Oh, and of course, nowadays the units have to be mobile. Or not….

Visualize your knowledge!

Currently I am working on a project that includes visualisation of information and knowledge, respectively. Visualisations can help to clarify information, to compress large amounts of information, to transfer knowledge, to trigger insights in the viewer, and to support the creation of new knowledge by stimulating imaginary. So visualisations influence most of the traditional building blocks of knowledge management.

visualizations_probst2

More than text, visualization can also provoke emotional reactions, both positively (improving our understanding) and negatively (manipulating and distortion), thereby motivating the viewer to contribute and/or create.

Continue reading „Visualize your knowledge!“

Just a scoop: Two cool recommendations for H5P libraries for Moodle

As I am currently working on a Moodle project, I am reading quiet a bit about user cases, design possibilities and extensions. Thereby I stumbled upon an article in elearningsindustry.com about H5P libraries. They integrate into Moodle as activities and offer additional features.

The article points out 5 libraries that can be helpful especially with adult learners- so my learners. I let you read it and judge by yourself, but these are the two features I liked most:

I love the Hot Spots! When working with visuals, it’s a great possibilities to even enhance engagement and learning by letting the student click on a spot put into an image or visual for further information.

I also like the video library that allows implementation of questions right into the video. They used it in a MOOC I attended a while ago, and it helps to keep up the attention and to reflect on what was just said.
Articles I read and like are regularly posted on my scoop.it page.

Technology, Organization, Humans

Humans, Organisation and Technology are considered the three cornerstones of KM.

Technology is the easy one. Design and implementation of information and communication infrastructures and tools. Progress in technology has lead to a development of KM, and although there was a period (or maybe there still is this period) when technology was taking over KM, being the central focus and alleged solution for all problems, technology is a very important aspect and enabler of KM. The main task here may be to identify the right tool to be implemented at the right time and the right place. Ideally, the used tools seamlessly integrate in the normal workflow of the people– which often asks for less than tech-lovers would like to see.

Organisation is more complicated. Because it does not deal with tools and technique, but with hierarchies, culture, environment, frameworks. In order to implement a successful KM strategy, there needs to be a knowledge- and learning friendly atmosphere, a social component smoothing the way for effective exchange. Creating such an environment often requires structural and mental changes within an organization, which in turn asks for open minds and participation- if not even courage to leave old paths and structures. An open minded leadership that not only supports those changes but also exemplifies them is essential for success. But even when this support is available- considering the many factors that form an organisations culture, one can truly ask if it is even possible as an „outsider“ (which consultants normally are) to grasp them, to disassemble them and even more to change some of them. In any way, a close interaction with key members of the organisation and a serious effort include the organisation aspect in the KM strategy is inevitable.

And then there are humans. Humans, as the carriers of most of the relevant knowledge within an organization, are naturally the core of every KM strategy. But unlike a database, humans need to be willing to share this knowledge and to acquire new knowledge, they need to see a sense in what they are doing, a profit in participating. They need to be social and interactive to exchange knowledge. People share because they want to, people participate because they are motivated. Both, sharing and motivation can never be enforced. Therefore it is the key of every strategy to consider peoples needs, wishes, goals, constraints, feelings, fears, skills, social competencies, expectations. Sounds like one first has to do a master in psychology, but asking the right questions, listening well, taking people and their feelings seriously, and being transparent may already be a good start. And engaging people already in the design process and asking regularly for feedback further improves acceptance and motivation. Which is clearly inevitable for every KM strategy to be successful.

Picture taken from Course script „CAS Knowledge Management“ by IKF, copyright A. Bellinger

Another one about MOOCs

Some weeks ago I presented a scoop about MOOC participants. It stated that

Old, qualified people seeking further qualifications are the ones attending

This fact was supported by studies before, but now there’s a new study. Does digital competence and occupational setting influence MOOC participation? Evidence from a cross-course survey from the Journal of Computing in Higher Education finds

  • a medium age of MOOC participants of 43 years
  • a percentage of 81 of MOOC participants with tertiary education
  • high digital competence of MOOC participants
  • up to 6 participation in MOOCs and 4 completion of MOOCs by current MOOC participants

Accordingly, the study concludes that

MOOCs were a well-accepted alternative for unemployed people with a higher educational level and those workers who did not received support for professional development

You know I completely agree to that. In the Western World, MOOCs serve primarly as a continued higher education tool for those people having time and/or additional interests. This may also be one of the reasons for the famous high drop-out rates of 90%. Drop-outs may be adults just wanting some snippets of a topic or just checking out if they’re really interested.

But it makes me wondering if the ongoing hype around MOOCs really leads to the propagandized free education for everyone (having a fast enough internet access). Some sources say yes- like the Harvard Business Review which sent a survey to 780,000 people, from 212 countries and territories, thereby finding that those with low status report more benefits form their MOOC education.

w150914_zhenghao_whosgetting3

It remains open why in OECD countries the numbers are different- is it a thing of perception?

But for me it still remains mainly a hype about a new technology one has to host (too), a new tool one has to play around with (too), a new way of marketing one has to apply (too). Otherwise it seems hard to explain why more and more MOOC platforms appear, at least in Europe with mooin, imooc, and many many more.

Another aspect is propagated by the European Union. The EU is supporting the EMMA project, the European Multiple MOOC Aggregator Platform. Their aim is to

provide a system for the delivery of free, open, online courses in multiple languages from different European universities to help preserve Europe’s rich cultural, educational and linguistic heritage and to promote real cross-cultural and multi-lingual learning

They offer MOOCs from 11 different universities in multiple languages, so you can learn about gamification in Italian, or Internet Search in English thought a Spanish university.

To me this looks quiet European: A lot of effort to keep this structure called EU together by trying to enable cultural exchange. But who the heck wants to learn gamification in Italian?

6311fb9efe4501e2728851998e889477cd545a39But wait…. They also offer very short MOOCs where distinguished personalities speak about topics of general relevance. Like David Weinberger about The Networking of Knowledge. So I have to stop here. Old, qualified me needs to attend another MOOC……

This service has shut down

So it’s this time of the year when Jane Hart compiles her Top 200 Tools for Learning. It’s her 10th list of tools that help people in professional and personal learning, workplace learning, and education, and it’s based on votings by learning professionals worldwide. Some of the tools are (very) widely known and well established, like YouTube (this years’s No 1) and Twitter, Moodle, a bunch of Webinar services, presentation tools from PowerPoint to Prezi to Slideshare, and so on- check it out yourself.

But then there are all those other tools. New tools. The list used to be a Top 100 list, now it’s a Top 200 list. Which already says a lot. New on the list this year are e.g. Flipbuilder, which „provides Flash and HTML 5 flip book design software to build 3D flip-page effect e-books from PDF, images and Office files“. Or Curatr, „a social learning platform from HT2 which enables rapid delivery of gamified courses“. And many more.

Although I like to see new tools appearing, I immediately have to ask myself- how long will this service be alive? And what do you do if it’s discontinued??

Webtools4U2Use is a Wiki by K-12 school library media specialists, and on their Finding the Right Tool site, which is very rich too, they include an interesting blog post by Greg Garner dealing with those questions:

But there’s an ugly side to all these free web-based tools that have spawned dozens of conference presentations with cleverly-worded titles: sometimes they fail. I’m talking about the big fail: shutting down the service.

He advices 3 things:

  • There is no such thing as a free lunch. The web has conditioned us to believe that everything should be free. Except that nothing is free. If you like a service, pay for it. If there isn’t currently an option to pay, email the creator/developer and beg to send them money. (Seriously.)
  • Think About Ideas, Not Tools. Always ask yourself what you’re hoping your students will learn before you select your tool. (Don’t use the tool for the tool’s sake)
  • Think Categorically. Think about the various roles that each of your tools fill. Know what kinds of technology (not which tool) would best augment student learning

Read more at: What To Do When Your Favorite Tech Tool Calls it Quits

I completely agree, especially with No 1. That’s why I pay for most of the tools I use- normally there is a basic plan which is low-cost. I just subscribed to a resource planning tool for $2.50 per month. I guess that’s affordable, not?

Beside that, I always consider two other things:

  • Is this new tool really more functional than what I used so far? Or does it just look shinier than my old, established one?
  • Do I trust the developer enough to (already) implement the tool into my workflow? Or is it better just to play around with it with unimportant data and wait?

Most of the time I decide to wait. I do use it, I play with it, and if I like it, I buy the Pro version and hope many other people will do the same. But to include a tool into my personal Top Tool list, it definitevely has to prove to be long-lived. And up to that point, I only feed it with data or information I do not grieve for when it disappears.

One of the tools I just discovered and I am testing now is list.ly. You can check it out here:

Picture from macrumors.com

Are you connected to me on LinkedIn? Find your dot!

I recently stumbled upon Socilab, a very neat web service that enables you to visualize your LinkedIn Network. Socilab is open source, and its idea is

to educate people about their social network data and to make analysis more accessible for everday users

It not only provides you with many connected dots, but also with some metrics. What for, you may ask. Well, first it’s just fun to see your connections flying around you as colored dots. Second, visualizations help people to understand complex things and may inspire them. Visualizing your network can lead to the discovery of (unexpected) connections, clusters, and holes. This again may just be a fun insight. Or, more rationally, may make you think about how to enlarge, diversify, and strengthen your network. Because your network is your main source for learning, inspiration, and development.

Following other peoples thoughts, opinions, insights, and developments lets you constantly learn new things, get new perspectives on old things, and grow. In order to let this happen, your network has to be diverse. You don’t learn too much from the fellows you shared your whole professional pathway with. Who inspires you are those people at the edge of your network, those who share some but not all of your interests.

So how to find these people? One way is rational: Analyze your social network, find „loose dots“, expand from there. Actively search for connections in areas you’re not connected with already. Ask people to introduce you to their network.

But then there is also serendipity.

Serendipity has helped me discover a world that I would have never known before. The foreign places-foreign in the sense I have never been there–are where I have the greatest leaps in understanding and grasping of the potential. I cannot imagine not knowing what I have learned in serendipitous encounters.

writes Anne Adrian about her experiences with blogging and online engagement. Serendipity, that’s the fortunate encounter happening by chance. That’s reading an article, following a link in it, following a second link, and suddenly bumping into something new and wonderful. Serendipity just happens, it cannot be planned or aligned with goals. But by being open-minded in a well-connected time, and by allowing time spent with „just browsing around“ or „just talking and connecting to people for no reason“, chances for serendipity to happen rise. Don’t miss this opportunity!

But back to you, my dots. What did I learn from the analysis of my LinkedIn network?

monika_linkedin_network_analyzed

Not very surprisingly, I am well connected to Academia (purple dots) and the health care industry/ the medical sector (yellow dots), and those people are also well connected among each other. Interestingly, some people I do know from those fields stay very low connected on LinkedIn (some of the scattered dots), so the network may strengthen by introducing them to each other. Still, it is not the most diverse knot in my network- many people share education and/or professional milestones with each other. But then those are the peers who know, understand, and support you.

The most colorful spot is at the bottom: people I know from my private life, and people I met during a stay abroad. They do have immense diverse background and therefore are valuable inputs for further learning and development. Keep an eye on them!

But clearly there is one very weak area: The area I am just entering, the field of Knowledge Management. So although I strongly believe in serendipity and its great value, I learned from my analysis that I should start to also rationally connect to people who can help and support me to enter this new field and to connect me to more peers and mentors in KM.

Curios about your network? Check it out at Socilab!

Enabling the human factor in knowledge management: Web 2.0 and Social Media

While for a long time KM was very technology-driven, and while this happened in a period technology just started to evolve and mainly delivered tools like databases or first platforms, KM got to something that resembled more information management and was focused on how to transfer this information from one to the other. This approach neglected the fact that knowledge is human bound. Knowledge is a sum of information, context, human experience, and personal views and is always connected to a person, the expert knowledge worker.

Therefore, KM has to do a shift from the know-what to the know-who-knows. It gets less important to know something than to know who to contact, who to ask, who to connect to. Based on those interactions, one is then enabled to develop one’s own skills, to implement others experiences and knowledge into one’s own setting or context, and thereby to develop new knowledge that can be given to others.

In this approach, people are central. Knowledge is shifting from information to human mind. Management has to change focus from designing environments to enabling human interaction and networks. And the new tools of Web 2.0 and Social Media are very important enablers of this new approach, maybe even the one stimulus it needs for the shift.

Over the last years, people from all ages and with diverse backgrounds started to use social media- Facebook for personal use, a blog they follow, or forums to search for information on very specific topics or problems. They discovered that the world is full of experts, of people sharing their experiences and giving advices. Googling a solution for a problem got more common than asking people around you. Concomitantly, people started to share their own knowledge, to contribute to discussions, to give insights. Communities formed, and social media got an important place in peoples everyday life.

Now this new form of interaction and sharing is coming to business life. Slowly, people start to adapt what they experience in private to their business environment. They connect to each other inside and outside an organization, they seek, they sense, and they share what they know, using the tools or practices they know from private life. This is totally changing the way information was distributed within organizations so far. Now information is beginning to be really shared, and it’s done bottom-up, agile, and participatory.

Still, it is way too early to celebrate a new area of knowledge management. Although a participatory and de-centralized approach is very likely to be way more accepted by users, there are many hurdles to overcome. Even when management supports knowledge sharing within a company, they may be suspicious to implement “leisure tools” into their business environment- maybe their employees are more chatting about sports results than business projects? Employees may be hesitant too. Not everybody is using social media in private life, not everybody likes technology-based tools, not everybody is open to try something new. There may be disagreement about the tools used: Is microblogging or a blog with comment function better for us? The preferences may be very personal. And last but not least: Can we really benefit from social media if in the business settings, contributions are similar than outside: 1% of regular contributors, 10% of from-time-to-time contributors, and the rest is just reading?

So it’s not time to open this bottle of champagne yet. But it’s definitively time to put it into the fridge and get the glasses ready!

Picture from pixabay