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

Dead or alive? Act agile!

When I tell people I am dealing with Knowledge Management, I normally get one of these three reactions:

Wide eyes: What the hell are you talking about?
Appalled eyes: How the hell can you work voluntarily on this?
Pitiful eyes: Why the hell do you join a sinking ship?

While Nr 1 and 2 are easy to deal with (they either never got in contact with KM- or in a way one shouldn’t get in contact with it), Nr 3 is a more difficult one. Because it is justified to ask if KM isn’t dead already.

There was the time when everybody had to do KM. Which in most cases meant document management (please tag your documents according to this taxonomy here and store it in the folder according to these rules here and be sure the document has the structure given here) or implementation of After Action Reviews or World Cafes (please block two of your precious working hours to sit with us discussing what may be useful one day after you left the company or are retired). Accordingly, and that’s where reaction 2 occurs, people got very bored by those consultants learning their organization how to improve. And management did not see the effects expected. So KM faded….

Tom Davenport, one of the „Big Ones“ of KM, lists in his LinkedIn article more reasons for the ship to sink:

  • It was too hard to change behavior
  • Everything devolved to technology
  • The technology that organizations wanted to employ was Microsoft’s SharePoint
  • There was often too much knowledge to sort through
  • Google also helped kill KM
  • KM never incorporated knowledge derived from data and analytics

He concludes: Any chance that this idea (of KM) will come back? I don’t think so.

Kaboom…. Even the gurus don’t believe in it anymore…  But although all those points are relevant, isn’t something else even more blamable?

By looking at KM strategies, we often see big projects, carefully planned, with defined outcomes. Designed within project management tools including process owners, aims, activities. And, I am sure, monthly reports.

But knowledge is human, and it’s management is dependent on human interaction, human needs, human motivation. It is not a process or a production chain.

And- it is AGILE. What you need to know today is not the same you need to know tomorrow. What sounds perfect for one group may not work for the other unit. What started to be useful at one point may not be useful anymore later.

So why not look at software development again? How does this sound:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Want to read more?  Agile Software Development

And want to know how it’s done?

It’s done in a self-organising, trustfulness team. Uuh, sounds familiar, not?
It’s done with face-to-face communication. Heard about this before, not?
And: it is done iterative. Small steps are taken. The product is evaluated frequently, the requirements are re-defined frequently, the customer ( aka the users) are included frequently, and the whole team supports a flexible mindset and planning.

And that’s how management of knowledge should be executed too. Start with something small; talk to people about their needs and about their experiences with what you implemented so far; redesign according to what you heard; let people evaluate again; expand to the next level; talk to people; redesign; evaluate; expand; talk; redesign; evaluate; expand…

So follow Davenport: If another notion that’s related to yours comes along and gains popularity, don’t shun it, embrace it. Implement an agile approach to your knowledge management!

Picture taken from https://pritamsen.wordpress.com/tag/agile-software-development/