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!

Knowing what it is that we know- using storytelling to get to our knowledge

In the management of knowledge, neither the individual nor the community is fully aware of the depth or range of its knowledge. Asking an individual what he knows in isolation from context of knowledge use just does not work. Useful knowledge is triggered by events and circumstances. So one has to re-create the events and circumstances in order to identify knowledge.

Observation of knowledge use in day-to-day business works when business cycles are short. But in long-term settings, other approaches need to be implemented.

Interviews fail as while describing the past, history will be changed to ensure the story of the past meets the requirements of the present (e.g. sale numbers).

But indirect approaches like storytelling provide the needed information. Storytelling as a pervasive technique that triggers the memory of knowledge and triggers a desire to acquire knowledge.

As an example, workshops can be undertaken where teams talk about the former cases of lost and won businesses in a relaxed atmosphere. Teams should be prevented from telling stories in a linear time sequence as their inevitably led to distortion as a pseudo-rational model was imposed on the past. Free flow stories reveal a considerable number of decisions that would not have been revealed through conventional interview, and some material is only triggered to be remembered by a powerful story from another team member.

Observers then note every decision made and consolidate them into simple flow diagrams which are then consolidated by the team members. For each decision point, the participants were asked which knowledge they used there, both explicit and tacit.

The result is an idealised model of the decision process and associated information forms and a consolidated register of knowledge assets used.

Distributing knowledge to a wider community

For effective knowledge transfer, an interaction between trainer and trainees is necessary as knowledge is contextual. By collecting anecdotes, underlying values and rules can be identified. Anecdotes can then be decomposed and reconstructed to stories that include the desired values and rules.

In distant learning, anecdotes told in the non-virtual course can be collected, decomposed and re-written with the main values, rules and characters to guide through the online learning, to create identity and the drive to bond, to entertain and – to motivate!

Based on Storytelling and other organic tools for Chief Knowledge Officers and Chief Learning Officers; David Snowden, Founder of the Cynefin Center

Which KM tool to choose

Knowledge Management can be anything that in one way or another facilitates communication, cooperation, and sharing of knowledge within and between organizations.

This opens up the field of possible knowledge management tools, methods, and techniques for anything from simple box lunches to complex and expensive enterprise knowledge management suites. There is no one KM tool, technology, or method. In KM „Anything goes!“ For this reason KM is a very creative and quickly changing field.

Chief Knowledge Officers (CKO) must know about a great variety of different kinds of solutions, IT-based, organizational, and interpersonal. Not only that, but CKOs also have to make decisions about which tool, technology or measure is the best in every different situation to implement.
From the CAS Course in Knowledge Management by IKF Luzern

It is a major principle of my work to not apply a tool just because it is a KM tool (and has a cool name), but to find the most appropriate one for every situation. A KM tool or method needs to bring exactly the outcome wished for, with the least possible effort and the smoothest possible implementation in the day-to-day business. The vast number of possibilities may seduce to choose something fancy that sounds impressing. But it is the simple tools, the ones already used in an organization, the ones people are familiar with, which are the tools to choose.