Tag Archives: Twitter

Top 10 Tools for Learning 2009


I was inspired by Jane Hart to create my own list of “Top 10 Tools for Learning 2009”. Of course, when I started to write them out there were more than ten… so, for brevity’s sake, this list is from the perspective of the designer, developer, manager of online learning. These are the tools that I have turned to throughout the year to get the work done, and more importantly, to collaborate with others to get the work done. These tools also provide me with learning opportunities making me better at what I do.

  1. Google Apps – Particularly the Calendar and Documents, Spreadsheets to track dates and involve multiple people in the creation and review of content.
  2. Twitter/TweetDeck – I was reluctant to join in, but have been amazed at the amount of information, access to leaders in the field, and potential for professional development.
  3. Skype – Key for conference calls and instant messaging within workgroups. Highly recommend the Skype Number service .
  4. Firefox – You need a gateway to the Internet for all of this work and my personal preference is Firefox.
  5. Basecamp – Allows team members to post and reply to internal messages, work on asynchronous whiteboards, maintain version control of documents…
  6. Dimdim – The features of a synchronous system are not always required, but can’t be beat for walking someone through a product online. Elluminate and Adobe Connect also offer free accounts, but Dimdim works well and can ‘seat’ up to 20 in the free version.
  7. SurveyMonkey – Getting feedback from multiple parties, in an asynchronous manner, that provides easy to assess responses – an online survey tool can be very helpful. SurveyMonkey offers a free account that will serve the purpose of most development teams, but Google Forms is another nice option here.
  8. VoiceThread – This can be a great tool for students to present their projects, etc. in an online class, but I have also used it to demo course projects to other development team members when we are all in different locations.
  9. WordPress – I have found writing my own blog to be a learning process and that has led me to read others’ blogs as well. WordPress offers a super simple way to start a blog that looks great, with the potential to tweak and customize for those with more skills.
  10. Learning Management Systems – Maybe my 2010 list won’t include this, but it’s still a factor in my current course development efforts. I’ve used Sakai, Blackboard, e-College, and dabbled in WebCT and Moodle. The features are similar and provide a framework for delivering a formal course. WordPress has a lot of similar features as well.

Connecting – Networked Learning

This post is my reaction to the George Siemens presentation on 9/29. The main topic was connectivism, but he covered much more ground ranging from a review of learning psychology theorists/theories to artificial intelligence and neuroscience. Using a couple of the presentation’s prompts as a guide, here are the ideas that resonated with me.

LightMyPath-FaithGobleHow do we teach (design) differently?

Since I am an instructional designer, not an instructor, I modified this question a little: How do we design formal educational experiences differently? As noted in the presentation, we have technologies available that allow us to store information and knowledge (and lots of it) outside of ourselves, outside of our own memories. These technologies offer ways to “off load part of our thinking”. Designing courses, particularly ones that will be delivered online can use these technologies, should incorporate these storage tools in ways that make the massive amounts of stored information accessible to learners, and allowing them to move beyond. Designers are thinking more about how to get students to interact and engage with these knowledge stores through course assignments and activities. The days of weekly quizzes are not gone, but I see them less and less as a ‘must-have’ presented by a faculty content expert.

George Siemens also brought attention to the idea of resonance. One of the definitions of this word is “a quality of evoking response“. What resonates with a student? This is a question instructional designers should respond to more often when working with development teams, especially ones that include teaching faculty. I often ask the question: how should a learner be different after completing the course? Perhaps this question should be tweaked to further delve into resonance. What has meaning to the learner? What will have meaning to the learner? Motivation is part of this. Context is a part of this. Engagement is a part of this.

Capturing that opportunity to engage a student is related to resonance. Identifying that opportunity is another thing. More careful evaluation techniques might help. End-of-course surveys are fairly common, but maybe adding interviews or focus groups with students throughout a course, especially in its first run, would be helpful. Certainly not all students are motivated by the same things, and not all students find resonance in the same things within a course.  What about including students in the course design process? Not instructional design students, but students from the department to which the course being designed belongs. Analysis (learner) and Evaluation seem to be the two areas most likely to be abbreviated or left behind completely in course design. Why?  Time and budget constraints, I suppose, but think about the lost opportunity there.

What about lurkers? Which is what I suppose I am, in the eci831 course where I find these presentations. What resonates with them and how are they engaged? What is their motivation for being in the course and for lurking? George suggests that being a lurker may not be a good thing. Not a bad thing, mind you, but a lost opportunity. There is an assumption that those who lurk are 1) less knowledgeable and 2) less confident members of the group. The idea is that these beginners could be helpful to the overall learning process of both their fellow learners and their instructors, if, they allow themselves and their own learning processes to be transparent to the others. In doing so, they offer a new and different perspective from that of their expert instructors and add to the experience of the rest of the class.

Designers should consider lurkers as part of the audience, finding ways to pull these people into the conversation and making it more appealing for them to want to choose to be transparent to the other participants and their instructors. Alternative assignments might be a way, particularly in F2F or blended situations that easily lend themselves to this – students could choose to participate in synchronous discussion or asynchronous discussion but experience both. I once worked with a faculty member who taught one of those undergraduate, auditorium courses with little class participation, except when he opened up a space in the courses companion LMS site. There he saw not only active participation, but also small study groups forming. This kind of thing could be designed into a course.

Where do we turn for guidance?

George pointed out that the youth culture of today is making up its own rules about how these technologies should be used, how to participate in networks, etc. Their parents and teachers aren’t modeling these things, showing them the ropes. They didn’t have these kinds of technologies and networks. It’s a similar situation in higher education. We need to turn to those who are actively using these technologies and networks. Encouraging these individuals, groups, and institutions to talk openly about what they are doing, to document what works and doesn’t work in their context(s) is enormously important. Disseminating this information should be more instant than publishing books and in journals. It just takes too long to get the word out. This will mean changing the mindset of higher ed at-large regarding what is appropriate and scholarly work. While many people, like George Siemens, are actively blogging, can you get tenure this way? Maybe not.

Other stuff to pass along…

Photo credit: Faith Goble, Fickr

Introductions – Social Media and Open Education

As it turns out, I am two hours ahead of the University of Regina, so I chose to view the Elluminate session recording the following morning, instead of attending the live session. My first impressions were related to how well organized the whole course is, even for non-credit students. I saw announcements on Twitter and then was able to review a page in the course’s wikispace that included the slides, a written agenda/outline for the meeting, links to some of the tools that were mentioned, and assignments for the coming week.

How did it go?

I thought the instructor did a great job of addressing a pretty large group mot of whom were non-credit students. (There was a “for-credit only” student session the previous week.) Since I am not taking the course for credit, and there are no expectations for me, other than I should get what I can from the experience and share what I can along the way, it seems only right that the for-credit students have their own thing going on.

The session itself was well-run on Elluminate. There was another moderator, besides the instructor, there to continuously react to student questions in the chat and to provide all of us with URLs throughout as references for the many topics covered. A pretty great “intro session” as they go – no going down the list to ask where everyone was from, etc. (thank you). The course was outlined as far as the tools go and Alec provided his rationale for the course and vision for where we are going.

What did I learn?

There were some nifty things going on:

  • Tweetdeck – I had heard of it but not used it…. until putting my name on the roster for this course. Now I am truly addicted.
  • “The Back Channel” – all of the chatter, passing notes, off line (and maybe online) discussion going on behind the formal instruction.
  • The thought of a “Network Sherpa” leading the way (I like this eversomuch more than the digital native lingo).
  • Greasemonkey – what is this? It was mentioned several times. I need to investigate.
  • And…Wordle was used to display where everyone was from (thanks, again). Over 200 participants overall and 50 or so in the Elluminate session.

Why stick around?

There are a lot of talented, creative, passionate, and curious people in this group. I tend to lurk more than actually engage in this sort of thing, but perhaps I’ll be motivated to jump in a little deeper. The idea that Knowledge is a river, as opposed to a reservoir, was included in this presentation. It’s moving. We can’t take it all in at once. We are going to miss a lot, but we’ll find a lot, too – if we jump in.

I have some reading to do for next week…