Pick the right tools out of the box

June 23, 2006

Tools for learning in a wired world

Progress Report

This material will be changing continuously. If managed with wiki and tags, it can be a resource that improves with time. Imagine the value of embedding case examples for the major technologies.

It will be challenging to come up with a good indexing & tagging scheme. Novices need a quick hit; experimenters need more depth; do-ers need the how-to. This may end up as a big, clickable cookbook.

Our existing current resources on the wiki is not a bad start. It suffers from a lack of consistency. Entries should include some standard items: brief intro, main providers, explanatory text, Wikipedia and Delicious links, recommended sources & links, examples from the real world, input from our participants.

I am going into brainstorming/manic mode. You may want to hop in or you may be better off waiting a day or two. (I don't want you to feel left out; hence, this note.)

  • Create a sample page of the reconceptualized wiki
  • Zip through the dozen books on eLearning I find most useful, seeking inspiration

The "front end" of this may morph into an article or two.Tools

The hammer is a great tool, but hammers are not very useful for cutting wood. If only learning situations were like pounding in nails. However…

  1. Learners differ: novices or pro's, nerds or tech neophytes, outgoing or lurkers, daring or conservative, impatient or reflective, volunteers or conscripts.
  2. Cultures differ: value-driven or rule-driven, trusting or controlling, dazzled by innovation or bound by tradition, breaking new ground or fine-tuning, collegial or selfish.
  3. Learning requirements differ: large group or small, firewalled or open, big budget or shoestring, prototype or infrastructure, flexible or rigid, transient or lasting, self-organizing or directed, immediate need or continuous growth.
  4. Learning objectives differ: exposure or how-to, stable or in flux, one-time or recurring, group outcome or individual, emotional or cognitive.

Corollary to Murphy's Law: you can never do just one thing. Builders rarely use a single tool for a complete project. More often, they use a hammer and a screwdriver and a power drill and a ladder etc. Likewise, an informal learning environment could contain…

  1. Blogs + Aggregator
  2. Wiki + List serv
  3. Email + Instant messenger + Collaboration
  4. Blog + Tags + Wiki + Conference calls + Chat + meeting F2F

We can describe the pieces of the environment but must keep in mind that its value outweighs the sum of its parts.

As in a cubist painting, we must address the tools issue from numeous angles. At the most basic level, we will need:

  • a glossary that defines the basic technologies
  • a sorting by application in learning
  • frequent combinations (plus, where possible, cases where they are being used)


Something new will be to relate the tools to informal learning, which rests on a foundation of self-motivated learners, discovery, small pieces loosely joined, collaborative learning, communities of practice, self-organization, visualization, prototyping, personal knowledge management, social network analysis, conversation, story, dialogue, and spontaneity. Jay thinks of what's being learned as flowing, with meaning defined by the learner; control is a delusion; the world is on Moore's Law; transparency works. How-to lessons and hints, e.g. how to Skypecast

Notes:Design Patterns of Social Computing uses name, problem, example, context, solution, implementation, variance, and consequences for patterns such as collaboration, mentoring, tutoring, apprenticeship and the democratization of ideas.

Coming of Age, an Introduction to the New World Wide Web classifies educational tools as:

Email and SMS Texts
Instant messaging
Some games software
Static content web sites
Dynamic content web sites
Folksonomies (or social tags)
Content management systems (CMS)
News servers
Forums Discussion
Version control systems

Why do they leave out simulation, gaming, job aids, social software, RSS?

%d bloggers like this: