ASTD-NRC Presentation: Harvesting the Potential of Online Communities

Patrick Osborne
Patrick Osborne

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure to watch an online ASTD-NRC presentation by Patrick Osborne called “Harvesting the Potential of Online Communities.” In his presentation, Osborne had three objectives: a. explain the business case for using online communities, b. outline the key priorities of a successful community, and c. relate online community use-cases. I believe he was successful on all fronts. Read more

Build your own library: What we can learn from Jefferson and Franklin

LibraryToday was the start of the third part of a six part series on informal learning. Today’s session focused on building your own knowledge library. I believe we can learn a lot from Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. Each of these gentlemen were avid readers and prolific writers. The personal library that Jefferson donated to the Library of Congress had 6,487 volumes. Franklin was the father of the public library. But more importantly were the writings of these two gentlemen. Jefferson has approximately 27,000 documents he wrote on file at the Library of Congress. Yale University has forty volumes of 30,000 papers from Franklin.

I think reading and writing made these founding fathers who they were. They found the written word to a powerful method for conveying ideas and sharing knowledge. Franklin was not a fan of intellectual property and believe in the free sharing of information. I feel as Extension educators and instructional technologists, we have almost a duty to share what we know with others through blogs, wikis, image and video libraries. We should capture what we know and continuously build upon it, just as Jefferson and Franklin did in their time.

  • Blogs are great tools for capturing personal ideas reflective of the moment.
  • Wikis are powerful tools for amassing information that can be searched by others. More importantly it can be created through the cooperation of others.
  • Video libraries created on tools like YouTube can capture processes and history. Playlists can be created to share knowledge on a topic.
  • Image libraries can be created to capture change over time or simply a snapshot of a time and place.

These are tools available for you to build your own library. Take time to capture your personal reflections in a blog. Create an image wing in your library along with a video wing. Use a wiki to build a knowledge base available to you and others. It is a not a quick or easy project, but over time it will prove to be valuable; perhaps as valuable as the Jefferson and Franklin libraries.

Using Blogs and Wikis in the classroom

Deb Beck talked to the group about using blogs and wikis in the classroom.

This session will explore the potential – and the challenges – of using wikis and blogs in the higher education classroom. The presenter will offer an overview of each tool and lessons learned as a blogger and as someone who has used wikis for group work in an online classroom.

Deb Beck enlightens us on blogs and wikis
Deb Beck enlightens us on blogs and wikis

Deb started her presentation by pointing out that she had a number of useful resources on her Wiki. What is a blog? Blogs are a great resource for getting current information and perspectives on topics. Blog is a chronological listing of web logs. The most recent post is on the top. Blogs are typically text, but can be photo blogs, video blogs, etc. It is possible to subscribe by email or through RSS feeds. By subscribing, the information comes to you. Blogs are topical, social, and usually public. Deb does not get a many comments on the blogs, but does get discussion through Twitter. Blogs can put the student in a one to many situation instead of a discussion being hijacked.

Deb provided examples of using blogs in education.

  • Sharing research
  • Developing a personal professional page.
  • Sharing knowledge (Laramie Board Learning Project)
  • Inviting conversation (ProfHacker)
  • Sharing the journey
  • Student blogs for reflection (public or private)
  • In the classroom

Deb moved on to wikis. Wikis are a Web-page where many can collaborate. For group work, there are still student fears and anxieties. All technology can be powerful, but none are perfect. Deb uses engagement theory because she believes content created for others will result in a better product. Students appreciate creating a project for others. Students are immersed in a topic. Students learn by teaching. It is also an online collaboration experience. Deb tends to facilitate her course. She provides various support to include providing a video to show how to use a wiki, creates a brainstorming page for each group, stresses to go to the wiki to do the work, sets benchmarks or milestones for specific work products, sets a style sheet, tries to support the community.

Deb speaks to the frustrations, based on her experiences:

  • They can never have “too much” information.
  • Wiki can be scary.
  • Groups can be transient. Different people will be active and inactive.
  • Copyright concerns.
  • Iffy product quality.
  • Group work anxiety X 100 (plus)

Here is Deb’s advice if you want to use a wiki:

  • Clear instructional goal
  • Choose a wiki platform
  • Understand your students & their commitment to your project.
  • Is this stretch in their learning worth it?
  • Be ready to provide support.
  • Have a strong constitution.

Students have different anxieties with wikis. They are not sure about wikis. They do not like group work. They stress about their grade.

Deb has put together a great set of resources to help support others who want to use wikis in the class.

Good idea, using wiki or blog for collecting class notes.  A blog can be used as an optional journal assignment.

Kaijsa pointed out that blogs and wikis are powerful for developing communities of practice.

Preparing for my next informal learning Webinar

Right now, I am working on supporting content for the third Webinar of a six part series. This installment is on creating content to support informal learning.

The upcoming Webinar will focus on four tools that I believe support informal learning in different ways. These tools are blogs, wikis, Flickr, and YouTube.

Presently, I have finished working on three of them, and I am starting to work on the fourth.

Here is are the pages completed:

If you have time, please take a look and let me know what you would like to see. The idea of these pages is to have additional support content for viewers of the Webinar.

Book review: Social media for trainers: Techniques for enhancing and extending learning

Many trainers and educators are now examining or using social media tools to support their work in the classroom. When starting to learn about new tools, there is often a steep learning curve; you must not only learn how to use the features of the tool, but you must also figure out how to use it in an educational setting. Jane Bozarth’s book, Social Media for Trainers: Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning*, will help you get a jump start on the second problem… how to use the tools in an educational setting. Read more