What does Pinterest, an online collection tool and a gutter-cleaning tool have in common? Lots actually! You can get away with not having a gutter-cleaning tool in your shed…until you try to do the job with just your hands. Ouch! Then you remember seeing this simple device last time you were in [insert name of local hardware store here], but you didn’t get it because…well….you didn’t think you needed one. But now you do so you make a quick trip to grab one. So what is the moral to this story? [grin] It can be very good practice to spend some time making yourself familiar with ‘what’s out there’, whether you think you need it or not. I was reminded of that on the weekend when I started researching some ideas for landscaping and quickly ended up with too many websites and photos…talk about disorganised! Eeeek! But then I remembered Pinterest. I’ve told you about it before but I’ve never actually used it properly myself because…well….I hadn’t needed it. ;-) To make a long story short, I now have an organised pinboard which I can continue to add to as my garden develops. So now when you read through this Newsletter and come across new tools/ideas, don’t think “Oh…I’ll never use that.” Have a quick look anyway then file it away under ‘In Case I Need It Someday’. [chuckles]
SPEAKING OF PINTEREST…
….we might as well start with this great tool! According to their own blurb on the site, “Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing the things that inspire you.” That’s a good definition when you’re thinking of my collection of landscaping ideas however did you know that it is being used by teachers… trainers.. librarians… businesses…??? Now remember my little lesson above and don’t discount it because you think it isn’t something you’d use…just spend a little time getting familiar with it, just in case. :-) For starters, have a brief read of The Pinterest Guide for Teachers which includes 20 Tips to use Pinterest in the Classroom. The Pinterest Board called Teachers on Pinterest is more school-based however it provides a useful demo of the possibilities. For a completely different perspective, go to How Pinterest Is Becoming the Next Big Thing in Social Media for Business and follow it up with some interesting ideas on how businesses are using it. If you’re ready to start pinning right now, I’d suggest this Guide….or just leap in and work it out as you go along. That’s my strategy. [smirks]
HOW TO ENGAGE YOUR LEARNERS
This is core stuff for trainers….it’s important to get your head around how you could make online learning more interactive, more engaging, and therefore more effective. Some ideas for creating an e-learning design which “allows learners to explore knowledge through challenges and decision making” are explained in Moving from Linear to Non-linear Courses: 3 Simple Tips and there are more sensible suggestions in How to Motivate Adult Learners. But what if the content is, by it’s very nature, unmotivating? Perhaps your learners need to get their heads around industry legislative requirements or they have to memorise screeds of technical information….how on earth can you make this…errmmm…fun?! You might get some ideas from 5 Tips to Add Interaction to Your Training Courses or even from How to Make Online Compliance Training More FUN! Go on…I challenge you. Remember that if it is more engaging for your learners then it’s bound to make things easier for you. Just sayin’. [cheeky grin]
THE SKILL OF SEARCHING FOR INFO
“There is a new digital divide on the horizon. It is not based around who has devices and who does not, but instead the new digital divide will be based around students who know how to effectively find and curate information and those who do not.” This quote comes from the article Critical Search Skills Students Should Know and it explains the ‘tricks of the trade’ such as the use of quotation marks, country codes and specific site searches to make searching more targeted. Google Search Shortcuts and Parameters is a great infographic which puts lots of tips into one single image…in fact, you could print it out and stick it up on your classroom wall! Let’s get a bit silly now (heh heh)….ever had somebody ask you a question and you find out the answer in 2 seconds flat using Google…which they could have done themselves? Next time, try lmgtfy which is an acronym of ‘Let Me Google That For You’. Simply type what you want to look for in the text box and a link to the results page will appear, which you then email to the lazy person. But I bet you really want to know how I created the personalised Google page at left, don’t you. [laughs] You can do one for yourself at Goglogo.
MIND MAPPING YOUR BRAIN…OR OTHER PEOPLE’S BRAINS
Do you ever stick little post-it notes all over a whiteboard so you can organise your own thoughts or that of a group? It’s a good technique, but there are better ways…like online mind maps. Definitely easier than shoving the whiteboard into your briefcase or even taking a photo of it. I’ve used a mind-map to organise my own thoughts (eg when I’m preparing a presentation) and I’ve used it with groups as a collaborative brainstorm, which was handy as everyone was spread across the state! If you’d like to find out more, perhaps start with Top 5 Ways to Use Mind Maps for E-Learning to explore different ways of using them, and then maybe check out The 5 Best Free Mind-Mapping Tools for Teachers. If you asked for my favourite mind-mapping tool though, I’d have to say Mindmeister. You can have a go at the live demo on the front page without needing to sign up, so feel free to have a play! I found this little tutorial which might be useful to get started.
This is incredibly simple…but pretty cool! Came across IcebreakerTags recently, and yeah….it prints out name-tags but the idea is that you add an ice-breaker question on the front for people to answer themselves before they pin the name-tag on. You can have different questions for everyone….or the same one. What a great way to get conversation happening on that first day of term! Or a useful little tool if you’re an event organiser. Just thought you might find it useful. [grin] If you’re in the market for something a bit different, try Icebreaker Ideas. Or if you are one of those people who cringes at the mere thought of ice-breakers, perhaps get an alternative perspective from Not Another Icebreaker!
CALCULATING THE ROI OF E-LEARNING
I’m often asked for an ROI calculator to help with writing a business case for e-learning…perhaps to justify the initial cost. You could start with this one….or if that’s not what you need, try something else from the list 15 Free eLearning ROI Calculators! There….resources provided…done my job……..but here’s my opportunity for a friendly piece of advice. [sneaky grin] Be careful of ROI calculators. Not only do they merely provide ‘ball-park figures’, they only consider the immediate monetary value eg cost of travel, and they don’t take into account the more intangible benefits which come from e-learning. “E-learning impacts various areas of an organization. Performing a simple ROI is possible, but often ignores how elearning contributes to the more strategic goals of an organization. It is possible to state that “this online course was taken by ‘X’ number of people, compared to taking it in a different city (travel and accommodation), we saved ‘X’ dollars.” This, however, is a very short-sighted view of elearning. Does the elearning program make you more responsive to your customers? Is your organization able to innovate more effectively? Do those who need information have greater access to it? Is the organization able to achieve core functions more effectively?” (quote from ROI & Costs, eLearnSpace). I know many of you are under pressure to justify the value of e-learning so by all means use an ROI calculator to get your finance people to listen….but maybe browse the e-book Productivity in a Networked Era: Not Your Father’s ROI and the article An Alternative Way to Assess the ROI of e-Learning in Training as well. Initiating and embedding e-learning brings waaaay more benefit than merely saving potential $$.
TURNING CONTENT INTO A SCENARIO
Ever considered NOT presenting your learning content up front? Ever thought about just offering the student a real-world scenario…and chucking them in feet first so they can see how they go with it? [chuckles] Trust me….it’s very engaging, it highlights the learning gaps for the student and it can even make an interesting assessment exercise. If you’re new to scenarios, have a look at Broken Co-Worker or the Save a Life Simulator or Connect with Hadji Kamal. They’re all completely different but the basics are the same – it’s about making choices. I’ve found some resources you might find useful, like 12 cool ways to use scenarios and 4 ideas you should steal from interactive fiction. Perhaps also have a look at Building Scenarios for E-Learning for more links and resources. Keep in mind that scenarios don’t have to be complex technical marvels though….often keeping the technology simple can be more effective. Oh, and if you’re a Moodle user and you’ve got an hour to spare, here’s the recording of a recent webinar which will provide a demo: Building Scenarios Using Moodle.
PLAYING GAMES IN THE CLASSROOM
I recently stumbled across Kahoot…and was quite impressed! I think the intended audience is schools but hey…..everyone enjoys games and it can be a fun way to remember tedious facts and boring or ‘heavy’ information. Basically, you create a quiz and your learners respond through any device that has a web browser (iPad, smartphone, tablet etc). You can also get a competitive spirit happening in your classroom by imposing a time limit for each question. As students answer questions they are awarded points and a scoreboard is displayed on your screen at the front of the room. They can even create their own quizzes…perhaps break them into teams and have them create quizzes for each other. More information here, but watch the following video [8:52] for a complete ‘getting started’ tutorial.
E-CONTENT: BUILD IT…OR BUY IT?
“There are, no doubt, times when you should buy (purchase off the shelf) rather than build (custom develop) your company’s training. However, the times when you should build rather than buy are more often than you might think.” This is a quote from 7 Instances to Build your Training Rather than Buy It, and it lists some compelling arguments for building your own learning content. I am often asked if it is better to build or buy, and my first response is usually ‘Do you want to own the content’? Owning it means you can contextualise it completely to your learners, your industry, your business, and you can make changes at a moment’s notice. The costs drop dramatically once you get over the initial development stage because you aren’t paying for a license, and you aren’t at the mercy of a ‘content company’ that might put up their license fees next year, whether it’s in your budget or not! All good reasons to seriously consider the initial investment. :-) A good place to start is the National VET Content website as you can download ‘chunks’ of learning content for free, and then customise them to suit. The Non-Designers Guide To Building an eLearning Course provides some ideas of how to begin – and I completely agree with their number one point…Learners come first! The National VET E-learning Strategy’s Design E-learning site might also be worth browsing….the Gallery of Strategies is especially useful as it’s a ‘gallery of e-learning possibilities’.
SO YOUR LEARNERS ENJOY COMICS….
Even if your learning content is ‘serious stuff’, sometimes it can be more digestible and easier to remember when the learning design is less….ummm…..texty (is that a word?) Something about the comic format is appealing to many (and not only young people), so consider this idea as a possibility for some of your content. According to Great Resources and Tools for Teaching using Comic Strips, “…[comics] give life to those boring and mal-crafted lesson plans, they promote students engagement, they improve students learning, they prolong students attention span, and they also enhance students communicative and linguistic competences.” You could use a comic creation tool such as ToonDoo to create simple resources, but if you want to try something more custom-made, the practical tips in 3 Ways to Make Your E-Learning Course Look Like a Comic Book might be useful. Another resource….the slides below show the process and tell the story of how a real life example was created:
Well, I hope you found something in this list which is useful….or at least worthy of tucking away somewhere ‘in case it becomes useful sometime in the future’. ;-) November is a busy time for most of us working in education as the end of the year brings a To Do list which will never be ticked off. Do try to find some time to follow some of these links though, as the new knowledge, new skill or new ideas may bring benefits for the year to come!
Attributions: 'Bored learner' - CC licensed Flickr image by stovak Other images from www.pixabay.com