Top 10 List of Tools for Learning – 2011

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Jane Hart is in her fifth year of coordinating what is possible the best list of tools used for learning. The emerging list is amazing. This is my list of tools that I find the most value in. Some I value because I learn so much by using the tool and some because I have found them extremely useful in helping others learn. This is in no particular order.

Twitter – Free – I can learn more in 30 minutes on Twitter than I have in any semester of formal learning. Yes, the learning is less in depth but  broad learning is becoming more important. I see it as an internal collective intelligence process. Diversity is a key element of collective intelligence and Twitter allows me to include diversity inside my own head. That diversity of knowledge helps me see things from multiple perspectives.

Sliderocket – Free and paid versions, affordable monthly plan – Flash based cloud hosted alternative to PowerPoint and Prezi. It’s beautiful and with integrated forms, polls, and analytics I can create sharable presentations that at least engage by asking questions that viewers can respond to. It;s become my number one tool for online presentation.

Camtasia – Software –  Not free but wothwhile if you do a lot of screen recording. I use it for editing all my other video also.  Screen recording software does pretty much everything I need it to do and it does it smoothly and easily. I use it when I need sharable video and often record my Sliderocket presentations as an alternative way to share them. I also love the Techsmith “News You Can Use” newsletter. It’s like a mini class in Camtasia use every time, great layout and really great hope-to’s.

Audacity – Free , open source – If you do video or online slide shareing with audio you have to pay attention to the sound. Audacity is relatively easy to use and works as well as software you pay for.

Screenr – Free from Articulate – Great little screen recorder to use when you have short pieces of information you want to share quickly. Generates a short link and embeddable code. Auto posts to social media if you want.

LinkedIn Groups – Free or paid – I use LinkedIn’s  for learning about business related topics. The Values, Culture and Leadership group is amazing and more than a few researchers hang out in some groups, sharing knowledge, asking and answering questions and posting links to research.

Voicethread – Free and paid – I love Voicethread and have had a paid account for years just cos. I love the way it looks. It’s like a virtual circle with the topic in the centre and learners contributing their thought via video, text or voice around the outside. It’s a great tool for collective intelligence gathering via stories.

Moodle – Open source but paid hosted options available – I am still a Moodle fan. The new 2.0 has lots of great options. Sometimes you need a bounded community space for learning and Moodle provides walls for you virtual learning while facilitating social and collaborative learning within.

THOUGHTstream – Paid subscription, free trial available, cloud hosted – Of course I’m fan of THOUGHTstream, especially for collecting tacit knowledge. Because it is facilitated and begins with a question or question posed to a group that hold local knowledge, organizations and groups can collect and curate the who what, where when and the the why of organization behaviours and processes. Informed decisions become easier and corporate history can be preserved. No wonder so many educational organizations have adopted it, teachers always know best 🙂

Google plus – aka Google+ –  free – I’m going to include this here because there seems to be so much potential. It’s bridged the space between Twitter and blogging. It’s visually superior to Twitter with inline pics and video, the circle feature allows for open and closed groups sharing and the Hangouts feature works great for spontaneous or planned team, group, meetings.

K, that’s my 10.. I could go on for another 10 or 20 quite easily but will resist the temptation 🙂 Am interested in what others are using and finding value it. What are your top 10 or 20 tools for teaching and/or learning?

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QR Codes – the basics

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Cartoon by The Daring Librarian

Just before Christmas I saw my first real life QR (Quick Response) code, in the government liquor store in Chilliwack. It was on an ad for wine and I would have checked it out if my hands weren’t full and if the store wasn’t packed with last minute spirit shoppers. I have to say, I was genuinely excited.

QR codes have been around for a while first in the form of barcodes and then more recently in their current form. They were created initially to aid in automobile production by Denso-Wave a subsidiary of Toyota. Wikipedia has a thorough history if you want the full story.

QR codes are not quite the next best thing to sliced bread but they do hold a lot of potential. The most obvious uses are in the marketing arena. Because they are small, one colour, easily reproducible, kinda cool looking and can hold tons of data, the possibilities for increasing brand awareness and for tracking ROI are huge. For example add a QR code to a business card and you can keep customers up to date on sales and specials. The code could link to your website or to a specialized website that is optimized for viewing on smart phones. The codes can hold URL’s, text, SMS, email addresses, phone numbers, Vcards, pretty much any type of content you can view or hear on your phone can be embedded into a QR code.

Because the codes are easily reproducible, as in a one colour print, the codes themselves can be placed on any item that can be printed on. So, in addition to all kinds of paper products, tee-shirts, buttons, pens, mugs, the list goes on, can host a code. If I was still in promotions I would be in heaven. Hey, indie bands, add to your posters and flyers – embed a link to an  MP3 of your best song or better yet to a video of your best chops. How cool is that?

The gaming industry and especially the place based, check-in (foursquare, dehood, gowilla, scvnger, etc) type games will probably, if not already integrate QR codes into the play. I signed up for http://www.stickybits.com/ just to see how it works (it’s kinda lonely there right now due to Chilliwack thing perhaps). The addition of the codes can potentially add a layer of play and trackability to game sponsors and hosts. Here’s there video, that explains the game much better than I can.

I’m not in marketing and promotion per se any longer so I have been trying to think outside of that box and focus on ways to leverage this newish tech for social good, community engagement and other ways that will benefit human kind. The uses in education seem to pop up front and centre. What better way to make learning fun than to use QR codes for digital scavenger hunts. I can’t wait until I can pick up a book and scan the QR code on the back to see an interview with the author. Or better yet find a QR code on the inside that provides me with additional and up to date information. Ditto for newspapers and magazines. I would be more likely to read a hard copy newspaper or magazine if it had scanable links to additional video content.

I also can’t wait until the tourism folks get on board with this. Trail markers with QR codes to maps sure would be nice as would video or at least audio to go along with walking tours of historic areas. Bonus points if there is a scavenger hunt with some kind of prize potential. What a great way to get folks out in their home communities.

I think, overall, that once the novelty wears off the real power of the QR code will be in information sharing. I remember writing a blog post years, and I mean years ago, where I waxed poetic about envisioning a day when I would be able to go to a grocery store and be able to immediately and easily access information about all the products I was thinking of purchasing. I imagined being able to get not just nutritional value and calorie count, but cost per serving, links to recipe ideas, price comparisons, the whole nine yards. I think that day has finally arrived.

I used http://www.mobile-barcodes.com/ to create this QR code and I’m using the i-nigma app for iPhones to read codes.

For more info and examples of the bling – QR code connection check out The Daring Librarian‘s awesome blog.

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