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Learning 2.0 Is Like Punk Rock September 12, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I had a fun discussion last night with several friends / colleagues. We were trying to hypothesize why so many (e)Learning 2.0 initiatives don’t get the traction we would expect, both at our organization and at other organizations. Several of us learning tech geeks see such great opportunities with learning 2.0, but it sometimes feels like others just don’t get it. We have fantastic tools at our disposal, like blogs, social bookmarking, wikis, RSS, etc. – and many of these tools are free. However, it feels like we’re pulling teeth when we try to make a business case to show the value and possibilities for these tools. To get around this, we’re seeing more grassroots movements take place. Instead of waiting for top-down direction, employees are installing learning 2.0 tools/technologies and experimenting with them on their own.

Peggy Gartin, a friend and colleague, came up with a great simile: Learning 2.0 is like punk rock. Punk is a music genre that defies the mainstream. It grows from people wanting to express themselves and share their work; they don’t wait for an executive at a record label to provide them with ideas. Punk embraces a DIY (do it yourself) ethic, with many bands self-producing their recordings and distributing them through informal channels (A bit of that definition was borrowed from Wikipedia.). This resonates with what I’ve seen related to learning 2.0. If you try to harness it, control it, and direct it, you’ll lose its magic. It won’t have the same effect. If you force people to use social bookmarking, they’ll ignore it. If you force them to blog, they’ll get writer’s block. On the other hand, if you provide these tools and let people run with their ideas, I believe you’ll see much better results.

Many executives are still in the early stages of hearing about learning 2.0 and they’re still trying to get their hands around it. From what I’ve seen, the key may lie in the everyday learning and technology professionals like you and me. We should continue to test-drive tools and technologies. Experiment on your own and find out what works best for you and your organization. Don’t wait for some suit in an executive office to tell you what to do. We need to be the rebellious ones. Now go forth and rock. 🙂


Blogs and RSS as Learning Tools July 30, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Many of us techies have been using RSS for years, and you may even run your own blog. This stuff is pretty much second nature to us, and it’s easy to forget that lots of people are still not in-the-know. I think there’s a ton of potential related to RSS in terms of learning and I don’t think many people are harnessing it well (yet). Think of it this way: As a worker, wouldn’t it be helpful to regularly receive bulletins, tips, tricks, and other relevant information while on the job? RSS provides an excellent framework for distributing information to groups of people in settings like this. Blogs can also be a fantastic way to record your progress on projects, take notes, share findings, etc. We, being the more tech-minded people, can help make this happen at our organization. But we may have a few hurdles to jump before we can get there.

What are some of the obstacles we face in using blogs and RSS readers at our organizations? First, blogs and RSS don’t get much respect in the enterprise. Now, I know many companies have executives and employees who blog regularly, but this is still more of the exception than the rule. (This is based on my own observations and discussions with colleagues.) Second, users are either hesitant or scared to use new tools like an RSS reader. Third, people assume blogs take up TONS of time and require expert writing skills. Fourth, people are getting overloaded with unstructured information hitting them in every direction. The last thing they want is another resource or web site to worry about. Finally, we need to figure out how to communicate the fact that RSS is essentially a highly-focused channel of information that, when used properly, can be more powerful than other forms of communication. I’m sure there are other reasons, but I’ll stop here…

The topic of RSS came up for me recently because eLearning Weekly was just listed on a new web site called Alltop.com (actually, the eLearning Weekly link is on Alltop’s Education page). Alltop is a project developed by Will Mayall, Kathryn Henkens, and Guy Kawasaki. At first glance, the site may just seem like a listing of links and stories, but it is being described as a "a ‘digital magazine rack’ of the Internet." It’s a place that allows you to quickly scan a particular subject area and then glean information about its current happenings. Here’s the trick: The site is simply pulling in RSS feeds from various sources across the web. The interface is clean, and I think it does a great job of easing a user into the idea of RSS without throwing too much technology or jargon at them. Plus, the blogs appear as official and credible news sources. Essentially, Alltop is an online RSS reader for the non-techie people on the web.

A recent article on ReadWriteWeb asks, "Will Alltop entice mainstream readers to follow blogs and use RSS more?" I would say that it couldn’t hurt. I’m beginning to wonder if this may be a good site to reference – or possibly use as a model – when beginning to introduce blogs and RSS readers into an organzation. This may allay some of the fears, uncertainty, and doubt around these tools.

What do you think? Do you use blogs and/or RSS at your organization? Has it been successful? Please chime in!

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