Mar 25, 2009

Experiencepoint sims

A strong form of learning is 'immersive' learing. It's where you submerge into the context of the topic at hand and learn by playing or acting in that environment.

I like the way experiencepoint for example makes its business simulations to get a student into a simulated business context to learn from.

Learning on the cheap: sliderocket and WiZiQ

Just a few more tools in the 'learning on the cheap' series:

- : this must be by far the nicest online presentation authoring tool I've seen. I'm just wowed by it. (But I must admit I use Google Docs presentations for now because they are integrated and I don't need to make really fancy looking ones - yet.) Lately, I found a renewed interest in slide-based learning. Like many I turned away from it years ago because of the 'death by bullet point' syndrome. But when you use the presentation tools right, you get fantastic results as this site and samples on prove.

- : aimed at the education world, but interesting for corporations too. This tool lets people teach and learn via online classes, tests and content sharing. It's like a market place where people with an urge to know will find people with the desire to share/teach. Supply meets demand. X marks the spot. The economist in me likes it.

Flowgram 'web 2.0'

If you are still thinking in terms of 2.0 or other numbers, here is a flowgram that makes sense of what web 2.0 means for education.


I'm including it not because of the content per se, but to show you what a flowgram is. It combines web pages, slides, photos and other information and someone talks you through it all. As always, you can share and embed flowgrams in other pages.

What will the post-crisis area be like? Back to old or go for new?

While visiting the NATO here in Brussels, secretary of state Clinton said to 'never waste a good crisis.' She might be on to something.

I wonder what the post-crisis learning will look like. If the crisis would be done tomorrow, we'd just go back a few months in time and pick up where we left. But as time passes, some innovation might get a chance to prove it's value and some historically established burdens might have gone bankrupt. The blended balance might shift a few percentage towards virtual or e-learning. We'll see it when it happens.

Anyway here are a few innovative sites I keep an eye on:

- There is a new set of e-learning authoring tools emerging. There are all online, usually based on flash templates. One of the productivity benefits is that they offer true collaborative authoring in the form of integrated media libraries or LCMS, online review cycles during development and less need for programmation or technically advanced actions. Right now they are owned by smaller firms, but they might become big fast. Here is a list to watch: unison, coursebuilder, composica, atlantic link, rapidel-i, udutu, smartbuilder. I've played around with most of them, and they allow you all to create the type of e-learning that is 'established' now, in fast templates: courses with next buttons, images and text and flash and video, glossary, menu and FAQ.

- Screentoaster: I've tried this screencast program when it was just out of beta a few months ago and liked it. Now Jane tells they just added features. It is a simple, completely web-based way to make application 'how to' screencasts. Tools like screentoaster and jing give end-users and non-technical coaches the tools to make short tutorials, and gives peers the tools to instruct eachother. As I said before, let's hope our expensive corporate learning factories won't have to deal themselves with making this absurd 'click on the save button to save' training beyond what you need to get started.

- Thinking Worlds : This is a software by UK based Caspian Learning to create educational games. I've browsed for many game engines the past week. They all seem horribly expensive and focus on the graphics rendering rather than learning. Caspian Learning is the only one I found that has thought about how learning might work in games, and proposes some types for that. Furthermore, you can (could?) freely go to and make new games based on existing assets for non-commercial use. I made one last week. Cool tool. Today that site seems to be closed and they announce the commercial version of it in a few days. If they sell the commercial one for affordable price, they deserve to take the market by storm.

- And open source is busy with good things too. Moodle's rise is unstoppable. And Toby from work pointed me to eTok, an extension to OpenOffice to make e-learning. I haven't had time to test it myself yet.

All these and more make me hopeful that when the crisis is over in months or years, the learning field will have raised its bar. We're the first to get budget cuts when times are bad, but we should also be the first to act and rise again! (trumpets!)

Stealing from children, and educating in return

The learning field is a broad one. So broad you have to focus. So I chose my focus on corporate learning. Not that I don't care about lifelong learning, school education and giving people equal opportunities through education. It's just that I can't follow it all. This article will be an exception, but I need to get it off my chest.

We are stealing from our children. This economic crisis cuts deep in government budgets, and guess who will repay that one day? We are borrowing that money from our children who will pay taxes to finance our current mess. Actually, we are borrowing without their consent, so the proper term for that is stealing.

What value are we giving them in return? I will not exaggerate and say we leave them a screwed up planet, but the least you can say is we used up more of it than was our fair share, and triggered the planet's climate system to find a new balance. We leave them a financial burden.
Maybe the most valuable and lasting thing we will leave them, is education. If we do the utmost we can today in our schools, universities and employment programs so they can look back and say they got great value from their education that set them of and lasted for life, we might have made up for the stealing.

It's why I get so upset when I read about education that just isn't living up to expectations. It might be the one lasting value we give them in return. How do you recognize those institutions and countries that don't live up? They are the ones not asking the question on what they leave the children with, but got stuck in their own system, beliefs and comforts.

As I said in the beginning, I'm not anyone to talk about education. It's not my field. My friend works as a secondary school teacher, and I see the despair and frustration in his eyes anytime we go to a reception and meet up with a random bunch of people all so knowledgeable on how schools are bad and how they need to change. I'm not going to do that. But I am going to plea for all people that are in the education field to please please please do everything it takes to give our children the biggest value possible.

Mar 15, 2009

e-books might get a whole new meaning (semblio)

Microsoft is working on Semblio. Currently it's a SDK (software development kit) that makes educational content on it's .NET plaform and sliverlight frameworks. But in 2010 it should get included in the new version of Office and become accessible for teachers to assemble new content and quizzes in lessons.

The demo looks good, it is very engaging content with a lot of potential. That is, if Microsoft can convince book publishers to go to new waters and make decent e-books that are not PDF versions of their paper cousins. But than again, a lot of publishers are firmly entering the e-learning arena. (Bertelsman with, television stations as discovery channel that set up educational sites, etc) It's a late entry compared to schools and corporations, but a significant one that can redirect our current thinking on e-learning and established content formats.