Wikis help to develop political policies

Last week when I decided to talk about blogs in Halifax, I was told to keep it simple, and only discuss blogs themselves, not other social networking software tools. Most people in the audience knew what a blog was, and a number said that they were bloggers. In later discussions, I found out that few knew about wikis.

Well it seems that wikis have gone mainstream, so you had better learn about them. The Green Party of Canada is using this tool to collaboratively develop its policies online. So if you don’t know about wikis, or are looking at real-world applications of wikis, then check out democracy in action. This is not an endorsement for the Green Party, but it’s nice to see some democratization of policy building.
In the early years of radio in Canada we also saw the new medium being used to encourage democracy and learning – witness the National Farm Radio Forum and the Citizen’s Forum. Perhaps these social networking tools will rejuvenate our democratic processes.
Via Constellation W3.

Further analysis of this use of technology in politics is available from Mark Federman’s What is the Message?.

Clay Shirky does not believe that this is a true wiki, because changes have to be submitted through e-mail. The problem with completely public wikis is that not everyone is working in the best interests of the community. I guess that filtering change requests via e-mail is a good compromise in such a public venue, but a bit labour intensive. Maybe this isn’t a true wiki, but I hope that the underlying wiki nature helps with the aim of developing policy from the ground up.

Free Online Course – IT Fluency

The University of Washington is offering a free, self-paced course in Fluency in Information Technology. According to the website, the course covers the basics, concepts and capabilities. For example – Basics: e-mail, word processing, searching for Web information; Concepts: what’s a "graphic user interface," how do networks send pictures; Capabilities: troubleshooting problems, thinking up IT solutions. There’s even a section on SQL.

A cursory review of the course shows that it is based on a published book, and requires about 150 hours of study time, which includes projects and quizzes.

What is missing from this course is interaction. I understand that a free course cannot offer mentored support or instructors, but why are there no blogs, student-generated FAQ’s or discussion boards? These would not cost much more, but would add a lot. It will be interesting to see what the uptake on this course will be.

Anyway, I commend the university for making this course available.

Moodle’s Latest Version 1.2.1

Moodle, an open source course management system, based on a constructivist learning model, has released its latest version. What caught my interest was:

There are over 1,000 registered Moodle users in 75 countries
Moodle has a WebCT quiz import
WYSIWYG editor
"The new multilang filter allows texts to be entered in multiple languages, and only the best one will be shown to each user (depending on their language setting)" [ I like that!]

Keep up the good work Martin.

An Open Community

At the NS eLearning Summit on 22 April, the last agenda item was “Building the elearning Industry in Nova Scotia”. This is the same agenda item that we have had around this industry cluster in New Brunswick for a while.

Steve Kelly from Business New Brunswick gave the NB perspective, and mentioned that NB had stopped trying to create an industry association, and would instead focus on fostering a professional development organisation through the Canadian Society for Training & Development. This is a smart move, as industry associations are difficult to grow (witness NBITA), due to conflicting interests. CSTD also appeals to both vendors and purchasers, as it’s about the profession of “training & development”, and business networking is a by-product, not its raison d’être.

Blogging is the same. A good weblog seeks to inform and communicate. It may result in collaboration, or even business deals, but these are bi-products. As soon as we know that someone is trying to sell us something, our defences go up. If we feel that someone is honestly trying to communicate, then we are more receptive to his or her ideas.

With this in mind, I will try to foster communication and discussion in this forum, not the selling of a vision or a marketing plan. This community will be a place to discuss R&D issues, which will remain loosely defined for the time being. Specific deals or collaboration can take place “off-line” or outside of this venue – but this is where you can float an idea and see what happens.

In this same vein, I would like to expand our horizons and open this community to all of Atlantic Canada, and friends of Atlantic Canada, en anglais et en français. Nova Scotia elearning professionals are looking at ways to collaborate, and I invite them to come and talk with us. With their help, the conversations will be richer. I also hope that our friends on Prince Edward Island and in Newfoundland & Labrador will also join us. Given geographical barriers, which we all understand, I don’t believe that this will become all-inclusive; but our community will be open.

Harold

NS eLearning – Blog Follow-up

On Thursday, when I discussed blogs in business at the NS eLearning Summit, I was pleasantly surprised by the high level of interest. The fact that most learning is informal, and that our education and training programs only address about 20% of our learning needs, seems to be understood by many. Blogs are one way of encouraging conversation, which leads to individual knowledge creation and can result in increased business value.

Blogs are also a way of supporting more formal learning offerings. They can be used to engage potential clients through meaningful discourse. Blogs can also be used as a follow-up of a formal course or workshop, to keep the conversation going. These applications were appealing to a number of people in the audience.

There are many sources of information on how to use blogs. For the academic sector, I would recommend beginning with Weblogg-ed;, while Blog Kathleen is a good starting point for a business perspective. Other Blogs (learning, work, technology) are available on the left "Links" section of this website.

NS eLearning Summit

I attended the Nova Scotia eL Summit in Halifax yesterday, and it was a resounding success. Over 100 people in attendance; a number who were linked-in via the Net, thanks to Phil O’Hara of Dalhousie University. A quick review of what I learnt, with more to follow when I get home:

From Julie Kaufman of IDC – Linux developers generally prefer informal learning while MS developers generally prefer more formal learning. (It’s always important to remember who your audience is, when designing any learning intervention)

From Phil O’Hara – small incentives along the way work better than one large incentive at the end of a learning programme.

From the Education panel – the main driver for e-learning in NS schools is "equity of access".

From Joe King at Tecsult-Eduplus – you can create a sustainable e-learning business model by sharing costs and profits with your clients/channel partners.

From Jerry van Olst – has some of the most interesting clients: Nerds On Site.

Many thanks to Barry Nicolle for organising this conference.

“To be, rather than seem”

Lee LeFever hits the nail on the head with this Esse Quam Videre (to be rather than seem) post about weblogging in business. It’s just too easy to see through the smoke when you post every day. You have to be yourself, or you’ll get caught. Lee talks about this idea stemming from the Cluetrain Manifesto (worth the read in spite of its rant style). From Rick Levine’s section of Cluetrain, "Talk is Cheap", is this excellent sidebar – "A knowledge worker is someone who’s job is having really interesting conversations at work." That would be most bloggers, I would say.

Blogging, like e-learning, is not for everyone or for every business. What’s great about blogging is the low barrier to entry. The bad part is that once you start, it’s tough to get off the "blog train". That’s the thing about interesting conversations; you want to keep them going.

For businesses, the trick is to find a balance. First you have to find out what you are passionate about, and who your audience may be. Then determine how much time you can spend blogging, without adversely affecting other business processes. For us free agents, blogging is marketing, market research and research all rolled together. The rewards are long term, I hope 😉

Emergent Learning Forum

Take a look at this 15 minute Macromedia Breeze presentation by Jay Cross of the Emergent Learning Forum. Does this strike a chord? As a node of the Forum, we can extend our reach, and collaborate with people who have similar interests in extending learning. I will be exploring this further over the next few weeks.

Comments would really be appreciated.