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Heuristical Templates (or, how to review elearning stuff in a way that benefits others)

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I’m not so sure on the name, but it’ll do for the time being. What follows comes from a few discussions I’ve had with EdTechRoundUp folk and a previous post entitled The importance of heuristics in educational technology and elearning. You may want to read the latter to understand what I’m getting at.

Suffer the poor person new to the wonderful world many of us inhabit. I don’t think the phrase ‘Web 2.0’ quite covers it any more, to be honest. Some have clutched at different titles to set those who inhabit this ‘other’ space – some have talked of the ‘networked teacher’, the ‘connected educator’ and so on. I’m not sure sure we need a formal title, but I think most people will know what I mean when I say there’s a difference between being a teacher in a classroom with a textbook, and being a teacher connected to literally hundreds of others worldwide through various communications technologies and conventions. 🙂

The trouble is, how do you get into this cocktail party?

  • What happens if you don’t know who to turn to?
  • What if you haven’t got a Twitter network to support you yet?
  • What if you’ve just found a tool and you’re wondering if it could be used with students?
  • What if you can envisage an end product but don’t know the technological means of getting there?

That’s where this idea of heuristical templates comes in.* If people committed to using a common format to review and discuss tools and applications relating to educational technology and e-learning, then this would have a number of advantages:

  1. It would give the newbie a common structure that they could seek out.
  2. If Creative Commons licensed, these could be syndicated in a central place.
  3. It would lead to some cohesion in certain parts of the edublogosphere.

An example of someone who blogs extremely well about new tools and approaches is Tom Barrett. By the end of reading one of Tom’s posts you know what the tool can be used for, why you’d use is, any problems there may be, and other people who have used it before.

To that end, and inspired by Tom, I suggest the following structure taking Posterous as an example.

* Perhaps E-Learning Templates is better? Hmmm…


Posterous

Name

Posterous

URL

http://posterous.com

What is it?

Posterous is a blogging solution. A blog is a website that is easy to maintain and which has the most recent content at the top. Posterous sets itself apart from other blogging solutions as it is almost entirely updated by using email. Sending an email to post@nullposterous.com serves not only to set up the blog but to update it. Posterous deals ‘intelligently’ with email attachments – for example turning MP3s into an embedded media player and Powerpoint presentations into slideshows.

How much does it cost?

Posterous is free for up to 1GB of space. The FAQ says that in future Premium (paid-for) features will be add-ons to the functionality available for free.

Opportunities

  • Low barrier to entry – everyone can email!
  • Does intelligent things with attachments.
  • Can blog via mobile phone.
  • Integrates with Twitter, Flickr and Facebook.
  • Custom avatars.
  • Group blogs (by adding more than one email address to a blog)
  • Custom domain names.
  • Blogs can be imported from other platforms.

Barriers

  • Limited customisation (stuck with white background)
  • Moderation?
  • Sidebar not very useful
  • Ads in future?

Examples please!

Reviews


So what are your thoughts? A good idea or not? :-p

The importance of heuristics in educational technology and elearning.

Dilbert - heuristics

This post has been brewing for a while.

I’m sick to death of people ‘recommending’ products, services, applications and utilities based on, essentially, zero real-world testing and feedback. Why? They can’t help with the heuristics.

What are heuristics?

Wikipedia definition:

Heuristic is an adjective for experience-based techniques that help in problem solving, learning and discovery. A heuristic method is particularly used to rapidly come to a solution that is hoped to be close to the best possible answer, or ‘optimal solution’. Heuristics are “rules of thumb”, educated guesses, intuitive judgments or simply common sense. Heuristics as a noun is another name for heuristic methods.

Why are heuristics important?

As I argued in my SHP Conference workshop Raising achievement in History at KS4 using e-learning, it can actually be damaging to:

  • launch into using educational technologies without thinking it through properly (the how not just the what).
  • attempt to replicate what someone has done elsewhere without thinking about the context.

People like Andrew Churches (of Educational Origami fame) deal with heuristics. They show how educational technologies can be used, things to think about, and issues that may arise.

What I’d like to see

Think about new users of educational technologies. Let’s say that someone wants to show parents what’s happening on a school trip in the following country. They ask for advice. Which of these would be the most useful response?

  1. I’d use a blog if I were you.
  2. Have you seen Posterous?
  3. I used Posterous successfully. Here’s how to set it up and here’s an example of how I’ve used it before. Ask me if you get stuck.

Obviously 3. I really don’t want any more of 1 and 2 thank you very much. :-p

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Ignore everybody.

There are blog posts I plan in advance and there are those that happen as a result of serendipity and need blogging straight away. This is very much one of the latter. :-p

Earlier this week I was following with interest the tweets of Jenny Luca, an Australian educator, as she sat in the audience during one of Stephen Downes‘ presentations. Before the whole thing even started, she overheard Downes:

Jenny Luca - tweet

In her next tweet she simply wondered how that squared with connectivism, a learning theory of which Downes is an advocate. I thought up several responses, but didn’t have time to get into a debate and so kep them to myself. Jenny’s reflections on the event, if you’re interested, are here. That particular event isn’t the focus of this post. 🙂

Today, during an Easter Sunday afternoon in which I’d run out of things to fill my leisure time, I turned to my feed reader and came across this from Hugh McLeod:

Ignore Everybody

It’s actually a remixed (and, to be honest, improved) version of an original by Patrick Brennan.

These two coming so closely together made me reflect upon my online interactions. Now, before I go any further I need to point out very explicitly and clearly that I greatly value the interactions and conversations I have with individuals. I’m certainly not aiming to devalue that in what I’m about to say.

The power in a network comes from the amplification of individual contributions and connections to make it more than the sum of its parts.

I think this is may be where Downes was coming from in terms of ‘following topics not people’ on Twitter and where McLeod (via Brennan) means r.e. ignore everybody.

  • Yes, you need to learn the heuristics of the network.
  • Yes, you need to capture the zeitgeist.
  • Yes, you have be able to argue for your point of view.

…but when it comes down to it, you need to be your own person, using the network for your own ends. Not in some manipulative, Machiavellian sense, but in a ‘give-and-take’ way that means that the network truly does become more than the sum of its parts. 😀

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