As the conference targeted the VET sector I decided to take a different PLN approach and share how social networking tools can create communities of professionals, and students, that help each other.
Skills level of participants
Participants were surveyed near the start of the session to help guide how little/much information on each aspect need to be explained. The results are shown in the table below (Yes= has their own or uses with their students; No = doesn’t have own or use with students; No response = they didn’t respond to the question).
Value of Creating Communities
The message for creating professional learning communities using social networking tools was similar to PLNs. Our daily face-to-face interactions offer limited opportunities for:
Asking our work colleagues/students questions
Reflecting on ideas with each other
Effectively sharing information
Social networking tools provide the ability to easily connect ourselves, our students, with educators in the same/similar fields, and people from industry to form a global community. This greatly increases opportunities to receive assistance and provide assistance.
The main difference to a PLN is technology skills of individuals you may want as part of your professional learning community are often (very) low. This means you need to use a range of tools including ones they are more likely to feel comfortable using.
To stay sane remember:
Not everyone will share your excitement (and it is unrealistic to think they will)
Let them choose whether or not they join
Don’t be offended if you can’t encourage everyone to participate
Be grateful for those that do participate
It takes time!
During the session I discussed the main tools I use for aquaculture industry to highlight their benefits and how it can be done.
In terms of aquaculture Facebook is used mainly with my students (but I do have some work colleagues in my account). My students are given the option to add me to their Facebook account knowing that they can email me, use the chat or leave comments on my wall.
Years ago I used to give students my email address and never get got any emails. With Facebook student regularly contact me to help with both my work and other courses. Many continue to remain in contact when they leave.
Our AquaEd Ning community to connect educators, industry and my students together (consists of members from within Australia and oversees).
Benefits of Ning are ability to have forums, upload photos, upload/share videos and easily email all members etc.
For me this Ning community meant I was about to source training material and images to use for an aquaculture elearning unit. I couldn’t have sourced this material as well (or as quickly) using traditional methods.
My students, and other community members, are using this Ning to share what they are doing and ask others questions.
Ning challenges are you need to be prepared to facilitate and encourage conversation. The more people you can encourage to help you facilitate the more likely it will grow. As a Ning owner you need to closely monitor all new members (using RSS) due to spammers.
Never thought it would happen but have people from aquaculture joining my twitter account. Which has been excellent because they also then join AquaEd Ning.
As these people are already into social networking they add value to your community because they aren’t reluctant users.
My advice for building a community remains the same as for a PLN — your first step is to start using these tools for your own learning then start thinking how you can connect with members from your industry. Check out my PLN Yourself website to get started!
Meanwhile for those that have created professional learning communities — please share your stories. What has worked well? What aspects have caused problems?
Don’t get me wrong I’ve connected with people through Ning interactions. It’s just that I already belong to several and I find forum discussions take considerably more time to engage in conversations than blogging.
Instead of joining new forums I decided to address my extreme Ning neglect by:
Tidying up my Ning profiles – Wouldn’t an option to import profiles across Ning social networks be nice?
Subscribing to Latest Activity Feed, Forum Feed and Blog Feed for all Nings using Google Reader
My guess was I belonged to 5 Ning communities. After wasting considerable time trying to locate all my Ning communities (and failing) I admitted defeated and my Twitter network helped me. DUH – log into Ning home and then click on my social networks (how can the obvious take so long to find?)
What planet am I from? 5 Ning communities! Get real! Obviously can’t count or am really absent minded. Make that 17 Ning communities (of these I created Etools and AquaEd). Have now tidied up all my profiles and subscribed to all RSS feeds from my Ning communities. But now decided profile information doesn’t sounds great (= crappy).
For those new to using Ning communities – check out:
Part of my work involves teaching others how to podcast and when it comes to video my advice always is STOP! and LOOK! first before you consider ever creating your own videos. You can spend a lot of time creating videos — I know I spend way too much time creating videos for my podcast site. There is sooooo much content already on the Internet that it is often more efficient to use videos created by others.
I recommend searching 3 main video sharing sites:
1. Google Video
While Google owns YouTube you will obtain different search results when you search both sites using the same search term and YouTube only includes their own uploads i.e. YouTube videos. Also videos on Google Video have not time restriction whereas YouTube videos are restricted to less than 10 minutes.
They include a written text of their videos which you could use to develop a series of questions
Most of their videos can be downloaded in a range of formats i.e. suitable for an ipod, PSP or mobile phone. However you need to create an account to download their videos.
Thanks Joe for reminding me that VideoJug has videos on “how-to-use” applications such as PowerPoint, create podcasts, use twitter …. check out the list of videos at the bottom of Joe’s post on How to Create a Talking Book. I normally demonstrate their videos using How To A Homie Handshake because everyone has a great laugh.
Once they have located the videos they then learn to:
Once you have located a suitable video you copy the URL of the video and paste it into the URL text box at zamzar.com then press add URL. Now select your video format (choose .avi for PDAs and PCs, mp4 for ipods). Next insert your email address and press convert. You will receive an email within 30 minutes the link to the converted stored at Zamzar and you have 24 hours to download the video (Thanks Darren — you were right).
2. Free Online FLV converter
Sites like Google Video and YouTube use .FLV format for their videos. Online FLV converters are able to download and convert videos into a range of video formats. Once the file is converted you then download from their website.
vConvert.net will convert FLV to formats such as wmv, mov, mp4, mp3, 3gp. Suz recommends vConvert.net because it is a much more reliable flv converter than Vixy which she has found would frequently corrupt a file on longer videos (thanks Suz). Definite benefit is this site provides more conversion options than Vixy but you will need to create an account to use.
Vixy is a free online FLV converter (i.e. this is the video format used by many video sharing web sites) that you can use for downloading and converting videos for PC, ipod and PSP. Once the file is converted you then download from their website.
3. KeepVid for downloading the video and Super C to convert
Here are the instructions on how use KeepVid and Super C (this is the last resort option because more steps involved). I use Super C all the time for video conversions however it does take time to get used to using.
Would love to hear about your experience with videos. What is your favorite video sharing web site(s) for locating videos? Have you got any tips for downloading videos? Where do you like to host your own videos?
Vicki also encourages us all to take the time to share our most useful tools because we should be welcoming people newto using the Internet by sharing our tools — so here is my post — hopefully it will be of help for other educators wanting to get involved with elearning.
Yes I am a bit addicted to blogging because it helps me reflect on my thoughts and interaction with others helps this process in amazing ways.
I like both blogger (easy to use) and edublogs for blogging. If I have interpreted what Vicki is saying regarding Google Blog Search and Blogger I disagree — both Technorati and Google Blog Search look for keywords within the text of the post — I subscribed to tag feeds (e.g. mlearning and mobile learning) from Google Blog Search and my posts always appeared with the feeds (and this blog is not hosted by Google).
Here is my information for those new to blogging and for those more advanced bloggers. Towards the bottom of each page there are some tasks that you can work through to improve your blogging skills — let me know if you decide to work through them so I can drop past your blog and give you encouragement.
Why? Because for no other reason than it is fun!!!! I like to use ToonDoo because it is really easy to use (as they made it easy for kids to use) and they have lots of great characters, backgrounds and props that you can use. These are my instructions on how to embed ToonDoo comics into an edublog blog.
Other comic tools I use are Comeeko and Picnik which both allow you to create comics from your own photos. Please note that Picnik is an online photo editing tool that allows you to do a lot more than just create comics.
I use del.icio.us to bookmark websites online so that I can refer back to these bookmarked sites from any computer — which for me is a life saver because I use lots of different computers. It also means on any computer I can add bookmarks to my del.icio.us account. Here is my information on how to get more out of using del.ici.ous.
I use Google Talk and Skype for instant messaging (chatting with others) and talking to people (VOIP) using the Internet. If you don’t have a VOIP application, like Google Talk or Skype, on your computer this is a definitely a must – you can talk or chat to anyone, anywhere, using the Internet, at no cost. The benefit of Google Talk is you can search gmail and chat messages for previous conversations — check this out for more explanation.
Ning is good for those less tech savy, for encouraging discussions, it allows easily embed videos and pictures, and is a place for people to feel comfortable to start out with blogging. etools community is a Ning site I set up for educators to share their etools and tips with each other. Here are my tips for using Ning. Please feel free to join us at etools community.
My advice to people on creating videos is it can be time consuming and with so much video content already available on the Internet it may be more effective to use other peoples videos. My favourite sites to search are Google Video, YouTube and VideoJug (VideoJug has lots of great how-to-do videos with written transcripts of each video — thanks Philip Nichols yet again for telling me about this site ) Please note even though Google owns YouTube you will get different search results from Google Video and YouTube which is why I search both. Here are my instructions on embedding videos into wikis and into Ning.
Most of my online videos are created using MovieMaker (here is how) and mostly uploaded to Googlevideo. My rule for video is less than 10 minutes whenever possible.
JumpCut is definitely worth using if you need an online video editor – it is like having MovieMaker or iMovie online! You can add titles and effects. Very easy to use (says she who makes movies all the time).
I use Flickr to share my photos online and to locate photos that I can legally use on my websites (I use flickr creative commons photos which allows me to use the photos provided I acknowledge the original source). fd’s Flickr toys is my favourite tool for doing fun stuff with photos from Flickr — of these toys I use mosaic maker the most because it makes it simple to put together a set of photos.
My audio podcasts are edited using Audacity (here is how) — I do have a Mac now and Garageband is really good but I still find if you have lots of edits then Audacity is still better.
Most of my video podcasts are edited using MovieMaker (here is how) then converted to .mp4 format using Super C (great for converting from any video format to another video format — here is how) and occasionally use iMovie on my Mac.
I use SnagIt on a daily basis – this is my favourite tool! Yes I know there are free tools like Jing that do similar but SnagIt is definitely better. Don’t care that it costs money – was worth every cent – they let you download and trial this software for a month – give it a go. Thanks Evil Sue for putting me onto this great screen capture software. This is how I create all the great “How-to-do” images for my web sites
A screencast is a digital recording of a computer screen and use these to show how to use online tools. My personal favourite screencast tool is CamStudio — yes I have used Jing but feel Camstudio is better (note I could use SnagIT) — here are my instructions on how to use CamStudio.
I do use Slideshare to host my powerpoints online but Alan Levine’s use of Slideflickr.com is way more powerful — if you click on the photo in his slide show it displays the notes that he has written under each photo at Flickr and you can read these notes as you watch the slides — if a URL interests you then you can click on the link to open it.
To create slides like Alan has done — instead of saving your powerpoint as a powerpoint you save it as jpeg. Upload the photos to Flickr, add notes to each slide, organise them into a set at Flickr and then use Slideflickr.com to create the slide.
My favourite web browser is Firefox — hate having to use Internet Explorer (also use it on my Mac as well). Best aspect is there are lots of cool add ons like a del.icio.us add on that makes my life easier.
I love using wikis for my personal learning because I find it a great place to pull all the information together concisely and they are also excellent for encouraging collaborative learning between students. Wikipaces is my favourite because their wiki is very easy to use and they provide excellent customer service. Here is my information on getting more out of using wikis.
Long post — sorry! Blame Vicki but it is not the type of post that suits being broken up. Also I encourage all my readers to take up Vicki advice and share your tips (remember to tag with bestoftheweb).
Since our dinner I have been reflecting on what James said about online communities like Ning. He said that a Ning community may initially start off well but in the long term will always struggle because for one simple reason — “ownership.”
Firstly I should explain why am I worried about about online communities floundering.
Well I do spend considerable time reflecting how to make online communities work because:
If I want to effectively use social networking and online communities with my students, for educational purposes, I need to understand what will make it thrive and why it will flounder.
I am working with the aquaculture industry in my State looking at ways to use these technologies to support their training needs.
We are planning to implement social networking tools within our College.
So what does James mean?
Well, people are more likely to participate if they feel a sense of ownership – which is what a blog give you. Communities set up by an individual lack this sense of ownership which means members are less likely to feel obligated to participate. They don’t own the space so there is less emotional reason for them to buy in to be involved.
Geek Squad Story
This reminds me of the story about the Geek Squad and how Robert Stephens spent considerable time and effort creating an internal wiki for his employees to use for communicating, collaborating and sharing resources — only to find slow uptake of it use. When he investigated the matter he found that they had formed their own community, for exactly this purpose, but were using the online game Battlefield 2.
The Geek Squad story is my favourite because it keeps me focused on the fact that you can spend a lot of time building what you think is a site that is “a goer to ensure community interaction” but that does not mean people will use it.
Would love to have all the answers but community interactions are really complex.
Think about how people interact in f2f situations like within a kids sport community — what makes individual donate so much of their time when others won’t (you know the individuals who coordinate the canteen, cook all the food while others sit on the sideline)? What drives people away from these communities?
So what are some strategies that might help Ning type communities? Well I have written some of my thoughts previously in my post on creating thriving online communities. I agree with James — ownership will always be an issue and will not be easy to overcome.
I am more willing to become involved if I feel a sense of obligation to the individual who set up the community or a very strong bond to the group involved. For example of the individual or group has willingly helped me, as I have helped them, off course I will go out of my way to participate. But if everything has felt like a one way street — where I am always expected to give with nothing in return — forget it – not interested.
Also don’t expect people who have not been involved in online social networking to suddenly understand or want to social network. This is not how it works.
And don’t use the whole digital natives/digital immigrants myth to justify why you should be using social networking tools with our youth. Or that because our youth already know how to social network they will help you out. Pleeeease they social network totally differently from how we need them to network. Most youth social network with mainly their f2f friends and are very good at using the tools they like to use. Whereas we need to learn to mass collaborate with a global audience with a wider range of tools.
So what are your tips? Have you found some online tools better than others for social networking? And if so, which ones? How have you managed to get encourage the development of an online community?
Leigh Blackall (Learn Online) has been running fantastic 10 minute online lecture series in New Zealand for Learning communities Aotearoa and I was fortunate to be invited to join some of the sessions.
Unfortunately I missed James Farmer‘s session but I liked the recording so much that Leigh and James were nice enough to grant me permission to convert the audio into a video.
So here is the video version of James’s talk on Identity, Ownership and Online Learning — make time to check it out! Sorry, James, that I have taken so long to create it (work commitments) but definitely a fitting way to celebrate 100,000 edublogs! Congratulations James — must be chocolate party (no definitely chocolate) time!
Well I don’t know about everyone else but I am one of those people that can take a long time “to get” the benefit of a Web 2.0 tool — I really have to see the “what’s in it for me” to be engaged enough to want to use.
Here are examples of tools and how long it has taken me from being introduced to a tool and then actually start using them effectively:
Twitter- 2 months
Podcasting – 3 months
Wiki – 5 months
Ning – 5 months
Delicious – 7 months
FlickR – 8 months
Blogging – 12 months
Now considering most see me as innovative and a prolific user of Web 2.0 technologies — I think how long it taken someone like me to adopt new tools should be considered when introducing these tools to educators who have never been exposed to any of them!
If we look at the whole Ning thing — why did it take me so long “to get it?” Well considering I understood RSS I was not seeing the forest for the trees — I was not subscribing to the feeds from the Ning Forum, Blogs or Latest Activity. This meant there was no way I could effectively manage the information that was being generated by these sites nor was I able to effectively respond to discussions because I was totally unaware that these discussions were taking place.
Whatever online resources and tools we develop our first rule should always be to make it very clear how to:
This is equally important to the experienced and inexperienced — we should not assume what is required is obvious!
What is required should be in your face! So there is no missing the obvious!
My thoughts are those that have got the “Ning Thing” are probably managing the feeds from the sites using Feed Readers like Google Reader, Bloglines or dare I say it NetVibes (ROFL).
Or alternatively realise the benefit of this community such as:
Ease of use for the less tech savy
Ability to easy manage discussions, embed videos and create blog posts
What can I say–well there would be a number of reasons. And would love to hear those from my readers. One reason why I was Over Ning initially was I never got it to begin with. However I can understand the feeling of too much Ning because I belong to 7 Ning communities but am only managing 3 of them effectively (on my to-do-list to rectify this with the other communities. And I can totally relate to the whole time issue!
And as Web 2.0 savy people like Patrick point out “being connected to a network that you create based on your needs and passions is far greater than one that is created for you”
Well ultimately, at the end of the day, it is not about us techy savy ones but the individuals that we are trying to get started on their journey. So I would really love Graham to convert the comment on my post to be created into your own post, with pictures, because you have, as always, explained it so well especially your closing sentence “We just don’t want educators sitting on their hands in their classrooms saying, “Everything I and my students need for learning is in this room. No need to go anywhere.”
Doh moment! Really think that I have done a disservice to lecturers in my own organisation. I have been using wikis but now realise that a Ning community, based on what I have gained from etools and tips for educators community, would better service their needs in terms of empowering their learning outside of professional development sessions!
What can I say? Whatever plans I had for last night were distracted by Graham’s BYO networks post. Why? Because he reflected on Ning communities vs blogging and highlighted that while Ning is a good starting point for new educators he worries that people may limit their online learning by staying within these Ning communities and failing to realise that building your own network from blogs, wikis etc provides greater potential for learning. [image by circulating]
Without writing a really long post Clay is reflecting on how to run workshops for teachers. His “goals are to make them not need to learn from me, but to get out there and find their own pathways” and encourage their creativity. (You really need to check out comments on Graham’s and Clay’s posts — plus follow up post by Clay because it is not possible to summarise all the thoughts and ideas)!
Ning’s designed to appeal to users who want to create networks around specific interests or have limited technical skills
So members could interact with me before and after my presentation– and to ensure that their learning was much more than just an hour online session
So experienced members can share their tips
To demonstrate how an online community’s knowledge gain is greater than a person working individually.Collectively a community will always help each other more effectively than I will ever hope to achieve
To showcase why communities are important for personal learning
I love Clay’s analogy to a driving instructor because that is exactly what I tell participants in my f2f workshops. My challenge is most of my participants are starting their first driving lesson with their parents and need me ready to grab the steering wheel. Overwhelm them too much and they will crash into the tree.
Members new to participating in the online world report the community makes them feel
Several have been inspired to go on and achieve personal first’s like blogging, embedding videos, replying to discussions and creating their own videos using Ning
Their questions and responses have given me a far greater understanding of who they are and their needs; far more even than my f2f workshops
Collectively we have all gained more than working as individuals
There is no way I would have achieved these outcomes if I only interacted with the participants on my blog or if I had played it safe, stuck with just a 1 hr session, and not gone out on a limb to use Ning for embedding video during a live session.
It’s designed to appeal to users who want to create networks around specific interests or have limited technical skills
So members can let me know what information relating to video in e-learning they would most like to find out about
So experienced members can share their tips such as their favorite video sharing sites, how they create online videos, how they create screencasts and how they convert video formats
As a site for session participants to embed videos during the live session
To demonstrate how an online community’s knowledge gain is greater than a person working individually. Collectively a community will always help each other more effectively than I will ever hope to achieve
To showcase why communities are important for personal learning
While my initial reason for using Ning relates to my live online session, Ning is a social networking site so the site is not about me, or I, but is about US. This group is open and WE, not I, invite you to join.
While initially we’ll be discussing video good practices however we plan to keep this site going and expand it to include other cool tools for e-learning for education and training.
Help US show other educators how to effectively learn in a community!
To Join eTools and Tips Community
If you’re already a member of Ning (the platform we used to create the community), you just have to go to etools and tips community and then sign in.