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Benefits of wikis and blogs in training programs

I'm a firm believer that a curriculum in which you use a lot of cool tools doesn't necessary bring better results than a traditional class. My opinion is that the instructor makes a curriculum. Now with that said, there are a lot of great benefits that blogs and wikis bring to the classroom which are not brought by a traditional class.

Benefits of blogs:
  • Promote critical and analytical thinking.
  • They allow participants to contribute to a wide body of knowledge.
  • Your participants can share ideas online and learning from one another.
  • Blogs can be open to other departments allowing them to contribute to projects.
  • Class assignments are archived and can be used to create a portfolio.
  • Departments can archive meetings minutes, record meeting actions items, share links to project documents and resources.
  • Serve as a means to communicate up coming training events. Are used to share lessons learned with your peers.
Some companies are using blogs for information discovery, dissemination, and evaluation amongst teams across their organization. An article in ASTD.org called Learning and Networking with a Blog by Tony Karrer states: "bloggers continually search for interesting information they can post. When they post information, they must synthesize that information, formulate additional questions, contrast and make sense of differing viewpoints, and identify patterns and trends."

Bloggers are learning more from blogs than from other resources.
You can view this video for a simple explanation of a Blog.

Blogs in Plain English video

Benefits of Wikis:
  • Participants have ownership of the knowledge. They learn to seek it and create it.
  • High-level critical thinking is developed. Participants learn to critique others participant's contributions for accuracy.
  • Participants are required to check their content for accuracy and correct errors discovered by their peers.
  • Create an online curriculum in which participants and trainers can contribute to.
  • You can engage in collaborative projects with a global audience.
  • They can be a center repository for classroom lesson plans, handouts, resources, presentation, and assignments.
  • You can use them to disseminate important classroom learning beyond the classroom.
  • They encourage collaboration of class notes.
  • Encourages peer to peer learning
Wikis are very popular because of the ease of use, they don't require knowledge of HTML to create quality content. Trainers are using these more and more as class portals because participants and trainers can access them from any where.

Have you incorporated blogs and wikis in your training programs? What other benefits have they brought to the table?

You can view this video for a simple explanation of a Wiki.


The Good of MySpace

For those that are not familiar with MySpace, this is a Social network website that allows it's users to create their own page, and interactive with other members through either video, music, blogs, pictures, groups, and forums.
A lot of negative articles have been published on the news about MySpace and I'm here to tell you what the good is. Yes, there is good.

Kids today are becoming something that most of us had to go to school for, that's right. They are becoming website developers, graphic designers, video producers, and writers and they don't even know it. And even worst, parents are not noticing.

These kids at a young age are learning how to customize the look of a website through the use of cascading style sheets which in the MySpace language it's called "code". They change the look and style of their page with the same ease they change their cloths... And more and more kids are creating websites that offer hundreds of free codes (layouts) for other members to use and customize their page. That's a lot of programming.

Kids today take digital pictures and learn how to enhance them to the point of being worthy of a gallery exhibition. They record reality videos that appear to be produced by a professional video producer. They write articles about themselves and their life's that are so deep that your hairs stand up.

And they do it all for what? They do it all to collaborate with their friends, which is the core of Web 2.0.

So yes, even though MySpace has attracted a lot of sex offenders and negative press, we should all recognize that it has also brought a lot of good with it.

Anyways, what ever happened to teaching the kids not to talk to strangers? There are bad people every where therefore the same principles apply online. We need to teach our kids how to survive out in the real world and not isolate them from the truth. Give them the freedom to be and at the same time being there to watch them and guide them, and that's not MySpace's responsibility.



Differences between blogs, wikis, and discussion boards

This is a question that keeps on coming up so I decided to write a post to clarify it. Now, before I go into the differences I will explain what each of these are.

The word Blog comes from the words Web Log. It's a Web site that allows an individual, or group of individuals, to share a running log of events and personal insights with online audiences. In simple terms, a Blog is an online journal.

A Wiki is a type of Web page that allows anyone with an Internet connection to create and modify pages easily and quickly. This means that anyone that visits your Wiki will be able to create new pages and update your content whenever they desire.The name wiki comes from the Hawaiian words Wiki wiki which means quick.

A Discussion Board is a communication tool that allows individuals to collaborate with others through posting or answering questions. Also referred to as forums, message boards, or bulletin boards.

The differences are:

Blogs:
1. Are personal
2. A posting is owned by a poster (could be owned by a small group)
3. Aim is conversation, change in thinking/self/ideas, writing of the moment
4. Content is considered to be static: once posted, the posting doesn't change (comments can add information to your posting)
5. Content is displayed in reverse chronological order and scrolling is required
6. Comments are optional but encouraged to continue the conversation
7. The intent is personal, news, reflection
8. Voice used is conversational


Wikis:
1. Open to collaboration
2. Topics are considered public space and owned by all
3. Aim is creation of documents
4. Content is not permanent, it can be revised by any one
5. Content is displayed in nodes/tree structure
6. Comments are not expected
7. The intent is informational
8. Voice used is passive and active


Discussion boards:
1. Open to collaboration
2. Are owned by groups with equal responsibilities
3. Aim is to provide support
4. Content is considered to be static: once posted the posting doesn't change (answers are provided by others)
5. Content is organized and presented in different ways
6. Answers are required
7. The intent is decision making (used more to provide support)
8. Voice used is conversational


Another great resource for differences between blogs and discussion boards is the Common Craft blog. Lee LeFever provides a side-by-side comparison chart.


Creating inexpensive videos

Before you implement video in your organization and spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars in equipment I would suggest you read this post.

At a Learning Conference I attended there was a session about creating rapid video. The main point of this session was to let everyone know that you don't need an expensive camcorder, lighting kits or nothing of that nature to get the point across. Actually they mentioned that people believe your message more if it looks real. The more perfect your video looks the less your customers will trust you.

They demonstrated how to create a video and how to post it on your blog, YouTube, wiki, or any where else you want. All of this in just a few minutes.

The videos produced can be edited with Windows Movie Maker which every PC with Windows pretty much has or other video editors that are out there which lots of them are free. The most impressive thing about this camcorder was the clarity of the picture and audio, you would never think a cheap camcorder would produce such great videos. It's also pretty easy to use, it only has three buttons, one to record/stop, one to view the videos, and the other one to delete.

Another great thing is the size, it's so small you can carry it around in your pocket so you don't miss out on any occasion. The camcorder also doesn't require any wires to connect to your PC, it has a USB connection on the side so it hooks up directly to your PC.

I know, enough of the hype, right? OK, the name of the camcorder is Flip Video Ultra, and it records up to 60 minutes of videos.

If your organization wants to start producing videos, I would suggest you look into this first. It's always better to start small, then to spend lots of money and then hit yourself on the head.

Have you flipped anyone?


Using Blogs in Corporate America

I have used blogs in my personal life but now we looking into using blogs at work and I'm very excited. I work in the Training department of a global corporation and we have what you can say is our very own IT team which helps us develop and implement new tools. So we don't depend on IT to come up with innovative tools which is great.
The last conference I attended said they would recommend to implement blogs within the corporation. Not that blogs for customers could not be done, but the speaker mentioned they were more risky. So it looks like we are going to look into this option.
Going by my research, we can use employee blogs to:
  • Share insights and experiences
  • Collaborate in project teams, post meeting minutes, assignments, action items, research and more.
  • Link to other places on the intranet
  • Talk about what you know as a subject matter experts (SME)
  • Blog about the moment
  • Post video interviews with Product Managers about a product, employees about their experience with a product, etc...
  • Announce upcoming internal training or products
  • Share your insights about products or as a trainer
  • Request feedback on what classes need a refresher or what are the hardest task they have every done and how did they overcome them
These were some tips given at the last conference:
  • You can set a blog to send emails to everyone when you make an update (RSS feeds)
  • Blog before a product launch and after
  • Encourage employees to blog at least once a week
  • Provide blog etiquette rules
  • Don't be afraid of bad comments, these can be deleted quickly
Have you implemented blogs at work? I would like to hear your suggestions and what tips you have to make blogging successful.
View the Blogs in Plain English video for a down to earth explanation of blogs.



Going Web 2.0 or not?

My organization is ready to embrace the addition of Web 2.0 tools in our training programs. Will we take that leap? I sure hope so.

Currently our Training department is the one that owns the development and maintenance of our Corporate University, and of all classroom and virtual training programs so the shift to Web 2.0 will bring new and exciting changes that I think we can all embrace.

Last year we attended the Learning Conference 2006 which is all about using Web 2.0 tools that enable learning. We came back with so many ideas, and we put together a team that was in charge of researching blogs, wikis, social networks, videos, podcasting, avatars, and audio. The result of this research lead to incorporating audio in our eLearning courses and to beta test an mLearning module which we had great results with but I think not too much chance was given to blogs, wikis, and other tools.

We just came back from the Learning 2007 Conference and this year the speakers focused more on actually examples of how to use Web 2.0 tools in your training programs so can you feel the excitement? After presenting all our ideas to Management, it looks like we will try to implement some of these tools. So I’m very excited, I’m a loyal advocate of these new tools. I've used them with my kids, siblings, friends, and for my professional development. I've learned more through blogging, wikis, communities then by reading books and attending seminars. And of course, thanks to Google I have found great resources.

Going by my experience and what I’ve heard from teachers, trainers, and other educators it seems that this technology is working. So why not give it a try? The concerns we have I know are the same that other corporations and educators have. We are very concerned about wrong information being posted on our wikis and bad comments being left on blogs. We don’t have too many resources that can continuously monitor these tools so it’s a little scary.

The fear is there and they only way it will go away is if we leap into this new world and we don't fall flat on our backs. I think we just need to let go of the ownership of the content, and let others contribute to our success. Like Brad Anderson from Best Buy said “Getting other points of view and other pieces of knowledge into our learning system that might otherwise have escaped is key to our success as an organization." And I think we understand this now.

From my research and experience with some of these tools, I’ve compiled a list of concerns and solutions that I think will help us deal with these issues. These will be posted in other articles so check back with us soon.

What has been your experience with Web 2.0 tools in the classroom? What tools work best for you? Any one?


FAQ: What is Web 2.0?

According to Wikipedia - Web 2.0 refers to a perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services — such as social-networking sites, wikis, and folksonomies — which aim to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing between users. The term gained currency following the first O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but to changes in the ways software developers and end-users use the web.

The way I understand it is that Web 2.0 is just the new way people are using the web. Before you use to go online to just read about news, hobbies, or play games in other words you were a passive reader. Now, you go online to have discussions on topics you are an expert on, to voice your opinion, to meet other people in your field, in others words to collaborate with others all over the world. It's all about collaboration which in turn enables learning. You can call it user generated content aka read/write web, that is Web 2.0.

Originally the web (Web 1.0) was driven by organizations which pushed the content they thought the users were interested in. Now the web (Web 2.0) is driven by individuals who create their content based on their needs and allow others to contribute to it. Users now learn from each other more than ever, which is called peer to peer learning.

Another important part of Web 2.0 is tagging. Before the organizations had to rely on meta tags for their online content to be searchable and ranked higher by search engines. Even though you still should be doing the above as part of SEO, now users have the ability to associate your content with a descriptive keyword or term enabling keyword based classification and search of information which is called tagging. This increases the relevance and popularity of your content which in turn increases the changes of your content being ranked higher by search engines thus found quicker by users.

That is Web 2.0, but then again this is my interpretation. What is yours?

You can find a list and description of the most used Web 2.0 tools at eelearning.