October 18, 2006

Learning Goals and Loosely Coupled Artifacts

Jeremy, who mentioned LearningFlow in his blog last week talks about how people using 43Things are not necessarily looking for other people. I tend to agree with this view point, given my own behaviors with 43Things. He writes...

Most people sharing a learning goal in 43Things aren't necessarily looking for people to collaborate with (although there is functionality to form explicit groups to pursue a goal together). It could be used as a sort of recommender system for finding people ("I'm looking for people sharing my goals"), but it looks to me like it's being used more as a recommender system for things you might like to do or learn. The network that emerges around a goal does loosely connect people to each other, but that may not be as valuable as the connections between the artifacts themselves: the entries outlining what their experiences have been in pursuing the same goal, why they decided to pursue it, what they hope to accomplish, how the learning helped them, pitfalls to avoid, etc.

Perhaps it's more important as a way of finding content (advice, resources, opinions, possible applications) than as a way to find like-minded people. The primary "pivot" is the goal itself, with the people associated with each goal as secondary pivots. It is interesting to find out what other goals someone is pursuing besides the one you share with them -- that function is more exploratory than the process of figuring out if you want to pursue a specific goal.

Jeremy Hiebert's headspaceJ -- Instructional Design and Technology

This connection to artifacts is a key design consideration around LearningFlow. We came to the idea through a pretty practical approach... In a small business like ours we are constantly sharing ideas, books, and websites that offer great information on a given topic that we are interested in. Naturally this led to our use of del.icio.us and more recently the network feature of the social bookmarking site to share these web sites. So we decided that being able to identify those topics or goals that we want to learn, then adding our bookmarks, (we changed the name to resources because it better captures the meaning in this context) we could easily share key information around that goal. So now, we still capture our sites through del.icio.us, but we use "Add from del.icio.us" feature to associate those resources with a goal. So far, it has been pretty effective approach internally. We have been able to share some great stuff, but we haven't gotten enough volume yet to get the network effect we are anticipating.

In the second paragraph above Jeremy hits on the idea of exploring someone elses learning goals beyond just the initial goal that is shared. I do this on 43Things. I love to explore what other "like-minded" people are setting as goals. This activity probably has a lot of deeper meaning, but I think it allows us to build a suttle connection to others and begins building a trust in a relationship between you and that person or group of people. If you think these new goals are "cool" or interesting then you are likely to subscribe to their activity feed or even add them to your network of people.

That is the interesting thing about networked learning, there are practically unlimited ways to enter into the learning activities and equally as many ways to exit. How deep I dive into the learning is completely up to me.

In LearningFlow, we have yet to explore these deeper capabilities, but its coming. We are going to enable a lot of "pivots" including goals, tags, activity, and workflow tasks through third party project management software. I remember when I first started using other social software it took awhile to explore around and find the artifacts, but once I did it was really cool.

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